i've been going through something of a retrospective lately - well, i'm always involved in a retrospective, but just of late my process has intensified, and the memories have been coming thick and fast. as usual, i'm writing some poetry in response, but also, in addition, i've begun a watercolor class with kate b. weese here in berkeley, and putting brush to paper, like so many other actions of the body not performed for a long time, the activity seems to be awakening a whole raft of stirrings, memories, and longings long suppressed.
i realize there are large numbers of people for whom artistic activity is as natural as breathing. they've had scores of classes, workshops, exhibits. sounds really nice. i hope to join their numbers. the whole process for me became suppressed or rather sublimated into spirituality. there's no reason why the two can't travel along together, however. i've realized that for a very long time, nevertheless it's been difficult to make a return to forms of art which involve my hands beyond the use of a keyboard or a pen. there was some sort of inhibition involved. but now the inhibition seems to be removed.
it's disappointing to see how primitive the results of my efforts are. nevertheless, it is a deeply rewarding and satisfying process. i'm fortunate in that a good friend is setting out on this journey with me, and she has had no previous artistic experience whatsoever. she is a scientist. (well, a scientist who has spent long hours observing nature in her life, especially along the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, which is what drew her toward a career in science in the first place.) anyway, the two of us are about equally matched in terms of ability and skills-level, so that feels very comfortable for both of us.
we realize that our interest in taking up this 'pastime' is to focus our attention even more on the present moment and to create 'keepsakes' of those moments. cathy johnson, who wrote "Painting in Nature" for the Sierra Club's books, takes this approach. it's very nineteenth-century, very contemplative, naturalistic, private, personal, and i love it!
i longed to live in the upper story, the attic loft of that shabby gray and black queen anne on the northwest corner of knox and queen lane, set back from the street among shrubs on a smallish lot.
the scruffy weeds, the magnificent trees beckoned to me to make art in a hooded, hidden place. that solitude called to me. that creative attention to present moment seemed hyper-real. (the most real)
i dreamed that in every season it would call to me there, yield images i'd love, and i would answer in my upper solitude, while poor african-american children walked past on the street, and poor white-mixed-native women with hair-braids on top, german-style, tended their front-yard gardens.
that was all i wanted, was that presence to light and air, some charcoals and pastels, perhaps a few oils and an easel near the window.
that recessed window under the eaves looked out on what? on my life, on the past, the reflected history of germantown, or on its tatterdemalion inheritors of that present day.
i didn't know that window looked out on a future and a world i could not then imagine.
and i looked out that window when, later anne and howard lived there briefly. how i loved their apartment. that promise of a life of music, of pipe-smoke (howard's), books (anne and her career in publishing), cats, and later children. of college degrees and maybe just a little touch of marijuana, a few psilocybin memories soon covered over by good quality knitted sweaters, tweed jackets and ties.
a wooden-staired, banistered walk-up to a garrett apartment in old Philadelphia fueled my dreams.