the world is large.
our hang-ups are vast, thus, large.
minds run wild covering miles within us, vast, thus large.
the cosmic joke of it all
is to get small enough
to inch forward.
Privately toiling over my own artistic identity makes me think of previous projects. Thankfully my future selves like to sneak a bit of foreshadowing into my work, so sifting through these relics puts me in a happy place.
None of these full-circle moments translate particularly well though, so let's just say buds are prone to emerge from reckless seed tossing.
And they thicken the plot quite nicely.
You want to plan it
and dear that's lovely —
but let the planets,
and dear trust me,
upon you stars will shine
for within you stars reside.
I'm a self-proclaimed 'Gramster. Which only means I limit my social media use to Instagram, exclusively, and life is all the better for it. Not so much because the platform is better but because paying attention to one platform is more than enough.
I'd much rather see through people's eyes than through their articulation, hence the reason I'm not a Twit'ster. And while rose colored glasses and liberal bubbles alike may be distorting things on Da Gram, my social blood still runs visual.
For International Women's Day, my feed was full of illustrations of female badassery, GIFs of ballerific characters and calligraphic words of wisdom from infamous women. It was girl power in full force. I enjoyed each feature which is the whole point — right?
More and more, I'm not so sure.
The larger point it seems — behind the barrage of hashtags and watermarks — is to be seen. As an artist, I fully understand the profound effects of visibility. And as a black woman I could write a dissertation on it. But as a "Gramster, I'm over it.
I'm over every post having to be about more likes. More reposts. More exposure.
I'm not interested in researching which hashtags will get me more visibility. I'm not signing up for the workshop that teaches you how to add said hashtags without looking like you've added said hashtags. In the midst of all of today's realness, something still felt so fake.
So, instead of talking my shit as the Internet's critic-at-large, I'm going to draw a few of my own female characters and keep those bitches (the sketches, not the women) to myself.
In the meantime, here's today's favorite from Libby Vanderploeg:
brown girls are made
of honey and jade.
Currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert's creative-self-help book, Big Magic. I first caught wind of it through her podcast, and after a tardy (but enchanting) reading of Eat, Pray, Love, I figured her words of creative wisdom wouldn't be ones to gag on.
In it, she categorized children's literature as "easy" books to write, wishing a deceased author she admired had written one "just to get something out."
I found her reduction of the genre's literary merit a bit surprising. I, along with every other socioeconomically-repressed child I knew, were proof of the genre's significance. We paid close attention to the merriment as well as the moral of those parables. They engaged us while also granting permission to put them down and live out our own tales. They taught us; even saved us from time to time. And we all know saviors don't come easy.
Shel Silverstein was one such person.
When I was a kid, I didn't know he was from my hometown Chicago. I also didn't know he had other talents, other dreams, and I couldn't predict he would go on to win hella awards for his work, including a Grammy.
I couldn't tell you about his life and times, nor that he wasn't black — by the look of that thick, dark beard staring back at me from his headshot, I thought he was a bonafide black man. The short of it is, I couldn't tell you a thing about Shel The Man
But the art.
I could tell you that the art made me draw. Made me unafraid to craft ugly things, or to appreciate ugly things that were usually meant for boys. In Shel's world, all genders were equally grotesque and delightful.
I could tell you that the art started my love of writing. I kept a folder stuffed with wide-ruled, loose-leaf paper scribbled with my own poems and short stories. Within those pages, I found the connection between myself and God.
I could tell you Where the Sidewalk Ends was the first book I read independently — fuck Pooh, fuck the Golden Books and all of their Golden Bullshit, who cares what Brown Bear chooses to see or how greedy that damn Caterpillar is — by the time I could read alone, I was reading Shel. And probably cursing out those other books, too.
I could tell you I saw myself in his world. I saw an escape route from my own, through his mind. He made me believe I could write and draw my way into a life of my own making. I could tell you he made me understand I could be many things at once; I could be brave and afraid. I could be an honest liar (which ain't nothin' but a bomb storyteller). I could be a city kid ready to get the hell up out the city. And most importantly, all the magic I'd ever know I'd have to make myself.
You see — I could never agree writing for children is a gimme. It may in fact be the most difficult genre to write. That is, if you're trying to reach anyone with your work.
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know,
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Yet and still, I'd be remiss if I didn't end this all with the admittance that Mr. Silverstein would have no parts of my commentary. As he said: "I myself do not believe in explaining anything."
To make reason of something is not the same as making sense of it. To make sense, one or more of your physiological systems must perceive it — and perception, as we've all surely experienced, is not a reliable basis for reason. (Just because I perceive a sound as loud does not make it true.)
