Tag Archives: SoulCollage

What rough beast?

I heard the phrase ‘slouching toward Bethlehem’ in my head yesterday (St. Patrick’s Day!) and pulled a copy of “The Second Coming” off the shelf (a volume titled, “Major British Authors”, of all things — Yeats was Anglo-Irish, but still). I read the poem aloud while pacing a loop, surprised by its relevance (it was written in 1921) and impressed by the language’s potency. You can read it below.

But since we just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, a detour into the Irish love of language is in order. If you don’t think it’s a thing, I challenge you to walk into any sweet shop in Dublin and exchange a few words with the clerk. It’s not just the ‘gift of the gab’ or poetry, of course, but language in all its forms: lyricism, satire, gallows humor and puns, drama, scatological jokes and wicked curses, elegy, eulogy, rants, and prose. This is in my blood.

As for that blood, two generations on? Well, I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, for what that’s worth. Certainly, my family’s got the art of imprecation covered — all of us curse like sailors. My mother once famously growled, “I wish you kids would stop that god-damned gutter talk!” I might have been eight.

When my children were still quite young (though probably older than eight), I gave them my ‘F word’ speech. We were in the car, of course, all facing forward, strapped in, and aware that whatever it was I had to say, it’d be over in seven minutes.

In the course of my exegesis, I used the word ‘fuck’ at least 15 times, to say, among other things, ‘See boys? You’re not gonna fucking shock ME with the word!’ This tells me that the car ride occurred at a time when I was still limiting my cursing around them.

‘Fuck is a useful word,’ I said like a vocabulary instructor, ‘it has no corollary, really.’ [see what I did there, inserting the word ‘corollary’ ?] ‘Look at how its sound corresponds to its meaning– fuck, fuck, fuck! — how great is that?’ This went on for blocks.

And then, lest you think me derelict, I delivered two cautions, one arising from my love of language, the other from life as a suburbanite. ‘Here’s the thing, boys. If you use the word ‘fuck’ too much, you diminish its power. Don’t do that. You want ‘fuck’ to really mean ‘fuck’ when you say it.’ Did I glance up in the rear view mirror at that moment or save the look for the second warning? ‘Here’s the other thing, and this is important — some people are terribly, terribly offended by the word, I’m not even sure why, really, so watch out. You don’t want people judging you for saying the word ‘fuck’. For now, puh-leeze don’t use it around grown-ups.’

[Now, C uses the word ‘fuck’ almost randomly, nearly as a place holder — so much for preserving its potency].

My father was a clever and witty man who adored word play. He routinely launched riffs of puns that went on and on, and then on some more. We learned to play along, desperately striving to one day outdo him. Rarely happened. Fortunately, any and all attempts were appreciated, no matter how lame (and let’s face it, most puns ARE lame). Since not all of my father’s puns were delivered with corny fanfare, sometimes it was enough just to catch them. Here, I refer to those puns casually stated with a playful stealth. Picture this: family dinner, a sneaky pun inserted into conversation, a pregnant but brief pause, then one or two teenagers rolling eyes and groaning to patriarch’s visible satisfaction.

My father’s weekly efforts with the NY Times crossword puzzle were another source of teenage admiration. How did he do it? Every now and then, I’d snuggle in and try to make a contribution and fail. Just fail. He chewed his cheek and worked methodically — acrosses first, then the downs, scribing his answers with an engineer’s pencil. In some seasons, a football game was on.

My sister and I carry on the puzzle mania. I get the Sunday Times delivered solely for this reason (should be admitted sheepishly, but hey). The first thing I do is make a copy for her and then plop down with pen and coffee and get to work (yes, I do it in pen). Some part of me must still be 15, because even though I now know that half the trick is to simply have lived long enough, it amazes me how frequently I finish (or nearly finish). Unlike my father (after all, I’m no engineer), I work the acrosses and downs simultaneously. But since I’m not crazy, I do go sequentially. For some reason, I don’t consider answers supplied by my husband cheating (he helps with chemistry, sports, and military history) (maybe I’m not that amazing?) For desperate weeks, there’s Rex Parker’s blog — out and out cheating, of course.

