I am painting our house. Being home during the week, I’m graced with the space to do so. Peter joins me on the weekend. Sam used to, a bit begrudgingly, until he got a job.
I love the painting.
The scraping, caulking, sanding and washing have their own unique virtues and challenges, of course – but I love the painting.
I love the order and rhythm: trim first, house body second; top to bottom; lay down edge bead; fill the between; let sit; second coat.
It’s the second coat that really gets me. Grounds me. I love the way we paint over all underneath blemishes, disparate woodscapes, nooks, crannies, cracks and patches, melding them together into one seeming seamless, unified whole.
Hey! Can we paint over our life that way?
Would we want to?
Another startling artist – floored by another innovative engaged and engaging artist’s work last Sunday night on 60 Minutes: Mark Bradford.
As a young boy Bradford took refuge in his mother’s hair salon, eventually styling hair himself. I got the impression he came to art without intentionally knowing he was heading that way.What outrightly struck me was his media choice and passion for meaningful, vibrant and immediate works. His matter-of-factness and industrial devotion to supporting life, his community and dogged pursuit of upholding meaning. Especially sparked by his cycloramic civil war re-working: Pickett’s Charge.
From his personal TV tellings, I picture a young boy taking refuge in Mom’s hair salon, becoming art-filled man buying salon and adjacent buildings, turning healer, unifying and transforming those spaces into a community artfulness whole.
Life really can be all about transformation.
Here’s 60 Minutes’ interview: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/artist-mark-bradford-the-60-minutes-interview-60-minutes-2019-05-12/
How does one speak the unspeakable? How be one so familiarly intimate with the inexpressible as to give the inexpressible expression? How does one grow to write like Ocean Vuong? Witness page sixty-two:
There is so much I want to tell you, Ma. I was once foolish enough to believe knowledge would clarify, but some things are so gauzed behind layers of syntax and semantics, behind days and hours, names forgotten, salvaged and shed, that simply knowing the wound exists does nothing to reveal it.
I don’t know what I’m saying. I guess what I mean is that sometimes I don’t know what or who we are. Days I feel like a human being, while other days I feel more like a sound. I touch the world not as myself but as an echo of who I was. Can you hear me yet? Can you read me?
Read it and read you. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. https://www.npr.org/2019/06/05/729691730/on-earth-is-gorgeous-all-the-way-through
I am a democrat through and through. No apologies. Have been all my life. Perhaps swayed by my mother from a young age, though suspect I’m a democrat at heart.
In all of my years identifying as democrat I have never felt as stark and dire a differentiation between our republican and democratic parties as I do now. Parties – not people. Before this vitriolic phase of our national political psyche, I sensed the democratic and republican parties shared a common humanitarian platform, even though policy approach greatly differed. Not so now – partywize.
Our once esteemed democracy is being usurped by moneyed and powerful presences with paltry regard for our public conscience and grotesque regard for filling pockets.
I continue to ache as a citizen of a country whose representation does not see clear to limit military assault weapons to active trained military only; does see access to general citizenry medical care as privilege not right (and is the only developed nation to do so); and does view ‘other’ as if they are not ‘other’ themselves.
We need an overhaul – partywize.
I was elated to spend yesterday with our 17 month old grandson. I so admire his approach to life. He stands for a moment soaking things in – walks up to the thing most desired and with no societal constraints, reaches in and grabs hold.
In the case of the musical instrument basket, he pulls out the purple xylophone piano, “places” it on the carpet and plonks away with his one-fingered approach. Nearing full capacity, he reaches back into the basket and extracts a recorder – promptly puts it to mouth and blows, producing an appropriate high-pitched squeal. Flipping it over, he blows into the other end – silence. Broken. Move on.
The ball drawer. One at a time he frees each ball from its caged existence. Gramma deftly places an empty container nearby and tosses the first ball in. Grandson catches on, continuing Gramma’s charade. When done, he grabs hold the container handle and empties them back on the floor where they belong. Next!
Dad arrives early evening soon after both grands return from the library where dinosaurs, Duplos and disparate desires of like-minded and sized companions were successfully navigated. Gramma rummages through rooms collecting accoutrements. She notes to son that finally, for this once, all things had been successfully collected and packed up for home. No strays.
