Sunday, June 30, 2013

Totally worth it

“Your mind is a canvas, 
your experiences are the paint colors 
and your actions are the brushes that show the art in you.”

-- Louise Philippe Dulay

Self portrait 6-29-13

"I search for the realness, 
the real feeling of a subject, 
all the texture around it."

-- Andrew Wyeth

Linoleum block for self portrait 6-30

Inked linoleum block for self portrait 6-30

These are the linoleum block prints that I shed my blood for.
There is something about this low-tech, hands-on, gouging out process that is immensely gratifying.

Unlike a photograph, which is a one-step process, a lino-cut self portrait happens in several stages.

First I shoot a photo, then pare it down to it's barest shadows. 

With carbon paper (yes, it still exists, and yes, it's still as much fun to play with as when we were kids) I transfer the image to the un-carved block.

Then, with a really sharp set of carving tools, I remove the material that fills the negative spaces, one little curled shaving at a time, until the image is revealed. This is the part where I am prone to cut myself. I almost always do. Sometimes it's just a little nick. Other times ... well, see yesterday's post about the other times.

Finally, I ink the block and press it onto paper. I can make as few or as many prints as I want to from the same block, and every one will be slightly, uniquely different from all the others. The flaws become assets -- character.

The ink is thick, so the print has texture that I can see and feel. It seems "real-er" than anything that comes out of my computer printer.

Yeah, my finger still hurts and is going to take a long time to heal, but the prints were satisfying enough to take away the sting. It was totally worth the pain.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


"I'm just like anyone.
I cut and I bleed."

-- Michael Jackson

Boo boo finger face 6-29-13

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. 
Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."

-- Mel Brooks

Linoleum block with actual blood drop  6-29-13

"Mishaps are like knives, 
that either serve us or cut us, 
as we grasp them by the blade or the handle."

-- James Russell Lowell

Nobody can say I am not willing to bleed for my art.

I was carving a linoleum block self portrait, and the knife slipped and jabbed hard into my left thumb.

It hurt, but not too bad, and so I put a Bugs Bunny bandage on it and kept carving.

I should have known better.

I should have had enough common sense to realize what a knife that can cut through hard linoleum might be able to do soft flesh.

I should have put on some gloves.

Should-a. Could-a. Would-a.

A few moments later the knife slipped again, and this time I seriously cut the shit out of my left index finger. 

It hurt.

It bled.

A lot.

How does that saying go?

"If it happens once it's a mistake. If it happens twice, it's a choice."

Lucky for me there was a doctor in the house.

He injected a syringe full of Lidocaine into my finger to numb it, then scrubbed out all of the linoleum block debris and sewed me up with 8 stitches. 

He swaddled my "Frankenfinger" and said I was lucky because I just missed cutting the tendon.

I, of course, gave my boo boo finger a little sad face and took its picture.

I also gave him a name.

I'm calling him "Art."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Art and soul

"You use a glass mirror to see your face; 
you use works of art to see your soul."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Self portrait 6-28-13

"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?"

-- Pablo Picasso

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul,
and paints his own nature into his pictures."
-- Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Inner circle

"I believe anxiety is caused when the brain cannot resolve conflicts. 
It is a stress response. 
This results in circular thoughts so the same thing is thought over and over again."

-- Dr. Sarah Myhill

Self portrait 6-27-13

"I have come full circle, she told herself, and wondered 
what had happened to all the years. 
It was a question, which from time to time, caused her some anxiety 
and left her fretting with a dreadful sense of waste.” 

-- Rosamunde Pilcher,   
The 50 Best Hotels in Cornwall

"I'm in nobody's circle, I've always been an outsider."

-- Joan Rivers

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moody blues

“The memory has as many moods as the temper, 
and shifts its scenery like a diorama.”

-- George Eliot,  
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life

Self portrait 6-26-13

“...trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression 
is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. 
A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn't going to work.”

-- Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half

Self portrait 6-26-13

“The momentum of the mind can be vexingly, involuntarily capricious.”

-- Gregory Maguire, 
A Lion Among Men

Feeling all kinds of everything, all colliding all over me, all at once, all the time. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'll stop the world and melt with you

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.   Carter, Jimmy - See more at:
We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.   Carter, Jimmy - See more at:

"Genius is present in every age,
but the men carrying it within them remain benumbed
unless extraordinary events occur
to heat up and melt the mass
so that it flows forth."

