Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reap the wind...

Rhythm is the basis of life, not steady forward progress. The forces of creation, destruction, and preservation have a whirling, dynamic interaction.
- from the Kabbalah

They whirled past the dark trees, as feathers would be swept before a hurricane. Houses, gates, churches, hay-stacks, objects of every kind they shot by, with a velocity and noise like roaring waters suddenly let loose..."Faster! Faster!"
- Charles Dickens

Sometimes we are privileged to witness an event or experience something that is so intense, it becomes imprinted in minute detail upon our memory bank. It doesn't matter if the experience is terrible and frightening or wonderfully pleasant and magical. When our senses or emotions are stimulated to such an extent, we can later recall every detail because to remember is to re-experience.

I've been fascinated by tornadoes for most of my life. Like many who grew up or lived in "tornado alley," these violent storms with their dangerous beauty and magnificent terror have a hold on me. I'm conflicted by my attraction to these phenomena; I admit to feeling guilty for what I can only describe as the hypnotic pleasure I derive from watching footage of twisters. They literally and metaphorically draw me toward the vortex, unable to take my eyes away from the sight of that undulating funnel. I understand their power and the devastation they wreak, but I cannot counter my fascination.

There is a eerie shade of green that forecasts menace in a severe thunderstorm. Whenever I see that color, preceding or following a line of brilliant white, I know to take cover. When I was about nine or ten my family lived in a two story house in central Illinois. I remember the sky turning black and green and white as the sirens blared and the wind came up strong. There wasn't time to run to a neighbor's basement, so my mother huddled us beneath the heavy kitchen table in the southwest corner of our two story house. The sound was incredible, a constant deafening roar while everything shook and rattled. Outside was near blackness, everything moving horizontally, and it was that sight - that moment - as the huge funnel cloud passed so near - that sticks in my mind's eye.

Suddenly there was a tremendous crashing, tearing sound, and our mighty maple tree blew over and through the kitchen wall, right on top of our table shelter. We kids scrambled screaming out from under - and it was over. The wind died and everything went quiet except the dripping of rainwater coming through the openings in the roof.

Throughout my life I have drawn and painted tornadoes, amassed a collection of photographs of funnel clouds, and purchased those Weather Channel videos of "Nature's Fury." Of course I own and love The Wizard of Oz, and Twisters I and II. I have photographs of a sculpture installation at Artpark in Lewiston, NY taken from both the inside and outside of a thirty foot tall interactive "tornado" that took my breath away; I so wished I had built it. It would seem I cannot get enough of twister imagery.

Yesterday was another beautiful 60+ cloudless day. It was breezy, but not windy and the air was cool, the sun very warm as the horses munched their afternoon feed. I was filling the horses water troughs when I became aware of a rushing, crackling sound like wind rattling through dry leaves. I glanced down the slope toward the treeline and was delighted to see a small whirlwind stirring itself into a little frenzy of leaves and debris.

As I watched, mesmerized, the tiny cyclone grew, spiraling to a height of thirty or forty feet as it swept up the hill right toward me. I've experienced small whirlwinds passing over and seemingly through me a time or two, and I anticipated this one with delight and excitement. When it was no more than twenty feet away, I realized this one was still growing in intensity, and I experienced a tiny thrill of fear, but stood my ground. And then the twister cut sharply away from me toward where Jessie, the pinto gelding, was concentrating on his dinner. He suddenly became aware that something was after him and I swear he jumped straight up in the air as the cyclone surrounded and passed over him. He stood trembling and snorting with all four legs extended, watching the little twister dance across the driveway and dissipate. If he could speak, he'd have said: "What the hell was that?!!" I have the effrontery to envy him - though were our positions reversed, I'm quite certain he would not feel the same.

The whole thing took less than a minute, an amazing, magical, entirely captivating few moments, yet it is perfectly imprinted upon my mind's eye. I can't stop thinking about it and I know it will emerge as a painting in the near future.

Hosea 8:7
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


“Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.”

Richard Buckminster Fuller

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It's happening more and more often. It just comes over me and there's nothing I can do to prevent it. Sometimes it happens as I am standing in line at the bank or paying for groceries. (It almost always happens at public events or in public spaces.) At first I thought it was my imagination - just a trick of the mind; a mistake, perhaps a misunderstanding - after all, things like this don't happen to ordinary people.

Wait a minute... who's ordinary???

Funny how we see our selves, isn't it ? I, myself, am a mass of contradictions! I am funny but very serious - and not to be taken lightly... I have a few very rigid viewpoints, but I nearly always give one the benefit of the doubt. I like socializing and I am interested in people and curious about how others think - yet I spend a great deal of time alone, by choice. I think of myself as a "good" person who looks for the best in others, and yet has little faith in humanity... Normal ? ...I suppose... Sane ? ...certainly... But I've never thought of myself as ordinary. So why should it surprise me that I have developed superpowers...???

Yep. It's true. I know how to become invisible.

Actually - I first became invisible and then I learned how to do it. The first time I was sitting in traffic, waiting to pull onto the main road. Vehicles moved past, sometimes stopping right in front of me, but no one let me merge. No one smiled and waved me in as had always happened in the past. They didn't notice me... they couldn't see me... I had disappeared. The next time it was a shopping trip to Quality Foods. I stood waiting to pay for my groceries as the cashier and bagger conversed and joked and rang up my order. I smiled at one, and then the other; I held out my check - but neither even looked at me. Without acknowledging my presence in any way, they waved me out to the parking lot with my cart full of heavy grocery bags. I was invisible.

My most recent disappearance was at my bank branch, located for my convenience in the grocery store lobby. There were two tellers at their stations but one was on the phone, so a line had formed sort of halfway between the two as customers observed "next person waiting etiquette". When the teller finished her phone conversation, she looked right through me to the store employee behind me and motioned for him to step up for service. Wow. Invisible again!!

With all of this evidence,I have to believe it's true. And just like the "ordinary" people on that show: Heroes, I plan to step up to the challenge. Not only will I continue to develop and hone my ability to disappear by wearing inauspicious clothing, very little makeup and a benign expression - but by continuing to masquerade as just another bland, unimportant, unassuming, and innocuous middle aged woman. They'll never see the pretty young woman inside me - the one who is well-read and hip and witty... the one who rescues ladybugs and horses and even tries to dodge butterflies. They won't know how funny I am, or how kind I can be, or how much love I hold inside. They won't suspect that I am anything at all like them.

And little will they know, that I am developing another superpower... telepathic X-ray vision. Though they cannot see me, I can see right through them. As I peer into their self-absorbed and indifferent little minds, I plant little seeds... little thoughts... little bits of self'-doubt and self-realization. I will them to see beyond their biases and assumptions. I implore them to take stock of themselves and to question their perception of the world around them. I champion the cause of fresh vision. I wish upon them the gifts of empathy and sympathy - for one day they too, will start to disappear.

And finally; this:

I recently spoke with my first ex-husband, a sculptor, who still lives in Philadelphia. We talk often, but I don't know how much or what parts of each conversation he remembers. He suffers from more than the average (I think) memory loss, and it's difficult to know whether it is a natural part of the aging process or something more. He's a phenomenal artist and a really good person and I will always have a place for him in my heart. He teases me about not posting his website in any of my blogs - so I have decided to oblige him here. He may not remember a lot of what I say (another kind of invisibility?) but what is in print cannot be long forgotten. I hope you'll all visit his website. It's highly worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008