Shuttered Spaces

Painting by Philip Froman

The painting above has no title. My father completed this when he was in his eighties, after taking up a brush for the first time in his seventies. He was a genial man, my father, with torrents of unrealized dreams dammed up inside him. If you look closely, and listen, you can almost hear those dreams crash against the cliffs. Although I should have, I never thought to catalog his work. What I do know is that two of his paintings stood out among the dozens he produced: the one above, and an idyllic lake scene, a complete antithesis to it. Both represent the man he was.

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For months I’ve found myself in an odd place—trying to sustain the appearance of writing, while not having any interest in writing. Other than the words on this blog, and the occasional letters to family and friends, I’ve produced nothing.

I can’t blame the virus, as tempting as it is. The ideas, and desire to shape them, started drying up long before COVID-19. It just took months of solitude to accept, and make peace with it.

***

Recently, a composer friend, who never heard any of my music, suggested I should start composing again—tentatively, gently, as though he understood he was directing me to a room I’d shuttered and forgotten. I stopped composing after graduate school, for many of the same reasons I don’t write now.

It was an unlikely suggestion, from an unlikely source.

But sometimes, the unlikeliest suggestions, from the unlikeliest sources, resonate in the deepest recesses, in the most organic ways.

Once, I followed a similar unlikely suggestion, from an unlikely source, because it felt right, and it led to love.

This feels the same.

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I have no idea what will spring from my shuttered space. But, if the only music that comes from it is as indicative of who I am, as my father’s paintings were of who he was, then I’ll be happy.

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I imagine this blog will undergo some changes before 2021. Information about books will remain, as will all the old posts. But, the focus will shift, as I reintroduce myself to my roots, and, to you.

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In the meanwhile, I wish you safety, good health, abundant strength, joy, and love in the coming holiday season…

…and, of course, the New Year. I’ll see you then.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Clichés

William Shakespeare

Griselda disappeared a couple of months ago.

Before setting off for subconscious terrain, she left a long letter on my desktop, beside a file of the novella I was writing, accusing me of suffering from a “Plague of clichés.”

I didn’t scoff, as I might have if anyone else had said it. Her list of grievances was too long, and too pointed. All I could do was sigh and groan.

“Perhaps,” she concluded, “you should take that statue of Shakespeare you’ve had since childhood, and move it from the bookshelf to your desk for inspiration….”

Which is exactly what I did.

So far, he hasn’t said a word. Nor has he budged. I turn the desk light on periodically to see if his expression has changed, but it hasn’t. And, if the light bothers him, I can’t tell. He doesn’t squint, and he doesn’t complain. Not even about my clumsy drafts.

***

In the past couple of months, I have read two novels in which he plays a significant role. Both use similar construction and literary devices.

I enjoyed reading them, but, when I finished, I was struck by how many other books I have read in the past year in which the Bard plays no role, but the construction and devices do—the same ones in my work that triggered Griselda’s departure.

And so, I am left with a silent Bard, too many versions of a manuscript driven by stale contrivances, too much time to rue over them, and a reluctance to let them go.

Shall I be like Donatello, before his statue of the prophet, Habakkuk, and scream at my silent icon, “Speak, damn you, speak!” Hoping, praying for instruction? Or shall I regard the lack of it as trust? The Bard’s way of saying, “You can do this. Think….”

Think, he says…. Of folders nested within folders, unused titles, inscriptions, settings, characters, words…overused construction and devices…and Griselda’s exasperated notes….

A plague of clichés.

Maybe that’s where I start.

©2020 All Rights reserved

Inspiration

“The House by the Railroad” (Edward Hopper)

I guess because it’s a new year, people are posting all kinds of articles about decluttering. I even posted one today, thinking it would inspire me to clean out.

I’ve never thought of myself as a big saver, but I do have my weaknesses. It’s tough to get rid of items that have sentimental value. Possessions like that develop adhesive powers, akin to what happens to nonstick frying pans when their surface wears out. Then, everything sticks to them.

Lately, and a little unnervingly, I’ve felt the waning value of intangibles in my life, a lack of pleasure derived from them, but am unsure how, or even whether I should let them go. I mean, how do you part with identity-shaping goals and activities? How do you justify shifting gears after decades of dedication to the development of certain skills? I know people have done it, simply quit and turned their attention to fresh pursuits, but, but, but…there is that adhesive…

Maybe I’m just not ready to part with an act of creation that once excited me, yet now does not, or practicing music I once loved which now sits open on the piano’s rack. Maybe I just need to spend time decluttering other areas of my life. I suppose there is value in serious sorting, determining which possessions and activities are enriching, and worth keeping, and which are stifling, and need to go. Maybe the ideas and passion will come then…or not….

There’s only one way to tell.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

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