chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Monthly Archives: July 2012

mythical…

responsive…

packaged…

something…

knowing…

wished…

out…

what was left…

RoyliesThree years after my father died, my mother, at 88, told me one day that she was feeling ‘isolated’ in the house and was ready to move. I still count that day as a blessing — not having to move her against her will — and we hastened to find her an aerie, as she wished, near the beach.

From her accumulated “stuff” and her 50 years in the house, we chose the few things that would go with her to furnish the remaining years of her life, though she seemed content to think of it as packing for an adventure, a vacation (she referred to her assisted living residence as “this hotel”).

That she was willing to depart with so little, or part with so much, was surprising to me; Dorothy had cared obsessively for her possessions and spoken with regret and longing of the things her mother had given away, the things she didn’t have but might have added to her collection if her own mother hadn’t been so cavalier.

What was left, and there was a lot, was my problem now. I felt some urgency to be done with it and my grandmother’s cavalier spirit inhabited me as I flung things into piles — Giveaway, Sell, Keep.

Once the house was stripped of Giveaway and Keep, I set out everything else and invited family, friends and neighbors for a private two-day sale. This was a hard decision, as my father had philosophically refused to sell his sculpture (giving it away at every opportunity) and I was reluctant to betray his belief.

Nothing was priced. The rules were: select what you want, decide what you want to pay and choose your payee. Checks could be made payable to TreePeople (my father’s long-time volunteer pursuit), Santa Monica College Emeritus program (where my mother had taken many classes) or directly to Dorothy. My friend Jane was the cashier; I wouldn’t discuss money with anyone.

Dorothy sat smiling in her chair in the midst of the chaos, thrilled by the attention and unfazed by the departure of her treasures. The people came and the stuff left by the armload, the carload and, at the end, the truckload, when the neighbor’s television scene-building crew relieved me of things I thought I’d never be able to unload.

In retrospect, I might have made my own choices (the Keep pile) more judiciously, especially with regard to my father’s sculpture; there are some pieces I miss and would like to have around. But what was left was more than enough; I have artwork and books and dishes and photographs and plenty of other things to remember them by.

The few things that remained after the sale found their way onto my shelves. It took me ten years to use up Dorothy’s hoard of wax paper. And when I make cookies, I take out my mother’s “Roylies,” carefully separate one from the pile, set it on the plate and feel an uprush of the 1950s, when a paper doily was a delightful invention that could save a busy housewife the labor of laundering the real handmade lace that languished in the cabinet piled neatly among sheaves of yellowing tissue paper.

Have a cookie.

wham, bam…

what Emily might have said…

reading tonight!

SpeakEasy 7: Variations on a Prompt

Tonight…Friday, July 20, 2012…7:30pm
SpeakEasy 7: Variations on a Prompt

featuring Poets on Assignment: Jim Bertolino, Anita K. Boyle, Jennifer Bullis, J.I. Kleinberg and Jeanne Yeasting
The Amadeus Project ~ 1209 Cornwall Avenue ~ Bellingham, Washington
A chapbook will be available for sale (image is the cover illustration by Anita K. Boyle / Egress Studio).
The event is free…donations to The Amadeus Project are appreciated.
Please join us!

found…

into a seashell…

stop…

During…

a songbird…

the founding…

roof…

rooflineTypical for its vintage but atypical for the neighborhood (and the climate), my house has a flat roof. For the passing gulls, crows, squirrels and cats, this presents an expansive parkland — a vantage, rest stop, conference center, dance floor.

From inside, I hear the crows and gulls arguing, the thud of their heavy, hopping bodies and the echo of small feet thumping across the roof. After dark, a cat launches itself onto the fence and from there onto the roof, then gallops the perimeter. In a mad-flung circuit from tree to tree, a squirrel makes a daring and speedy traverse of the roof edge.

A raucous squawking and hammering draws me into the covered patio, where a skylight is covered with a sheet of glass. A pair of frustrated crows peck madly at the glass to get a bug that flits safely on the other side. The crows are ruffled, persistent, dogged in their certainty that the next peck will deliver a morsel.

Last night, I awakened around 2 from a vivid and unremembered dream to the familiar thump of small feet above my head. A lot of feet. Rising more fully to consciousness, I realized it was not critters, but rain — huge, hard, widely-spaced drops hammering onto the roof in what might have been the sound of hundreds of scampering squirrels. The sound was so unusual, I had to get up and look out the window to make sure it wasn’t hail. But outside, the patio was freckled only with rain and the squirrels hunkered silent wherever it is they sleep.

Another fifteen minutes of intermittent rain punctuated by lightning and thunder from a not-very-close electrical storm (the second in a week) and I too was hunkered back into silent sleep.

Balancing…

layers…

collage by DAK, 1968As an artist, one of my mother’s great strengths was her understanding and use of color. To some degree, it was probably innate, but she also studied other artists, as well as the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. She clipped meticulous squares and slices from her pack of Color-aid papers to study hue and tint and the many quirks of color perception. She mixed colors, in every medium, and tested them, laying down translucent washes of color onto sheets and scraps of paper.

Little was discarded. Her painted color tests found their way into one pile or another in the deep flat shelves in her studio closet. And then, with a timing and logic solely her own, they would find their way back out again to be layered into collages.

This collage, which is not served particularly well by its transformation to pixels, started its life as six of her painted paper samples. Whether she began with the intention of a portrait is impossible to know; she did many abstract, non-figurative collages. But with this one, at some point, before or after, she “saw” within the shapes and subtle colors her own profile and my father’s. These she sketched in pencil and developed further in watercolor or acrylic or ink, until she was willing to accept it as complete (a condition that was never absolute, her artwork always subject to editing).

That it is a collage makes it, in some way, more than the sum of its parts. She could easily have sketched the two of them (and did, on uncounted occasions) on a sheet of paper and we would likely still see her curly hair and simple, unfinished, tentative expression, his (as she perceived it) big head, strong chin, bald pate and Bob Hope nose. But as a collage, their profiles hang in space in a different way — his advancing, hers receding; his centered, hers almost an afterthought — that reveals so much about them, and about my mother as an artist and, most tellingly, as a person.

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