Tag Archives: SoulCollage

Joy where it comes


The Royal Wedding. Sneakers that fit and offer support. Really good homemade gluten free cookies. Lilacs. Lichen. The strength to push a lawnmower. Friends to see movies with. Movies. Social media (yes, even that).

Honeysuckle. Flying overhead: a robin with twigs in her beak (or is it plastic?) landing at the crook of two branches, building her nest. Good books.

A coyote crossing the street at 6:30 in the morning, pausing to look at Finn and me. Disappearing behind Daniella’s place. Finn. Cloth and gifts of cloth (thank you Deb and Ginny!!)

And SoulCollage. Here’s a card made, believe it or not, while constructing the burning infernos and dark fields (actually, I started it months ago and only glued it up this week).

I am the one who adores the wind and the sky and anything that plays with the wind in the sky. I adore red — how it pops and dances. I launch kites — and images and ideas, too. My element is air; my status freewheeling. I am the one who is not afraid to be silly or stand on the edge of a chair.

American Horror

Two things.

Sometimes the most potent collages are made by combining only two images.

And, sometimes you want to transmute the underlying image and sometimes, like here, you want it to stand for what it is. The bee-comb head is an ad for the TV show American Horror Story. I haven’t kept up with the series so I can’t tell you what’s up with the bees, but I can hardly think of a better way to name the gun carnage and political failure we face than: American Horror Story.

(PS. Made this SoulCollage Card two days ago but given how often mass shootings happen in this country, it’s not particularly prescient).

Stunned

I need to slash and swipe and rip and adhere in big gestures right now and I lack the medium.

Writing is going, in case your wondering. So is quilting. But maybe an interlude of collage is in order. It’s not as fast as I would like but does come together more quickly than some writing or most quilting.

In SoulCollage circles they recommend an exercise to plumb the meaning of your collaged image. Of course any one image can have many meanings even for the same viewer depending on time and place. But the exercise is a useful one.

Looking at the card, fill in the statement, “I am the one who… “. This harkens back to therapeutic exercises I’ve done over the years — the gestalt process of speaking from various parts of self and Jungian dream work where each object and player in a dream is given voice.

So here goes for the top two (BTW, the silhouettes were made by cutting around the seated black man, so they are three versions of the same figure).

Card with the arch: we are the ones making the steep climb toward the light. The keepers of the faith. The reporters. The prosecutors. The community activists. Even those glued to the television refusing to let the most recent overwhelming mind bending and egregious acts slide by without notice can be credited with making the ascent. Look how steep the stairs!

Card with black man facing forward: I am the one who sees you and sees everyone and bears witness. I am haloed by history and backed by mountain ranges. Light is my friend. I have huge hands, an unflinching gaze, and more humanity than the average dozen people combined. Nothing you say or do has much to do with me. Nothing, really. There was a time I would’ve run for the hills with so much chaos unfolding, but not now. I see you and I see everyone and I bear witness.

Redemption and damnation

It’s hard not to think about redemption and damnation these days, almost routinely, like how we used to ponder nest eggs or outfits. Here are two collages that try to capture these extremities.

Redemption collage: “100 Years of Reflecting the Future”. The caption came from an ad in the centennial issue for Women’s Wear Daily —  a subscription purchased with airline miles. Believe it or not, I really enjoyed the industry rag, partly because my mother used to get it, partly because even though I’m a member of the fashion-impaired tribe (and the “I don’t really give a fuck” club), clothing cannot get away from the fact that it’s constructed from cloth, which as you know, I love. Usually, the magazine words I come across are distractions or reductive labels, but these were provocative, so they stayed.


This collage references the anatomical heart and aging and asks some big questions.

The collage asks: who will save us? What will save us? Can anything? What future? Can this moment in our history be redeemed? Are there powerful forces of good in the ethers, and if so, how could they have so badly let the American people down?

Damnation collage. The figure below is damned for so many reasons. For one, she’s ill prepared for the elements. For another, in a landscape of grief and disaster, her concern for her appearance seems particularly superficial. She is stylish for sure, but seemingly ignorant of the rows and rows of graves behind her. And, can’t she smell the molten liquid burning up the landscape behind her? Someone needs to tell her that lava will not be at all impressed with her strappy sandals.

In the cool deep

“Let the breath take you deeper:” a reminder.

I can’t believe how much I enjoy being down in the cool sanctuary of the basement right now — whether machine piecing a village quilt, pawing through bins, or vacuuming up cobwebs. It’s a great complement to writing upstairs.

The process of piecing up house patterns keeps me going, but something is missing. A theme? A selected recipient? An internal challenge? Something. And, do I care?

Here are some pictures from today: paper collage, unearthed fabric WIPS, and in-progress shots of current work.

Here I went w/theme. Too heavy handed

Still damp from spritzing

An unearthed sampler from one of Jude’s classes

This old cut out from Newsweek will go upstairs

SoulCollage card composed a while ago but this week seems about the draft envt’l report

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)