Well, of course in a way it was really my fault.
Lately, my Sundays have been rather simple: get up at about the usual time; linger over coffee; reluctantly begin preparing for my trip to Branchburg and Combat Paper; lose at least three things as I pack the van with all the necessary tools and carved print blocks and paper; set off later than I'd expected to do -- this all the more remarkable as I think I always set off at the same time each week; speed more than I mean to, and then stop at a Starbux close to the Print Center for coffees and milk; and finally, arrive for four hours of... whatever I end up doing. We have lunch at about 3pm, we clean up at 4 pm, and I drive home again. Speeding more than I mean to. Pretty much week in, week out, for the past year or so.
But today, I somehow managed to commit myself to serial obligations, apparently without thinking either ahead of time, or in time to change my schedule -- I'd agreed to read a lesson in church (meaning a trip to New Brunswick); I wanted to get to Combat Paper (meaning I had to take a change of clothes -- one doesn't want to go mucking about with printer's ink in a shirt and tie); I had a meeting set for 5:30, at home, so an art curator could look over some of my work, to select things for an upcoming exhibit in Newark. Did I mention speeding more than I meant to?
I really love to read aloud, and the acoustic at Christ Church is really marvelous, with the high barrel arch overhead, rolling the sound around and around. I like reading from the Old Testament -- the language is so chewy and stark. This morning, I got to read some verses from Isaiah, and I'm very pleased to say that, in spite of the fact that the text was printed in the program leaflet, I saw many people sitting and listening, instead of following along -- I just think it's so much more powerful to hear these words spoken on the human breath stream, rather than in one's own head. In retrospect, it may have seemed silly, to drive so far (and so fast!), to do a reading that lasted maybe two minutes at most, but there were also some lovely hymns to sing, and John has let me know that he especially enjoys knowing that I'm in the congregation, to observe and appreciate 'the show'. Which, today, I certainly did.
But no coffee hour for me -- instant flight up the road to Rattlesnake Bridge Road (which I don't really know which road that is, because, in the finest New Jersey signage tradition, there isn't any signage), to the caffeine depot, and then to the Print Center. I wasn't even all that late. And because the place was packed, with much activity going on, I ended up working on the second floor, doing a more detailed, life-size mock-up of the book it seems I'll be working on for the next three years. Every time I turn around, the thing seems to need more pages -- and apparently, I turn around a lot. I'm already up to 14 pages, and from what I can see, that's not going to do it, by any means. Given that I can only get six sheets of heavy paper out of each 1 1/2 lb. batch of pulp (all the beater will hold, as it happens), I figure I'll need to feed over 35 lb of cut up pink rag through that mill, to have enough paper for this particular piece of work. More trips ahead, to various thrift stores in the 20-mile radius, to search out men's pink shirts, and then disassemble them... More stray threads all over the den. As though that's a big surprise.
What was a big surprise for me, today, was learning that one of my prints sold at a recent fund-raiser, and the arrangement is that the artist gets 50% of the sale price. Two things shocked me: the print that sold, while... technically sound, and compositionally competent, is a rather strange image, I think -- being based on a 5th century Norse silver coin, showing Odin healing his six-legged horse, Sleppnir, by pronouncing a magic spell that is shown around the coin's edge, in runes. Plus, I added a sectional map of the south-east corner of Iceland. Why on earth would anyone want to look at this? But they did. And... shock #2 -- the sale price was $200! I'm truly baffled, but kind of gratified as well. It's not as though my life is going to change because I have $100 I didn't expect, but it does give that inner warmth, that I so seldom experience. Now I want to make more dragon prints, with different designs -- I can't believe my St. Margaret print wasn't the one to get snapped up. Maybe the next fund-raiser...
And just after I'd been given my share of the profits, in check form, I had to throw all my stuff in the van and hurry back home, to be here for the curator's visit. Well, to clean up a bit before the curator's visit. And to find some work for the curator to look at, so the visit wouldn't be a total waste of his time. Plus I thought it would be decent to sweep the kitchen floor, and give a swift wipe to the upstairs bathroom sink. And then go rooting around in the basement, looking for the boxes which should hold the wall-mounted work I wanted to suggest as my contribution to this show on... encrustation, I think it was? What a strange theme. Plus it's a craft-centered exhibit, which make the idea of encrustation seem even less likely.
But the curator liked the pieces I'd dug out of one of the boxes I hauled up from the basement (don't ask about how many things fell over, and scattered across the floor, as I tugged this container out from under a heap of other things -- who has time to delicately re-arrange things, when time is of the essence? And even more, he liked the odd pieces of glass lying about -- the stuff that's been on the mantle piece almost from the day we moved in 11 years ago, and some things in the sun room, and I'll also add a few pieces I know he'll like, but hasn't seen yet, because they're in plastic bins in the back yard, tucked away where prospective home buyers, looking at our neighbor's house, won't see them and be frightened off... So it seems that I'm being asked to contribute five wall-mounted pieces, and then bring in these random, loose glass pieces, and lay them all out on a table-top,without any other contextual information. I don't know yet whether these things will be lined up in neat rows, or jumbled about -- it doesn't really matter to me, as long as there's not a lot of breakage. The show opens, in Newark someplace, in late April, and will be up for a month. How odd, I think, that all of a sudden, I have work in NYC, in southern Jersey, and in a show in Newark. Plus I'm going a play in which I get to take all my clothes off for my friends, neighbors, and the people I sit next to in the choir stalls. What a remarkable life, even if, as I suspect, it's pretty much pointless.
Well, now I've got some more housekeeping to do, and then time to turn in for the night, before another careening week begins.
Seemingly non-sequitur-ish... But since I mentioned church first of all, I did want to mention a sliver of thought that ran through my head, after the adrenaline rush of reading had more or less worn off. As I was sitting there in the pew, watching all the liturgical activity, and listening to an anthem, and singing hymns, I couldn't help contrast my real inner cynicism with what appears to be a sincere and grounded belief on the part of at least some of the people going through the worship service with me. I live in a world where, at any moment, any terrible thing might happen -- and the absence of that terrible thing happening at this particular point is mostly a matter of luck and probability, instead of being the 'will' of some agency or other. The orthodox view, of course, is quite different, if not diametrically opposed to what I can't help believing to be true. The orthodox view throws out a huge and complex safety net, supported by... Old Testament readings, and New Testament readings, and publicly performed rituals and prayers and sermons filled with conveniently supportive anecdotes. And I wondered, for a few seconds, whether there might not be some tangible benefit to be gained from adhering to this wildly unlikely construct we've handed down from generation to generation. What would it be like, I thought, to participate in the worship activities with the greatest apparent sincerity, even if one doesn't actually believe any of it at all? Is the easing of existential anxiety, even through a religious pretense openly acknowledged, more valuable and beneficial, than living every day with the sense that, in fifteen minutes, everything might be over? Or, if not in fifteen minutes, certainly by tomorrow at the very latest? Does anxiety help me? Or is delusion more help?
I'll think about this while I wash the dishes and refill the cat food cannister. While hoping a meteor doesn't come crashing through the ceiling anytime soon...
© 2012 Walter Zimmerman