How can we stop being so serious about making art?
By becoming less serious about the process of art. It may help if I stopped calling it a process.
Today I played. I took out the finger painting set and played.
The result could be words from a new voice, somebody hanging around inside me, some character looking for a way out. Mostly it’s just play. This is me not trying to be an artist. It’s finger painting on the floor, walls, and ceiling.
Today’s title came from a mistake, as did a phrase in the last sentence. For the title, I misread a cliche because I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses — the same glasses I still won’t fully admit to needing (as I type this, I’m squinting and leaning back, which works just fine). The phrase in the last sentence was really fireflies. Again, the glasses.
If the voice changes as you read, then those are the places where I said, “Oh look! Another color!” I know some people think I drink when I write. No alcohol was harmed in the making of these words.
Everything Happens for a Season
What I remember most about her is that she spoke in pleasant roundaboutness. She was not a small woman, but I’m not the one to judge. Everything about her was more or less proportioned, just larger than average, especially her language.
Now that I picture her entire body, she had tiny feet. I don’t like tiny feet, but again, I’m not judging. Even if I don’t like tiny feet, they’re moderately interesting, but that’s all.
The girl’s most interesting feature is why I even bring her up. She spoke in this manner of strangeness, through strings of hodge-podged cliches and phrases. Somehow she had a blended way of mixing old tried-and-true sayings with a newly made mistake. It was as if as she spoke, she plundered through shoe boxes of broken words and threw them out.
In her case, it was a tiny shoe box because of her feet, but I don’t judge. The impressive part was how she maintained the cadence of the original cliche, so that the saying was recognizable. These new blended things came out of her in mid-conversation, as if pushed out by a new and deeper truth.
Sometimes her new sayings made more sense than the originals. Other times, they made me ask what what what, over and over, just like that. “What what what?”
For example, one time she and I were at lunch and talking about beans, as in different kinds of beans, and out from left field, she started.
“There’s more on the stalk where that came from.” She looked up and away, and was in thought for a few seconds, then that just came out from her to me.
I started to correct her, then I looked down at my spoon and stopped. It was one of those dull cheap bent ones that’s seen excessive use by excessive people. Then I realized, dang it, she was right. There were more beans, plenty of them. No doubt some of them were still on the bean stalk next to the ones I ate.
One time over lunch, she got upset with me. The reason for her anger is irrelevant to this conversation. I may bring it up later, because it was about money. Anyway, she said, “How many times do you have to let me tell you?” I scooted my chair back to distance myself from that statement, so I could let it hit me like a wet dishrag.
Whenever an angry person says to you, “how many times,” your ears automatically prepare for what my ears were thinking. We all expect to hear that phrase, followed by, “do I have to tell you”.
I hate that question, and I am judging. It’s stupid. It’s lacking, like the size of her feet. It’s an insult within an indirect, roundabout question. How many times do you need to tell me? Let’s see, today I choose three times, then shut the heck up. Yesterday it was two and tomorrow it will be four. Happy now, angry person?
The answer to that question depends only in part on my ability to hear. The rest of it depends upon your ability to effectively communicate with me, and only you can answer how many times you need to say it.
But notice that she didn’t ask me that. Instead, she asked a question that I could more accurately answer.
“How many times do I have to let you tell me?”
Now that’s an answer that’s all on me, dearest one with the tiniest of feet. My answer can’t be a guess, because it addresses my ability or inability to listen. My answer better be good. I don’t remember what I told her, but she was okay with it.
One time over lunch, she let slip the subtle one. Instead of, “in cold blood,” she said, “in very cold blood,” which made me think, not about intentional murder, but of hung blood in the freezer. The image was in front of me so, that I interrupted her to ask if blood freezes.
“I think the jury’s still out there somewhere,” she told me.
Then she added this: “Do you mind if I’m eating here?”
I told her not at all, not even some, and she said good because her bean burrito was tasty and she was glad of it, and I was glad of her gladness, and I asked for some, and she said some of what, because it was gone. I offered my sleeve because we lacked a napkin.
One time over lunch, I asked her what she’d been up to before dropping in out of the blue. It went like this:
“So, what have you been up to before you dropped in out of the blue?”
“Not much good,” she said.
See what I mean? She didn’t say not much. She didn’t say that she was up to no good (which is really being up to bad). She said she was up to not much good.
That means she was doing good but not much. That’s intentional, and both sad and mysterious. That was her inside the shell of a nut. She was, if anything, sad and mysterious. Is that judging, or just my opinion?
But that was not my all-time favorite saying of hers for the period I knew her. My all-time favorite saying of hers for the period I knew her was when she taught me the difference between reason and season.
One time over lunch, we were talking about the death of my mom, and after she had listened to me for what I thought was a generous length of time, she spoke, and it shut me up.
