to San Francisco and partway back
[Guide to my itinerary: Menominee to Green Bay by car, G.B. to Chicago O’Hare by puddlejumper, Chicago to San Francisco by 747, 1 day of lounging and 7 days of painting, then S.F. to Chicago again, and for the rest you’ll have to read on.]
I can’t claim there were no humorous moments on my United Airlines flights last month, but the only one I can recall is when the pilot coming into Chicago on my way home turned off the seatbelt sign at the gate and announced over the PA, “All rise.” Pretty funny. But anything would have made me smile at that point, because I had only a short hop to Green Bay and an hour-long drive ahead of me and then I’d be home! My travel nightmare was almost over.
Or was it…?
I had arranged to get a wheelchair at O’Hare to ferry me between terminals, because the one for the big plane is far, far away from the one for the little plane, even though they’re both United. I was so happy to be going home that I gave the wheelchair pusher a $20 tip. “Merry Christmas!” I cried, in the spirit of the season. But I spoke too soon. One minute before we were set to board, they canceled the flight. How I love those empty apologies: “Sorry for any inconvenience.” They have to put that “any” in there, in case someone experienced no inconvenience whatsoever. Sure, they were justified in blaming the weather this time—it was right at the beginning of the Great Winter Storm of 2010, before winter had even officially started!, and Chicago was at the leading edge—but United is no more reliable when the skies are clear and flocks of angels are ready to guide the plane safely onward. Last year, during a 6-hour delay in the same airport, the gate agent announced that “It’s not our fault.” So she didn’t even have to offer the empty apology. I’ve never known an organization so hostile to its paying customers.
So I was stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again. Without my luggage.
Do I sound bitter? I was pretty… pretty… pretty… bitter. But I should explain why I was in that situation. I flew out to San Francisco for the annual December 7-day painting intensive at the Painting Studio (ccesf.org). Flying is always a dicey proposition for me, partly because of the Dramamine I have to take, which knocks me out, but it was worse this year because my knees have been killing me, and I was really concerned about sitting in coach for hours and trying to navigate not only the airports but the streets of the City. So when I was making my reservations online, a window came up that offered me a one-time-only opportunity to upgrade to First Class. Wow, First Class! I felt daring, out of my league. Not only was I the first person in my family to go to college, but here I was the first one to fly in the company of rich people, or at least men wearing suits! It was going to be the experience of a lifetime!
So on December 2, I drove from Menominee to the Green Bay airport and left my Jeep in long-term parking. I know the airport and I know the security drill, and the TSA people there are perfectly nice because—what do they have to worry about? We got to O’Hare on time, no problem, and when I boarded the 747 to S.F. I almost gasped: I had this large, open, curved cubicle all to myself. I could sit down and stretch my legs all the way forward without hitting anything. There were built-in trays, and shelves on which to stash your bag, none of that “under the seat in front of you,” because there is no “seat in front of you”! The seat itself was very comfortable and had more positions than the Kama Sutra. I never quite got the hang of turning it into a bed, but that was OK. Before we even started taxiing, a parade of flight attendants marched through with beverages, hot nuts (not sure how heat is supposed to improve them), and anything else you could think to ask for. Later, there was spinach lasagna for lunch that wasn’t bad, not bad at all.
Do you sense a “but” coming? Maybe not, but here it is anyway. Almost as soon as we got in the air, I got the horrible restless leg feelings, which I assure you are no joke. I was absolutely miserable, even in that lap of luxury, even knowing it would have been 10 times worse in coach. I writhed and squirmed my way through the whole 4 hours, and even the snacks, lunch, and breathless service didn’t help.
The bigger “but” (don’t say it) came on the way back from S.F. to Chicago. (I’m telling this out of chronological order, try to keep up.) The plane was smaller than a 747, and I was shocked to see that what they called First Class was barely distinguishable from coach. There was a little more leg room and a console between you and your seatmate, but getting up out of the seat and out to the aisle was as awkward as anything I’ve experienced back with the hoi polloi. And I again had the restless legs, made worse by the close proximity of a very nice British man who politely ignored my constant squirming and twice uncomplainingly turned off his movie, put away his laptop, took off his headset, and stood up to let me by to get to the toilet. I had selected an aisle seat online, but they (as is United’s wont) had switched planes, so now I was stuck by the window.
