Summer’s Finished


Yesterday I pulled out the Scarlet Emperor Beans of Song and Story. Five or six unripened pods hung on the frost-killed plants and are now in the window with the basil and the solitary green tomato remaining on the vine. It’s OK. When a hard frost comes at the end of August? That’s traumatic for plant and person, but in mid-October? It’s “God’s in his Heaven and all’s right with the world.” I ended up with a large soup bowl of dried beans — way more than I will eat in a lifetime. I stewed down the large, mutant tomatoes and froze the product for sauce which in all likelihood I’ll never use but you never know.

On our walk yesterday we heard cranes in every direction but didn’t see any. It’s OK. Several flocks of geese flew over head (where else would they fly?). It was a sweet, silent — except for geese and cranes — cool walk on a lovely October day.

My interview the other day was fun. Since I started this, and became aware of my own style as an interviewer, I’ve been trying to think of WHAT an interview is supposed to be. I’ve BEEN interviewed. As an interviewee, I tend to remain focused on the questions I’ve been asked. My interviewees start with the question I’ve asked and then riff on from that. I’m no help to them in keeping focused. But, in the case of the interview I did Friday which was with an artist talking about his work, I’m not sure “focus” is the big thing. I think I’m writing to bring a person and his work alive in print. This isn’t information.

Last night at 11:30, when I WANTED to be asleep but a heavy, well-lit tow-truck roared in front of my house for about 45 minutes accompanied by two large pick-ups, I thought about journalism. I’m writing the kind of stories you would find in the Sunday supplement of yore. Fluff. Human interest. I kind of laughed to myself because the last thing I want to write is anything serious. No. Not interested.

And what’s “serious” anyway? A guy welding whimsical animals out of old machine parts is pretty serious in its way. We talked about why art, of course, and agreed. “[People] say too much in front of a painting,” to paraphrase a character in Artemisia. The thing about my interviewee — and about me — is that we’re never going to be famous artists, which is, in my view, a real break. We could do the best work ever done in the entire world EVER, and it would make no difference at all ever to anyone except maybe to the person who bought it and to us in the process of making it. We shared briefly about some of the strange things people — including fellow artists — have said to us. I’m not sure any of that will go into my story about him. Probably not since the “what is art?” question is fundamentally unanswerable.

I have more than an hour of talk to work through. One topic that interested my interviewee was where the ideas come from. I didn’t really respond to that because I wanted to hear what he had to say. Basically he talked about inspiration, the idea that the gods breathe ideas into the artist/poet. “Tell me, Muse, of the man who sacked the City of Troy.” Some artists don’t believe in inspiration. I do. I do a lot of writing, drawing and painting that isn’t “inspired” because there are skills involved in this stuff, but the best times are the inspired times. Inspiration isn’t just fun (intoxicating) all by itself, but it pushes an artist which is why the NON-inspired work is so important. A person needs to be ready for inspiration. My interviewee’s work shop was filled with stuff that clearly fed inspiration, but had no direct relationship to his work. Notable to me was, of course, he decorated with old skis. Not just old skis, but Head skis from the late 1960s, a few years before I worked for Head on the finishing line (that’s what it was called), but skis I recognized from my own first years on the hills. Of course, I was enchanted.

And, in my studio, are two pairs of old skis. Why? Because skiing — Alpine or Nordic — is the best, most inspiring, thing I’ve ever known, and THAT is saying a LOT. So, as October winds its way into November, and November dawdles into December…well…

9 thoughts on “Summer’s Finished

  1. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the early 1980s, “Art is a Window Washer”. There was a man named Art who washed windows for businesses that would let him. Someone made a “What is Art?” T shirt, with his photograph and the above line. I think that he received some of the proceeds.

  2. I love this post. It is non-linear, it contains philosophical comments, it has personal history, and it made me smile. Thank you!
    And I hope if there are more night time disturbances they provide fodder for art and journalism…

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