Slow Art


Sunday May 25
A large woman strode up with three orange doggie bags, a bouquet of pink flowers, and a dog on a leash. It was drizzling. “Good weather for the Ski to Sea athletes, not so much for the vendors,” she noted. She said it was her 10th and last day of dogsitting. “You’ve got it made,” she told me, and asked me what I was making. “Happy Everything!” she said as she left.

M & M were out walking Finn, and stopped to chat for a while.

Two Sundays ago, the bicyclist with the cowbell on the back spoke to me for the first time in 3 years: “Happy Summer!”

Saturday May 24

Today I knit a therapeutic hour of 50 minutes. Just because I didn’t get my act together to knit a whole hour, I didn’t have to cancel my knit for the day. I thought of G.K. Chesterton’s adage that if it’s worth doing something, it’s worth doing it poorly.

A cute man rode up on a bicycle and introduced himself to me as Aaron, housemate of Inga and Jason, the young doctor who lives up the street. He is what Thai people refer to as luk krung or half child, half Thai and half Caucasian. Almost all the movie stars in Thailand are half and half children because that’s the fashionable body type. (I grew up in Thailand, and believe me, mine was not the fashionable body type with my big build, curly hair and freckles.)

Later that afternoon, my dad surprised me by offering to help assemble my new hose reel still in a box that took up the whole back seat of my car. It stunk of spraypaint so my mom banished us from the living room to the carport. After a surprisingly easy assembly, I loaded it back into my car to take to the bench the next day.

Friday May 23

Rain. Picked up earthworm that wriggled energetically in my hand covering it with sticky goo.  I dropped it 3 times in the process of trying to photograph it.  I wish I could be as transparent as an earthworm.

The woman who wears sunglasses every day whether it’s sunny or rainy has been walking by a lot with her black dog. She rarely says anything, although today she commented that I must be keeping the line rolled up because of the rain. I didn’t try to explain the fact that my line is tangled, and I’m between hose reels. Some things are too complicated to explain.

Wednesday and Thursday – on retreat in B.C., no knitting

Tuesday 20

Daydre drove up and invited me to march with the Whatcom Democrats in the annual Ski to Sea “Blossomtime Parade.” I uneasily told her that I voted Democrat most of the time, but not always. “Everyone is welcome!” she said expansively, including Independents. She said that they would be holding a parachute as a canopy over their heads with a sign that all are welcome in the Democratic Party. That night, I dreamt that I was marching with the Democrats holding a cardboard sign that read Prolife Democrat. I woke up with a bemused smile, wondering if I would truly be welcome if I appeared among them with that sign. Decided not to be a martyr this time.  Dear reader, I have enough internal contradictions to offend EVERYONE.  I hope I haven’t offended you.

A woman drove up and asked me if I was making an art project. She gave me a thumbs up gesture and drove away. Shortly afterwards, she reappeared and asked if she could have my contact info because she was planning to move here from Tucson, Arizona. “I’m an artist too…” she said. I asked her what kind of art she does, and she said that many years ago, she made lifesized, electronic moving figures that filled a whole room. She said that when she starts making art again, it will be very small. I asked her why, and she said, “Life is short.”…I was puzzled by her answer but didn’t press her to elaborate. She looked like she had at least 30 more years of creative generativity left in her.

After she drove away, I started thinking of the patient artists that I so admire. Have I already told you about them?  For example, Jay DeFeo who worked on a painting entitled “The Rose” for 8 years. Layered with nearly 2000 pounds of oil paint and mica, a moving company had to remove the bay window of Jay DeFeo’s San Francisco flat to get it out, and lower the painting by forklift down two stories onto a flatbed truck. You can watch the documentation of this extraordinary moment on Bruce Conner’s short film entitled The White Rose.

“The Rose”

I also thought of James Turrell who began carving skylights into the sides of a crater in 1974 so that people will some day be able to contemplate the sky through these impossible portals. The project has cost millions of dollars and continues to this day. I thought of Antoni Gaudi, the architect charged with building Sagrada Familia church, who began work on it in 1883 and continued working on the project until his death in 1926. Construction of the church is ongoing…Most of the pillars, stained glass and sculptures are abstractions of natural forms. The whole structure gave me the feeling of standing inside an enchanted garden that had sprouted out of the ground.


And finally, I thought of Dominique Masseaud’s art pilgrimage, “The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande” in which she ritually removed trash from the Rio Grande river over a 7 year period.

You see, life is short, but art is long. It doesn’t spoil like food, and when it’s good, it has the power to nourish and inspire generations of people. It’s artists like these that deserve the title “Artist,” to my mind, at least.

*C. came out and sat on the bench with me for “moral support” and filed her finger nails.*

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