Books and Babble; a little wounded, a little dark

why-cant-i-read

Because stuff needs tending. Heaps of unswept dog hair and dirty laundry piles, they’d loom like laughing spectres (we are overthrowing the household!); that’s why! My middle son and I were just discussing today how we share a love of learning. I recently learned that

elephants (notably African and Asian) stay pregnant nearly two years!

Why hadn’t I already learned that by now, or is it a fact I’d forgotten? Anyway the thought of a gestation period that long is remarkable; but then I’d always known elephants are special. They are very loyal and protective to family and friends. In fact my son’s friend buys me an elephant every year. Sometimes they’re plastic, sometimes glass. This year: an elephant plant pot. Through reading, I’ve also picked up sayings that just…stay with me. Sayings like this one:

“You self-flagellating hairshirt!”

I think that line came from a memoir. I always learn something from memoirs that I didn’t know before, whether it’s culture customs, personality quirks and conditions or insights into other psyches. It feels like anthropology. Picking brains. . I especially like author’s and artist’s life stories. There are times in fact, when I find an author’s life (what inspired and drove them) more interesting than their written works. Joyce Carol Oates is one example, as is Eudora Welty. Two very different upbringings, two talented women with unique-unto-themselves writing styles but I don’t necessarily like their fiction. I respect them both. And I almost feel I have a glimpse of who they are as people. As people with their own realities and fears. I share many differences with them and similarities too. I never had a pet chicken like Joyce, but I appreciate her family dynamic and can relate to some of it.

But what happens when you read book after book after book and after a while you realize you just don’t identify with ANY of the characters you’re reading about? You may have seen this on the news… #1000blackgirlbooks

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From http://www.cbsnews.com/news/1000blackgirlbooks-social-media-book-drive-movement-black-characters/ , “When we actually got into the classroom, the books were just mainly about white boys and dogs,” said 11 yr. old Marley Dias, who finds reading material for African American girls like herself, sadly lacking.

Marley was named after Bob Marley; her Mom is Jamaican. Marley’s mission (her calling?) to amass books with characters like herself, went viral. She’s already donated 1,000 books to a Jamaican charity and more and more books are just piling in. Those who would like to donate books to Marley Dias’s drive can sent them to:

GrassROOTS
#1000blackgirlbooks
59 Main Street
Suite 323
West Orange, NJ 07052

Social media is being put to good use here, right? My picks:

   
   
I admire Marley for other reasons of course… She has great poise and selfassuredness in the face of microphones and media. I don’t believe that can be taught. Some adults can’t achieve this demeanor in a lifetime of trials and trying. 

 I often wonder what I would’ve used social media for if it were around when I was growing up. I like to think it would’ve been a bridge (as opposed to a dark, dank alley looming with dangers) to healthy social connections. That truly would’ve been enriching; even freeing. Of course, I didn’t ‘surf the web’ for the first time until I was about 26 years old. I was just starting my own memoir then, drawing from my many diaries.

I remember using AOL back then and having a message POP UP suddenly from an unknown guy by the moniker “Diaper Guy.” I learned right away the dangers of the web when he kept “popping up” and BEGGING me to ‘change his diaper.’ Yikes, how would I have handled that as a child? And here’s Marley Dias, using the web for the good it can do. The reality is, she’s not afraid to do something about her experience with the underwhelming selection of books she’s found to date that she can truly identify with. It’s very freeing to act on an idea and then accomplish a goal.

One thing I DID have growing up was books. I remember my childhood favorites: Harriet The Spy, Meg, and Elvis’ autobiography that I picked up at a tag sale when I was ten… I still am able to read about 2 or 3 books a week, with little monetary investment thanks to my local old library. I believe old books are treated with… magnesium oxide? Is that the familiar oldish woodsy smell or is the library possessing of that smell more like felled trees? The very paper in the volumes that makes libraries smell like paths in the forest? Anyway, perusing its dim aisles, (no plush armchairs and coffee bars like Barnes and Noble) I spotted this Wally Lamb book (silly me, I’d thought I already read ALL of his books). downloadSo I withdrew the book. Lamb tends to give quite detailed histories of his characters, often having more than one “main” character and after a while this becomes addictive reading. To my surprise, one of the main characters in We Are Water is an “outsider artist” (like me—I was not expecting that) and she struggles with similar art show-related qualms. I didn’t know the topic when I picked up the book but I was pleasantly transported to a world I recognized.

