The words came to me while I was drawing:
i pray for enough light and courage to take one small step
I’m here, and it’s like this:
Last month I punched one of those talking gas pumps because it wouldn’t shut up. The screen turned orange and displayed an error message. I don’t know how difficult it was to fix. I wasn’t sorry then, and I am still not sorry. Citgo and Gas Station TV can kiss my lumpy white ass.
This morning I went for a walk, and there was a baby robin in the road. So I stopped and googled “what to do if you find a baby bird.” And I read that most birds people find are fledglings and they probably don’t need our help. So I didn’t go back to the house to get gloves and a box and call someone who knows what to do. But this bird was sitting in the road and I didn’t want it to get run over. I took another step towards it and asked it, “Can you move?” And it squawked, and it hopped and flopped into the weeds by the side of the road. Good enough.
I walked away and left it. I’m sure it was terrified. And I thought: maybe some people are like that. Maybe they cross our paths to scare us away from something worse.
Halfway up the hill, a neighbor’s dog came out of the woods to walk with me. She followed me home, and she is still sitting on my back step enjoying the day. On my way into the house, I called her by one of our cat’s nicknames: KittyCake.
We’ve had this cat for four months. It’s been about five months since our old cat (Tiki) died, and this is the first time since then that I haven’t accidentally called someone else’s pet Tiki-Teeks. It felt like a milestone.
KittyCake is not happy about the dog.I don’t know the neighbor’s phone number, and I threw away most of our phone books last summer when our house was overrun with mold. Oh well. The dog is not hurting anyone, and at some point she’ll get hungry and go home.
I’m trying to get together enough people to hold a grief ritual soon. This morning it occurred to me that a grief ritual is like a sculpture with a lot of moving parts. I don’t have much formal training in making sculptures, or in facilitating grief rituals, but that never seems to stop me.
I have not been able to settle down and work in my studio for a good long while. Part of it is that I have come to hate a lot of things about the studio. Another part is that I seem to be undergoing some kind of internal remodeling.
Last year I finally gave up on the studio and started building a new one across the street from my house. It’s almost finished.
Hi. I’m here.
I think we had been working together for about six months, and I had mostly been feeling better. But suddenly it was fall, and I was feeling apocalyptically bad. I couldn’t stop crying.
“This is what healing looks like,” said E, very gently.
I kept crying. A great sodden pile of tissues filled up the wastebasket between us. At some point I noticed that she was smiling. “Why?” I asked. “Why are you smiling like that, when I’m so miserable?”
“My heart is singing,” she said. She was looking at me like I was a very new baby who had just done something totally amazing, like maybe unleashed a tiny little belch.
I cried all the way home. When I got home, I got in the shower to avoid having to explain to Dave why I was crying. I couldn’t explain it. It just kept happening. So I cried and cried and cried in the shower. I wondered how I was ever going to be able to stop. And then I remembered E telling me that her heart was singing.
“Would it sound like a robin?” a voice in my head wondered. I was so surprised by the thought, which didn’t even seem to be mine, that I stopped crying. And I started thinking about my next sculpture.
I always knew that someday I would make one with a bird inside it. I didn’t know until that moment that the bird would be E’s heart.
Before I placed it in its cage, I took it to her office to show it to her. She held it and fussed over it for a long time. It was her turn to cry, and my turn to grin until my face almost fell off.
Everything she said about it was something I might have said about her. It might have been the best moment I’ll ever have as an artist.
I finished that little comic I started working on in February, and re-drew all the panels on one of those printed canvases. Drawing on canvas with a fine-point Sharpie is a little like driving on a muddy road. The pen gets thrown around and makes a wobbly line.
Ray Bradbury said, “The important thing is to explode with a story, to emotionalize a story, not to think it… If you start thinking, the story’s gonna die on its feet. You either feel a story and you need to write it, or you’d better not write it.”
I gave a lot of thought to the structure of this thing, but the first thing I did was feel it explode in my heart. I don’t expect anyone else to feel it. I am not that good a storyteller. But I still feel it, and am glad to have written it.
What I feel:
dim fumbling fishy thoughts,
intermittent mind-blowing joy,
the itch of new feathers.