As for the Irish love of scatological humor, let’s just say the Mallons had a reputation. Much to our childhood friends’ astonishment, belches and farts were delivered with glee and drama in our house. We ranked belches for volume and texture. Farts came with odor cautions and sometimes a physical gesture, like a lifted leg. I continue to be so foolishly entertained by farts that I’ve made my husband swear he won’t mention it in my eulogy.”She never met a fart she didn’t think was hilarious!”

In the ninth century Irish epic, “The Tain”, by the way, you’d be amazed at the amount of farting going on. And while not exactly on point, there’s also the scene where a vast army is stopped in its tracks by a bunch of women exposing their breasts.

Lastly on this topic of the Irish love of language (is that the topic?): rants. Ranting is a special talent of mine, one I’m kinda known for in my writing circle. While I’m not necessarily proud of this, there can be some art involved. Ranting universally features complaint and wrathful condemnation, but if crafted specifically and originally enough, the words can be elevated into something entertaining or even educational.

The poem by William Butler Yeats follows. It makes obscure references to his work, “A Vision,” but it’s not necessary to know them to feel the piece’s potency.


The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

Have a nice weekend, all! Maybe give yourself a day without news? Or at least, a day where you wait til after lunch? My next few posts will be short, I promise!

PS It was politics, not St. Patrick’s Day, that drew Yeats’ poem to mind. But how nice to talk around that utterly unbelievable joke with enormous powers of destruction and not say his name.

(The SoulCollage card is part of a recently surfaced batch made a couple of years ago. It’s one of many addressing blood. There’s your Irish mother and child, there’s the ‘family tree’, there are the pea plants used by Mendel to study heredity, and there, running up the lower center, is an abstract coil representing the twisting shape of genes.)

 

 

Losing things and finding them

Are you a person who loses things a lot of the time or just now and then? A recent New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz takes a beautiful wander through the topic. Subtitled, Reflections on Two Seasons of Loss, Schulz examines not just the business of losing things, but also what it means to lose our minds and loved ones.

Things go missing so much in this house that I have categories for lost objects, not unlike the childhood game of calling out ‘warm’, ‘cold’ or ‘HOT HOT HOT’. I usually can tell that I’m going to retrieve a lost object before I find it and often sense its general vicinity. Lest you think that gives me some sort of advantage, know this: even a ‘hot’ lost item with a felt sense of place can take DAYS to find.

In my early twenties, my checkbook went missing so often that the bank tellers on North Street rolled their eyes to see me coming. I’ve gotten somewhat better. Medication helps.

In spite of my incapacity, family members are right to ask me where things are, since in addition to being an over-the-top loser of things, I’m a good finder. Is that uncommon? My mother used to call me “old eagle eyes” and ask me to round up her scissors.

When the “where’s my” question is posed to me, it feels like more of an imposition that it might otherwise, because I’m kinetic. Being kinetic means I have to take notes to remember anything and that to find a lost object, I have to move my body. When both boys were home over Christmas, I really enjoyed cooking for them and felt neutral about loaning the car and picking up. But the “where’s my?” routine was annoying.

“Where’s my jacket?” “Where’d I leave the fob?” “Did you move my paycheck?”

I was asked to find things I hadn’t used, touched or seen. Being winter, I’d have to unearth myself from a blanket, heating pad and lap top (that’s two cords and a lot of fabric). My joints hurt sometimes. I’d groan. Then I’d wander around the house, maybe finding their lost thing, maybe not.

Objects can move from one category of lost to another. ‘Fucking vanished’ is a category, but believe it or not, a mutable one. Some things that I could swear after a vigorous, multi-day hunt have been taken by leprechauns do in fact show up. (‘taken by leprechauns’ is a whimsical name for ‘fucking vanished’). It is especially hard when something that feels retrievable shifts into the ‘permanently gone’ category.

