My jade plant casts this shadow across the living room floor every morning. My jade plant is a great artist.
Today is the one-hundred-and-sixty-first birthday of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and I couldn’t be happier about celebrating that fact. The book is at least in part about obsession and about searching for something elusive. As an artist, I identify deeply with the book because of those themes. Most artists have their obsessions, the ideas that they return to over and over again, the thing that they say in a hundred different ways. So in some way, the book strikes me as being about art, and artists, and making art. Even more specifically, though, I identify with Ahab’s particular obsession. One of my artistic obsessions, especially in my poetry, has something to do with searching for things that exist but can’t be seen. Ahab’s obsession was quite similar: Moby Dick, one could argue, is a symbol of exactly that.
Not only do the themes of the book captivate me, but it appears that I have somewhat of an obsession with the white whale himself, too. In fact, for our honeymoon, Jon and I packed our copies of Moby Dick and went to Martha’s Vineyard (close enough to Nantucket!). We rode our bikes around the island, sat on the beaches, and kept company with Ishmael, Ahab, Queequeg, and the rest. When I learned how to make jewelry, one of the first things I made was the Moby Dick copper cuff bracelet below, because I have this feeling of wanting to HAVE Moby Dick, to own him somehow, along with all the book represents. (Uh-oh–this is how it started for Ahab.) Since then, I have continued to pay tribute to the white whale. Jewelry, to me, is about keeping reminders of what matters to you close to your body. I wear my Moby Dick ring every day.
You can find these pieces in my shop.
I’m thrilled to be a nominee for one of the Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards. Check out my profile here.
If I make it to the finals, I’ll ask you to vote for me!
I love them. I love their unfurling.
My friend Megan’s mom is a florist. Megan told me that when her mom makes an arrangement, she doesn’t just include the fresh open flowers and the new buds, she also includes some that are dying. She wants to convey something about the whole life of the plant. I loved learning that.
I took these when the flowers were at their very end, though you can’t really tell that from the photos. Their heads were flopping over. For some photos, I pinched a flower’s neck and held its head up, then let it drop again after I had the shot.
When I was taking the photos, I felt a little bad for trying too hard to hold on to something so ephemeral as a flower. But now I feel glad to have given my attention to them when they were moving beyond beauty.
by Mary Oliver
I lift the small brown mouse
out of the path and hold him.
He has no more to say,
no lilt of feet to run on.
He’s cold, still soft, but idle.
As though he were a stone
I launch him from my hand;
his body falls away
into the shadowed wood
where the crackling leaves rain down,
where the year is mostly over.
“Poor creature,” I might say,
but what’s the use of that.
The clock in him is broken.
And as for ceremony,
already the leaves have swirled
over, the wind has spoken.
-from New and Selected Poems, 1992
My friend Lisa sent me an email entitled “something I thought you would like.”
She was very right. I like it. I like it a lot.
It’s called the “Red Thread Journal Dress.” As you could guess from the title, the maker, Ruth Rae, has sewed her private journal entries all over the surface of the dress.
I like that it brings writing and visual art together in a purposeful way.
I like the beautiful obsessiveness of it. She even sewed writing–her bigger secrets–inside of the pockets and inside the dress.
The museum in town is doing an exhibit of the things people collect–things like toasters, Mylar balloons, burned things, bottle caps, toothpastes from around the world–all on display.
There’s a kind of power to even the most mundane objects when displayed in great numbers. Why is that? I’m not quite sure.
It seems to me like they claim a voice in a way–refuse to be ignored. Or maybe it’s just that the human brain is drawn to repetition with variation–a hundred things of a kind lined up, all slightly different. They call out to the part of us that likes to make categories. In a way, I do feel like I could learn the nature of a thing more deeply by seeing it in a collection of similar things–like seeing all of the earthly examples of one of Plato’s ideal Forms.
This was my favorite collection ( not surprisingly, I guess), belonging to a veterinarian.
I wish I’d had my real camera with me–I admire this collection. I think I might have started a little one of my own, without entirely realizing it. Whenever I find a bone that’s been scoured bare and sun bleached, I take it home and count myself lucky to have found a treasure. A friend recently found a deer skull in the woods, pure white, and gave it to me as a gift–a very generous one. I find these weathered remains truly lovely. But also, I think part of me feels a dare to love the parts of nature that aren’t entirely friendly.
I recently bought a print of a turkey vulture circling above, made by my friend Julia Lucey. I chose it amongst all of her other wonderful prints because I liked that she chose to spend time making art about a creature that many don’t see beauty in, that people even find repulsive. I thought it was brave of her. And the print is beautiful.