Once, in the Wal Mart parking lot, I had found a mess of glossy scraps and arranged them into a photograph of a man and a woman. It was a selfie, cheek to cheek. "A bad breakup" I hypothesized, a connection that hadn't made it in the car, to the house, and into a frame on the mantle. Left as rubbish to be stirred by exhaust on hot concrete.
I don't know what to do with this box full of photographs. I printed them out. They made it home. They made it to a place where they were passed back and forth, smiled over, and set gently away for another time of sweet nostalgia.
"Stay Awhile," I had painted on the top. It's all one can really ask for, even if a relationship lasts a lifetime. It's always just "awhile."
When people come into my work celebrating a ___ year anniversary I always comment that, "once I made it three years."
Once I had been loved for awhile.
In 2013 I had a great purge. I burned everything, all the tangible memories, even stuff I had done in kindergarten. I burned everything that I didn't use on a day-to-day. I burned all the photographs and projects. Matt Ozrelic had walked by and asked if I was "going through a thing."
"It's the Year of the Snake," I had said, "it's time to let go. It's time to be lighter. Time to not be held down."
I was also borrowing a memory I had had in Olympia, Washington watching Alexis burn all her journals before moving to London. When I had protested, she countered, "there are things here just for processing. Things I need to let go. Things I don't want my mom to know if something were to happen to me and these were left."
She granted me permission to fish out her French notes from Evergreen the way Matt, years later, would fish out a little zine I wasn't proud of.
I'm not of Chinese ancestry, but I do consider the Lunar New Year and pay attention to Chinese publications that come out with omens and predictions. 2020 is the year of the Rat. In my own inappropriate appropriation of that symbol I think of rats as being pragmatic survivalists. They are considerate collectors, thoughtful, and sentimental.
This is all to say, I don't mind holding on right now.
I know it's holding me back from moving on, weighing me down, and sabotaging creativity, but letting go doesn't feel right at the moment..
Holding on is the opposite of everything I've ever done. I have no precedent or proper defense.
I'm not ready for my relationship to be bits of shiny paper strewn in a parking lot.
I don't want it to be ashes in the fireplace.
There is a community of people in the Toraja region of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia who keep their dead close, perhaps lying in bed. The state of death of their loved ones doesn't create an absence as much as a stillness or silence. Is this how I feel? Is this what I'm doing? I do not expect in any way my past relationship to raise its head and speak to me as it once did.
But the symbolic discard of burning/burying feels as much as a useless gesture as keeping the box. In fact, it feels wrong.
Keeping the box feels right. That's all that can be said in its defense. In my defense.
In the least, if anything were to happen to me, a stranger could pick up the box intact and rightfully hypothesize, "she was loved once."
In this memory of at one time being chosen, I am at a loss. At one moment yes yes yes trails into ellipsis, cake crumbs into dust we walk over on the way to somewhere else.
We're in this moment of dwelling, a Sousa saudade maybe, a longing, a reflection that keeps us awake at night, so aware of the sounds of everything but another's soft breathing next to us.
Claps of laughter go where? Where goes all the little details, where is the slip between the cracks as seasons change?
"I don't want to be obsessed with relationships, or yearn to be in one, but it hurts when these women loved me so much and then that love is gone," you told me once. I snap my fingers in agreement.
Why don't memories keep us warm? Is there a hole in the ether that opens once a year to crawl into the blanket of the past and slip into the moments of sweetness whose flavor has been forgotten?
You're probably the only one reading this.
What spell do we cast? What items do I lay on my altar during what phase of the moon to unlock the place where there wasn't loneliness? What drugs do we take?
"Why aren't we longing for each other?" he asked.
"We are, so much."
I missed the comet. It didn't matter.
Why look when you can never shift your weight into another and hear them say, "wow."
Maybe it's just the way it is.
Listening to a playlist I made during a time when everything felt beautiful and it falls flat.
All the pieces of the project splayed around me from the working times have lost their coherence. The ink went out, so things paused, then they sat and collected dust, waiting for me to animate them.
Sometimes things feel like they're swirling, sparkles caught up in my spinning wizard's cloak.
They swirl and swirl with me until I tumble, the moon wanes, we fall, become heavy, become weight.
I've never understood why it's like this, just the way it is.
The momentum, the building, then the sudden drop.
Where once there was meaning in every song and color, every conversation, every word, every letter.. to finish is to labor.
The sparkle becomes a heavy rock. The people I met during the times when things were good, couldn't possibly understand that all I want to do is lay down for weeks.
No singing, no dancing.
So this cycle continues. All the heaviness is put away instead of finished. Texts and e-mails go unanswered. The tapestry I was working on ends in a fray.
Maybe it's just the way it is.
I think I'm gonna keep grieving.
I think the moving on will happen, I think moving on is happening, but I'm not going to pretend to be moved on.
I think I'm gonna let myself be sad.
