I have been struggling with what to write…several times over the past few days I have sat down to write a post and given up because I got nothin’, nadda, zilch. My brain seems to be on a blogging vacation, despite the fact that there is art EVERYWHERE in my life right now. The camera has been quietly sitting on the desk while life goes on in other locations. Christmas is a wonderful and tough season to get through and I am glad that it is almost the new year and I can relax back into everyday life, whatever that might look like.
So instead of some deep thoughts about what the holiday season means to me or some cool pictures of nature with a little poem, I am going to show…chocolate. (this post brought to you by the incredible talent of Mr. R…he is a trained pastry chef…do not try this at home…)
Christmas Eve started at 9:00 a.m. with eating chocolate off of a spatula. It continued at lunch time with making more chocolate and eating it off of various implements.
In the afternoon the chef cut of the edges of the cake and made them into stumps.
Wait, you’ll see
The meringue mushrooms would get a coating of cocoa before everything was assembled. Know what it is yet?
And now the rolling of the cake. T’ain’t as easy as it looks.
A night in the refrigerator…
Et voilà! Christmas Day brought the finished dessert to the table for oohs and aaahhhs galore…
And that was the end of my chocolate adventure…until next year!
I sit here aware that there is trauma happening every moment around the world. You will probably have read about most of it. So this post is an antidote. It is the recounting of a good day. A day where I was happy, joyful even, and productive. A day where the clouds lifted, metaphorically and in reality, and I was able to breathe deeply and gratefully. These days are somewhat rare. I try to make them happen, but for some reason they elude me. Today, I didn’t have to work at all.
First, I had a really nice visit with my dad. If you have been paying attention, you will know that he is in the murky area of dementia and there has been a lot of stress for those of us who have been the closest to him. But this visit, uncharacteristically, was low-key and pleasant. And I got a good picture of him doing one of his favorite things…playing Scrabble. He had just laid down a seven letter word over a triple word score. He can’t remember what he had for dinner, but he can still pull off a stunt like that…amazing. In this picture (dad is on the right, his friend Nick is on the left) he is in a pose that is so very familiar…his Scrabble/crossword puzzle/New York Times reading pose.
Before I left, the last two sections of the ribbon piece were delivered. I mean, they were delivered on Friday morning and I immediately got in my car and left for Connecticut. So imagine my joy at being able to go play with it this morning…and the weather cooperated! The temperature was pleasant, there was no rain and eventually the sun came out. Max made an appearance to help me move stuff around (actually, he wasn’t as much help as my long-suffering husband). So I took Max’s picture too. I figured it would help in showing how big this thing is. (The answer is 84 feet long.) Then I spent the rest of the morning taking photos and putting them on the website. For more pictures of the ribbon piece, go to the website page at www.virginiasperry.com/ribbon/. I am looking forward to adding photos from each season. Let it snow!!!
My afternoon was just as busy. I made a trip to the eye doctor to take out the stitches on my left lower eyelid from a biopsy two weeks ago (Thank God that’s over). The news that the biopsy came back negative really made my day. Even though I was 99% sure it was nothing, it is still a relief to know.
And finally, because the weather was just too gorgeous to stay inside, I was able to get the two dogs and myself out for a long walk. Nothing like a bit of exercise to make the day perfect.
I almost forgot the other thing that made me happy today…the Pittsburgh Steelers won yesterday. Unfortunately so did the Ravens so my husband and I are still in fierce competition with only two games to go…even Santa thinks that the tension is unbearable!!! (For those of you from other lands, this is about American Football and these two teams are usually very close in their quest to get into the post-season.)
No I am not asking for us all to take up guns. I am not that kind of girl. But tonight I watched one of the episodes of a show on HBO by Dave Groul of the Foo Fighters. He’s going around the country and filming about the music scene in that city. He then writes and records a song inspired by the history that he learns and the people that he meets.
What came out of it for me, beyond the joy of hearing and seeing all the music I have grown up with and being introduced to music outside my expertise, was that the old-fashioned (urrgh that word bothers me) camaraderie of music making is quickly disappearing. The teachers are still out there but, due to the computer world, the students are more and more in their own spaces making music with their personal computers and learning from YouTube.
There is a death happening, and I hate to watch it. It is infiltrating our schools, it is walking down the streets of our towns and it is taking away a sense of communication and personal rapport. And I find it sad.
