It is an absolute fact that I loathe the mother of my children. It’s not the best place to be in. I was taught to love everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done. I think that you can both loathe and love, but I’m not at “love” with her yet.
Have I forgiven her? Probably not. These reflections still exist - although no longer daily rants, they still exist. In “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith” Anne Lamott writes,
“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…”
I guess I still hit back from time to time. When I hear mention of her boyfriend or others in her support group, I have to hold back. But, as one friend put it, ‘when there’s a bullet in the chamber, you wanna shoot it’. Will time allow me to forgive? Who knows. It is my obligation to do so, but I am obligated to do lots of things that I don’t do. I definitely don't want to have lunch with her!
What does time allow? Certainly productivity, adventure, education, growth, and so on. But grudges have no limit unless you force one on it. What about wounds. Does ‘time heal all wounds’? I was told things would get better and I didn’t believe anyone. But, things did get better. I laugh a lot now. I have more purpose in my life than I’ve had in ages now. I am more productive than ever. I’m healthier. Then things happen - I walk down a familiar street, smell a familiar smell, taste a familiar taste and get a brief flood of memory that causes me to be very aware of those scars.
I recently read an article by Peter Walker about a condition called “takotsubo syndrome”. He writes,
“Songwriters, poets and novelists have long mused over whether time truly heals everything.
Charles Dickens toyed over whether the bitter Miss Haversham would ever recover from being jilted at the altar, and for many historians, Queen Victoria's black dress came to symbolise her irreparable suffering over Prince Albert's death.
But a new study has apparently put their agonising to bed and concluded that not even the clock can always mend a broken heart.
A team of medical researchers from the University of Aberdeen have said that so-called "broken heart syndrome" can leave physical scars that never recover.”
“…It is provoked when the heart muscle is suddenly "stunned", causing the left ventricle to change shape, and is typically prompted by "intense emotional or physical stress".
This time last year, I was on a bit of a high. I thought she was coming around and that things were gonna work out. This is her birthday month. Like the ache I feel in my once broken wrist when there is a change in the weather - that’s what it’s like when something like this pops up, when “I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees - And misty memories of days gone by - We could never see tomorrow, no one said a word about the sorrow - And how can you mend a broken heart?”
Again, I’m fine. I still loathe her. I’m just sad that it had to come to that: an end to love; an end to family; an end to “us”; and end to friendship; an end to adventure…but I’ll get over it tomorrow and “live again.”
Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself . Installation View . Paula Cooper Gallery . 2009 . Image: Paula Cooper Gallery
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.”
-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold thier tongues."
In a crowd I shut down. You can't get anything out of me and if you do, I become a nervous wreck. One on one, I can't shut up. I say things without thinking and spill out the most ridiculous thoughts that sometimes shock, often don't make sense, contradict, offend, and exhaust. When trying to explain my politics to a couple of friends recently, my conclusion was shot down and I was told that I was a "contrarian".
I'm not very fond of me. I am very aware of my personality traits, so I am very grateful for my family and friends who tolerate me and take me for who I am - while offering much needed insight, advice, and scolding along the way.
This is why visual art is so important to me. It is my language. It is how I empty out my mind and release a soul burdened with energy and frustration and passion and joy and heartbreak. But even my work is rarely clear to the viewer. I generally provide some wordy explanation with a show that might end up confusing the viewer even more. It's frustrating.
I am getting on my own nerves right now as I write this and realizing that I am avoiding the point of the post. I do a strange thing when in conversation that will be rather hard to explain. Instead of jumping in to a story, I'll try to give a background or a disclaimer without any reference beforehand. It causes great confusion because no one knows what I'm talking about without the context...
I believe I am trying to covey the importance of thinking before you speak, act, make art...whatever. I want to share a beautiful work of art by Sophie Callee. "Take Care of Yourself" is an installation created by Sophie soon after receiving a 'break-up' email from her boyfriend. The message was to the point and ended with, "Take care of yourself." About this virtual encounter, Sophie briefly lamented and then developed these four words into a therapeutic and beautiful art installation stating, "After one month I felt better. There was no suffering. It worked. The project had replaced the man." She was fearful that he might come back for reconciliation and ruin the entire project.
I won't attempt to give you my insight on the piece. It will end up another ramble in a ramble. But, please, look up articles on this show on your own. It is a worthwhile study.
I was able to distract myself with art-making during my three-year lament. I produced over 200 paintings. The problem was that I didn't really "own" these works. Some of them were commissioned, some of them were collaborations, many of them were small kitschy objects for decoration (and all were for income). There wasn't much meaning behind them. Even the "Cicada" show was something produced out of some type of obligation. I wish I had been fortunate to have a personality and focus that would have produced a piece of this magnitude and that, I too, would've been free from heartbreak in a month - having sorrow replaced with visual beauty and meaning.