I'm gonna lay awake in the morning after the bad dream and sit with it.
I think I'm gonna let myself not get over it right now.
I think I'll keep listening to Lee Hazelwood and Mountain Goats.
I think I'll be ok with not being ok.
I'm going to be ok with not moving on right now.
A charged summer. Haven't left Central Oregon since February.
Remind me what day it is? What time do I have to be at work?
I asked you your pseudonym the other day.
It was some German sounding name, your Mom's maiden name. Why do I feel the need to give my writer friend's pseudonyms? Because writer's can't write about writers, they have other narrations going on. It's impossible to write on them without interrupting/writing over their own story. Everyone else is safe I guess.
T asked me to never talk about him, not to sieve him through my banality or romanticization. He felt like I had done such a shit job with everyone else's backstory, with the telling of their contribution to my life. He wanted to be an exception, without interpretation, tell his own story maybe, rather than be one in mine. He felt like I lied a lot, but my excuse is no one ever let's me finish talking. There are symbols embedded in the sentences, the description continues in the exploration of those symbols, but it's true nonetheless and the criticism stands uncorrected.
I make excuses, sluff around my lazy interpretation hoping everyone will fill in the trail of my ellipsis. Make everyone do their own research.
There's a story I'm sitting on at the moment that's exactly like that, I'm not sure how to tell it.
The characters in play go back 66 years and I know the broad brush strokes but not the smaller points. It's cooked into my DNA enough to pick up some of the pieces, and I can act as a conduit in that, but I wasn't there.
I set up my altar. I pray. I ask permission from the ancestors. From my grandmother.
I remember she was a storyteller as well and took liberties.
My Mom started asking questions, writing emails. It was known her mother, my grandmother, had a child she offered for adoption. It was in Great Falls, Montana when she was in nursing school, we had heard. What had we heard?
Stray comments: once, in an argument, my grandfather had reminded his wife, in front of the children, she had had a child in Montana.
Then, another time, my aunt had overheard a friend of my grandmother's asking if she wanted to meet the child, who would've been teens or early twenties during that time.
These were small clues.
My Mom wrote letters to Montana, to people who knew my grandmother during that time. Nothing substantial came back. Grand passed in 2014. Mom and I submitted our DNA to Ancestry last year.
A few days ago a woman, Nikki, pinged me on facebook letting me know her husband had gotten his DNA results back and we were fit genetically to be second cousins.
"Sooo.. this is awkward and I'm hoping I don't open a can of worms.." she had written and the big tectonic mystery plate slid into place, finally.
An Aunt in Montana, and cousins. She had been looking, Mary is her name - was her name, for answers. She passed suddenly, two years ago, not knowing her biological mother (or father?)
The light comes out, exposing something buried but not buried. All these lives living in Montana with this certain kind of blood that runs through me.
Mary, I just learned about you and I'm already not telling your story right.
We wanted to find you.
We wanted you to know that you are loved and held and thought about. We wanted you to know we were looking too, and that we wanted to know you. I wanted to show you my research, about our lineage. I wanted to know if you were witchy like me and Great Aunt Nora or Christian, like my Mom. Did you feel the insatiable desire to discover the world like your biological mother, my Grandmother and Great Grand Father? Or did you like to stay close to home?
What questions did you have of us that we might answer? What answers might you have for us?
We wanted to know you. We still do.
Nikki said you loved horses. You got married in 1974 when you were 20. You had three sons. Your husband passed in 2006. You won a trip to Africa and got married for the second time in 2007. You were "so happy and adventurous in the last 11 years," Nikki let's us know.
The story continues, I'm not writing it, but keeping record. Trying to be accurate.
We make up this lie together. All I need is corroboration.
All I need is a space and bodies. I cast a spell.. Two year ago in the future.
I save the music you post. I bring it into my space and dance alone. I imagine wooded floor spaces, draped in tulle. Other bodies.
We play these songs. We dance. We sing these songs. We dance. We push into each other. There are movements that hurt. There are parts sung too loud. Something is being worked out. To the side, wooded palates piled too high catch fire.
You push into me, too hard. I sing, too loud.
Is a Pisces orgy where everyone leaves their clothes on, touches lightly, speaks softly, and drifts into sleep?
Where everyone dreams of the different ways they'd fuck each other, slowing down space and time to prolong moments of sensuality, knowing the impossibility of this trespassing into reality?
Is the suggestion of this approach enough?
Is it satisfying?
Certainly children cannot be made, but we wonder what is being created.
We touch and tangle and speak into the night, my cold thighs against her warm thighs, his fingers in our hair, fading in and out, losing track of hands, but never transgressing certain boundaries.
Sometimes I laugh at myself. Why is reality so hard for Pisces? Why do we exist so much in this other space, the ether of the imagined, even when we are together? Even when we are so cognizant and aware of the reverberating yes of our connections? Conversing in this lower frequency, the way we do, the voice under our whispers.