“Everything happens for a season.”
She crossed her legs and popped her heel out of her little shoe, and balanced the small thing on her baby toes. I squirmed and tilted my head sideways, like a dog that almost heard his name. It was not what I wanted to hear. I was expecting reason to come out of her mouth.
“It’s not season, it’s reason.” I fixed her saying. “Everything happens for a reason. The word you’re looking for is reason.” I stared at the shoe then the rest of her. I think it was red with a strap.
“No, the word you’re looking for is reason,” she said. “Sometimes there is no reason.” Her shoe fell off and she picked it up. She pointed at me with the pointy heel.
“And even when there is a reason, it doesn’t last forever. What on earth does?” Then she put it back on.
“I see,” I said.
I didn’t, not completely, not all the way through. My insight came gradually, like afterthoughts of her. I re-heard her new cliche in my head until it sunk. When it did, what she had said made more sense than if she had said what my ears were expecting, which is, everything happens for a reason.
I have an argument for that: Of course, everything happens for a reason. Why else would it happen? If everything happened for no reason, then there would be a big Wheel of Happen out there, and someone would spin it for no reason. Why would a wheel-spinner stand there forever and bother to spin just to spin?
Of course everything happens for a reason. Duh. Sometimes in my argument, I like to add, “No crap to that,” which is another way of saying duh. That is the only response I had for hearing everything happens for a reason. But she didn’t say that. She said season, and she had shut me up again.
“It’ll seep in,” she said.
It did through my cracks. Eventually, after she left, I knew what she meant, that my mom was dead only for a season, that my childhood home had burned for a season, and that my grief had breached me for a season. My heart had grown cold, but only because it’s a seasonal thing. She was right. Everything around me is happening in seasons. Then the season changes.
I told you I knew her, but I really didn’t. I never did or will. Who in hell could? But I wanted to. I want to. She was only in town that one time for that one while. That’s the one time we had lunch. It was when she was broken down and needed lifting. Then she left.
Before she left left, she asked if I had any bribe money. “Call it a loaner,” she said. I gave her everything I had, and some things that could be mistaken for bribe money. She left without further words.
I believed it was our temporary destiny, our partial fate, to share whatever was there between us at lunch. Our time was something, then it was something else. I think that’s what I mean.
I struggle to describe her without judgement. She was like a lofted bomb that decides to linger in the air for a spell, then boom, right in the middle of a farmer’s peach orchard.
Speaking of peaches, she was not like a bomb at all. She was like a fruitful peach, a good Georgia one. Time ended with her just like when a peach rots, inside gradually, but suddenly to the outside touch.
You feel her skin and start to peel, then you sink in the softest of spots. You reach in and squish. I’m not saying she turned on me, but she had tendencies to go bad, as I’ve said. So the season ended with her, and my time has turned rotten without her, like a bomb.
It feels inside my chest like when I was a kid with my grandma and we picked up a store-bought chicken and I was all smiles at the possibility of dinner with it and the family, only it had a drop-dead date from last week stamped on it’s breast.
It was in purple ink and smeared and she we had to put it back. Only that girl’s not a store-bought chicken. That’s just how I feel inside. It will pass. So, I guess she’s back to being that peach, with soft spot after soft spot.
This is all I do at my age now. I stand at the kitchen window, look outside, and think of analogies. Sometimes, if I’m already outside, I come in, turn around, then look outside.When I do that, I see that it’s about time for the sun to set on my good day.
My point, if I have one, is that, if she had been with me in my youth, she would have taught me things like, the sun I’m watching go down isn’t setting at all. It’s sitting.
That substitution of that one letter, i for e, fills me with the imagery of a sitting sun, and all my past days become better. Aren’t you picturing your sun sitting down and resting at the end of the day? Mine has a pair of funny sun glasses on.
That’s proof of her absence. On truth, all of our suns merely set, as if cold inanimate objects. Having her for one lunch makes it clear as dusk how many sunsits I’ve missed without her through all of my gone years.
Did I say I forgot to ask why she needed bribe money? I didn’t ask her that, or what she had done to need it, or what was the little good that she had been up to. I didn’t ask.
I just gave. I gave her all I had. I wondered if that was enough, because, if it wasn’t, and if she would’ve waited, somehow I would’ve gotten more, but seasons pass and so did she.
You and I knew she wouldn’t wait. Waiting’s not in her. She’s not the kind of fruit to be found growing out of season. She’s not a rotten peach, and she’s not a store-bought chicken with a drop-dead date stamped on her breasts in purple, or any other color.
She was just tired and hungry and needing a little unalone time. We all get tired of life and death. We all need to stop. We all need to start again.
Even though the sun sits, it also stands to rise on the other side of us. Everything happens for a season. Anyone who says different is telling a fire-filled lie.