Saturday, February 9, 2013

Autoportrait I

So  okay. I have not yet finished what I started. I didn't even get up a good head of steam. I did three posts in early January that were going to be part of a series and then I walked away for a while. The next book in line is the Tao Te Ching, and that's a simple book with a complicated story and I haven't had the gumption to get going with it; it feels too big too me.

What I've figured out is that given the number of distractor factors I've got going on right now (Tumblr, Pinterest, my artwork, chess, reading, and oh yeah, my job), the only way I'm going to get into a regular writing rhythm again is to attempt smaller bites, try my hand at things that look more like fun and less like work. That doesn't mean I'm not going to keep going with the bookshelf thing, I will. But in between I'm going to play a little bit.

One of the things I like about Tumblr is that the posts generally include links not only to the person who most recently put up the post but also to the people who posted originally. So when time permits you can do a bit of surfing to find other blogs. That's how I ran across a blog I really like maintained by Stephen Sparks called Invisible Stories. It's got some interesting layers. On Wednesday his post began like this:

[After reading Édouard Levé’s Autoportrait in January ‘12, I attempted—as an exercise in personality upkeep—to compose a series of declarative statements of my own. I succeeded for a few months before fragmenting into sentences surrounded by comforting white space. With the same intentions, but hopefully better resolve, I attempt another stab (in the dark) here.]

He then posted a short essayish sort of compilation of declarative sentences that I found interesting to read both for what they had to say and for the territory they suggested might be there to be explored. Cool idea, I said to myself. That might be fun, I said to myself. So here goes:

I'm now five years older than my father was when he passed away. I've lived in Honolulu for almost fifteen years now. I like living in a state with no majority population. I like the air, the potable tapwater, the sunshine, temperatures in the eighties all year round. But it irks me that in a small city with a perfect climate there is no infrastructure for bicycles. We're choking on traffic. And in an environment where we have access to wind and sun and wave energy every single day, we generate more than 90% of our electricity by burning petroleum. There was a time in my life when I was a political activist, but politics discourages me now. People will go to extraordinary lengths to deny the most obvious truths if they do not fit with their predispositions. Al Gore wrote a book about that. I suspect that he had hopes that the book would be a game changer. The game has not changed. Before I wound up with arthritis in my hips, I used to play, and coach, basketball. Before I wound up with nerve damage in my shoulder, I used to play guitar. Before I became an administrator, I used to teach. I've been a voracious reader all my life. I read less now. I find it harder to get lit up by books these days. My life seems to be devolving into a series of departures. All of which are, let us say, rehearsals. I begin every day with a routine of stretching that borrows bits and pieces from yoga and tai chi. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes. Then I shower, make breakfast and go off to work. I like going to work as the sun is rising, but in the winter months it's often still dark when I reach my office. My office is always cold. It's in a big building with central air which seems always to be set at the same temperature whether the days are long and sunny or short and rainy. During the winter it's cold. I've worn a blue fleece jacket in my office every day for five years. I take it off when I go outside. I don't like travelling much. I like being at home. I like having time to myself. For the last several months I've been spending time in the evenings making collages out of old books and photographs. (Before that it was drawings. Before that it was prints. Before that it was idiosyncratic oddball abstract paintings.) I sit and piece bits of paper and cardboard together and glue them down with acrylic medium. It's somehow very satisfying, this business of pasting bits of old things down to make something new. Often while I work I find myself thinking of my father, who spent time most evenings in his study, pasting pictures and newspaper columns into scrapbooks with hunting and fishing themes. Dad liked to think of himself as an outdoorsman. He was a meticulous man, and his scrapbooks were elegantly maintained. He's been dead for 55 years. The scrapbooks are gone. I don't know where.

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