It will make you a child again, if only for a moment…
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It will make you a child again, if only for a moment…
My friend Maren was in town the week before last, and we spent Valentine’s together. A day worthy of shiny red shoes, eating scrumptious banh-mi with cock sauce, sipping steaming and belly warming beverages, dancing, making cookies, and, of course, talking up a storm. How lucky I am to have her in my life. Lucky we can be of different generations, yet cut from the same cloth:getting jazzed, funky, and silly; laughing at our foibles; sharing secrets and dreams; and loving wholeheartedly, that best of all.
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles at the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
Zing and fling
Muffle and kerfuffle
words that rhyme.
dulling bright intellects
in leaden precious pockets.
this mindless work
a steady stream of liquid pink on crisp paper
scallop after scallop
flaxen sunlight on pale winter skin
before an eager tearing of envelopes
a melting of veins
spirits rising over hill and dale
and vast landscapes,
miles and feet between.
Strangers, friends, and lovers uniting
in a gleeful tangle
made by one
but for us all.
Art & Letters is a collaboration:
Art by Maren Jensen
Interpreted by Colleen Sohn
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.
A few weeks ago, I was walking downtown when a young homeless guy seated under a tree was asking passers-by if he was really there. “Do I exist? Do you see me?” As far as I could tell, no one acknowledged him. I was in the right mood, smiled, nodded, and said, “Yes,” as I carried on. He hollered, rather cheerfully, “Thank you for the beautiful smile!” at my back.
The exchange reminded me of a book I read probably ten years ago, Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, in which a man saves the life of a street urchin and enters the shady world of the underground, where his mere act of acknowledging her presence obliterated him from the sight of most Londoners. It further got me thinking about my own behavior. I do not always see the homeless man because that would make me…complicit, responsible, disappear into his world? If I don’t see it, I can protect myself. That pain there, that violence, that poverty, with eyes averted, I will not feel it. It or he or she will not touch me, will not become an albatross about my neck. I can move on with a wink and a smile, as if it never happened.
Then, a couple of nights ago, I was reading the work of Pema Chodron (yup, still at it), and she said, “Compassion practice…involves learning to relax and allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion.”
Well, shit, that’s exactly my modus operandi. Going to scary places, especially my own, feeling reviled, fleeing or shutting down. The truth is, life is ugly and difficult sometimes, even when it is so very grand, those mountains and molehills that appear out of the ether. What to do? As Supertramp would say, “Take the long way home.”
So I did, in my very Colleen way. I took a meandering path through the pain of others’ lives to get me closer to tackling my own and the everyday, trembling with fear, but without aversion. I watched a fil-um I thought I never ever would, never ever could, Hunger, with my man-crush Michael Fassbender. It details the conditions at Long Kesh prison and the last days of Bobby Sands. Good god friends, it was horrible. Ugly, cruel, vicious, and incredibly sad, no matter which side you take, and I will do no such thing. That was not my intention.
My point was to take it all in, not avert my eyes, as much and as often as I sincerely wished it, and breath it in and out, steady and even. And I did, through the fear of car bombs, men being beaten to within an inch of their lives, violently shot, and the hunger and waste of a beautiful man’s body. I breathed and sighed and wept and opened my heart w i d e.
I did it and can do it with whatever wretched refuse I encounter. The trick now is to remember and have patience.
I took the day off Tuesday, writing not a single word of useful prose. Instead, I enjoyed an extended yoga practice, a perfectly pruning and exceedingly hot bath, and two very good streaming fil-ums (Why I like to hear and type this, I do not know, but it’s staying, for now).
The first was I Am Love with Tilda Swinton, object of one of my lady-crushes. The woman is a goddess, brilliant and beautiful, a style all her own, that certain je ne sais quoi that keeps me rapt. Which also reminds me of my latest man-crush on Michael Fassbender. I saw him last year in Jane Eyre and thought, well, isn’t he interesting? And those eyes! Then I heard him on Fresh Air and saw him on Charlie Rose and said, “Oh, yes please.” There’s nothing like an attractive man speaking eloquently of the work he loves. Indeedy.
Lest you get your knickers in a bunch lamenting my poor hubster and his wife gone off the rails speaking openly of her admiration of others, he’s got his own crush (and thinks Tilda’s pretty, too), and I wholeheartedly approve, on Emily Blunt, even putting her movies in the queue for him. She’s cute, smart, and a good actress. I would have liked to steal her Golden Globes dress, I might add. As well, I know for a fact he’d be over the moon at the chance to spend a day, week, or a month discussing everything tech with the Woz. So there. We’ve got our own good thing going, with crushes and silliness and all that jazz.
Anyhoo, enough of my digression, I Am Love is sensual and expressive, a very cerebral examination of a family that on the surface looks and acts the same as always but is roiling and changing and coming apart at the seams. Tilda plays Emma, a Russian plucked and inserted into a very bourgeois life (servants who dress her and wear gloves – can you imagine?) in Italy, speaking Italian and Russian (I told you; she’s brilliant). She is the mother of grown children, a good wife and cook, and a very stylish dresser. She is a master organizer, very much in control, planning parties and dinners with aplomb and ease. The slow unraveling starts and ends with a party, both of which look the same on the surface but are wholly different. Filled with exquisite food, immaculate homes, romance and infidelity and upheaval and picturesque landscapes, so very much at once. The score is fantastic and the cinematography some of the best I’ve seen. Molto bene!
Now to the Eames, Charles and Ray, who, like me, maybe you thought were brothers, instead of husband and wife, despite being fairly well educated on Modern Design. After the shame of my ignorance wore off, I really got into it, loving that the pair were so much more than really cool chairs. They made truly awesome animated fil-ums: puppets, stop motion, and drawn; collected ephemera, designed buildings, and worked, worked, worked, their minds like Vesuvius in a constant state of eruption. I loved their quirkiness, their manner of dress (so sweet and dapper), and how they truly loved everything they did, adding so much flair and panache to the world. Inspirational!
Twenty-one years since our first date.
Crossing a threshold, more years together than not.
We talk and dream and laugh
and sometimes cry.
We ache and burn and soothe.
We hear though sometimes we do not listen
and want to throttle and curse
and laugh again.
We shower one another with kisses
and words whispered in lust
and hearts full
of everything and everyone we’ve ever been,