So I’ve already told you about landing in Chicago and finding out that I couldn’t get home that day, which was a Saturday. Fortunately—in a rare moment of thinking ahead and taking action—I had called the Chicago Airport Hilton from my S.F. hotel room to make a reservation, thinking it was worth it for my peace of mind even if I lost the $129 if I didn’t need the room. So at O’Hare I got another wheelchair ride to the hotel, which is theoretically in the airport but still a long, long way from anything that truly qualifies as the airport. I had cash on me but had to stop handing out the exorbitant tips. My room was much nicer (and a lot cheaper) than the one at the Laurel Inn—no offense, Laurel Inn!—so while I was unhappy about the layover, I was grateful to have the resources to afford that option. I ordered room service a couple times (another never-before luxury for me), and the food was damn good and only a leetle overpriced: $31 for a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke, once they added on all their fees and taxes and gratuitous gratuities. I watched mostly regular TV (lots of Weather Channel) but did splurge by purchasing the last two episodes of “Dexter” that I had missed ($6.95 apiece) and the movie “The Town” ($14.95). But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The smartest thing I had done besides reserve a hotel room was to bring my cell phone charger in my carry-on bag. I was getting frequent recorded messages from the airline, which kept me apprised of what was happening (mostly after I already knew, but still). They automatically rebooked me on a flight for the next morning, though I had little hope of flying then because the storm was still looking bad. But I called the recording at 5 a.m. Sunday, and the flight was still scheduled to leave on time. I took all my stuff with me, including my key card in case I had to come back to the room, and set out to find the gate at least 2 hours before departure time. I have a little piece of advice for whoever makes those recordings. When you pronounce “Concourse C” and “Concourse E” exactly the same way, and to my ear I think you’re saying Concourse C when there is no Concourse C in Terminal 2, you are going to cause me a world of hurt. I hobbled off in the direction of the airport with my father’s old wooden cane and couldn’t make heads or tails out of the signs. Also, the “moving” sidewalk that would have eased my progress was not moving. I’m sure the airport was terribly “sorry for any inconvenience,” but it was fortunate for the homeless and/or travel-stranded men I saw sleeping on it. There are at least 3 levels in the airport, reached variously by escalator, elevator, or stairs, and as I followed signs that led nowhere or dumped me back in the same areas I had just covered, I felt a close kinship with Franz Kafka. I expected to metamorphose into an ungeheures Ungeziefer (literally, monstrous vermin) at any moment, if I hadn’t already. But no, I seemed to have all my human appendages. When I finally found the United Airlines counter, it was devoid of human life, and a handwritten sign directed my weary wayward self to Terminal 1, which was supposedly “down this way and to the left.” There was a “this way” but no “left,” and the surly uniformed lass who was sitting there told me I had to “go outside” (she points behind her, which is not where the doors are) or (and?) “take the train.” I had no idea what she was talking about, where this train was or where it would take me. Mostly, I just needed a wheelchair and some confirmation of where the gate was, so I hobbled downstairs again, looking in vain for Concourse C. The United employees were presumably swilling their morning coffee and cracking jokes in some Shangri-La I had no hope of finding.
So I continued to hobble up and down (I’ll have to find another word for hobble), trying to get my bearings. I finally found a long line waiting to get to Concourse E, and I remembered that my previous flight had been supposed to leave from gate E4. So I joined the line, and the nice man ahead of me said I was in the right place, because the tiny United Express planes leave from Terminal 2, not Terminal 1. Good to know! (I routinely found fellow passengers more helpful than airline or airport staff.)
I think I have adequately expressed how physically miserable I was, but I soldiered on and finally arrived at security. I was on the verge of tears and beyond common courtesy at that point, so instead of smiling politely at the man who checked my ID, I just inched my way forward like the cow or monstrous vermin I truly was. At least they didn’t have those new body scanners, and I didn’t see anyone being patted down, so thank God for small favors. I wobbled down to look at a departures board, only to discover that the flight had been canceled. I have to give myself this: I didn’t completely freak out. I whispered a frustrated “FUCK” and found somewhere to sit down and figure out what to do next.
