IMG_7361The novel Clio’s Mobile Home is a facet of my creative work. Several characters in my novel write poems; I am serious about writing poetry. I also work on short shorts, and short stories. They are all modes of thinking about identity, transcendence and beauty in contemporary life. Art keeps us aloft, but it is more than decoration. Its force can be astounding. The artist becomes an instrument, and art lives to tell the tale.

Posted on by jillbpearlman | 50 Comments

A Flâneur Surveys the Damage

How does the flâneur come back to her city after a war is over, after a breakup, an illness, a chasm, a separation of any sort?  When I’m walking my little city (really more of a village), I find that taking stock of sites of loss is too risky. Instead, I keep my feet on the ground and eye attuned to what remains, what’s there.  It goes without saying that my eye also registers what’s not there — the invisible makes a strong mark. 

What delights me is the people who pop up unexpectedly — faces whom I knew as part of a daily geography, key to the routine and habits that made up a 24-hour-day.  If I lived in a real village, they would sell cigarettes and phone cards in the tabac, or be handing off a baguette in exchange for a few coins, or be selling fresh fish or putting new soles on my shoes.  In the urban village, they could be the doorman at the apartment building, or be the super, the bus driver, gym trainer, the face at the entry to school. 

Yesterday, it was the dyed-blond barista who popped up in a café window, bright with fresh shining platinum hair (a young Debbie Harry type), no new nose rings, maybe less armor in her expression.  I was surprised at how familiar she was when I’d known her so little, and from her expression, she felt the same.  Shock of the old.  There was none of the earnest, hour-long covid confessional in the simple “how are you?” — but there she was, solid in her Doc Martens, twisting the espresso handles, all vibrant presence. 

I haven’t seen the guy with the existential crisis that I could identify by his question-mark posture, seen from the front or back.  Or a homeless woman who perched on a particular bench, near a stone portico.  People are repeopling cities that were glass and brick holders. The little shocks of familiar become the eloquence of daily continuation where we find ourselves now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Santa Fe on Thinner Oxygen

How rare to travel as an amateur or emigrant, so ignorant of a well-trod place that you let the place’s magic play with your “free gaze.”   I, Rhode Islander, arrive with little knowledge of New Mexico.  D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, retirees and moneyed Texans stay way in my back pocket.  I take in a sightline that’s not East Coast congested, but vast and open. The roads are straight — endless — cutting through an artist’s range of pinks, ochres, yellows.  The desert unfolds like an ocean of silver-sagebrush meets horizion.  Everything breathes on thinner oxygen.  The light makes rocks and cactus levitate.  Cactus are wan and colorless until they burst into hot colors like cartoons.  Veils of rain trail from navy-dark clouds you can see in some distance town.  Sunset over a layered plane that looks like the bottom of the sky.  In sum, an otherworldliness.   

As poet Adam Zagajewski writes, to the emigrant, a rush of rain on a Paris boulevard can be Notre Dame’s equal.  He also talks of how a workaday place falls prey to the “innocent sabotage of the free gaze, thus splitting it into disconnected atoms.”   So the morning sunbeam opens the doors of vision.  It doesn’t negate the tragedy of the native tribes but observing legacy of history in situ, witnessing the past in landscape, the native absence and presence becomes more felt.  Paul Celan’s term “what happened,’ expresses the horror of what can’t be named here too. 

There is Tsankawi, white pumice bone stone volcanic lava carved like ancient condos into 354 dwellings by the Pueblos.  We meet an artist carving sacred wood with a power tool from the ledge of his truck in a town with a sacred mud well.   And throughout the state is woven an impulse to let phenomena saturate — to hear the Earth breathe, speak, be.  To listen to silence that is full of shimmering leaves or trickling sand as waves carry it  through unfolding moments. To hear seeds in the paper-thin casement of dried nora peppers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fruited, Tuffed Red, White & Blue

Happy Birthday, Red, White and Blue, our fragile young democracy. Young because all the people were given voting rights only with the Civil Rights movements of the ’60s, fragile because those rights to vote are being eroded by forces at the highest levels, democracy because it’s an aspirational idea that way back we dreamt, fought for and put on paper. We are as unstable as water, as pale though tough as volcanic rock, as shiftingly desirable as berries — one nation under an ever-changing composition of values and character beyond our flag’s colors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

World of Curious Delights

Simphiwe Ndzube Assertion of Will

I usually like to run and immerse myself in a world of earthly delights.   It’s a yes-world, a way of soaking in color, judiciously chosen openness.   What would my first long-awaited travel be like, after being sprung from lockdown?

