Tag Archives: art

One Day

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One day they will open up your books

and wonder what you were waiting for

 

They will read into your self contradicting sentences

And write out volumes of dusty literary criticism

 

They will look for patterns in your poetry

And catalogue your plosives, fricatives, dentals, bilabials, glottals.

 

They will search your diaries for imaginary passions

And friendships that went deeper than you claimed

 

They will invent exotic histories of your life

And label what must have been your diseases. 

 

They will forget that you were a person

Who made wishes on her candles every birthday. 

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So Now What

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Honestly, now that the countdown to my blogiversary is over, I don’t know what to write about.

I suppose the countdown could serve as a microcosm of what it must be like to be done with college. I have friends who are. They seem happy to be done, but very…bewildered. Some of them have definite plans for what they want to do with their future, but are a little unsure about how to construct the bridge that will get them from where they are to where they want to go. They apply to the job that they’ve been dreaming of, or scrape together the means to go to grad school so they can finally study what they’ve always wanted to study, or specialize in something they have a passion for.

Others have no goals or set direction at all—they’re like fish out of water, gasping on the shore, out of ideas. Most of the second set just flop back home and job hunt from their parent’s couches, especially those who spent the last four years of their lives acquiring a “starving artist” degree like acting or history or studio art or…creative writing….

Then there are people like my best friend, known here as “Audra.” Audra has had her life planned out since the sixth grade. She’s an English education major who is going to plunge straight into a graduate degree in English immediately after college. She’s been taking college classes since high school, as well as performing in local orchestras (she plays the oboe) and volunteering with the Anytown Literacy Society during college. She plans social events, acts as a sorority officer, and is considering teaching English in China and/or American public high schools. She plans on curing cancer next month.

I’m only half joking about that last sentence.

Still more decide to go back for another undergrad degree, or, even scarier, a doctorate. Those of us who remain, sadly, non-brilliant, look upon such people with reverent awe.

I know that I will arrive at the end of my undergrad career and find myself in an awkward state of transition. My first desire after receiving my diploma will be to sleep as long as possible. My second will be to see how much of my college stuff I can get rid of. My third wish will be to move myself to wherever I’m going next. Right now that looks like grad school, pursuing a masters in library science, preferably at the same university where my best friend is going so neither of us will be alone in a strange world.

But regardless of how those two years after college go, I know the question that will beat in the back of my mind for the duration will be: “So now what?” The feeling in my stomach? A slow, sinking, heavy feeling, knowing that I won’t be able to hide myself behind the walls of an educational institution anymore after I walk away with another diploma. A magnified version of whatever it was I felt at the beginning of writing this post, when I didn’t know what I was going to write about.

Somehow the post got written anyway. It even sort of made sense.

There’s a lesson in that, I’m sure.

Lightning

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It rained today. In fact, it’s rained almost nonstop since March. Rain falls daily. Now that it’s tropical storm season, we’re getting daily thunderstorms, most of them at night.

Anytown is painfully muggy. So muggy, all you need to go swimming is to walk outside. I feel like I should be wearing scuba gear instead of sundresses.

However, the mugginess brings the fireflies out in droves. They come out to dance when the sun goes down, and they party all night. I dance with them, sometimes, smiling at the music of cicadas singing.

Tonight we had a doozy of a storm. Thunder rumbled and grumbled overhead for hours. There was lightning flashing in the heart of every cloud. Pyrotechnic party lights for the fireflies.

I drove home tonight, my stereo turned up loud enough that I could feel the music. I drove away from the firefly party, but the lights were still flashing in the clouds overhead. No bolt of lightning touched down, which was good. Those bolts are lovely, but they always mean that something gets hurt, whether it’s a person or a creature or a tree. The bolts that stay up in the clouds don’t hurt anything. They’re just beautiful.

Those elevated lightning bolts turn the clouds all shades of green and yellow and pink. Muted, of course, by the greyness of the cloud—but the colors are still there, pulsing, as if synched to music.

And far below, the little lightning bugs, unperturbed by the crackling storm, dance on.

Lightning above. Lightning below. 

Anything but Math

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You know who I have a lot of respect for? Number people.