Naturally, I called the United Airlines recording to see what could be done, and for some reason I wasn’t able to give the required answers in the allotted time. He/it would ask for my Mileage Plus number, and as I started to say “zero…,” he would say, “For example….” or “and then touch the star key.” All communication would break down, because when I finished giving the 11-digit number, he would repeat it back to me with an extra zero, I would say NO, and he would fakily, mechanically apologize, though, I must say, he sounded more sincere than any of the live humans I’d dealt with. I went through this 3 times and finally managed to spit out the requested number to his satisfaction. Then he told me that the wait time to speak to a human was “60 minutes.” FUCK.
(This is hilarious: According to United Airlines, my name is “MARYMS MCKENNEY” [they put the “Ms.” in the wrong place]. So when saying my name, the recording robot pronounces it “Mary Mil-seconds MICKinny.” I’ve always wanted a nickname: how about “Mil-seconds”?)
I found a gate agent who cursorily informed me that all flights for the rest of the day and the next day were sold out. I was now fully in tears—tears for fears. (Did you know that the “Tears For Fears” band name came from the book Primal Scream by Arthur Janov, “tears as a replacement for fears”? In my case, tears just joined the fears, they didn’t replace them). So he reserved a seat for me on an early morning Tuesday flight. It seemed like forever to me. Whoever heard of getting stuck in Chicago for 3 days??
To avoid spending more money on tips, I throbbled back to the hotel—at least I was starting to get my bearings, but I had taken 2 Dramamine already and was seriously fried. From my room I called down to the front desk to see if I could extend my stay by 2 more nights. The person I talked to said she would check and “call [me] right back.” I waited in vain for 2 hours to hear back from her. I spent the time counterproductively worrying that I would be thrown out on the street and have to fend for myself, or sleep on the non-moving sidewalk. For all I knew, the “hundreds” (according to the gate agent) of stranded travelers had filled up the Hilton and all surrounding hotels, and I would have to rent a car and drive into the storm and die in some snow-filled ditch, frozen and clutching my dead cell phone. You see where my mind goes.
I finally called back downstairs and the woman said yes, I could stay 2 more nights. If I could have jumped in the air, I would have. Instead, I fell back on the bed with relief. She called back a minute later to say, “Oh I forgot,” the rate had changed from $129 to $209/night. All the staff have been trained to say “My pleasure” whenever you thank them for anything, but it was a bit odd to be told how much “pleasure” she took in informing me of the outrageous price hike.
Long story even longer: On Monday I took the hotel shuttle over to Terminal 1 to get a boarding pass for my flight the next day. After I did that, I didn’t know how to get back, so I checked the “Visitor’s Information” kiosk to maybe find out the shuttle’s schedule, but guess what? Of 15 or so hotels, the Hilton wasn’t listed! Ha! Was I surprised? Fuck, no! I ended up whrobbling back to my room. I was surprised that the room hadn’t been cleaned yet, so I found the housekeeping person, who told me she had me marked down as checking out that day. I straightened it out with the front desk and went down to the restaurant to have breakfast—some excellent chilaquiles (eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, queso fresco, and salsa). I thought it would be cheaper than room service, but with orange juice and coffee and a tip it still came to $31.
When I got back upstairs, my key card didn’t work. I asked the housekeeping person what to do, and she called security. He showed up finally, interrogated me about my identity, and wondered why a person named “Yvette” had been given my room. After he opened the door for me and checked the bathroom to be sure no one was hiding in there, I called back downstairs. The witless front desk person (not the original one) cheerfully told me that it would be “[his] pleasure” to extend my stay for another night.
I told him to be sure to charge me for 3 nights, not 4. His pleasure. But when I got my Visa bill, I was surprised to see that I had been charged a grand total of $1,069.25. He had indeed put me down for 4 nights. The bastard.
Tuesday a.m., I thrwobble back over to the gate—by this time I know exactly where I’m going, hurrah!—and get in line for security. All the special people—troops, etc.—are allowed to go ahead, so we stand there without moving for half an hour. Finally, they open another line. I go through the motions—dumping shoes, bag, coat, cane, cell phone in the bins—and await deliverance. The TSA performs its ritual of checking the number of ounces of lotion, hair gel, and toothpaste I am carrying and gratuitously tosses my gel. But in her zeal to deprive me of manageable hair, she doesn’t notice the 7-inch metal dental instrument with two sharp hook ends that was wrapped in a paper napkin in the same plastic bag. So I was thwarted from slathering my fellow passengers with hair gel, but I could have done some serious damage with that pick.