-- Denis Diderot

Melted chocolate faces 6-25-13

  "We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic.
Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings,
different hopes, different dreams."

                                                                  -- Jimmy Carter

Melted chocolate faces (2) 6-25-13
Melted chocolate faces (3) 6-25-13
Melted chocolate face (4) 6-25-13

“Touched by her fingers,
the two surviving
chocolate people
copulate desperately, 
losing themselves
in a melting
frenzy of lust ...”

-- Neil Gaiman,  
The Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives

"Your face 
makes my soul 
want to eat 
chocolate pudding!"

--  Andy Milonakis

"It ain't the heat, 
it's the humility."

 -- Yogi Berra

I turned up the heat on yesterday's chocolate faces and this is what happened.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nobody knows the truffles I've seen

“I was like a chocolate in a box, 
looking well behaved and perfect in place, 
all the while harboring a secret center.” 

-- Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

Chocolate faces 6-24-13

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. 
But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”

-- Ted Grant

Chocolate faces (2) 6-24-13                                                   

 “Nobody knows the truffles I've seen.”

-- George Lang

Someone recently gave me a box of five chocolate faces.
In the box they looked identical and factory made.
In the box they looked dull and waxy and dead and more than a little spooky and weird.
But through the camera, they became amazingly lifelike.
The sheen on the chocolate became remarkably like the sheen of oil on skin. 
Through the camera, the blank faces took on individual characteristics. 
Through the camera, they looked as though they might possibly have souls and thoughts and worries and concerns and dreams and disappointments and hopes and troubles inside, instead of gooey centers.
Some looked pensive. Some looked peaceful.
Some looked wary. Some looked aloof.
Some looked masculine. Some looked feminine.

That is a lot to attribute to candy, I know.
But if any candy can stand up to being that heavily anthropomorphized,  it would probably be chocolate.
Tune in tomorrow and see how well they can stand up to the heat.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Best. Scarecrow. Ever.

“I promise not to hurt you, unless you try to take my shit. 
Then I'll twist your head off and hide it in a bush somewhere.” 

-- Cedric Nye, The Road to Hell is Paved With Zombies

Zombie scarecrow 6-23-13

“Brains, BRAINS, BRains, brains, BRAINS.
BRaiNS, brains, Brains, BRAINS, BRains, brains, BRAINS.
BRAINS, BRains, brains, BRAINS, brains.”

-- Ryan Mecum, Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your ... Brains

I planted a lovely vegetable garden earlier this spring.
It is fenced in and gated to keep out the rabbits and squirrels.
And now, for extra protection, it has a zombie scarecrow as a security guard.
He is guardin' my garden.

The way I see it, scarecrows are scary enough as it is.
Zombies are even scarier.
So the one-two punch of scarecrow and zombie is a fright cocktail that should keep out anything with a brain.

My son, Leo, helped me build this scarecrow, which is standing sentinel between the yellow zucchini and the red bell peppers.
I, of course, made the face. I made it from a Styrofoam wig head, some spray paint, some polymer clay rotted teeth and raffia (for hair).
Leo provided the arrow penetrating the zombie scarecrow's heart, as well as the materials for the dangling eyeball (covered wire and a bouncy ball). He also helped me pick out the zombie scarecrow's wardrobe at the thrift store. (I particularly love the adorable little -- er, I mean super scary -- Freddy Krueger sweater.)
Leo also built the frame and distressed the clothing, and he made the hands.  

A zombie scarecrow really is the best kind of scarecrow.
Think about it.
I don't have to worry about him eating my broccoli, zucchinis, cucumbers, peppers, basil and tomatoes, because zombies don't eat vegetables.
Zombies eat brains.
And vegetable plants don't have brains.
Except cauliflower kind of looks like brains.
And I am growing three cauliflower plants.
I will keep a dangling eyeball on those.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Preying mantis (No, that's not a typo. Do you know what these guys eat?)

“A hatchling, that is what you are. 
A hatchling struggling into the world.” 

-- Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Praying mantis on Leo's thumb 6-22-13
The Praying Mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.
-- Ogden Nash

"Think how a praying mantis is invisible on a leaf, 
how they are carnivores who will devour their own species. 
The female will even eat her own partner once they've mated and, 
as hatchlings, their first meal is often one of their own siblings.”

-- Jane Prowse, The Revenge of Praying Mantis

Nature delivered another unexpected face when this teeny, tiny praying mantis hatchling showed up on our patio table.

His brothers and sisters must be around somewhere, because there are typically 100 to 400 baby mantises that hatch out of each egg case -- all at once.

This mantis is a newborn, weightless, wingless, fragile, about an inch long, legs as fine as filaments. He looks pretty harmless, but don't let his tiny size fool you. These guys are hardcore carnivores. They start on small stuff ... aphids, etc., and a baby will eat anything its own size or smaller, including its own nest-mates. (Words I've never had to say to my kids: "Stop eating your brother or you are definitely getting a time out, Mister!")

Before long a praying mantis will eat pretty much any insect, no matter how big, if they can get the advantage. Mantises are masters of camouflage and will wait, quietly, for hours at a time, and then ambush any insect unlucky enough to wander by. Like many bloodthirsty predators, a mantis always goes for the neck.

A mantis will molt several times over its one-year life span, shedding its tender outer shell for a stronger, sturdier exoskeleton. It will also grow wings.

My son, Leo, found this little dude. I couldn't help but notice their kinship. Leo is also a hardcore carnivore (I routinely watch him lay waste to entire platters of meat in mere minutes.) Leo is also a keen hunter -- a very good shot. In fact, ironically, just after I shot this picture, for dinner we ate a wild turkey that Leo hunted this spring. From what he's told me about turkey hunting, it involves camouflage and a lot of waiting, quietly, for hours at a time. Sounds familiar.

Leo started hunting small stuff ... squirrels, etc. But he's worked his way up to bigger game: goose, turkey. No deer yet, but he'll get there. He wants to hunt wild boar in Texas. I have no doubt that he will. (Note to self: Google recipes for wild boar.)

Leo is 15, and like the mantis, keeps growing, and growing, and growing. My 7 lb. 14 ounce newborn is now 6' 1" and 180 pounds, with size 13 shoes. He doesn't molt, but I swear if you listen closely in the quiet of the night, you can hear his skin squeaking and stretching to accommodate his fast-growing, muscle-hardened body.

I like it that a praying mantis hatchling develops both legs and wings with which to explore, navigate and survive in the world. He will be able fly one day, but he can still stay firmly grounded. What more could I ask for either of my sons?  

I hope some of these hatchlings stick around and that we are lucky enough to catch glimpses of them (and photos of them) as they grow and develop into adulthood. I planted a garden this year, so I definitely want their help keeping the bugs off my broccoli. 

The way I see it, why use toxic chemicals when you can get pest control with a face? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dark circles

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you're just a reflection of him?”

-- Bill Watterson

Self portrait 6-21-13

“The girl in the mirror wasn't who I wanted to be 
and her life wasn't the one I wanted to have."

-- Francesca Lia Block, Pink Smog

“... the abyss you stare into and that stares back at you is your reflection in the mirror --
we all have it -- that shadow self -- that dark heart ...”

-- John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Killing time

 "Again time elapsed."

-- Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Old Clock

Mixed media self portrait 6-20-13

“The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks ... ”

-- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five 

Clocks--that's the problem.
Every clock is a nest of minutes and hours.
Clocks strap us into their shape.
Instead of heading for the nearest star, 
all we do is corkscrew.
Clocks lock us into minutes, make Ferris wheel
riders of us all, lug us round and round
from number to number,
dice the time of our lives into tiny bits
until the bits are all we know
and the only question we care to ask is
"What time is it?"  

-- Jerry Spinelli, Love, Stargirl 
("The Clock on the Morning Lenape Building)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sleep deprivation chamber

 "... night brings me many a deep remorse.
I realize that from the cradle up I have been
like the rest of the race -- never quite sane in the night."

-- Mark Twain

" We wake in the night, to stereophonic silence."

 -- Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook

Self portrait 6-19-13

"Beware thoughts that come in the night.  
They aren't turned properly; 
they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, 
deriving from the most remote of sources."