What to take from today's post? Probably just the quotes at the top and some research of your own on the Sophie Calle piece (installation views from Paula Cooper Gallery at this link).
Shut up. Make beautiful things.
“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”
- Walt Whitman
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
I shared lyrics to a song a couple of weeks back that has become my most recent life anthem. Girls “Hellhole Ratrace” is a beautiful ‘end of credits’ type song that gives me a sense of mission - a feeling of wanting to engage and make a difference and embrace everyone I love at the same time. This is a rare selection that gives me goosebumps and draws out tears every time I hear it. Right now, that’s everyday. (I’ve gotta be careful or I’m gonna wear this one out.)
It may be a result of crawling out of a dark tomb - of emerging from an attempt to deliver salvation in the pit of hell - but, in this resurrected life, I am optimistic. COVID 19 looms. I’m not making light of this situation at all but it has not put any fear or hesitation in my heart. I’m not being careless or imposing potential harm on anyone else. I even had a cold (that could’ve actually been COVID 19 for all I know) for four weeks. In the midst of world panic, I've have a passion for an ascension - dying did that for me.
The lyrics to this offering couldn’t be any more relevant to me. They are drenched in simplicity and youthfulness. It is an acknowledgement of a broken heart, a proclamation of existing sorrow, an endorsement for a resurrected life, an anthem of life for the living.
I am, indeed, sick and tired of the way that I’ve felt and I’m done dying. I did it for three years.
“True spiritual love is not a feeble imitation and anticipation of death, but a triumph over death, not a separation of the immortal form from the mortal, of the eternal from the temporal, but a transfiguration of the mortal into the immortal, the acceptance of the temporal into the eternal. False spirituality is a denial of the flesh; true spirituality is the regeneration of the flesh, its salvation, its resurrection from the dead.”
- Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love
“After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Caravaggio . La Deposizione di Cristo . c.1602-1603
“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion.”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Black Saturday is a quiet day. It is a day after death. It is a day when you think that the story has ended. It is a day when the story is beginning. If you are brokenhearted, I hope you understand that, though this broken heart may kill you, you will rise to new life.
Mix disc Volume VI available now:
The Cicada Verses: a selection of poems written for M.T. by A.O. 2017 - 2019
1. 23 (exitus)
3. Haunted Sonnet
4. Dog Walk
5. Low Sound
7. Autumn Sonnet
9. Last Walk-Through (pinkhouse)
10. Before Flight Haiku
11. (Black) Pearl
13. Silver (principium)
Cicada No. 7 . 24" x 24" oil on wood panel . 2019 . Amos Oaks
“Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.”
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.”
-Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat
I make effort to deliver collections of offerings in groupings of 14 so I'm wrapping up this selected collection of verses with the most important verse in the bunch. This is the last verse that would ever be penned for my former beloved. It is an appropriate verse because it is a celebration of death and resurrection. This is that season - the season of re-birth and hope and waiting and experiencing Friday with the knowledge that Sunday will be here soon.
If you've missed it, read about the reason for this poem and the collection of paintings paired with it here.
If you would like a copy of a hand set letter press print of this poem, please contact me through the form.
I came to her lost
Emerged from the dark
called by a mysterious signal
Cloud of dust
Clamoring to get out of the shell
Trampled under feet
Children chased by what I was
Adorning a thousand branches
Not wanting to be here
Out of the shell
the noisiest of all
Ever faithful, she responded to my call
By the mark on my wing
war was inevitable
A superstition come to fruition
and in battle
unable to bite
unable to sting
able to sing
a shrill song was heard
a tragic rue observed
Dying without even realizing it
Babbling like Tithonus
Not brook babbling
Begging for death to overcome babbling
And Tennyson proclaimed,
“Alas! For this gray shadow, once a man -“
So, yes, I was kissed
in humid mist
and pity was taken on my withering body
But the afternoon song
went on and on
How much could she listen
when I could not even listen
and no one could listen
The sound was oppressive
The noise was great
The chatter was incessant
The chorus was immense
in the overflowing heat begat
because I am lost
out of the shell
not wanting to be here
Perched on this branch
I could have
Quieted crying babies
treated battle wounds
But summertime was
preparing an elaborate lament
knowing that this is the moment
the only moment
the last moment
And in the golden sticky sun
there is not much more left to sing about
Oh kitten who pawed
oh rabbit I frightened
oh three legged flawed
whose boredom I brightened
Oh fish buried cold
and children who cried
in houses of mold
with reluctant bride
And poor possum after possum crushed by car
Poor deer crushed by car
Poor raccoon crushed by car
Poor black dog crushed by car
Poor Hemingway crushed by car
Poor man crushed by car
I watched from the tall oak
I could see life
I could see death
Oh poor man crushed by car
began to bleed
And the chorus lifted to the sky
“O, shrill-voiced insect; that with dewdrops sweet,”
then the sky begins to bleed
my tymbals will flex my wings will flick
in comes inky black of night
and the war is over
Belly full of sap
I crave the dark
clap to cling in flight I scare
Sick lost thou that death shall sample
Oh please take these last few beats
deeper than before
I do not recall the celebration of a climax
Impatiently I wait for the last act
and say blessed be the coming end
I shall not wish to emerge again
- A.O. 2019
In my exhausting journey of lament I experienced the typical mountains, valleys, deserts, oceans...