I have been bothered for several years about the disappearance of the arts in schools. I think it was ten years ago that I heard someone actually say. “Why are the arts so important in schools…shouldn’t they be an extra-curricular thing?” I really didn’t have a good answer at that point. Now what I would say is this:
If we don’t have arts in schools then we lose the ability to teach the basics to an enormous amount of kids who would otherwise have no access to it. These are kids that can’t afford the extra-curricular thing, who don’t live in an area where it is easily accessible, or don’t have parents (like the person who asked the question) who would think it was important. I have no earthly idea why the arts are important to this country, I just know that I would blow up into little bits if I couldn’t create and that would be tragic (speaking from a personal perspective of course). And if I hadn’t had the basis in grade school (Thank you Mr, Kosciousko…even if I can’t spell your name) and high school (Thank you Mrs. Adams), I might not have had the idea to take some classes in college and then later, after a master’s in something else, gone on to become an artist. And I grew up in an artistic family. I can’t imagine how much more important it would have been if I had been in a family of scientists or accountants.
Another point about the arts in school. If we don’t expose kids to the arts at an early age, who is going to buy the art, read the book, listen to the music, go to the ballet or symphony? Say a kid goes through school without any arts and no way of being exposed to it outside of the classroom. This kid grows up and becomes a successful bank manager, a dockworker, a teacher, an anesthesiologist. What will they surround themselves with? Bare walls? No music? No poetry? Where will they learn new ways of looking at the world? Where will they go to take their minds of their daily stressors? We get so many visual cues these days but they come from a flat screen that shines brightly 24 hours a day but which stops us from actually smelling the painting or seeing how big it really is. Or being able to walk around a sculpture and feel what it is like to relate to it purely on a physiological level. Or to listen to music in an arena with 5,000 other screaming fans. Really? We want an artless world??? Or, rather, a virtually artful world? And I haven’t even started talking about the connection between artists and non-verbal communication/problem-solving/architecture/rocket building/marketing/biology/sports medicine/psychotherapy/yadda yadda yadda…
So here’s the deal. I think that it is time for the arts world to figure out which way the wind is blowing (the answer is there, it really is) and figure out how to both work with it and work against it. The internet is a powerful tool. But it is only a tool. It is not reality. Of course, here I sit, reaching out to people that are halfway around the world in seconds and it is truly wonderful. I read what they have to say to what I have posted so quickly as to make it seem like a dialogue. And I love that. But what I miss is the non-verbal, the touch, the smell and sounds of being with people. And I miss the building of a conversation, the ebb and flow of ideas that comes from being in the same room with time to spare and brains a-whirring. The internet is great at monologues but conversation? Not so much.
I think it’s time for a call to arms to my generation of artists…the ones with graying hair, the ones with lines and sags and bags. The ones who are finding it harder and harder to hear but who still have the ability to communicate without words. I don’t know if we can stop the computer and corporate-generated arts world but perhaps we can reach out and teach those who are not going to get this knowledge in any other way. We are dinosaurs, yes. But do you remember a life lesson you learned from your grandfather or grandmother? Let’s be the active, PRESENT grandparents to the generation who REALLY needs it. (Can you tell that Jacques d’Amboise is my hero???) People who are creative are going to create no matter what. But wouldn’t it be great to continue to be a part of that…to take the knowledge and use it to open up someone else’s world?
The arts community is adept at scrimping and saving, begging and bowing in order to draw attention to ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to start teaching our children that a world without art is a very sad place and it is their role to MAKE it important. And to do this in a non-corporate, individual way. To be beholden to nobody but the person teaching the lesson. It is time to make sure that the next generation of lobbyists and politicians understand that when you cut the arts, you are cutting a necessary piece of education and LIFE.
So in case I’m the last one to the party and everyone else is doing this already, I will tell you how I am going to take up the call to arms. My personal solution is to open the sculpture garden on my property. I am hoping that eventually I can become a place for students who have no arts in school to come and walk around the sculptures, see them in them in situ and talk to them about the process. It’s a small thing (actually, for me it’s huge) but I really feel strongly that there may be a kid, twenty years down the road who might look back and say…”That was the moment I decided to become an artist.” I would also be thrilled if someday one of those kids said “That was the moment that I wanted to OWN one of those sculptures.” How cool would THAT be???
And just because I am a visual artist, I will leave you with the reality of my work day…this is what the kangaroo look like on Sunday…
BTW, I would love a dialogue of this as well as WP can manage it…got any ideas or comments???
Okay, here it is. The famous black rat snake video. This is the moment where I will not judge you if you decide not to read (or watch) any further. But I hope you do…it is fascinating.