We are hunting bin Laden by pawing through my purse, as if I’ve hidden him there, have hidden a wire in my shoe, a liquid in my pocket, a bomb in my underwear. We lost our way in the dark but are looking for it under a lamppost because the light is better there.
Anyway, this plane managed to get off the ground, my luggage was waiting for me at Green Bay, and my Jeep started right up in the bitter cold. The kitties were happy to see me, I think, though they may now prefer my sister, who read to them every day while I was gone. It was heaven to be home.
Brutus (front) and Luther, posing for the cover of their first album, “U.P. Catz.” Photo by P. DuPont.
forget the journey, here’s where I talk about the destination
One of the best things about the painting intensives is seeing old friends again. Diane L., Diane D., Terry and I dined out just about every day in our old haunts, especially Chloe’s, a little café on Church St., and started a couple of new traditions: On Saturday night, T and I met DD, DL, and DL’s man Chris at the Clement St. Bar & Grill. I have a horror of trying to park on the streets of S.F., especially on a Saturday night, but we easily found a spot and joined our friends for a rousing urban outing: pasta, burgers, wine and black Russians, jostling in the aisles, attentive waiters, and shouted conversation. It’s what I miss most about the City, I think. Well, first, having friends available to go out, and then knowing people who know interesting places to go. Later in the week, we headed over to the Buckeye Roadhouse in Marin, in the rain, me driving, trying to remember how to get there. Either they moved the road (unlikely) or I didn’t know where I was going (ya think?), and I ended up having to turn around on Tennessee Valley Road. But then, in a burst of glory, I drove into the parking lot, handed my car over to the valet, and we entered the bright, shiny world of the Buckeye. Drinks (the raspberry lemonade was superb), ahi tuna and spicy pork sandwiches, lots of hoopla, again an urban-style experience made more special by the sparkly decorations and holiday spirit in the air. I love you, D, D, and T.
In the middle of the week, the studio always springs for a pizza lunch, which we eat in the sharing room. This time the pizzas came from an Indian place, which, no thanks, but there was also a really good pepperoni pizza, and Alyssa had made a raw kale salad. I don’t think I have to tell you that I do not eat this kind of thing, so I can’t believe I even took some, but it was great! I even got the recipe from her later. You can find “Chef Alyssa” at http://www.earthenfeast.com. She is amazing, and not just for her mad food skillz. She had us in stitches with her story the morning after seeing Roger Waters The Wall Live.
More shout-outs: I was going to name others with whom I had special moments, but that can be tricky because of whom I might leave out, so: You know who you are. I loved painting and being with you all. And I have a special shout-out to Sima, but you’ll have to read on for that.
On Friday night, at the end of the intensive, I went out with my friends from Oregon, who had driven down just to have dinner with me, P’s and my godchild, and the godly child’s husband and mother. It’s always somewhat bizarre to go from the intimacy of the painting studio and my friends there to my “other” world. We went to a noisy Italian restaurant south of Market, and it was both overwhelming and gratifying to banter and catch up with one another. Plus, the food was excellent. Then P&C brought me back to my hotel, and I got a few measly winks before having to get up at 2 a.m. to leave for home (ha!).
It’s easier to write about the obvious targets—the airlines, security, and hotel staff—and the fun times than to put words to the indescribable experience of painting for process, but I will do my best.
“I hear the paint falling…”
Barbara was telling us about someone dropping a container of paint, but I heard poetry. In my world, a lot was falling: rain outside; tears on the paper and on my face inside; mercy, mercy everywhere….
All week I painted a young man who had killed himself after holding a room full of high school students, including my great-nephew, hostage. No one else was hurt, unless you count scarred-for-life. During the stand-off, my fearful thoughts were of course for my great-nephew and his parents, but when I came to paint, suddenly there he was, the 15-year-old boy who couldn’t even say what he wanted, who had no demands, except possibly the demand for attention, to be taken seriously, who knows what goes on in the mind of a teen-age boy? So I painted him with the gun to his head, in the grave, as a spirit rising from the grave. Mind you, I didn’t know him, but his tragedy was the vehicle for 7 intense days of painting.