I regard number people with the same awe that nine-year-olds have for magicians. They can tally things up in their heads like it’s nothing. They can even multiply and divide things. They can even add fractions. Sometimes they can even multiply fractions. Fractions. They can figure out tips at restaurants without hauling a calculator around with them. They can add all their Monopoly money at the end of the game in, like, five measly minutes. Or less.

They can even remember numbers. Dates like 1857 and 1953 actually stick in their heads. They can even remember what happened in those years, and all they did was nap during history class.

And they never switch numbers around. When they look at the number 1,295,367, they actually see one million, two hundred and ninety-five thousand, three hundred and sixty-seven. If they have to copy that number down anywhere, they won’t accidentally write 1,296,736, because their magical numbery powers prevent them from seeing any number for what it is.

You know why I hold people who can do such things in high admiration?

Because I CAN’T.

Seriously. Numbers have always thrown me for a loop. Sure, I got good grades in math classes in elementary and high school. Great grades. I wept over my share of homework assignments because my brain couldn’t bend itself around how to solve a problem. But I got good grades. How? Because I could memorize steps of how to do specific kinds of problems in math. If I happened on a problem that deviated from previous patterns, I was sunk. But so long as the problem was something normal, I was okay.

Given enough time and sweat, I can figure something numbery out. Trouble is, it takes time. Time and lots of paper and pencil. I can’t process the information quickly. This was a source of immense frustration in elementary school, when we had those ridiculous timed multiplication drills. Why time them? Why? They only made me panic, which made me think slower, which meant those horrible timed quizzes made my 2nd grade year a waking nightmare because I couldn’t write down the numbers fast enough. This is why, when I find myself in a group of peers and suddenly the need to do math arises (tips, elapsed time, numbers of people in a group), I fall back and let someone else add things up. My slow, plodding method isn’t fast enough for the situation—and it makes me look like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.

One thing has always been true of me in my long and tumultuous history with math. That is my uncanny ability to run the same numbers in the same way several different times and get a different result every time. This would be understandable if I were doing something complicated, like quantum physics or mechanical engineering. But I have this problem when I’m adding. Adding.

No matter how organized my numbers on the page are (and yes, I do have to write them down), no matter how carefully I add or subtract or divide, no matter how detail-oriented I try to be, I will always get the problem wrong. Always. Even when I finally get it right, I second guess myself. And triple guess myself. And quadruple guess. Then I stand up from my desk, back away from it, curl into the fetal position on the floor, and start weeping.

I don’t know why. Don’t ask me. If I knew why, I would’ve already told you. All I can say is that my brain is allergic to numbers. This is not my brain’s fault.

There are a lot of things I am capable of. Drawing. Writing. Poetry. Acting. Whistling. Once upon a time, I was even a halfway decent musician. I play the violin. I could sing. I’ll still sing if people ask nicely or I’m in a room by myself or singing in a crowd in church. I can do those things. But somehow I feel—and sometimes I think other people feel—that I’m totally worthless because I have trouble with math.

I have this irrational fear that one day I’ll be held at gunpoint in a back alley somewhere. My skimasked attacker, grinning menacingly, will offer me one chance to save my life. He tells me he’ll ask me a question. If I get it right, I live. If I get it wrong, I eat lead. In this paranoid vision, I swallow hard and engage every memory of worthless trivia I’ve ever had and nod. The thug says:

“What happened on November 23, 1963?”

or

“What is 1354987156 x 34586?”

or

“Given a circle with a diameter of 10 cm, what is the area in cm³?”

And you know what would happen?

I would die.

Ask me to do anything. Ask me to write a sonnet. Ask me to draw a dragon. Ask me to sing an aria. Ask me to play the “Meditation from Thais.” Ask me to do anything—anything—but math.

"Because she can't do math quickly. Actually, she can't do math at all. She's rubbish. Not worth the trouble. Allon-sy!"

“Because she can’t do math quickly. Actually, she can’t do math at all. She’s rubbish. Not worth the trouble. Allons-y!”

Permissible Vandalism

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So you know how a few days ago I said that my one wish at the moment was to be at home, making art while listening to music?

This week, due to a light homework load and a heavy intercollegiate competition, I’ve been drawing graffiti on the hallways of my dorm for the past three hours. Not right on the wall, mind you. On paper taped to the wall, and on folded out cardboard boxes taped to the wall. Our assignment is to turn our hall into the Undisclosed University ghetto. We are succeeding. I no longer feel safe in my own dorm.

