Five Days of Solitude

I am adrift. Depressed, actually, although I’m not opposed to occasional depression. For a Type A guy like myself, depression is what finally says, “Stop.” Or at least, “Slow down and look in another direction.”

Since my gaze for a long time has been locked onto this MacBook Pro screen, I tried turning back to my first love, print on paper. I picked up a novel that’s been following me around for years, unread, One Hundred Years of Solitude, a 1967 historical magic realism romp by Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I also began reading, cover to cover, the current issue of AGNI Magazine, edited at Boston University by my friends Sven Birkerts and Bill Pierce. Darlene left for St. John, USVI, the day before yesterday to visit her sister, so I’ve got five days of solitude before I follow her to the islands. I figure five days will be enough to look around in some new directions. To round out this morning’s Sunday rumination, I’ve brewed a pot of Peet’s House Blend, and I’m listening to a Pandora station based on the music of Dr. John.

I keep thinking of a comment that Denver painter Bruce Price made the evening Darlene left. In an artist talk at the Plus Gallery, he said,

You know, my interest is, not so much these paintings but the next paintings, how you move from one painting to the next painting to the next painting to the next painting to the next painting and how that process happens, which is why my interest in difference is how you move, how you evolve, how you change, rather than how you get your shtick and then you do your shtick, now I have my shtick and I get my brand and I put it out there and that’s it.

Sven Birkerts in his Editor’s Note for AGNI 65 ruminates on a photograph of Walter Benjamin and asks, “What is it that provokes my best attention?” This is another way of asking Price’s question, “how you move from one painting to the next?” AGNI’s art feature this issue is a weird cardboard installation of a painter’s studio, created life size in intricate detail by the painter Tom Burckhardt. There’s just one problem: the canvass in the studio is blank. Burckhardt in his AGNI interview explains how this work came to be. Here’s a sample:

I remembered the feeling of freedom I had when I was in my twenties, that I could do anything artistically and didn’t have to stick to what I “did.” It occurred to me that I needed a task, one unlike the unstructured approach I had toward painting. I could be discouraged with the rut I felt myself in, or I could turn it around and use it as material. I considered the idea of constructing a painter’s studio entirely in cardboard with this narrative at its heart: what happens to an artist when the inspiration evaporates?

I can feel the urge to weave these strands into A Theory of Curing Depression by Turning It Into Artistic Material. But it’s too soon. I want to enjoy my time adrift and simply notice some clues. Here is another, the riveting first sentence in One Hundred Years of Solitude:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

What will I remember in the moments before my passing? How turn my attention to it now? What’s next? Twitter? Netvibes? A day of checking e-mail every 10 minutes? A return to writing poems on paper with my yellow Lamy fountain pen? Packing for the islands? Taking the Yorkie Claire for a walk? Starting an essay comparing my hyperlinked and hyperactive online life with the one I thought I’d left behind–the life of words on paper?

Here’s another clue: I’ve been reading the Marquez novel and AGNI in the big leather chair in my library in Denver. And no matter how hard I try, I keep dozing off. I move between alert reading and an unconscious state just below wakefulness. That never happens at the computer. And I notice how refreshed I feel today after a couple of days reading/dozing in my chair. Perhaps I’ve simply discovered a chronic sleep deficit. Or maybe my mind online is like that anti-drugs-ad image of an egg frying in a pan, sizzling into oblivion. I do know that for all the joy I experience learning new things on the internet, connecting with new people, something in me is not fed by it. Something needs to curl up in my leather chair and follow words on paper into the restorative magic realism of dreams.

Send to Kindle
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.