Thursday, June 04, 2009

playing at words

For the summer, Tuesday nights are for art workshops at Andy's house. I don't make the kind of art that you can dab onto a canvas or sketch with a pencil, but I didn't want to miss out on the fun of being artsy in one of the many cool spaces on his property. So I decided that Tuesday nights will be my time to play with words. In the treehouse.

I'm still stabbing at that 250-a-day goal but I've noticed that those words end up being serious words. Words that talk about discipline and learning and teaching. I want Tuesday nights to be about words at play.

First, you have to picture me walking to the top of this hill and climbing the ladder into that tree with all my stuff spilling out of my big ol' leather purse. And me in flip-flops. Next, you have to imagine me checking the time and trying to do the math of how long I had to play before the bats come out. And how long it would take me to skedaddle out of that tree.

So, here's some words. They are just playing. Don't be too hard on them; I haven't made them straighten up and fly right yet. I just put my pen down on the yellow pad and this is what came out.
I realize this is an impossible plan. Writing up here in this tree. Sitting on planks with mosquitoes bobbing up and down on my pantlegs.
I like the aloneness, though. If I have to trade mosquitoes for people bobbing up and down with poisonous small talk, I pick this.
What are red, scratchy welts on my feet and scalp and hands compared to the pricks and stabs of the platitudes and cliche of meaningless conversation?
At least I have Calamine lotion for the bug bites.
Perhaps it would be helpful to apply some sort of pastely salve on each spot I am bitten with babble about the weather in NY or prattle about your busy schedule.
Better yet, a polluting aerosol to spray upon my head when I see you coming. Perhaps the scent of it would magically change your words to poetry.
Or some sort of chemical reaction would take place mid-air so that all your words would be about Annie Dillard or Bob Dylan or Degas' dancers.
Or even Dr. Suess.
Now picture me making a note to stuff a can of mosquito spray into my purse next week.
I must have one. I'm pretty sure God did not forget.
What I can't figure out is the sound and shape of it.
Soft and flowing like a warmly-lit woman or clipped and spiky like a queen of renown.
Perhaps it's squashed and sullen like a cuss. Or hollow and pleasant like a bank teller or a receptionist.
I'm not particularly impressed with any of these options. And I'm jealous of (almost) all of them.
I'd like to be able to curse like a prophetess and judge like a queen.
I'd like to whisper like a lover and sing like a Siren.
Mostly I'd like to know the voice when it comes up from my chest and over my tongue. I'd like to be able to recognize it as my own.
Connected to the truth stitched into the core of me.
I am so homesick for the taste of it. I've forgotten what it sounds like.
This got me on a roll about voice.
I think I change my voice on purpose.
I make the decision how to sound by what I'm hearing outside my head instead of what I'm hearing inside my head.
It's like a giant sponge fills up my belly all the way to the back of my throat.
When I hear sounds it's like tiny seeds fly through the air into my mouth, between my teeth, across my tongue and drop into the nooks and crannies of the giant sponge.
The sound-seeds put down high-speed, quick-growing roots and send out flowers of their own kind.
The leaves crowd out the air inside of my mouth and the blossom forces it's way through my lips leaving sticky sweetness on the backs of my teeth.
Then the people I'm talking to pick the flowers and pin them to their collars like a boutonniere.
Even for play, this one got a little silly so I'm sparing you the sequel.
That and the one about my mother that I'll have to publish posthumously.

In plenty of time to avoid the bats I climbed back down out of the tree, purse slung over my shoulder like Mary Poppins' carpetbag. Flip-flops askew and toenail polish dented. But, dang if it didn't feel good!

I'll leave with you with a few snapshots of my artist friends at work in Andy's house of art.

Beau channeling Frank Lloyd Wright in the kitchen.

Linda and Dawn in the open-air studio loft. Mary in the plain old open-air.

Join us if you're in the area!
Tuesday nights through September, 6-9 PM
Andy Palmer's house: 506 High Street, Lisle
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