Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Unstructing Mind

A time to build and a time to tear down.

After all, what fun would a maze of dominoes be unless you got to knock them down?
And so our puzzles go the way of the dinosaurs within moments of being completed. Our grown up concept of leaving the puzzle up for a while to appreciate is met with blank stares. Oh, never mind. Do you thing, boys. In fact, let me help too.

And, while hours spent on a puzzle that only the second hand bears witness to might seem a waste, I liken it to the most beautiful forms of art. Those that are only here for a flash and then are gone. Andy Goldsworthy's spirals of petals that float away down the river. A barista's delicate foam design that is sipped apart in seconds.
A sunrise.

These art forms connect us with our greater selves. We are able to transcend the clock, even if it is just for a moment. For what is the clock anyway but a cage we conform to? Without plunging headfirst into the philosophical, I suffice to say that the deepest reality is that which happens outside the realm of time. The forever and the instantaneous. Being caught up by the music you are playing and even being played by. The immeasurable experience of being barreled while surfing. Sitting down to paint in the evening and being snapped out of the trance by the morning sun.

For, in the end, there is only beginning. The clock will get you eventually, but as I see it, after that we get to break the clock for good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

While the world burns


How to enjoy the beauty, the decadence, the very fiber of life, while at the same time reserving a part of your heart for those in this life who are enduring tragedy. I have several sources pouring into my psyche. A friend's family lost an infant son. A tiny impoverished nation is devastated by a 7.3 earthquake. And I took the kids to the aquarium.

This is the quest for balance. This is the struggle: to live up life without being blind to the pain, but not letting that pain consume us, halting the progress of our own lives. It is a balance I have not yet mastered.

What ends up happening for the most part is that I feel guilty as hell that my life is so good while these others have it so desperately tough. Though, when I consider the paths I have walked to end up here I also am reminded of my own pain along the way and I am comforted somehow by the inherent human condition of common suffering. What might the purpose be in forever chaining humans with suffering? My guess is this simple effect of suffering, empathy. Not pity. Pity is a dirty bitch. Empathy is a queen. Empathy is the ability to take on the yoke of someone else and really feel their burden.

There are some obstacles to empathy. Taking a side, as in religion, politics, sports or war interferes with the ability to walk a mile in someone's moccasins because when we align ourselves with a side, a team, we shut off the empathy switch. Ours is right, the rest can bite. There is also fear. Fear is an empathy blocker. But, as my father always told me, perfect love casts out fear. And that is what it's all boiling down to. Love.

And if love is your guide, you will know both empathy for the suffering and the joys of this beautiful, decadent life.

I wish you both.

(whale riding)
(my crew)




(ok, so for all the splendor that the Seattle Aquarium holds, the very favorite part for my boys was this little tiny room with plastic whales. Plastic whales. there you go, folks. You can spend a hundred million dollars or you can spend ten.)

(radiant wifey, who does not support close up pics being taken of her)

(the beauty outweighs the pain and the pain outweighs the beauty)

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Pitch Black by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton, Cinco Putos Press 2008

Today was Library Day here in Port Townsend. At least for my family. We dropped off a wheelbarrow full of mostly dinosaur books and picked up a new load. One was for me and it was a lightning quick read with a thunderous affect on my being. The graphic novel, Pitch Black is a long, skinny book, content perfectly matching its subject matter which takes place mostly in NY's subways. If you have not seen this book, you gotta check it out.

The cover grabbed me right away, but within flipping through the first few pages, I closed the book and added it the pile of Elasmosaurs and Dromeosaurids, knowing I would want to read it all in one sitting and not spoil anything by peeking.

The book is about an interaction between two people from different backgrounds and their exchange. It circles around homelessness but goes so much more in depth than I was expecting. And not just homeless, but living under the subways in the pitch black of the tunnels. Some real crazy possibilities. Here are some rules given for living down there:

* Always keep a light on you.
* Try to wait for a rainy day to look for a room. You don’t want to get things all set up and then find out there is a leak and you have to start over.
* With all the juice down there, there should be enough electricity for everyone
* Anything you need can be found in the garbage.
* Always have a way out that is different from the way in.

The black white and grey in the art matches the content well. It is spooky as hell, especially when you go down into the tunnels. Simple line work and cool perspectives give this artwork a real rootsy vibe. It feels on the verge of outsider art, which matches the story perfectly.

After reading it I went online for some research about it. I was pleased to find out how the story was, in fact, a true story and that the co-writer was the character in the tale. Though you only get glimpses of the character in this book, it suits the book perfectly, leaving the reader wishing for more.

Pitch Black is a haunting, beautiful, hopeful work that I highly recommend. Respect to Mr. Horton for allowing his story to be turned into art that we, all over the world, can appreciate.

I leave you with an interesting bit about this book from the NY Times:
Ms. Landowne said that Mr. Horton’s time underground was mostly spent in and around subway tunnels under the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The book depicts the spaces he inhabited as dark and dangerous and life there as anything but well-organized.

Mr. Horton is no longer living underground. He is serving time at the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Marcy, N.Y. In March, shortly before his 40th birthday, he began serving a prison sentence of 18 to 36 months for criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. He is eligible for parole in November and could be released as early as May. State records indicate that he was also in prison from 1990 to 1991 for attempted assault and from 1999 to 2003 for assault.

In the phone interview, Ms. Landowne acknowledged that her friendship and collaboration with Mr. Horton had had its ups and downs, but pointed out that his life has been filled with struggles against addiction and despair.

Mr. Horton was not available for a phone interview, but he wrote in a letter to his publisher: “I was real glad when I received my copy of the book. I thought that it came out real good. I want to thank you for the opportunity for giving me a chance to publish my book.”
- October 7, 2008