Ten minutes later, cellphone rings. “Hi Honey, what’s up?” “Do you have Eliot’s binky?”
I don’t know much about Robert Frank – a revolutionary documentary photographer whose 1950s collection of photographs, ‘The Americans’, caught the public eye and heart. I learned of him from a story on NPR, after he died on September 9th.
These are the souls who keep us true.
We heard a former college basketball coach, Erik Johnson, speak at the Hopkinton High School field house last night. He works for PCA – Positive Coaching Alliance. I felt schooled in a way I wish I had taken to heart years ago. Here’s a story he told that sums it up: A couple years back, his best friend texted him – “What coach doesn’t start his leading scorer?!” Johnson called his friend – “What’s up?”
Well, he was at his 10 year-old son’s soccer tournament for the weekend. Two teams combined to compete together for the tournament – his son was leading scorer out of both teams. The coach wasn’t starting him.
“What coach doesn’t start his leading scorer?! I even showed him the stat sheets and he still wouldn’t start him! He ruined Owen’s whole weekend!” Johnson stayed silent for a moment, then said, “You know I love you, right?” “Right.”
“Owen’s coach didn’t ruin Owen’s weekend – you did. Think of what you could have helped him learn through that experience. ‘Each coach has their own style. We don’t always know – or agree with – why they do what they do – but it’s your coach’s decision and you can handle this. Be there for your team. Cheer them on – and when it’s your turn to play – give it your all. I’m proud of you.’
“Instead, probably every time Owen looked over at you for encouragement and support, he saw you frustrated and angry and fuming at his coach. It’s you who ruined your son’s weekend – not his coach.”
I gulped all the way through that story. For in myriad small and big ways, I have been guilty of everything Johnson’s best friend did that weekend. But the good news is – I can choose to change.
An image PCA’s Erik Johnson introduced was that of two intersecting circles: one circle being the WHAT and the other the HOW. He claimed most parents and coaches in the Sports realm – and life realm – concern themselves with those two aspects. But he claims the core from which both the WHAT and HOW emanate from – is the WHY.
WHY do we want our children to participate in Sports – and other healthy activities? Some of the answers from both student athletes and parents included: for fun; to be part of a team; to challenge themselves; to face adversity; to live a balanced life; to learn to deal with all the feelings that come from winning and losing; to learn to get along well with all different people; for fitness; etc. PCA – Positive Coaching Alliance – professes one main motto: Better athletes, better people.
It seems to me Johnson’s coaching must have evolved from the WHAT and HOW to the WHY. He said, when hundreds of college student athletes were asked what the worst thing about their athletic experience was growing up, the majority replied, ‘The ride home.’
Parents (me, included – and not just in Sports) want to go over all the WHATs and HOWs, and in so doing miss out on the WHY. For instance: “I felt so proud of you when you missed that jump shot but still hustled right off the court with your head up and continued to cheer your team on.”
Better athletes, better people
It’s been six months since I joined the gym – and still no progress! That’s it! Tomorrow I go there in person!
Our school system is one of those which starts before Labor Day – a couple days before the Friday we then take off to create a four-day weekend.
The build-up to the first day does set its own rhythm. This year we actually shopped for school supplies and clothes early, due to the threat of tariffs and higher prices. That altered our rhythm in not altogether unwelcome way.
First day morning things moved along swimmingly. Boy was showered and dressed a full forty-five minutes before walking departure time.
After making humus, lettuce, cheese sandwich in a pita pocket I stepped out to the front room for some reason or other. I heard Sam’s footsteps down the stairs, “Uh oh. This could be dangerous.” He held out his lunch bag – presumably from his backpack – presumably from the last time he used it – presumably on the last day of school in June.
We both stood motionless for a moment. I reached out to retrieve it at arms length. Heavy. Oh no. Unzipping it, I cautiously peered in. An apple – still whole – and not quite fully browned; an empty plastic container and slightly used spoon. Not too bad!
A fortuitous start to the new school year!