It was immersion, but not the same yes kind —  a vast world of strangers, airports made of retractable bands and systems and uniformed people.  Alongside immersion was interrogation.  I don’t mean security and pat-downs, though that existed — I mean the world interrogating me, and me interrogating the world.  It was made of strangers — better word: strange.  The settings were familiar — I know airports and Denver, where I have landed many times, with its dung-colored scruff and line of blue mountains in the distance, emptiness that gives way to four, then eight lanes of black suburban highways.  It kept asking questions, forming and reforming, my curiosity tinged with neither trust nor distrust.  All real, this world I belong to but now, how exactly?  

Under all the real things, something was walking with me — the violence of the past year.  The idea that the naked truth had been exposed, and dark reality had emerged into plain view.  After all that death, what was appearing was a posthumous world.  Interrogate that!

Even if that vision is extreme, will recede, too dark to be the whole truth, it speaks of complexities of experience.  Two thinks at the same time.  In Denver, I saw a superb exhibition by a young South African artist, Simphiwe Ndzube.  His “Oracles of the Pink Universe” plays on Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”  In his version, the familiar evil snake is transformed into Majole who, in his tradition, can signify a “welcome visitor, an ancestral incantation coming to pass along a message or a protector.”

The message is the mystery, and patience is the access code.  I’m trying to walk slowly with this ever-shifting world, curious as we unfold together.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Wintering” becomes “Summering”

“Wintering” is a season turned verb that served us during lockdown. During the 14-month hibernation, people proposed ways of thinking about dark days by developing a cool state of mind, lowering one’s emotional temperature so one could be nurtured by the reality of whatever comes, not what we create.  

Now comes “summering.”  Only wealthy people “summer,” people have long cried!  But the way we collectively re-verbed “winter” is being done with summer too.  We’re seeking a summer of the mind, because we’re still at home and time is moving on.  Call it a return to lightness.  The painters had their favorite spots for light — Provincetown, the south of France — yet on these cool, not-quite summer mornings light pours around a doorway in the house, streams through branches in the garden, becomes seamless in the sky. 

Vibrations of color are equally ubiquitious. The soft pink clay of the French Open tennis courts is sumptuous, filling the screen, floating like a painting shot with variations by Rothko.  Into the fourth hour of the men’s final, the pink clay becomes deeply musing, absorbing twilight and allowing bits of light to fringe the edges the field, suggesting terracotta or crenelated rails of a medieval castle.

My grown kids wander in — leisurely, streaming with of an uncomplicated sense of ease.  Voila lightness, joy, beauty! We’re getting a jump on the solstice, we’re summering. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dream Bank for the Post-Covid World

From the series “Projection Napping,” by Brooklyn-based collective Optical Animal

Collective dreaming, tons of it, was being reported early in the pandemic. It was a phenomenon of nocturnal spaces around the world.  I was thinking about that this morning around 4am, looking out from the second story window at a sea-green garden,  an octopus’ garden, to use the Beatles’ words, with the blue-green flesh of hydrangea calling out, the pompom leaves of trees being shaken in a hynotic motion; thinking of the way we tapped into soft, amorphous time and space world during the pandemic.

I was thinking of this after we had our first dinner party; as people return to social space, they rush towards individuation only to find they fit awkwardly in their bodies. 

What was all that dreaming about?  The unconscious was ordering things in a way of deeper reality, and people not previously accustomed were becoming awake to it.  When we needed it, a curative, creative depths became available beyond the frontal barking of social media, beyond the dominating mind.

What can we now collectively gather?  Is it too much to think of reforming a collective mythology, desires and fears of our shared humanity behind the lids?  What if we made a bank of dreams — the way we bank money, and bank blood, now bank sperm and eggs and genetic material. Thinking on the model of cloud banks, dream banks will mark undivided and shifting spaces where psyches run into each other, billow and split and dissolve. I’ll start. I dreamed C.D. Wright gave me a haircut, very slanted across my neck as we talked about her waiting to receive a certificate to teach swimming; I dreamed about my mother’s belly, my bodily home, in different ages and stages. Of course, I dreamed of bounding outside of lockdown, climbing over roofs and living in endless reconfiguration of rooms. The possibilities are endless.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shock of the (Post-Covid) New

How distanced we are from faces with their expressive truths, how shocked by the lower halves of faces we’ve never seen.  Put these little jolts alongside big jolts, and you have emotional minefields.  It seems that everyone, upon emerging, is seeing things anew, reevaluating, having big heavy conversations.  Shock is reverberating everywhere — like 19th century poets all jolted and overcharged by subliminal messaging of the city, desiring to overwrite old realities in awkward shock-laden ways.