Frequently losing things teaches you about attachment, sharpens intuition, and inspires resourcefulness in coming up with substitutes. Humility is involved. But those are topics for another time.

Let’s instead descend into my studio, which is really messy (also a topic for another time). Yesterday when I went downstairs to find some xerox color copies I’d gone to some trouble to make a few months back, I wasn’t sure how readily I would find them. That they were pretty much right where I’d thought they’d be felt like a gift.

There are about forty-five collages ready to be mounted to card stock. Then, at last, they will be SoulCollage cards.

Because I hate to measure and really suck at it, it took a good long while to mount just five of the collages. At five a day, I’ll need eight days to get through the pile. But guess what? After an especially demoralizing day of writing, the task actually satisfied. I took my time. I enjoyed working toward a goal with manageable and discrete steps — so unlike finishing a novel (am I finishing? is it a novel?)


Off to walk Finny, then back to my laptop (wish me a more productive day!)

  • (thank you for posting on FB Michelle ! Even though we get The New Yorker, I might have missed it)

Pick any three

How three become a story.

This morning I found a big pile of finished Soul Collage cards in my studio (what can I say? And also, aren’t there more somewhere? And what happened to the two dozen plus color copies ready to be trimmed and mounted? — This is what ADD looks like).

Years of Tarot reading (and now Soul Collage card pulling) have taught me that while within every single card there is a story to be found, with three cards, the story tells itself.

These three narrate a tale of parenting. Happening right now. There’s the young man being launched! Into the mountains, specifically.

After a bit of a fall (Humpty Dumpty) and emergency care (doctors have more skill than all the King’s horsemen).

Now the three of us huddle close, two holding up the third for the moment. Fluid, shared creativity will outsmart that horned and hulking bully. Bye bye big reptile guy!

(Fluid creativity is also what ADD looks like, PS).

The meaning of the dance photo is heightened by the fact that the image came from a glossy Vail resort magazine that I clipped years ago. We were at the resort while both boys were still in high school. It was a really special, once in a life time kind of get away (courtesy of my brother). D. fell in love with the Rockies during that trip.

There are a lot of “launch” cards in my deck. That I picked the one with a snowy mountain range demonstrates how synchronicity informs the process.

‘Nuff said. Much still up in the air. There and here. I have tons of pictures from our wonderful trip to Charleston and need to figure out how to share them. Reconsidering Flickr: yahoo keeps getting hacked.

It’s fifty degrees here. Hotter, I’m told, in Boulder.

Midnight collage

man-gazing-deemallon-soulcollage

Last week on a night when I couldn’t sleep, I padded down to the cool refuge of my basement studio and assembled two rows of collage. I can’t say that making the collages meaningfully improved my mood, which seems to be tanking with abysmal frequency these days, but the intense focus did provide momentary relief. Minutes slid into hours. Collage has always had that kind of power for me.

The images can be read left to right, like a story. They overlapped as I laid them out, but obviously to photograph, I had to make selections about where to end one image and begin the next. When the collages get converted to SoulCollage cards, the edges will become permanent. A color xerox machine will be involved.

Feel free to offer your sense of what the story is about. I’d be curious.
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Some of the collages have changed since these pictures — tidied up or supplemented.

This is not a story, but here are some fairly random notes prompted by the pictures:

What do I chose to reveal and how and to whom? Where are my sources of strength? What haunts me and what haunts the ones I love? Where is succor? Love matters. Where do I run when things turn backwards? Will she jump? Is that your mask or mine? Can the old terrors keep getting at me? What will I trade for peace? She reclines in front of a young man in possession of himself. They are so far away! What does their future hold? Will they ever connect? Why is my bowl so frequently empty? Who is he? Who is she? Will the angel really bring pink roses in the final hour? What about now?

 

accepting today’s piecing

IMG_9202The cloth I pieced this morning makes me think the Road to Subtle is a long one for me. The pattern/color has a way of creeping in even when I intend otherwise. It looks paler without light shining from behind, but still….
IMG_9204I LIKE it and will enjoy continuing with it… but it’s funny how pale it started… how much I wanted to combine very subtle gradations of yellow, blue, green, and grey. Part of this not-so-subtle result might be a stash issue — as hard as it might be to believe that I don’t have enough fabric!!