It began with anger and resentment and moved into indescribable sadness. Then I experienced hope that lead into confusion then into joyful anticipation and happiness. It wouldn't be long before those prospects sent me down the darkest road yet...strangely (but not surprisingly) taking a slight optimistic detour that lasted about two weeks.
After the glimmer of what I thought might be reconciliation was burning away, I resorted to more begging - paired with gifts and offers. This particular season was happening in the first two weeks of November. What would have been our 25th wedding anniversary was coming up. I had prepared an elaborate scheme to win her back. This strategy involved several gifts and an offer to take a trip together anywhere in the world. I had recently sold several works of art and was in a position to make that offer.
I had visited her in her new hometown just a week before. It did not go well. I was very frustrated in her unwillingness to even remotely consider a scenario that might lead back to "us". We ate. We got coffee. I begged. I cried. She just stared at me blankly. I drove home rejected, dejected.
A week later she had come back to town for a short job. We had not spoken for a week because I was too upset and she was sick of me. I contacted her and asked her to coffee. She agreed. I had one of the gifts that was intended for the "elaborate scheme" with me. The others had yet to arrive. She picked me up and I presented the gift to her. She clearly did not want to receive the gift. Reluctantly she opened it and loved it. Unfortunately it did not fit. I promised to get the correct size and return it to her with the other gifts I had ordered. Looking back, I can almost see the manic desperation...quite embarrassing now. If I dwell on it too much, I realize that this entire blog project is pretty embarrassing - although it has been therapeutic.
After the obvious disdain for the given gift and promised gifts, we had coffee. I encouraged her to consider taking the trip with me as friends to discuss us and to simply get away from everything. It was obvious that she had no interest. My time with her was short. She drove me back to my place of work where I gave one last gasp, stating: "The offer still stands for a trip...anywhere you want to go. I won't harass you over it, but if you decide you'd like to - just call...and I'll get that jacket in your size and get it to you along with the other gifts I had planned to celebrate what would've been our anniversary..." (Just recounting that is cringeworthy now).
I ended the encounter with today's verse (an anagram) printed out for her. She did not read it. She folded it into the car's cupholder.
Two day's later I was given a clear order from her to leave her alone. I did just that and, to my surprise, that's when things started to get better for me. I ignored everyone's advice for three years to move on. I refuse to believe that my efforts to salvage our marriage was a waste of time though. It was worth saving...it just wasn't worth saving to her.
"The air is of silver and pearl, the night is liquid with moonlight"
Save me, oh! metal of the moon
Inescapable reflector of the soul
Let me not inhibit your repelling of vampires - your killing of werewolves
Vaccine of the Earth, heal this penetrated heart
Entreat the favor of Artemis to reconsider the arrow she has crafted for me
Return the thirty pieces to the high priests
-A.O. November 2019
After you were bitten
an instant death
My heart broken
Vowing to bring you back
I bargained with Hades
but I had not the strength to resist
a gaze on your beauty
so now I spend days
sadly playing my song
If I could choose
not to be Orpheus
and instead hope for you
to hear me cry your name
like Alcyone, I would welcome
lungs filled with the sea
perhaps you’d seek my floating corpse
that we might become birds
and fly away together
- A.O. 2019
Diver photo credit: Fosco Maraini, 1954
“The heart of a man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depth, it has its pearls too.”
- Vincent Van Gogh
“Why she is a pearl, whose price hath launched a thousand ships, and turned crowned kings to merchants.”
“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore, if you want one, you must dive for it.”
“But the pearls were accidents, and the finding of one was luck, a little pat on the back by God or the gods both.”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
- Jesus of Nazareth
If I had known the wisdom
of a great dragon
who carried them between his teeth
would I have cried these tears of Adam?
yes, I still would have cried
for even in his infinite wisdom was slain by St. George’s lance
the same lance must have pierced my heart
for, after my deep dive
after prying carelessly for the treasure
I waited too long
I gripped this precious thing in my fist
surfacing too quickly
I felt the stab
in my heart
hues of every fish
that swam in the sea
revealed the imperfections
due to thunder
now released from my grip
I watched the dew of the moon
escape my embrace
and as I drifted
it was free
by the foolishness of the thief
and as I faded
from eternal love
with wisdom gained
I watched this precious symbol
of hope for a wounded heart
illuminate the vault of heaven
- A.O. 2019