 --William Trogdon 

"Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night."

 -- J.M. Barrie, Little Minister 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Escaping the labyrinth

“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.” 

-- Oscar Wilde

Polymer clay face with maple tree seed wings 6-18-13

“It seemed as if he had been falling for years.
Fly, a voice whispered in the darkness,
but Bran did not know how to fly,
so all he could do was fall.”

-- George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

"If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets."

-- Mel Brooks 

“Oh No! My wings are effed up!” 

-- Tammara Webber, Between The Lines 

If you haven't figured it out by now, I enjoy mythology.
Greek. Roman. All of it.
I read Edith Hamilton's Mythology in a high school world humanities class and fell in love.
Zeus. Hera. Apollo. Mercury. Icarus -- the danger, the adventure, the deception, the romance, the gods and goddesses whimsically exercising their grudges with each other by fucking with humanity.
I was the only student in the class who was totally into it, I think.
I was that kid.

I was an English major in college, but I took a heavy load of classics, as well. My final thesis was a comparison of literary styles shared by the Odyssey and the Aeneid, titled "Virgil's Dialogue With Homer: Artistry and Vision."
How pretentious does that sound?
Jesus, did I really do that?
There is something about those old myths that still gets me.
I think it is the truth.
The truth about human nature in relation to unpredictable forces beyond our control.
Like Icarus.
Icarus was the son of Deadalus. 
They lived on the island of Crete, ruled by King Minos. 
King Minos had an elaborate, inescapable labyrinth where he imprisoned the Minotaur, a deadly monster. He threw his enemies in there too.
Deadalus (with the help of a hot chick named Ariadne) betrayed the king by helping another guy, Theseus. He gave Theseus a thread so he could retrace his steps out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur.
Minos felt betrayed, so he imprisoned Deadalus and his son, Icarus, in the labyrinth.

Being a crafty guy, Deadalus knew the only way out was up. So he made 2 pair of wings from osier (willow) branches and wax, and taught Icarus to fly.

It worked. 
Deadalus and Icarus flew out on their new wings and escaped the labyrinth.
Deadalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, or his wings would melt.
But Icarus got so carried away by the amazing feeling of flight, that he didn't listen. 
And, well, his wings melted, and he crashed and burned.
Technically, I guess he burned and crashed, into a lake. 
Lots of ink has been spilled about what the lesson of Icarus is, much of it having to do with the consequences of youthful disobedience.
My question is, is it better to stay trapped in the labyrinth, with no way out, waiting to die someday?
Or is it better to take a risk and cobble together a pair of homemade wings so you can fly out of that fucker and feel freedom, even if it's only momentary?
So what if you fall?
You are probably already falling as it is.
For me, the lesson is simple. Get out. Whatever it takes. You might stick the landing.
But if you don't ...
I'd rather die free than imprisoned.
Whatever your "labyrinth" is, whatever imprisons you, whatever confusing maze hems you in -- depression, addiction, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, all of the above -- with the right people helping, you can get out.
They might sneak you the necessary thread.
Or they might just build you some wings.

Take the wings.
Don't worry about the potential crash.
Just fly.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Have a nice face!

"The smile did not mean that he was happy." 
-- Michael Cadnum, Flash


Smiley face balloon with a knife 6-17-13  

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face 
conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”

-- Greta Garbo

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”

-- Mineko Iwasaki 

It's hard to smile when everything hurts.

If I don't sleep, I can pretty much guarantee that the next day is going to be painful. 

Today is one of those days. 

If you have chronic pain, like me, whether it's from fibromyalgia, or an injury, or some other ongoing  condition, then you probably know how restful sleep can function like a "reset button."  

A good night's sleep can miraculously switch off the pain. Not permanently, but it can provide enough of a break for me to catch my breath, relax and remember, if only for a short time, what "normal" feels like.

Last night I didn't sleep, so I didn't get the "reset." All of the pain I went to bed with stayed, and built on itself, and this morning it is still here --  mine to keep and to carry with me for the rest of the day.

Yellow smiley faces tend to pop up here on the blog from time to time, usually when I'm feeling anything but smiley. Smileys don't happen on my good days. They usually coincide with "those days" --  the ones when I have to try real hard to grin and bear it.