At first I painted a lot of guns, bullets, blood. The boy (I know his name but don’t want to name him, I don’t know why) was a hunter, as is my great-nephew, so I painted deer as targets, then deer pointing their own guns. Sometimes the imagery becomes so satisfying to paint that you get carried away. I told Barbara I wanted to paint a forest with hunters, deer, mayhem. She got me to focus on the painting in front of me, to see what could be coming in or out. So I connected all the beings on the painting with white cords, felt the connectedness of life whether the ties are visible or not, and still she asked what could be connected. But there was nothing else, just shapes! just colors! I had made the obvious connections, she was asking me to do the impossible. But it turns out that how you face the impossible is kind of the point: Finally, I was neither fighting nor holding back, and though I didn’t think of the word at the time, I had “surrendered.”
At some point a quotation from “The Merchant of Venice” started running through my mind. It was the same quote that came when I painted my late brother-in-law many years ago.
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
I painted tears falling from the faces on the painting and from the unknown sky above. I didn’t know where the feelings were coming from, what they “meant,” why I was focusing on this boy. The teacher and the other students had done their best to keep the boy calm, talking to him about hunting and fishing, and then the SWAT team came busting in and it was all over, the boy shot himself. My great-nephew seemed to be OK immediately afterward, and his mother, my niece, was euphoric that he survived, but post-traumatic stress had come, predictable as clockwork.
I was far enough removed from the story that I knew virtually nothing objectively, but my feeling state was a projection of the boy’s loneliness, despair, lack of choices, forced into a corner, thinking the gun and the attention of the other students would tell him what to do now, how to go on, whether to go on.
As happens when you paint so intensely for so long, the story faded away and I just followed the mysterious feelings for the rest of the week, painted whatever came next, not like clockwork but like some organic heartbeat leading me on.
an intruder in our midst
There was one man in the intensive, among 22 or so women; we’ve had them before, it’s not a big deal. But this one seemed different from the gentle souls who had painted with us in the past. On the very first day, someone referred to being (psychologically) “naked” in front of the painting, and he offered that she “had [his] permission.” That was rather jarring, this male insistence on making everything about sex, but no one said anything. He (I’ll call him “Dick”) made a few other comments over the next few days, joked about how he could paint his penis as long as he wanted. I wanted to say to him, “You know, Dick, it’s not about the length, it’s the girth.” But we’re not supposed to comment on other people’s sharings, so I zipped it, no pun intended.
One of the painters had been doing some very sexual paintings, and she talked about feeling exposed, wondering if she was doing the right thing, not wanting anyone to see—questioning what was going on with her, as we all do when the mind is not in charge and imagery seems to have its own power and direction. Sexual imagery can feel very liberating to paint, but it brings all the baggage with it, one’s fantasies and fears, the expectations from the culture. So at one point, “Dick,” who had been painting near her, shared that he had “wanted to watch” and that he could “feel the excitement” from her corner, and he said these things in the group while looking intently at her, a burst of inappropriate, unwelcome testosterone, entitled and insistent, flooding the room. The rest of us, the women, the targets of male entitlement in and out of “safe” places, sat there as if stunned, as if shot with a paralyzing agent, not lethal, not like he put a gun to our heads, but stunned into silence and submission. Barbara reminded the group at large that we were not to comment on one another’s paintings, and apparently the point was not lost on Dick. Afterward, things were said in private, apologies were made, epiphanies may or may not have been achieved, but I wasn’t part of all that. I just felt the reverberations from his statements, his obvious glee and sexual response, and a lifetime of unwelcome comments and advances made me furious that we had to endure this kind of thing in our “sanctuary.” But sanctuary is not necessarily what it seems. The painting studio is a sanctuary in which to feel unsafe, to take risks, to not know what we’re going to feel, let alone say. It’s a contradiction wrapped in an enigma and all that.
When we reconvened for the next morning’s sharing, the women’s voices started to come forward about what had happened. It was unusual to have a “meta” talk like that, and it was disturbing, especially considering the tender feelings that we encounter, in ourselves and in one another, when painting for so long. After a few people had spoken, I realized I was practically quivering with a phrase that had come to me in the night. It seemed that to say it in the group would be like dropping a bomb in the middle of a marketplace, blowing myself up along with everyone else. But it was so strong in my throat to voice it: I said that the aftermath of Dick’s comment the day before had been like “passive little girls being word-raped.” No one seemed to know what I was talking about. What?? Repeat that. Explain that. It’s always strange to put something personal or explosive into words, whereas you can paint literally anything and no one will be shocked. I was afraid that what I said was too strong, too (God forbid) “feminist” or “man-hating” or any of the other shields that women use to deflect just or unjust criticism of men. Barbara engaged me, encouraged me to see where this was coming from in me, what more I could say, didn’t let me just drop my bomb and disappear. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but after a while I paused and said, “But… I’m having so much compassion for this boy who killed himself, whom I didn’t even know.” And my energy changed from reacting against one man to feeling for another man, and there was no more contradiction, just an appreciation for the complexity of our beings, and for Barbara’s skill in bringing me to a truer place than mere reaction. (Barbara, I am more grateful to you than I can say.)