In a wonderful metaphor: scuba divers, who have accustomed themselves to splashing and exploring the depths of the ocean, must sometime come to the surface. They are told to approach with caution, otherwise they get the bends.  They get wobbly, rubbery limbs from bubbles in the ankles, hips, shoulders, elbows. They lurch, have an unsteady approach to regular ways.  

This lurching is exhausting. But at the same time, we are also recording sensitive changes to our emotional body.  Major concepts that are supposed to have held us are weak.  Our relations in every encounter, human and nonhuman, create worlds.  What is true in the morning might be overwritten by what is true in the evening.  Come to it gently. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Rise and Fall of Mother’s Day

I dedicate a dandelion to Anna Jarvis who, having founded Mother’s Day, spent an entire lifetime trying to undo it.  Her success in 1914 quickly became overscented, oversweet, oversentimentalized by the profiteers of capitalism, and within years, she was desperate to put the cat back in the bag.  Keep it simple! she railed.  Boycott florists, squash the candy makers and card hawkers!  Stop the commercialism!  She exhausted her fortune to take back a name she  couldn’t quite claim – Mother’s Day?

Jarvis wanted to honor and respect a much more complex motherhood.  Rather than a delicately petalled flower, I see dandelion as Jarvis’ idea of mother.  Its burst of sun-like flower is charming, and the unsung tenacity of its weed with its jagged, tooth-shaped leaf and its deeply sourced taproot where its spiritual power lies.  The grit and vision of la durée, the everyday beauty of continuity, is packed into its whole.  It is “toothy” — dandelion is a corruption of the French “dents du lion.”  The feminine becomes gritty, determined, a fighter, what some might see as masculine energy while the masculine is often fragile.  Such are the truths in paradox. 

Of course, we can spy beauty in our mothers and sidewalk flowers often — like seeing dandelion when the afternoon sun comes glancing over rooftops and catches it in its jewel light.   I see wildness in its simplicity.  I see an outflow, a pouring of generosity. I am never one to scorn excess!  All the flowers I got this year have amazed me. So many beauties!  In the spirit of both/and, I gather the whole thing and offer it in thanks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Carpe Diem Dilemma

Oh, moralizing culture! Since we have so little understanding of where we are, there will be endless pronouncements of where we are. Certainties about what we’ve learned from the pandemic, and prophetic images of our future.  The more we don’t know, the more we must say.  The more we shouldn’t say, the more we will.  No good void goes unfilled.  Enter a slogan.  

Carpe Diem?  It seems obviously capacious, which gives everyone room to pick bones.  The dessicated twigs in front of the carved letters in the photo look like they hide a sarcophagus.  Latin and Horace and Odes might overwhelm the swinging modern individualist, even if they agree with a misreading of “Seize the Day” as a consumer-ish urge to achieve personal triumph.  

Ideologues of a different stripe might battle the hedonistic “go for it” message, again misreading the more philosophic horticulturalish reminder to pluck and gather flowers at their moment.  To pluck each day in its fullness.

So little can be said.  It’s no wonder we keep at it. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Season of Yellow

Yellow, how do we read you?  Sickly or simple as happiness?  Simple as just living without ponderous thought.   Daffodils in their junior prom dresses.  Come rain, come light snow petals quiver but they don’t drop.  

Forstyhia too.  On the frontline of joy.  Out from under, like Easter.  In the face of death.  Breathing quivering glaring at darkening rain clouds that glare and brighten them

 A duck egg’s yolk, outsized sun.  That which feeds in scarcity is revered as a goddess

and fear, and disillusion, too much optimism, too much yellow that fades, becomes dingy, a street sign — crossing! bus! children! — in need of attention

and fear of the other in their own birthed skin —

and dreaming, and dreaming without bounds, call it naive, call it imagination. Yellow as an M & M.  Yellow as a lozenge, a candy-colored soft-swirl dream, a Saab sportscar soft as a miniature car capsule 

Yellow, simple as the sketch of light that draws your face in laughter

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments