Musings

You might be wondering about my association with the watercolor portrait at the top of this page.

My one small step into the blogosphere required a giant leap into social media. I was commanded to establish my personal profile, including the creation of an Avatar. For most digital natives, the task would be accomplished in nanoseconds— a nearly automatic response.

Me, I balked at the request.

This was no simple matter. It required deep reflection. I would, after all, be presenting myself for the first time to my readers, followers, and potentially some long-lost relative I never even knew existed. Even more daunting, if choosing unwisely, I might risk ruining the potential for that rare, precious moment between reader and author: A moment that occurs but once, during that very first encounter, when the very last word on the very last page of the very first work you’ve read completes you. You sit still momentarily, holding the book to your breast, fully immersed, conjuring the image of a face that matches the writer’s name, that matches what you’ve just experienced, that matches the intimacy you’ve just shared.

I immediately ruled out a photograph. The only one I would want to use was taken nearly 35 years ago, when I was a hot redhead in spiked heels wearing size 8 clothes. Using that one would bring me perilously close to fraud litigation.

I considered expanding my options. No existing photo would work, but what if I started from scratch? Stage a black and white glossy, overflowing bookcase in the background; quill in hand, spectacled face, profound and wise, gazing out an open window— beyond, the mist of morning clouds seeping through an enchanted forest… Or perhaps invest in a trip to Kennedy Space Center, professional photographer on hand to catch a candid shot of me standing next to the Saturn V, shaking hands with a veteran NASA astronaut? What about a warm, casual pose, a homey shot with my dog Lilly snuggled in my arms, smiling along with me?

None of these would do. Too contrived.

I asked myself, “Who, essentially is the author within you?” The insight was immediate and clear: She is that pensive little girl who sat for five minutes at her mother’s request, so the gifted artist could capture a moment with water and paint and brush and paper. My mother captured the very essence of my writer’s spirit in those five minutes.

Soon a larger canvas opened in my mind. A painting of life in my parents’ home. A home in which art abounded— whether the visual arts, literature, music or textiles. My mother’s works and the works of her contemporaries filled our walls, and my father’s literature collection filled our book shelves. At any moment, I could pull a volume of Stein, or Cummings, Faulkner or Steinbeck, Descartes, Michener, Cervantes or Joyce, Browning or Shakespeare. And not paperbacks. The leather-bound edition of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, printed on a hand-set press and parchment. Museum quality art books encasing single prints, works of Chagall, Renoir, Cassatt, Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani. A rich library of records, from Toscanini conducting the New York Philharmonic, to Zubin Mehta conducting in Los Angeles —from Edith Piaf to Beverly Sills to Shoshana Damari—from Tosca to Fiddler on the Roof to Funny Girl.

When they performed in Miami, I was brought to the theater to watch Nureyev leap across the stage and dance with Dame Margot Fonteyn, to witness Igor Stravinsky conduct the Firebird, by then a bent, frail man leaning against the podium railing, just prior to his passing.

I was surrounded by culture and Bohemia. My parents were transplanted New Yorkers born and bred who brought with them their metropolitan seeds, and planted them in the garden of their children.

It takes art to make art.

I could find no other representation that more epitomizes the interior of my soul—my deep connection to words and sound and images and the creative process, than my mother’s portrait of that still pensive, thoughtful, and impatient little girl.

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