We aren’t safe, actually. There are rumblings of raids being planned by the opposition. We’re on to them. We’ll be ready.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying making art. It’s not very good art. It’s decidedly sub-par art. My drawing of Yoda is barely Yoda. My Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look more like Prepubescent Quasi-Modo Lizards. With nun chucks. But hey, it’s art. It’s art for a cause.

This is the closest I’ve come to being a vandal my entire life.

It’s exhilarating. 

Rambler Unedited

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I’m trying something tonight. This is an experiment—I’m going to test my own OCD. In the course of writing this post, I am not going to allow myself to correct typing errors. No backspacing. Just typing.

You see, I tend to make a million arrors a night when I write the daily blog post. One, I’m tired, and my brain and fingers don’t connect super well. Two, I go back and fix every ilittle thing while I’m typing which slows my progress significantly. Honestly, epole, excuse me, people—I know how to spell. It’s just that my fingers don’t know how to spell.

Recently my fingers have tripped over themselves tot he (there it is) to the point where when ever I go to type “to the” it ends up being “tot he”. Drives me bonkers.

Last year, a few of you may recal reading a similar post where I described all the different words I had trouble typing. Anything that ended with a “tion” ended up being “tino.” My dyslexic conditino led to daily humiliatino. Also, capitalization. If it weren’t for Wor’ds (excuse me) Word’s autocoreect (pardon) autocorrect function, none of these sentences would start with capital letters, and that “of” would be a “fo.” Every time I go to capitalize something, y (my) shift key fails to take me seriously, and I’ll either end pu (up) with no capitalization, or the first two letters being capitalized (such as UNiverisity – I mean University) and that gets really frustrating after a while so tonight I’m allowing myself to be lazy and I’m gritting my teeth and ignoring that and the fact that this is a really long sentence.

IN case you all were wondering how the creative process works, this is how it goes—I put vcrud (pardon—crud) on paper and then I chip away at the crud until it is less cruddy and more awesome-sounding. Then I copy-paste the slightly-less-cruddy-and-now-slightly-more-aweomes(sorry awesome)-stuff from the Word document into WordPress and hit “Publish.”

I feel liek I’ve hug (sorry again—hung) out a lit (a lot) of dirty laundry for you all to awde through. I mean wade through. Let this be a reminder to all you aspiring artists out there: no one is perfect but God. Mistakes are part of the process. They’re as much a part of the process of creating as they are part of the process of growing up.

Don’t be afraid to make mistaeks.

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My Kingdom for Wig

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One of the fun parts of being in a production is having someone else do you hair for a change.

The trouble comes, however, when the girl who does your hair for the show asks you very kindly to leave the hairspray in so that the hair is easier to do on the next night. The result? Three days of tangled, hairspray-coated hair that seems to sprout its own bobby pins. I’m well on my way to having a set of very chalky dreadlocks. It has begun to resist combs and form garbled sentences. You know it’s been a long week when you start talking to your hair and it talks back.

It took every ounce of willpower I had to resist scrubbing my hair clean for tomorrow. But no, I left it in, and it’s guaranteed to look even ghastlier when I wake up in the morning. I’m wondering if my hair will ever be the same again.

Maybe they could just pin it into one great tangle and slap on a wig. That would probably be easier than trying to tame the jungle of tangles that’s sprouted on my head.

Ah, well. The things we do for art.

Escapes

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There are not enough adults in the world who are willing to admit that they miss childhood.

Alright, I know some people’s childhoods were awful—Awful with a capital “A.” There are, sadly, a great number of people whose childhoods were Dickensian in terms of horribleness, growing up as impoverished little Olivers or manipulated Estellas.

But every child grew up with a fantasy world. For some it was the digital world spoon-fed them by video games. For others, the worlds spread out for them on television shows or movies. And the truly lucky ones found their worlds hidden in the pages of books and built them on their own.

I was always horrible at crafting elaborate fantasy lands without the help of some outside source. My own inner sanctum was a combination of Narnia and Middle Earth that always turned out looking more like the Appalachian Mountains than anything else. I stopped talking about it with my friends because they often scoffed at its lack of originality. I go there still, every so often, but it’s faded and cracked around the edges, like an old black-and-white photo you might find in a trunk in the attic.