If you don’t know (or don’t remember) what I’m talking about, this past spring I was walking to my studio when I came across two black rat snakes writhing on the rocks. I quickly realized that they were copulating (no fool am I) and I spent some minutes being mesmerized by their movements. Fortunately, I got some of it on video. It took me this long to get it onto YouTube so that you could see it too. But for those of you who have bugged me about it, here it is…
I’m going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and talk about anxiety. No, don’t run away, it won’t be too much crazy talk. In fact I’ve been trying to make it a more rational subject in my own mind in order to understand it and, hopefully, not get pulled off course so much.
I’m sitting here with an ice-pack on my eye trying to bring the swelling down after having had a biopsy taken from my lower lid yesterday. I’ve had a discoloration under my eye for years now but it has been steadily growing in the last year and the doctors want to make sure it’s nothing nasty or even pre-nasty.
My reaction to anxiety, or any kind of discomfort both physical and emotional, is to sleep. I’ve been sleeping a lot this past week. The idea of someone coming at my eye with a sharp implement was causing me to want to go to some other dimension for a while, preferably one with nice movies to watch. Fairy tales and love stories were welcome. At the same time I was, once again, feeling guilty for having such a dramatic anxiety-ridden reaction to something that really didn’t warrant it, it was just a little piece of skin, the doctor is really good, the biopsy will be negative…yadda yadda yadda.
I got to the doctor’s office and told her assistant that I was nervous. She hastened to assure me that there was nothing to worry about, the doctor did these procedures every day. I admit, in my anxiety, I was a little sharp with her when I said “Yes, but I don’t”. She seemed taken aback. I think she thought that my anxiety only stemmed from whether the doctor was proficient at slicing and dicing. I found this interesting because this was the least of my worries. I had complete confidence in the doctor. She had done a really good job on a small procedure for a friend of mine so I knew she was good. No, my worries had to do with sensory things, pain and discomfort. I am kind of a pain wimp. Wait. Actually, I am okay with pain (stoicism rocks.) I am a wimp when it comes to the potential for pain. Anticipation of pain and discomfort sends me into a tizzy. So my anxiety was more about the realities of the procedure. What was it going to be like? What was my role? Will I be able to close my eyes and not see what was going on? (It turns out that you don’t have to keep your eye open but it is difficult to close it …I spent a lot of time staring at the bright light overhead.)
I survived the ten minutes of having someone cut a piece of skin off my body but not without saying other abrupt, ridiculously stupid and awkward things to the doctor. I am not at my social best when someone pokes me with a needle. I left wishing I could apologize for sounding like an idiot. I’m sure they get that a lot and I have to remind myself that this was not a social situation where I was trying to impress someone with my stellar personality.
After the visit I sat in my car and marveled at the fact that even though I have lived with anxiety for, well, forever, I can still be in denial about it. I thought that after I was done I would be fine, my eye would be fine and I would go merrily on with my day with no reprisals. HA! I sat in the car and shivered and turned the heat up. I felt like crying but didn’t want to get my eye wet. This is where sisters often come in handy. A call to each of them, a cup of tea and a chocolate croissant from Starbucks and I was in better shape. Not great, but better. (Note to self…bring teddy bear, blanket and a cup of tea to the next procedure.)
I got home, had dinner and ran up against another moment of denial: “Once it’s over I’m going to sleep sooooo well”. Um, no. I forgot the après-procedure anxiety about sleeping on a body part that has been injured and has stitches. I worried all night about turning onto my left side and opening the suture up all over the pillow. Great. Now I’m anxious, sleep deprived AND I look like someone punched me in the eye with a shard of glass.
As procedures go, and I have had my share of uncomfortable/weird ones, this was really minor. I have a feeling that today, with its swelling and crusty stuff, is the most uncomfortable and awkward day, soon I won’t even remember where the cut was. But for right now, when I live my life going from one anxiety to another (yes, there is another waiting in the wings…a visit to my dad…whooppeeeeeee!) I have difficulty letting go of or ignoring it. I am cursed with a sensitive nature, a predilection towards self-awareness (to an extreme), a creative imagination, and a fight or flight program that is somewhat flawed (an understatement). Put all of these together and it can make certain days really tough.
I actually had another post in mind when I started this but the words went in a different direction. I think I will save it for another day. I’m tired and hungry and my eyelids keep sticking together…time for some dinner and…yeah…a nap!!!