The yellow smiley face became popular during the '70s. It was on coffee mugs and bumper stickers, usually coupled with the phrase "Have a nice day."

I typically place the smiley faces under some type of duress. Unlike me, they keep smiling through the pain, whether I've trapped them under a jar, taken a bite out of them, or stabbed them with a Ginsu knife.
It's how I deal.

Grin and bear with me.

Oh. And have a nice day.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lemon thyme

“I believe when life gives you lemons, 
you should make lemonade ...
and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, 
and have a party.”

-- Ron White

Lemon face with cutout eyes and mouth, 6-16-13          

"I had to give him a little taste of the Lemon. 
And it was not sour, my friend. Not sour."

-- Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

While I do love a bracingly cold, very dry vodka martini with a lemon twist,
and while I have nothing against a tall glass of lemonade,
I happen to believe that when life gives you lemons, especially when it gives you lemons with noses, 
you should make faces.


Did you know that "Lemon thyme" is actually a thing.
It's a variant of the herb, thyme, but with lemon-scented leaves. 
Also known by its Latin name,  Thymus citriodorus.
Who knew?

"Lemon out."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The real thing

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”

-- Sylvia Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Self portrait 6-15-13

 “Tattoos are a right of passage. 
They're a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. 
The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain -- to endure it -- 
but a need to actively embrace it. 
Because life is painful - beautiful but painful."

-- Nicola Barker, The Yips

I've done a handful of self portraits with faux/temporary tattoos:

A swallow.
A panther.
Paper dolls.
Japanese lettering.
A gecko.

The tattoo in today's portrait is the real deal.

I have been thinking about this tattoo for a long time. For about 2 years, in fact. I did a self portrait in 2011 with these same words, in removable stickers, pressed onto my neck.

This time the words are permanent. Inked indelibly on my arm.


Today's face is kind of a continuation of yesterday's post, the one about self-destructive tendencies.

I know the words "don't let me get me" are just lyrics from a pop song. But that doesn't mean they can't be deeply meaningful. That doesn't mean they aren't powerful. That doesn't mean they can't be the cry of my soul, or that they aren't necessary and relevant to my everyday existence.

I am not much of a pray-er. Never have been. Though I have tried it in the past, I never really took to it. It always felt weirdly formal and forced and awkward. It's much easier, more natural, more honest for me, to repeat the catchy lyrics of a song -- to let them replay in my mind, over and over.

You might call it an ear worm. I prefer to think of it more like praying without ceasing. Because these words do function for me as a sort of prayer. Or maybe they're less like a prayer, and more like a mantra.

A plea.

A cry.

A petition.

A request.

An appeal.

Whichever, to whoever, or whatever is out there to please hear me and please help me and please heal me so that I don't wreck myself.

Voices can be silenced. But these printed words, embedded into my skin via needle and ink, say what they say no matter what anyone says. Even if I cover them, they'll never stop speaking into the atmosphere.

They're always there.

So even when I'm too tired, too broken, too afraid, too discouraged to utter them ... these word will say and say and say what they say, every day, for the rest of my life.


(Thanks a million to my genius tattooer, Robin H.M., at Tattoo 546. This one's not my first, and definitely not my last.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

This face will self destruct in ...

“Those who say life is knocking them down and giving them a tough time
are usually the first to beat themselves up.”

-- Rasheed Ogunlaru

Self portrait 6-14-13

"Do you know who it is you are destroying here? It is yourself.” 

-- Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three

Self portrait (2) 6-14-13

 "Don't let me get me
I'm my own worst enemy." 

-- P!nk, "Don't Let Me Get Me"

Aaah, self-destructive tendencies.

Maybe you don't fight 'em, but I do.

I knock myself down.
I hold myself back.
I push myself under.
I battle myself.
I disappoint myself.
I hurt myself.
I self-sabotage.

I feel like I am my own worst enemy.

Like I am crushing myself in my own grip.

Often I feel completely powerless to defend myself against myself and the stupid shit that I do to myself.

I am my harshest critic when I should be my own feistiest cheerleader.