It got me to thinking about this old book from my childhood which inspired the painting I did for an upcoming art show. I didn’t know what inspired me to paint a girl swinging and now I recall that one book I used to love from my school’s library. I went to an old brick school with radiator lined classrooms and a tiny library hidden away in a pastel blue windowless room just off the auditorim. The library had a long formica table with lamps. We’d grab a book and then sit in front of a lamp, pull the drawstring and read until the buzzer sounded. I’ve searched for this book online. I knew all the places inside where the girl’s pigtails shot out when she pumped her legs on the swing, suspended there in midair. I knew it word for word, all the places on the pages that were torn and repaired with yellowed tape. If, on the rare occasion someone else grabbed MY book with the girl swinging on the front cover, I’d grab “Customs of The Japanese People.” What was the name of that book? Story of O? It’s not such a terrific painting of the girl on the swing that I’ve done. It’s as I said before that sometimes the story about the inspiration behind the art is sometimes more interesting than the work itself…  

It would help to remember the name so I can look it up, but it escapes me. In the Lamb book I’m reading, serendipity: one of the characters has the last name : “Oh.” This is what got me to thinking about the cover of that long ago child’s book, how I’d loved that little girl’s freedom. Her swinging. No fear. And now I have a better insight as to why I painted this for the show (sorry, it is sideways. Can’t figure out how to turn it around):

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One person remarked, “It’s your granddaughter, right?” I knew it was not. This painting stemmed from an almost forgotten long ago interest…Thanks to my colorful children (all grown now) I’m a person with interests I never expected to have… My youngest child is transgender (born a female, identifying as male), and all three of them have an interest in the paranormal. Perhaps this is because their father died young (when he was 42) when my children were aged 23, 14 and 9, respectively when he died from Lou Gehrigs.

My oldest son founded CTPASTS (Connecticut paranormal and supernatural tracking society) nine years ago. He’s had the opportunity to investigate in Massachusetts with Grant and Jay from TAPS (before Grant left the team). My other son (an agnostic minister and passionate student) also is passionate about the paranormal and belonged to CTPASTS at one point. When I heard of

THE DARK AND THE WOUNDED TOUR,

I thought, “what a way to mix the art world with the paranormal.” It’s like two of my interests: crossed. James Picard installs his art (some find his subject matter creepy) in old delapidated buildings said to be haunted. What a perfect backdrop in which to hang creepy artwork. I must try my hand at creepy art someday to say I’ve done so…

“As individuals and as a society, we’re not dealing with the deeper issues. The Dark and The Wounded is about understanding and healing and looking at things we’ve been afraid to acknowledge. This is about facing reality, getting past the fear, and finding freedom.”   -James Picard (quoted from http://www.darkandwounded.com/about/exhibition-statement/ )

Picard has some of his dark and wounded paintings installed in “haunted” creepy locations. From http://www.jamespicard.com/exhibitions/ , this announcement:

“The Dark & The Wounded” Experience Upcoming Tour Dates

May 5/15 – San Francisco, Alcatraz
May 7/15 – Ione, CA, Preston Castle
May 10/15 – Los Angeles, Casa de Rosas

I can’t show images of his art here, without his permission, but he’s easily googled. I’ll wrap up by saying that Picard has a point…Face reality. Get past fear. Find freedom.

Who isn’t a little dark? A little wounded? Here’s another line I picked up somewhere… perhaps you’ve heard it:

Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

understanding

healing

facing reality

getting past fear

finding freedom

Sounds like a healthy mantra.Learning-quotes-reading-for-mind-excercise-to-body

 

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