Thursday, September 08, 2005

Little Sip from a Dark Glass

Louis Eilshemius was a painter in New York in the twenties. He isn’t terribly well known, but fairly respected, though not in his time. I was struck with one of his paintings, reproduced in an art history textbook when I was in college, that I wasn’t able to find an image of even after researching and corresponding with two curators. The title of the work was/ is “Fear”. It’s monochromatic, and at first glance appears to be a moonlit landscape, yet upon closer examination the viewer discovers he can’t identify a single object in the painting. I thought it was brilliant back then and still do, though I’d very much like to see it again all these years later.
I believe that Louis Eilshemius understood fear at its most basic level.

I can creep myself out with the best of them. Sometimes I do it on purpose, other times I do it to spite myself. The studio, late at night when the house is sleeping or Pete is away is ripe with raw materials for just such imaginings. So are the endless, silent hallways and staircases of the home of Howard and Jane Frank, filled with all manner of creepy art---some of it my own. Oh how we scares ourselves.

Tonight was interesting in a different way. Fear was far from my mind. I’m officially sick, by the way. After several days of just feeling lousy I finally succumbed to a fever, sore throat and body aches. Not much sculpting was done today, just writing and some painting. But the show must go on as they say, and tonight I set off for the neighborhood grocery store to get a toothbrush for Aubrey. I was sitting at the stop sign, waiting for an opening in traffic and deciding that my folding laundry on the puppet table in progress proves just how low I’ve sunk this summer and starting to get in the mood to breathe on somebody. Better yet, I could blow up a bunch of balloons with my germs and set them free. Then--if I were a super villain, I’d launch an airborne virus that smelled exactly like fresh-baked cookies… and so on. My mind wanders this way at intersections. The flu meds were starting to take effect. I was a little hypnotized by the passing headlights, one car at a time, when the pair I was following winked out. Before I had time to blink, the next set did the same. They just vanished. I leaned into the window to try to get a better look when perspective kicked in. He was just there, two feet from my window, looking directly at me. The headlights were disappearing behind his silhouette. He was gone before I took a breath, sprinting around the front of the car, then continuing on his way down the sidewalk, just a man, dressed in black. But, that lightning pulse along my spine, the cold in the small of my back, the nearly painful needle-tingling in my feet. Fight or flight baby. This was a taste of the stuff, pure and uncut. The stuff found in the shadow you realize couldn’t be a shadow, the lump under your bed that, ohmygod, did, ever so slightly, twitch.

So let this be a lesson to us all. Going to buy a toothbrush can be anything but mundane.
There is hope.
Now the flu tablets have really kicked in. Pete is away working. Kids are sleeping. Time for the Lisa to do the same, possibly with the closet light on. Where the hell is Gurtie?


K said...

You spooked me too. I'm sitting in my office in a little pool of light surrounded by gloom (the overhead light's not working, and it's a dark rainy morning) and when you got to noticing the man, I jumped. I work in an eighteenth-century building which would make a wonderful setting for a Gothic horror (and indeed just has done - a play on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe called Don't Look Back). I love it, but sometimes it alarms me slightly.

Sorry you're ill. My first thought was "Oh, it must be what my Dad and sister have got - it's going around..." Get a grip, Kirsten. They are in Scotland, and Lisa is in California. Not likely to be the same bug, is it?

Anonymous said...

As mindless as driving can be (although given the potential for what one can do with a couple thousand pounds of automobile, it shouldn't be mindless), the brain seems to capitalize on the low level of "front burner" activity. Many is the time that I've solved a problem with some piece of code I've been working on, or come up with an idea for a story or similar creative bit, with the inconvenience of not being able to commit those thoughts to paper (and my memory is not so good anymore - must put batteries in the voice recorder again). Of course, having a mind that is already attuned to finding/seeing the unusual hidden in the ordinary coupled with flu meds apparently makes things even more more interesting ;)

This past night was one for the subconscious... I don't remember dreams the way ravyn does, but from time to time a dream will stick with me as I enter the waking world. Last night was a variation on a theme - I have often found myself dreaming of coding in my head, only to awake with code bouncing around in my head - but this centered on trying to find the right adjustments for the mask on my CPAP unit, only to awaken with the need to adjust the mask on my CPAP unit.

Waking dreams anyone?

jordan's mom said...

Isn't it interesting that often one's most insightful, even inspired thoughts and ideas seem to swim up when one is feeling rather ill - the "fever dream" sort of thing.

Particularly enjoyed your entry today. Feel better soon, and keep writing, no matter how you feel (she said, glibly...)