The collage below ALSO departs from the original intention. I thought I might be on the road to creating a Tarot deck. Collected Fool and Joker images. Wanted to start with Zero and proceed through the Majors one by one. Flipped and fluttered through my papers.

What I got instead is a “Michelle Card”.  The trademarked SoulCollage process invites the maker to create archetypes, inner aspects of the self, and animal guides. But it ALSO suggests creating cards honoring people in one’s community.  Michelle in NYC has been looking out for a young pigeon this week (see her blog, Ms. Uncertainty Principles). Her actions and photos were the impetus behind this collage (not yet a card).
MichelleThe little open book in the corner is a reference to her being a writer.  That the marbled paper on the right looks like a series of hearts really pleased me, since her actions are so much from the heart. The veined lotus came from a Peabody Essex Museum brochure cover. Even IT seemed to reference Michelle and her Buddhist practice.  The map behind the dove is a ripped and re-arranged map of the Gulf, highlighting areas of concern after the Deep Well incident.

Ask

ask-right-questionsClutter-clearing produces space — physical, mental, emotional. Clutter- clearing is a spiritual practice, one that needs doing on an ongoing basis. And even though clutter-clearing is “first world problem” (and therefore slightly embarrassing to discuss?), it is a vital subject to explore openly because we need support to do it.

And we need reminding of its profound benefits.

I will be talking about clutter and order this year. One of my special challenges. Today, I’ll leave you with my go-to source on the subject:  Sandra Felton, aka ‘The Organizer Lady’, author of many helpful books on household order.  You can also find her at MessiesAnonymous.com.

Today I ask the question – what is it I want to invite in to a beautifully ordered home?

[DO NOT CLICK on light blue words with two underscores…   I have been hacked. Bear with me while I attempt to figure this out].

or not…

Island textures - they look like thread!

Island textures – they look like thread!

Trust disequilibrium,

or not.

It was all too much, on so many levels, and the puppy has been returned to the breeder.  We had dear sweet Atticus for one week.  What anguish produced by this misguided decision (mine)!  Tears aplenty.  And yet (though it is impossible to REALLY know),  it’s better this way.

Disheartened by the turn of events and the steely act of will required to take him back, I thought I’d rely on pictures from a year ago – something I like to do now and then, and in this case, it spared me looking around the house and noticing all the places where the puppy recently played or slept. Even his crapping spot has a certain nostalgia to it this afternoon.

A year ago I was on Martha’s Vineyard, among other things, making this:

SoulCollage - Adopting Jack

SoulCollage – Adopting Jack

… which is a SoulCollage card made to mark the Adoption Day of our Corgi, Jack.  In the collage, ‘my guys’ are waiting in Salem, where we found Jack at a shelter.  This was seven years ago.  He had to be quarantined another day after meeting him, and so the photo is post-introduction but pre-pick up.  Interestingly, the splotchy abstract rug I used for the background expresses how this week’s mess feels!

Also made a Jack card at the time:

SoulCollage - Jack

SoulCollage – Jack

The trip to the Vineyard meant not just making SoulCollage cards in the company of friends, but eating farm-fresh eggs and yogurt, and wonderfully prepared scallops and venison… it was the kind of trip that was going to be impossible for lots of time to come with a feisty, big dog on my hands.

Chilmark eggs

Chilmark eggs

That’s not why he’s back with the breeder, but as the week went on it became increasingly clear that the care of this dog was going to cross right over into the empty nest.  My sister appropriately quipped, “menopause puppy”.

Today I will quietly finish Barn II, taking small satisfaction in the fact that the power strip can go back onto the floor.

Instead of asking myself to ‘trust disequilibrium’, I am asking for self-acceptance in the face of a bad decision and for my son D’s forgiveness.  My intentions were sterling, anyway.

Enough said.