But it lives still. And I know I’m not the only one out there who still revisits the mental playgrounds of their childhoods.

I know there are others in the world who see a particularly beautiful painting hanging on a wall and long to step inside it and take a walk. I know there are others who open up old picture books and wish that more than anything they could just wrap themselves inside it, fall into it, and not come back again.

Adults never lose their ability to fantasize. Trouble is, when children grow up their thoughts turn to ambitious dreams of having money, power, romance, the esteem of others, security—or nobler dreams of saving lives or making a positive impact in the lives of others. There comes a point where, for whatever reason, Wendy can’t fly back to Neverland, and Peter and Susan are too old to return to Narnia.

But I know there are people in the world who hold these adult dreams in one hand while still holding their childhood dreams in another. Both are worth keeping and exploring. The worlds of our pasts effect our present worlds. The power of imagination produces some of the greatest art.

God made our minds to imagine things—otherwise worlds like Wonderland and Middle earth wouldn’t exist in anyone’s minds at all. God dreamed up the world and spoke it into existence. Since we’re made in His image, with His thumbprint on our souls, we imagine and create as well. He gave us our minds (and childhoods) for a reason. It’s best to use them, so that the little ones who follow us will have room to dream.

Revisions

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I’ve always been told that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This seems a reasonable rule of thumb until you arrive at college, where each of your professors has a different definition of “broke.”

This is especially true in the artsy majors, such as studio art, dramatic production, apparel design, cinema, or creative writing. The lines between what is beautiful and what isn’t blur or shift depending on which teacher you have. While it’s true that we’re learning our crafts fairly well, it might be better said that we’re learning how to write/sew/paint/draw/film/act for each individual teacher.

We’re all still trying to figure out if this is limiting us or improving us. With our GPAs and personal rapports on the line, most of us choose not to think about it for too long.

In the field of starving artistry creative writing, every class seems to contradict itself in one way or another. Earlier classes will demand that a work of fiction give lots of background information, another will tell you that background information should be limited to a paragraph and should be in the middle of the story and not the beginning. One teacher will tell you similes and metaphors in poems are wonderful things and another will tell you your images aren’t concrete enough. Hand the same piece to two different teachers and one will give you an A and the other will give you a D. While there is a mutual agreement among all writing instructors that adhering to traditional grammar rules is necessary, it seems that everything else is up in the air. If you can’t adapt, you can kiss your grade point average goodbye.

This is why you can identify creative writing majors by the nervous tick above their right eyes.

I am, of course, exaggerating. A bit. After all, none of us can hope to write solely for our own pleasure and expect to eat as well. We are all writing/acting/sewing/drawing/filming/painting for a specific audience, and it is essential that we know how to perform to the utmost of excellence.

Still, for once it would be lovely to get to the point where we can get it right the first time.

 

Where I’m From

 

I am from pine needles, knees scraped on dogwood trees;

Petals (and pollen) afloat on the breeze, and the silence

That comes from the absence of engines.

 

I am from wanderings in the grey woods,

And from wooden-sword battles, me vs. the air,

And from sharp autumn breezes and crackling oak leaves.

 

I am from dust motes in sunbeams on Saturday mornings;

From comics and cinnamon biscuits (the food of the gods),

And from black lines of newsprint and dialogue bubbles.

 

I am from towers of bright rainbow books opened up

In my mama’s white hands while I sit on the rose-pattern bedspread,

Entranced, in my footie pajamas.

 

I am from “No, not ‘whatever.’”

From “Codemy,” “Tradegy,” (playing with words,)

And from rotten-egg puns as my Dad cracks a “yolk.”

 

I am from histories told by the fireplace:

Grandfather limping from Normandy, grandmother’s dump truck,

 The Buttermilk Story and Mudley’s last breath.

 

I am from thick-cushioned theater seats in the darkness,

Watching actors and actresses float on the stage,

Uttering speeches like old incantations.

 

I am from white sheets of blank, wide-ruled paper

And sharp yellow pencils that scrape out

The first humble lines of my own incantations.