When we wander the empty streets, reclaiming some agency over the clamor of the day, finding allowance to be cradled and heard..
We burrow into those places inside each other, letting each other in, and in the bedroom of our minds, exist in an intimacy seemingly untranslatable.
Shyly asking, "Should we crawl out the window?" in the morning, for no other reason than perpetuating my own mystery. Still not ready to exist outside my own myth.
The one about my dreamboard: Spaces. When I dream, it's in rooms. It's all close up within reach. Why don't I dream in far away?
The one about Dnd: "This winter I wanted to play. I wanted to escape & dig into my imagination & allow stories to unfold."
The one about housekeeping: "We must pull out every single hair. There must be no hair anywhere."
The one about fashion: "In the future, the thrift store will be less open." -3/27/20
The one about gifts: "Would you rather I wake you in the morning with your favorite morning beverage or a bunch of kisses?"
The one about natural dyes: "Take your time collecting."
The one about teachers: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood & don't assign them to tasks & work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. -Antoine de St-Exupery"
The one about my mom: ""In the morning she has tea. She wakes up much earlier."
The one about magic: "& above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest are always hidden in the ..."
The one about singing: “Songs can be incredibly prophetic, like subconscious warnings or messages to myself, but I often don't know what I'm trying to say till years later. Or a prediction comes true and I couldn't do anything to stop it, so it seems like a kind of useless magic. -Florence Welch”
"When do you think an artist's project is complete? How do know when that moment is?" I asked Jamie in early April.
"When it gives you goosebumps or makes you cry. Then you have to cut yourself off or you'll change it again... I always want to edit forever."
I put this goat bell near my workspace. It's a reminder of the imperfect resonance my art creates when it's ready to slip into the world. I always wished I could relate to other artists and that harmonious moment. Maybe the secret angst of artists-in-process takes away from the romance we like to project. Or maybe I am alone in this feeling.
I ring the goat bell because there is no more work to be done, what needs to be said is said, the muse has become quiet. The cover is pasted on and the zines are posted online with a brief description.
There's this sense of control I get to have when in-process. The moment can last forever, with no end. A continuum without expectation of completion. It's not a joy-filled process most of the time, but a dance of holding and letting go. I'm not kind to myself during the work, attempting to tune-in to a certain frequency and emotionally lashing myself when it doesn't sound right. But the work is something in itself and as an artist I recognize myself as more of conduit.
When the work is done, it doesn't belong to me anymore. It runs like a wobbly-legged kid across the meadow seeking a poppy head to gnaw off. I'm its keeper for a time, an overprotective parent with knowledge of a harsh world, biting my knuckles as it stumbles on its own.
The project I started working on was a series of little one-off zines made by the folded archives of my old gallery prints of The Thread #16. I had folded them almost as a means of containment, keeping them organized with the promise of doing more in the future.
At the beginning of Lent, in late-February, I unearthed the little books and dedicated them to the forty-days, dedicating each day a little zine. Each zine intended to be an exploration on a certain subject I could dig into until it was exhausted.
Because there was no intent of making copies I was excited at the prospect of not limiting myself. I could work in a deep, dimensional way, crafting little pockets of water-colored illustrations and collage bits. I could include scraps of writing in carefully constructed nooks that didn't fit into a conventional essay, or boldly and lavishly print color images and photographs without the need to make more then one copy. I could let this project be a bespoke mess outside the constructs of a black-and-white xerox containment.
These zines came together as I nested myself cross-legged in my studio, surrounded by a flurry of papers, magazines, books, old journals, modge-podge, pens, stamps, and cups that testified to the time range I spent there: coffee mugs, jars of water, and wine glasses.
There's a lot going on right now, I was grateful for the time and space to create through it.
I came off medication in January, separated from my partner, transitioned back into serving from housekeeping, and found myself living with mom and depleting my savings while a global pandemic shut everything down. During that time, a pinnacle of the art-community and a dear friend passed onto the ancestral plane.
Girl Kaycee, as she's known to her friends, was a prolific creator and lived through her work with this inspiring strength and thoughtfulness. Her ability to dedicate herself to a project and see it to fruition was a kind of alchemy to me. She truly created as she lived, there was no separation.
While working on this project I had to remind myself of her boundless encouragement to all of us in the art community. She was known to send an emoji of blowing wind juxtaposed by a blue heart. It was her thing. I had to remind myself often during this project, when shit got really frustrating, that we were creating together. I feel this way towards all my artist friends as we create in our certain spaces. There is no separation.
So for me, the goat bell rings and the work is done. Rather than slipping into the world like a slick black-&-white assembly of pages, it clunks cacophonously like an ambling goat. It has a hand-made paper cover and the pages are thick with layers of things I can't even remember now, and honestly would prevent me from putting them out there.
These are zines are done because they're letting me know they're done. Because they're ready to be in someone else's hands.