Today I begin finalizing the text and images for the book on my mother’s art of Cape May. It has become so much more than a ‘pretty picture book’ and yet — it is still pretty, and full of pictures. As my friend Kathleen Volk Miller advised, it will read as an inside story, a book that could only have been written by the painter’s daughter. Somehow, I had been trying to erase myself, to keep myself out of the picture. But, that’s crazy. Even the picture above has me in it: it’s her studio, yes, but I was the one who found and prepared it, originally for my nascent business — but ultimately, in every way, I was unconsciously preparing it for her. And she, prepared such a love for art, beauty, family and friends in me. Now, to work. June 6th, the project moves to the able and brilliant studio of Ellen Lynch. Yes!
A little over a week ago, I received a request from Randall Brown, editor of Matter Press, for micro fiction or poems under 75 words. I sent six recently finished poems– offering images also. The next morning, I got this email: “I love these! I’d like to publish all six, with the images.” Elated, I ran down to tell Paul — and then, the anxiety started in. All six in one shot? Would I ever write another good poem? Would anyone notice them, or would they be lost? Would the paintings be “safe” on the Internet. Never mind that I’ve copyrighted the paintings, that I’ve been compiling these high resolution scans for this very purpose — to share them. So, beginning this Wednesday, April 4, and running for six Wednesdays, a poem and image from “Unfinished Daughter” will go live on Matter Press. Check it out, and let me know what you think . . . and yes, I’m thrilled that my poetry will be going live during National Poetry Week, and on the 20th anniversary of the collaboration that resulted in my first publication — THE VIEW IN WINTER. Happy Poetry Month — Enjoy!
I’m lucky. I have a wonderful husband, a father who enjoys his life at 89 and models, daily, the stoic practical joy of putting first things first. As this blog repeats, I miss my mother and I aspire to art, a high calling, sometimes impossibly high. But in our lighter moments, Mom and I reassured each other with the charge “Aim for mediocrity!”
Today, January 23, is niece Pasha Alice Wilson’s 11th birthday. Twenty years ago, I was putting the final touches on the text for publication of THE VIEW IN WINTER. Then, I felt young and invincible. Now, I feel seasoned and I see the horizon line. Recently, over dinner, I mentioned to Paul some goals I had “as I consider the end of my life.” He was taken up short by that phrase. He said he’d never heard me utter it. Well, probably not. But it’s not as if I have never thought of it. I guess we all come to a realization of our mortality at different times, for different reasons. I believe in facing life head on. I’ve always been this way. Not that I see everything clearly, I need help on that score. New glasses. another point of view. Time.
Paul and I are preparing to hang an exhibit of Cape May prints and images from THE VIEW IN WINTER at Samaritan Hospice, Virtua Mount Holly. I am not in the winter of my life, but I love winter and I am grateful to have so many beloved elders leading the way. I hope little Pasha, a delightful, serious child, feels surrounded by love today, too. And you, dear quiet reader, I hope you feel warmed by love.
Last night, Paul and I had dinner at Peking Gourmet, our favorite Chinese restaurant. We love the food, the kind and cheerful owner, Kim, and our regular server, Judy. At the end of the meal, we always read our fortunes — and they usually offer the standard hopeful predictions about money, friendship, and travel. But last night, we both received apt philosophical fortunes. Mine was: “Clear your mental, emotional and psychic space and you’ll see.” Paul received: “To live your life in fear of losing it is to lose the point of life.”
The watercolor, above, was created by my mother for the book we created together with her mother, The View in Winter. This book, published in 1992 and still available in print, includes Grandmother’s poems written in her eighties and nineties, mother’s lovely black and white watercolors, and one poem I wrote in honor of my grandmother. It was a project I didn’t think I had time (or resources) to do — yet, once I read the poems, I dropped all else and have never regretted it, never.
I am clearing, as I wish to see the way I saw when I worked on that project with my mother and grandmother. I am ready to reconnect with that vision and certainty, that focus.
I was chopping celery for dinner three weeks ago, when the chirpy Brit-Indian inflection of a BBC World announcer interrupted my flow:
Technology Giant Apple
the death of its cofounder
Why was Apple the subject of this sentence? As a Mac aficionado, I mourn the loss of Steve Jobs’ edgy spirit in this world, but as an Apple stockholder, I’m less concerned. “Technology Giant Apple” will survive, or not. I’m more interested in the way we speak about death, our public discourse. When did it become acceptable to frame loss of life in the syntax of a product launch? I left the half-chopped celery and walked into the next room where my husband Paul surfed Facebook. He had just learned of Steve Jobs’ death, also, but in the unscripted, human-centered messaging context of social media. Better.
My poem about letting go, and not letting go, “Explaining the Urn on the Dining Room Cabinet,” was selected by Lindsey Lewis Smithson for the current issue of The Coachella Review. In her blog, she congratulated the selected poets as having been chosen out of 1,000 entries. The issue has been up for a week now, I’ve posted on Facebook, but no response. Could it be that I’ve moved into territory we cannot acknowledge? In conversation, I’ve learned that many people have ashes of beloveds waiting in their homes. Can we talk about this?
Ten years ago, I grieved my mother’s recent death and turned my attention to the practice of writing and yoga. I still grieve, and practice. For me, this practice lights the path of letting go.