slogging through the weeks

The house looks & smells & sounds wrong. There’s water on the floor of the basement.

Night after night, I dream that I’m cleaning out attics and basements. Throwing away mildewed bolts of ornate fabric, broken lawn furniture, jars of bleached pickles, box after box of other people’s tax records. I sleep okay until about 3:30, and then I doze fitfully until I get up at 4:30 or 5.

The contractors show up every weekday at 7 AM. Shortly thereafter, the banging starts. Most days I leave by 7:30. I go to the studio and work on this thing:


The blue stuff is frit, tiny chips of broken glass. The backs of my hands are covered with little scratches.

By Thursday night, I’ve usually hit a wall. My shingles-infested shoulder and arm are sore. Sometimes my eyes stop working properly. Sometimes I go to bed at 8 o’clock.

I spend Fridays alternately sleeping and crying in my studio.

Saturdays and Sundays I get up at 4. I feed the cat and make myself a cup of tea. After I drink the tea and snuggle the cat, I go back to bed and sleep for another couple of hours. It’s the best thing ever. By Monday I feel halfway sane again.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on. One of these days they’ll finish putting the house back together, and life will feel more manageable.

nine months

When I discovered how bad the moth problem had gotten in my studio, I hung one of my wool-covered wire sculptures in a lilac bush in front of my house. I planned to photograph it every month for a year. And I did, for many months, even though I sometimes felt it was kind of boring.

This month, boredom almost stopped me. I wasn’t going to take a picture, but I did go out and look at it. And it was covered with snow, which was different. So here is a picture:


eight months | seven months | six months

five months | four months | three months

two months | one month | the beginning

the meat tower

This week I started working on my next sculpture. I’m building it around the plaster cast that a friend helped me make of my own torso. There’s something sweet about seeing my beloved loathsome body as a pure shape, without me in it. Maybe it’s a little like what an astronaut feels, seeing the earth from space. Everything that has ever happened to me, has happened in some version of that jiggling meat tower. Every tantrum, every smile, every orgasm, every panic attack. Learning to walk. Shingles. Trauma and healing.

The meat tower feels creakier than ever. Working is good physical therapy for my weak right hand and its aching wrist. It’s even good for my stiff hips: I set a timer while I’m working, and when the timer goes off I have to go lie on the floor and stretch. I do my stretching in the front room, looking up at these two:


During my last open studio, I referred to them as “the bouncers.” The new one is a bouncer too. I’m calling her the burning bridge.

I knock off early enough to go out for a walk. That’s good physical therapy too (as well as being important for long haul creativity). In spite of everything, the meat tower can still walk all day if provided with suitable footwear. Not too bad for something that’s pushing the half-century mark.

still waiting

It was about this time of year, and I was having thoughts about the darkness and the gradual return of light. I was trying to explain them to N. “It’s getting lighter,” I said, “but nothing’s really changed yet. We’re still waiting.”

“Where is God in all this?” she asked (she was a Presbyterian minister).

I thought about it for a minute. “God is small,” I said, “and needs close attention.”

A few months later, I told her I felt like I had a wire cage inside of me. She looked at me like I had two heads, so I made a sculpture for her as a visual aid. It would be the first of a series, but I didn’t know that yet. The sculpture was human scale, too large to bring to her office, so I brought her a photo of it.

what a healthy girl — and such plentiful organs! (2004)

N said she thought I would be better off working with someone else.

Years later, E and I stood in my studio in front of the actual sculpture and I told her that story. “How was that for you?” she asked.

I said it had been a relief. We had been stuck for a long time. The sculpture showed me the way out.

We stood next to each other, looking at it, and I felt the beginning of a sort of light returning to my body. It had been gone so long I had forgotten it was even missing. Nothing had changed yet, but something was different.

Merry Christmas, my invisible friends. I wish you just enough light to see the next step. It turns out that’s all you need.


I have an older brother. He was born dead, seven years before me. I don’t know what his name was, if he even had one. I don’t dare ask.

From Jennie Vansaco’s excellent “What’s in a Necronym?“:

Fifteen years later, the clinicians Robert Krell and Leslie Rabkin identified three types of replacement children: bound, resurrected, and haunted… A “haunted” child lives in a family overwhelmed by guilt, which imposes “a conspiracy of silence.”

Yes. Even though none of us would describe me as a replacement for him.

How can someone without a name, with such tiny feet, leave such a large footprint?

He probably never even wore shoes.

He is still here, screaming in the corner of the room, using all the air in all the breaths he never took.

six months

I was going to go for a walk, but it started pelting cold little raindrops on me before I got to the end of the driveway. So I took this photograph and came back inside:IMG_0625

I saw two moths in the studio a couple of weeks ago. Neither of them ended up in the trap. I’m not sure what to make of that. I hope they’re not a sign of an impending moth population explosion.

five months | four months | three months

two months | one month | the beginning