 

 

The Rainbow Connection

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In the history of the English language, a set of three specific words opens the door for deeper human interaction more than any other combination. If you supposed those words were “I love you,” you are only 2/3 wrong, so don’t feel too badly. No, I’m thinking of the question “How are you?”

“How are you?” This question can be asked genuinely, feelingly, softly, loudly, ironically, or even threateningly. Sadly, these poor little words are most often uttered flippantly, with an air or disinterest or worse, dismissal. The potentially monumental question of how a person is faring on their rocky journey through life has become as reactionary as sneezing upon entering a dusty room.

This is not always the case, of course. Many people still ask this question with real interest and concern for their fellow human beings. These are the caring people whose existence makes the world a much more endurable place than it might be otherwise. They ask the question and you just know that they mean it. Such people are rare, however, and few really know how to put meaning behind these three little words.

In context, the phrase and its response most often occur in the following sequence:

Person 1: “How are you?”

Person 2: “Good.”

Person 1: “Good.”

And that’s it. Whether or not Person 2 actually feels “good” is irrelevant. This is perhaps one of the small number of “socially acceptable” lies we use every day. How often, really, are we doing “good” compared to all the times we’re feeling stressed, anxious, nonplussed, sad, angry, excited, blissful, tired, sleepy, or on top of the world? And yet “good” is not only the most common response, but the most expected—even though it’s most likely not the exact truth.

I wonder, then, if it’s possible to start a trend of giving unexpected answers to this overused and typical question? Could an atypical answer restore meaning to this diluted but potentially meaningful phrase?

Why not answer with a color?

Person 1: “How are you?”

Person 2: “Feeling purple, thanks for asking.”

or

Person 2: “Orange, absolutely orange.”

or

Person 2: “A bit cerulean, actually. You?”

Person 1 would then do a mental double-take. “Did he really say what I think he said?” he would think to himself.

Person 1: “Did you just say you were feeling purple?”

Person 2: “Yes, I did.”

Person 1: “Well, what does that mean?”

Ah, yes. What does it mean? By replacing the noncommittal word “good” with a color, the asker is suddenly forced to think about how their friend really feels. “How are you” takes on a whole new meaning, and two people have connected in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise had they been allowed to breeze by each other with the typical exchange.

Not only that, but running into people in the highways and byways of life could be a lot more fun. And colorful.

The Things We Do for Art

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Theater people don’t get enough credit for all the work that goes on behind the scenes. By “theater people,” I mean not only the director and the actors, but the choreographers, the set designers and builders, the set dressers (decorators), the costume managers, and on and on the list goes.

This group of people from many different roads in life all collide in one place to work together to create the magnificent, moving, and dynamic work of art one calls a play. They give blood, sweat, tears, and hours and hours of time to make sure a story is told and told well.

“So what?” a boy asked me once. “It’s just a story. What’s the point?”

Each of us has a story. History is a story. The Bible is a story. All of these stories are true, beautiful, and important in the grand scheme of eternity. They interlock to form one big story arc that includes the entire human race. Unless you’re not human, stories are a stinkin’ big deal.

Anything our hands find to do need to be done well. If God chose to communicate with us through narrative, why shouldn’t we, creatures crafted in His image, also tell stories? Storytelling, done right, takes time and effort. You can’t just breeze through it and hope for art to appear. It takes bruised knees and elbows and long nights and hours and hours of practice. God made the world in six days, but we’re not God. Bringing Him due glory takes a little longer to accomplish.

There you go. I promised something of greater substance today, and there it is. Now I will depart to finish unfinished homework and pray earnestly for snow. Good night, all.

People

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I am surrounded by wonderful people.

My best friend is Mary Poppins reincarnated. She has this magical way of knowing how to get everything done in a limited amount of time. She’s the most prepared woman I know. If it’s not in her purse, you probably don’t really need it. She can survive for weeks on end functioning on only three hours of sleep a night and can still be cheerful with all of the people she interacts with at her retail job. She is Wonderwoman.

My roommate is always sunny. She can be laid low by the worst kind of sniffles and still be thinking about you over herself. She always walks a though her head is in the clouds, off in some dream world where all of the things she needs to do are magically getting done. When she finally lights somewhere, she sits down and diligently does all those things, even though she’d rather be writing.