God knows there are plenty of soul-crushing forces out there that are beyond my control. So why am I so hopelessly prone to pile on and add to my own misery?

If someone else talked to me the way I talk myself, I'd like to think I'd have the self respect to walk away.

But how do you walk away from yourself?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

All the colors I am inside

 “When you become the image of your own imagination, 
it's the most powerful thing you could ever do.”

-- RuPaul

Self portrait 6-13-13


My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkish yellowish white.
My eyes are grayish blueish green,
But I’m told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it’s silver when it’s wet.
And all the colors I am inside
Have not been invented yet.

-- Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Self portrait 6-13-13

"Jack planned his new face.
He made one cheek and one eye-socket white, then he rubbed red over the other half of his face 
and slashed a black bar of charcoal across from right ear to left jaw. 
He looked in the pool for his reflection, but his breathing troubled the mirror.
'Samneric. Get me a coconut. An empty one.'
He knelt, holding the shell of water. 
A rounded patch of sunlight fell on his face and a brightness appeared 
in the depths of the water. 
He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger."

-- William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I mustache you a question, but I'll shave it for later.

 “Life is great. Cheese makes it better.”

--Avery Aames, The Long Quiche Goodbye

Self portrait with cheesy mustache 6-12-13

“If my love were a bagel, I’d put cream cheese on it.
But it’s not a bagel, so I just put cheddar on top.
Would you like to try a sample?

-- Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A touchy subject

"Only a girl like this
can know what's happened to you.
If she were here she would
reach out her arms towards
you now, and touch you
with her absent hands
and you would feel nothing, but you would be
touched all the same.”

-- Margaret Atwood, "Girl Without Hands"

Self portrait 6-11-13

“I know it’s hard for you to allow yourself to feel this. 
You've gone so long training yourself to block the feelings and emotions out 
any time someone touches you.” 

-- Colleen Hoover, Hopeless

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us,
we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds 
with a warm and tender hand."

-- Henri Nouwen

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's all about me

“Everyone lives a self-centered life ... whether its trivial like what's for breakfast, 
or more ambitious, like achieving some lofty goal, a person is constantly on her own mind.” 

-- T.M. Goeglein, Cold Fury

Self portrait 6-10-13

 “If people could see me the way I see myself -- 
if they could live in my memories -- 
would anyone love me?”

-- John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

I take pictures of myself.

A lot.

I spend literally hours each week, thinking about, capturing, looking at and manipulating my own image.

Don't think I don't think that people might think I might be a little self-centered.
A little self-focused. 
A little inward-turned.
A little self-absorbed.
A little full of myself.
A little narcissistic.

Maybe a lot.
I like to think that when I turn the lens on my own face, it is not about infatuation, or gazing at myself. I like to think it's about something deeper than that, something nobler and more constructive.
But still, I do wonder, at times, whether my affinity for self-portraiture is a healthy artistic pursuit of self-discovery, or something darker, something more like a self-addiction that will one day topple me over the bank into the lake to drown in the waters of my own reflection.

When my thinking about how I spend so much of my time and energy turns dark, I try to look on the bright side.

Like, I may be a self-addicted narcissist, but at least I'm not Amish.

I have nothing against the Amish. In fact, I admire a lot of things about the Amish. For instance, they make delicious pickles.

 It's just that if I was Amish and had this compulsion to make pictures of my own face, I'd be in a real pickle. (Although it would be a delicious Amish pickle.)

Did you now that the Amish are forbidden to pose for face-on photos? I thought it was just a "we don't use technology, and cameras are technology" thing. And I knew there was some kind of Old Testament something or other mixed in there. But I never knew the real "why" behind the rule.
According to the "Top Ten FAQ" about "The Amish" documentary on PBS's American Experience:

"Amish churches forbid individuals to pose for face-on photos or two reasons. First, they cite the second of the Bible's Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not make… any graven image, or any likeness of any thing…." (Exodous 20:14). Second, in a communal society that values humility, posing for photos is a sign of pride that calls attention to oneself and rubs against Amish beliefs about the importance of deferring and yielding to others."

Well, then.

OK. Now I feel really selfish.

Also, I really want a pickle.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hey, little man.