Here’s my Sima shout-out. I happened to be wearing my “Bitch Is the New Black” t-shirt that day, and after the morning sharing she came over to me and said, “Brave Is the New Bitch.” That was so cool! I had thought of another t-shirt I wanted to make for next year, with a phrase I had seen on a car that morning: “It Don’t Matter to Jesus.” I have since learned that it’s a quote from “The Big Lebowski” (one of my favorite movies, actually), not an illiterate paean to the son of God. But I guess it can mean whatever I want it to mean. “It Don’t Matter to Mary”? The only problem with wearing these t-shirts is having to explain them to people, such as my “Not here today, not gone tomorrow” original. Contact me if you wish to purchase.
One of the things Barbara wanted to explore in the sharings was how to make use of the extraordinary opportunity to relate with one another in the group the way that we paint—not just sharing details of our day or our individual feelings, but to speak in the same spirit that informs our paintings. But while painting, we’re in our own worlds, backs to each other, no one really knowing what’s going on with anyone else unless we overhear them talking with Barbara. And it’s hard to know how to “relate” when we’re not supposed to make judgments or offer advice. We all have a tendency to want to help someone who’s feeling bad, but there’s a freedom in just being able to express ourselves without being bombarded with well-meaning suggestions. Even so, the feeling of connection in the sharings is just incredible: the silence so deep that it vibrates.
We talked a lot about what it meant to be “inappropriate” while speaking in the group. Later in the week, I’m not sure how it came about, I was probably going on about the contradiction of having “rules” in the sharing that we don’t have in the painting. So Barbara invited me to “say something inappropriate.” I had no idea what to say, and I usually freeze when put on the spot like that. But then it popped into my head to ask, “Can I speak to a person?” Barbara hesitated but said OK, and I looked at Dick and said… [I imagined the room holding its collective breath] “I was going to ignore you for the rest of the week, but I got over it and now I know it’s not about you.” Barbara beamed, “That’s good!” She asked Dick how he felt about what I had said and of course he was fine “…since it’s not about me.” I’m not sure if he learned anything from the whole experience, but I learned that if I’m honest about my feelings, I can get past them.
There was another time in the group when I said something that was very difficult to admit to, but I’m not going to go into it here. What I said wasn’t the important part anyway, it was my reaction afterward when I feared the judgment of others and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Back at my painting, Barbara urged me to feel, not think. As soon as someone tells you not to think, your mind thinks even harder: How do I not think, are you crazy? But somehow my defenses had been worn down, I was a soggy mess from crying, and I just kept going back to the wordless feeling whenever I found myself on the Think Train again. I kept painting, it didn’t matter what. And then it happened. It was as if the feelings, so deep, so heart-felt, so powerful and seemingly destructive, eased out and spread out as if on a broad plain, flooding all my defenses and finally dissipating into wordlessness, fearlessness. And then another “falling” quote came to me: “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” And look, the word “pain” is right in there.
So the week of painting (and traveling) for me was about raining, flooding, cold particles falling, breaking the levees of self-protection, pure feeling rising, emerging with or without words, dissipating in riots of color and shape and image; and it was also the opposite: erecting boundaries, patrolling the perimeter, rifling through my own mental carry-on bags for dangerous implements of self-knowledge, thinking security will save me, in turn resisting and surrendering, tears fighting fears. It’s all related, we’re all connected, the hazards are everywhere, the target is indistinct and constantly moving, clarity is hard to find.
But in the midst of the chaos and the misdirection, our country’s loss of good faith in the pursuit of blind faith, we painters persist, 22 or 23 at a time, in facing the simplest and deepest truths in ourselves, which is to say, in humanity. The effect on our loved ones or distant strangers cannot be measured, but the painting energy goes out into the world and a little more light is shed, not where the lamppost stands but in the darkest corners where we struggle and cry, laugh and love, and live lives of quiet exhilaration.