In the Places and Lands Gone Past

Apple Tree and a Bat in Flight

This is a copy of a drawing that I did as a child.  All my writings and drawings are clues as regards my past.  I’ve done quite a lot of work.  I have a large box full of notes on scraps of paper and index cards.  The box is labeled “The Pleasures of the Text” and its sides are illustrated with cartoons.  I have 40 or 50 hardcover blank books full of notes, quotes, poetry and drawings.

Then, there’s a plethora of visual art: bundles, piles, stacks, boxes, cascades.  There are sketch books, loose drawings, collages, sculptures and canvases.  My writing and drawing can overflow.  They tend toward being unavoidable and often excessive.  They keep me going in the right direction.  It’s as if I’m guided by true north on the compass.  I look up and follow the stars.

Blow winds, blow!  The rains desist and the sun blazes down.  The water on the leaves and in the grasses slowly dries up.  I’m up to my ankles in mud.  Eventually the mud turns to dirt or to dust.

These clues serve as one possible map toward making sense of my past, present and future.

Another map is the great culture all above, below and around me.  Since the first “stone-age” cave art, we’ve created many things.  Some is of the moment.  Dance, theatre and music can be recorded.  Yet the original experience itself was a “onetime only” affair.  It vanished in a puff of smoke.  Its shade is glued in place, like a wasp in amber.

These simulacrum of the original experience can be danced to (or with).  They can be listened to, as records or recordings.  This can be background music.  It can also be a whole new way of life.

Photographs are like this too.  We catch the ghost of the moment within the moment itself.  Art photos, family photos and old movies can be magical.  They’re like time machines or ghostly windows into the past.  Sometimes they shimmer and glow.  Old photos of your own life burst with energy and set off chains of memories.  Some are stronger than others.  It’s always interesting to look at them, when you can, now and then.

The other plastic arts are often forms unto themselves.  They’re usually not created as snapshots or souvenirs.  Paintings, drawings, sculptures and other forms are outside of “everyday life.”   They end up on walls or pedestals.  They reside in homes, galleries and museums.  Often, they exist in storage.  Some live their lives out hidden away, seen only by the artist and a few lucky friends.

It’s a similar cases for books, especially poetry, novels and “creative writing.”  These are often more available than unique artworks are.  Yet many of the best spend years hiding in plain sight or end up as “once read, but now forgotten.”

The streets you live and the streets that you visit also form into maps.  They’re often alive with clues.  The older you get, the more places you remember.  I did this here.  I did that there.  Also, certain aromas set forth spiraling memories.  Scents make sense.

In places and lands gone past, strange mysteries arose, flew and fell.  Sometimes they’d rise again, in similar or different forms.  Thus it is in our lives, as artists, as poets, as magicians, as dreamers, as revolutionaries and so on.  Nostalgia for the future can make you dizzy.

Everything swirls around within us.  We attempt to make sense of ourselves and the world.

42nd Street, New York, N.Y. 2010

One Response to “In the Places and Lands Gone Past”

  1. don handy (mud) Says:

    One of your best posts, perhaps my favorite. Love the drawing: Release the Bats! The purple figure next to the bat isinteresting, in that it is well-within your signiture style.

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