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” 

-- Andy Warhol

Blueberry stem with a bearded face 6-9-13

 “I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things ... I play with leaves.”
 -- Leo F. Buscaglia

I eat a bowl of berries and almonds every morning -- a breakfast that means I never get a toy surprise in the bottom of the box.
But today -- surprise! -- I found this little twig man attached to a blueberry stem in my bowl.
He is very tiny -- barely a half inch high.
I know this, because I measured him.
He weighs nothing at all.
It could have easily overlooked him.
I might have eaten him.
I almost rinsed him down the disposal with the other stems, twigs and squishy berries.
Luckily, I didn't.

He is so small that I didn't know for sure that he even had a face until I shot a few frames through my macro lens and got a good up-close look at him. And even on my camera's display screen, I couldn't make out any facial details well enough to be certain. But when I viewed the images on my computer, I was frankly amazed at what I saw -- the little man had a distinct, intricate, complete face -- writ incredibly small, yes, but nevertheless complete -- with eyes, lips, a scruffy beard and mustache, even a messy haircut and a personality!

And to think I almost missed it.

Sometimes when I am feeling numbed by discouragement, I get side-swiped by one of life's tiny miracles and it sort of shakes me up -- the universe throws me a gift, like this fragile, yet rugged-looking, little twig man -- and I feel a trickle of wonder, a ripple of hope that my troubles might actually work out some day, and that even if they don't, I'll be OK. Somehow, I'll be OK.

Because some celestial artist carved this delicate little face just for me. Just for this day.

And even though it's just a little thing, in these moments, I sense that the universe, or nature, or God, or Gaia, or whoever is out there, knows better than me precisely when I need a boost, and then drops something intimately specific right in with my breakfast -- like a wee note of encouragement urging me to keep going for just one more day.

And so I will.

Because even though insomnia ravages my nights, making them feel endless and cruel, there is always a tomorrow waiting on the other side.

And who knows what tomorrow might bring?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Midnight Cowboy

"For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, 
and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

-- Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist 

Midnight cowboy 6-8-13

"The lunar look skimmed scantly toe, breast, arm,
Then edged on slowly, slightly,
To shoulder, hand, face; till each austere form
Was blanched its whole length brightly.”

-- Thomas Hardy, "A Cathedral Facade at Midnight"

I scored another lucky jackpot at the thrift store -- a whole bunch of pose-able little action figure people, including:
  1. a super-muscular wrestler with a really unattractive bowl haircut and weird embossed chest hair.
  2. a bounty-hunter-ish dude with black gloves, cargo pants, a goatee, and handcuffs hooked on his belt.
  3. a bridegroom in tux, bow tie and cummerbund, whose head is on a spring allowing it to recess, turtle-style, into his shoulders.
  4. a paunchy gangster-y guy with a beer gut, a handful of papers and a black-stained pointer finger.
  5. an orange wizard-y or maybe Zeus-ish guy with long, curly white hair and a white beard, wearing a purple toga and holding a handful of what might be thunderbolts? Or maybe protoplasm? 
  6. and for today's face .... a li'l cowboy.
Except the cowboy's face isn't really there.
I mean, it's there in real life, but here it is rendered as just an empty, blank space.
Which forces the question ... if it's blank, is it still a face?

I am going to argue that yes, it is still a face, even if it is featureless.

I am going to argue that facial space without any features is still facial, and therefore still a face. Plus, the cowboy is wearing a hat, and his little ears stick out, which both imply a head, which implies that there has to be a face hidden there in the blankness somewhere, even if you can't actually see it.

For backup, I will rely on, which defines a face as "the front part of the head, from the forehead to the chin."

So there.

Plus, it's my blog. So if I say it's a face, it's a face.

Feeling dazed and a little confused after yet another sleepless night, I feel a kind of kinship with this lonely li'l night wanderer, out there roaming around under the moonlight with only his shadow and the moon for company.

I can tell from his very blank expression and empty stare that he is a fellow insomniac who knows intimately the punishing, bone-deep fatigue and loneliness of long, wakeful nights, and who knows all too well how slow the night can go, and yet how quickly a morning is over.

I wish he could wander over to my house so we could talk about it.

If he could, I would give him fresh warm gingerbread.

I made some at 5 a.m. because I was still up.