But what is reason without sensibility? To make logical arguments without any account of the human experience is to just be an asshole, really — for no reason exists without human experience, and no human may have experiences without the senses.
If you disagree with me, that's your reason talking. More power to you! I'm always a fan of a cognitive romp. But you'd have nothing to disagree with, my friend, if you hadn't used your sight (or hearing) to perceive these words.
The moral of my little story is whenever I get hung-up on my reasoning, or the all-American obsession with the superiority of logic, I remember there are only five ways to make sense.
And that's quite limited.
when the mind is focused on other,
an image of self becomes more accurate.
"You just made that whole thing up."
There's no question this imagination of mine is heated, usually by the friction of my own churning wheels. Rather than craft the dramas of my life, I'm aiming to funnel these energies into art.
And all other "flaws" that need "fixing" shall go into the bottle, too.
One powerful potion.
I've been sitting at my desk, upwards of 10 minutes, trying to think of a happy thought.
And I got nuthin'.
Surely not because there are no happy thoughts — that's a ridiculous conclusion to draw. And even more surely not because I don't have anything to be happy about. That's total blaspheme.
Nevertheless, I've come up short in my ten minute task because I don't want to be happy right now. I want to mourn, I want to suffer, I want to cry and listen to my Feel It & Let It Be playlist (that heavily slants Coldplay) with a bottomless box of Kleenex at my hip...
I used to get offended when people (mostly old boyfriends) told me "You just want to be mad!"
"What fucking sense does that make?" I'd retort, steadfast in my denial that I were self-destructive enough to make that choice. But the truth? They were right. It was what I wanted. But why?
If there is a meadow of flowers at my left side, and a leech-laden ditch at the other, why would I want to tumble right? Why not frolic in the field until I'm drunk on freesia pheromones and I've got pollen for hair?
If I had the answer, this would be a much longer post. Instead, I would simply like to state, if for no other reason than to remember, that I at least love the smell of freesias.
There's honesty. Then there's monotony. There's exposing an uncomfortable truth, then there's repeating the same secret we've already collectively confessed. There's examining the depth of your humanity and then there's bellowing "I'm only human!" over the rooftops of your complexities. The latter is deafening. The former, definitive.
No album of 2016 was more honest than Solange's A Seat at The Table. She describes the work as a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing. Most listeners, in turn, received it as therapy.
black music / black bodies / black lives / black spirits / black love / black power
We're told these are controversial ideas to pledge allegiance to; yet they all experience varying degrees of cultural tourism. In a time when it seems we want inclusion in industries never meant for us, I was happy to see one Knowles tell many truths in a single decree:
don't be mad if you can't sing along
just be glad you got the whole wide world
this shit is for us
Back in the glorious days of junior high school, when oafish social exchanges and bodily changes ran rampant, gel pens were all that was right with the world. They were smooth. They were uninhibited. They traveled in rainbows, for fuck's sake. So when I purchased a new set on impulse, it seemed only right to give each color its own name.
Lemon Oil (neon yellow)
Sunshine (glitter yellow)
Fruity Tic-Tac (neon orange)
Mars Landing (glitter red)
Open Dollhouse (neon pink)
Brandywine (glitter pink)
Palm Springs Patio (neon purple)
Grapevine (glitter purple)
The Bluest Eye (light blue)
Shining Sea (glitter blue)
Radioactive Goop (neon green)
Enchanted Forest (glitter green)
A creative life is so humbling, yet so unimaginable arrogant.
"I must begin anew with this fresh, blank page"
as well as
"I make beauty from nothing"
Is the combination of humbly approaching a blank page and undoubtedly knowing that something will come of it simply a practice of faith?
What might I do
if I did not feel the need
to do it well?
(a lot more.)
My friends know when they look for new music, don't look this way.
I've been listening to the same D'Angelo and Badu albums since 2000 —Voodoo and Mama's Gun, both of which I could use right now in the literal sense. New music? Who needs it. And ever since my father relinquished (hesitantly) over 400 mint-condition albums from his heyday, my music collection got way more 70s. It's no mystery, then, why I'm feeling October London.
While I don't search for new music it always falls into my lap right when I need it. (Hello, Solange.) The soul-stroking song "Color Blind" by October London is no exception. I thought it was a Marvin Gaye track that somehow slipped through my obsessive, fan-girl cracks.
But alas. He's an emerging artist. One who makes me wonder what other divinity is floating amidst the Soundcloud.
Meditating on fear and chairs today. They're the same.
You can choose to sit in them; slouch in them. Spend hours in them even though they're rickety and uncomfortable. You can swivel in them, adjust yourself in them, ride them up and down.
You can kick them over, put your coat on and go outside.
they say it's all about the journey, not the destination.
or perhaps the journey is the destination.