I know a guy who inspires me to care more about what God thinks of me than what others think of me. He doesn’t know this. He is the kind of person who takes individuality very seriously—as well as taking God very seriously. He is artistic and wacky and talented and plain old different. His differentness rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in high school. He doesn’t know this, but he was the one who made me want to be different, and that blending in is not the chief end of man. Although his refined fashion sensibilities would probably make him turn up his nose at my outfit selection of electric blue tights and a bright orange shirt, little does he know that he is responsible for this peculiar arrangement.

One of my supervisors at work is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. During meetings I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m paying attention to what she’s saying, and not just watch her Lucille-Ball-esque facial expressions. She is articulate, vivacious, and rigidly diligent, which are several traits worth admiring. What’s more, she always treats her workers like her children. Not a holiday goes by when she doesn’t give us all goody bags or bring in candy or something homemade. And she is an expert on knowing the best time to give a person whose heart is hurting a hug.

A coworker of mine is the kind of guy who is everyone’s big brother. He is what some might call a natural leader: people follow him readily without him forcing them to. His sense of humor is gently teasing, but he never teases to put people down or make people feel as though they’ve said something out of turn when they were just trying to be funny. He is not exclusive, and says “Hello” to anyone whose face he recognizes. He is one of the few people I know who, when he asks “How are you?”, can ask the question genuinely.

And there are hundreds and hundreds more in this square mile of campus alone who are just as kind, thoughtful, talented, and inspiring. I’ve only mentioned a handful. That’s all I have time for. It’s just that it occurred to me today that I spend altogether too much time thinking about myself. Dwelling on myself for too long is a waste of time, considering there are all of these fascinating and brilliant people around me whose lives are bright, beautiful, and unique—and much more deserving of my mental energies.

There are beautiful people in your life as well, reader. Can you think of a face? Can you remember a name? Can you forget yourself long enough to ponder the loveliness of another of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creations?

Of Chocolate and Dying Carnations

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The only thought in my head at the moment, aside from the thought “hallelujah, it’s Friday” is the thought of the wilted carnations sitting atop the mini-fridge at the foot of my bed. They were a gift from a friend, and they lasted a blessedly long time. Now they’re wilted. I’m tired enough right now that the sight of those blackening carnations makes me sad.

It reminds me of a poem I performed once upon a time. A long, rambling, and lovely poem by the genius Carl Sandburg: “Little Word, Little White Bird.” It’s a poem that attempts to define the undefinable, and it’s too long to reprint in full, but here is a section:

“And are they after beguiling and befoozling us
when they tell us love is a rose, a red red rose,
the mystery of leaves folded over and under
and you can take it to pieces and throw it away
or you can wear it for a soft spot of crimson
in your hair, at your breast,
and you can waltz and tango wearing your sweet crimson rose
and take it home and lay it on a window sill and see it
until one day you’re not careful
and it crackles into dust in your hand
and the wind whisks it whither you know not,
whither you care not,
for it is just one more flame of a rose
that came with its red blush and crimson bloom
and did the best it could with what it had
and nobody wins, nobody loses,
and what’s one more rose
when on any street corner
in bright summer mornings
you see them with bunches of roses,
their hands out toward you calling,
Roses today, fresh roses,
fresh-cut roses today
a rose for you sir,
the ladies like roses,
now is the time,
fresh roses sir.

And I’m waiting–for days and weeks and months
I’ve been waiting to see some flower seller,
one of those hawkers of roses,
I’ve been waiting to hear one of them calling,
A cabbage with every rose,
a good sweet cabbage with every rose,
a head of cabbage for soup or slaw or stew,
cabbage with the leaves folded over
and under like a miracle
and you can eat it and stand up and walk,
today and today only your last chance
a head of cabbage with every single lovely rose.
And any time and any day I hear a flower seller so calling
I shall be quick and I shall buy
two roses and two cabbages,
the roses for my lover
and the cabbages for little luckless me.
Or am I wrong–is love a rose you can buy and give away
and keep for yourself cabbages, my lord and master,
cabbages, kind sir?
I am asking, can you?”

And with that thought, I return to my melancholy tunes and my bar of chocolate. Have a poetical weekend, everyone.