Thursday, January 27, 2011

if i sit long enough and meditate on it, can i call the spring back sooner with my thoughts?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

caroline washburn wells

this is the story of my great-grandmother, caroline washburn wells.

my great-aunt virginia told me this story two summers ago, so i don't have all of the details, but i hope it's true enough, because i love this story. the story is this: all my life, growing up on mt. riga, and at home in brewster, there were dozens of paintings hung on the walls of every cabin, and they were done by my great-grandmother. all my life i have been surrounded by them. beautiful paintings, some portraits of the family, but many more of the mountain itself, sweeping landscapes of the fields, glimpses of the still lake through a netting of curved tree branches, vivid flowers, and one of my favorites which hangs on my wall: her own cabin, with the famous "h. h. wells" sign displayed proudly in front. she liked to sign these with her name in block letters, or else, which i liked much better, with her initials layered on top of each other in boxy lettering: two big "C"s on top of an even bigger "W." it was an impressive statement.

these have been so much a part of the fabric of my childhood and of the mountain, that i always just assumed that they had been done over a half-century, part of a longtime legacy of mrs. caroline washburn wells. well, they were not.

my great-aunt virginia says this: great-grandmother never painted until the last part of her life. she never knew, in fact, that she could paint. when caroline was growing up, she had a sister who was the artist of the family, whom i believe went to an art school in fact (this sister is the one who married into the lippencott branch of the family, if i'm not mistaken–can anyone verify?). caroline did not go to art school, and did not think she could paint.

well, she was married to my great-grandfather, henry hubbard wells I and they had six children and they lived in brewster in the big casino house at the top of wells street. then at some point in her life, she went through a mental collapse, and went to whatever they called mental health clinics in those days. and it was there that she decided to take an art class. from that, the paintings just poured out of her. landscapes, still lifes, portraits, everything. she also did beautiful pottery, i believe, but i don't know when that began. but the point is, at that moment in her life when she probably felt like she had nothing left going for her, she discovered this amazing capacity for creation. so much so that the art she created was so prolific that someone of my generation felt it had been there all along.

i find it incredible that even through all of her anxiety and suffering, these images were inside her all the time, perhaps struggling to find a way out. we think we know ourselves fully, but her story reminds us that we only begin to understand the scope of our own potential.

so that is the story of my great-grandmother. if anyone knows any more about her, or about this story, please share with me so i can correct/add on to it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

life with marx

you know, we read a lot of marx in my cultural studies program, but the thing is, i still don't really like him. maybe this is unfair, but it seems to me that he was a bit hypocritical, in being so critical of the bourgeoisie while essentially living off the earnings of his business-owning friend, friedrich engels, since he was continually fired from all of his jobs (which, to be fair, was probably because he was so radical).

but i basically think of marx as this guy who's always over at your house because he can't find work or claims he is "hard at work" on the communist manifesto, and you come home from a long day of toil and care, and he's sitting on your couch, unshaven, in a ratty pair of sweatpants, watching TV and loudly complaining about how TV is the opiate of the masses. then he looks up and sees you, and asks you how your day was "conforming to the Man." then he pauses, and asks what's for dinner.

while i know this is a great generalization about marx's life, many people in my program agree that it's probably also a fair assessment about what life with him might have been like.

Monday, January 10, 2011

water = peace

more dreams, during the night, of the lake. they always bring me peace.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

obligatory new year's post

here’s my obligatory reflecting-upon-new year’s blog post. i have some friends who have made various comments on facebook about asking 2011 to be better than 2010, and i laugh…but then i think, why should it be better or worse? every year, like every day—really, every moment—is laden with both good and bad, sometimes in equal measures, sometimes not. i really had some hellish moments this year, but maybe they have served to make me who i am today. if i asked to have them undone, or to not experience them this next year, what would that mean? would they haunt me into the next next year, cropping up in some other form? or if they didn’t, would my mind and my heart become fixed and sluggish, unable to problem-solve with the same confidence? bad times in your life are crap, to be sure, but they teach you how strong you are… even when you feel weakest.

so it makes me nervous to ask for anything in my life to be “better” than what it is…as if asking to never be challenged again. i would ask rather for the courage to face whatever may happen to me, and the grace to appreciate what i have in my life, and to give myself the space i need to be happy in.

but if i have to have one realistic, tangible new years’ wish, it is: please, please let me find a good job for this fall so i don’t have to move in with either of my parents, or i can unhesitatingly say that i will go crazy.

it's not just for the classroom!