Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breast Cancer and Art 101

On a Monday morning not long ago a friend, a breast cancer survivor, sent me an interesting link. She called it weird. Or worried I might think it weird, but I didn't. Not at all.
There are some things we who have never had a mastectomy don't ever think about. That is, until your best friend or your mom or sister has a "double" and part of the reconstruction process is what's to be done about the fact that your breasts look strangely bereft without their central high point - the nipple and areola? It's difficult enough to suffer removal and treatment, but when reconstruction is done, your brain is cooked once again, when you look in the mirror because these new mothers look like they were ordered from a doll factory and plunked on a flesh-colored torso. Remember those bare Barbies? Uh-huh.
The answer is that the color gets tattooed on. I remember my friend was a little apprehensive about making that appointment with Mayo's officially sanctioned tattoo "artist." The procedure seemed like simply one more indignity one had to suffer post-surgery. The results were less than satisfactory. It was like the "artist" simply stenciled twin targets on the front of each one. A salmon-colored circle with, ta-da! a chocolate brown bull's eye. (C'mon guys, A five year old could do better.) Complaining seems pointless, though, when you're not a complainer, and when there are no categories for comparison. In fact, when you didn't even know there was a category for medical tattoo!
Now she wishes, at the time, she could have had someone who was more of an artist, a tattoo artist. Someone with an eye for beauty and color, like this guy. She wishes she could get the word out. I'd like to support that desire. We ALL know someone who has had a mastectomy even if we ourselves forget about it after awhile because clothing worn over reconstructive surgery makes them appear normal. But that person doesn't forget. Every glance in the mirror is a reminder.
So I thought it was a tender, vulnerable thing to share with me. I just never knew! I'm glad she did because this post is a very small way to support breast cancer survivors. Here's the link: Breast Cancer Survivors Find the Michelangelo of Nipple Tattoos

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bringing nature home

"A room is never at its best without flowers. Flowers show that a home is cared for and truly lived in. While furniture can remain the same for years, flowers speak to the present moment. And yet they are a talisman, a reminder of the world beyond our doors, of growth and change, and the passage of time. They are fleeting pleasures."  from Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
I don't know much about flower arranging. I mean what is this or that style called? Japanese minimalist? Polly's posies? I don't know. I only know the names of a few flowers and shrubs. I'm likely to describe a licorice plant as that plant with the thick, viney, trailing stems with fuzzy, kinda white-ish leaves. I just put things in vases. I learned by looking through this book that my style is a meadowy look - bouquets of colorful shapes and sizes, crammed together, over-flowing -  tumultuous, bountiful. Rather like my cooking that I call Peasant Style; pretty simple and a lot.  But there are other ways.
The dictionary reminds me that a talisman is an object thought to have magical powers. This book inspired me to take a walk around our yard looking for magic. What could make simple beauty if I brought it inside? What could I find that was simple, graceful and made from less rather than more. I wonder what you have outside your back door? I stole a single blue hydrangea from Anita's prized shrub. To go with it I clipped some licorice plant stems from overgrown pots. The faint white shades of the leaves put the single blue flower in relief. Three mint blossoms on arching stems gave it a little lift. Their soft, brush-shaped flowers contrasted with the precise hydrangea petals. I pulled an antique water pitcher off the shelf for a vase. I left it here on Anita's bureau.
I was happy with this small way to express joy. At the same time, flowers make me sad because they don't last and I think a lot about this. They drop messy pollen all over the place, their petals shrivel and fall off, and have you ever smelled flower water? It STINKS like dog shit after a few days.  I've spent a long time thinking about what it means when Isaiah says "The grass withers, the flower fades," (Is. 40:8) and I know he is talking about us. Human lives. We are so here for a little while, then we are gone. This is distressing.  I used to wonder, then, what it meant that when Isaiah finishes the thought with "But the word of our God stands forever." Is that supposed to comfort me? Well, yes. Yes it should. That's because, as so often happens with Scripture, it coheres. It interprets itself. So when Peter writes: "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' " (I Peter 1:23-25)
So yes, flowers have their fleeting pleasures with reminders of a world beyond our doors and it is no small thing to bring them in and to love their glory. We can, I mean we are allowed, to think of them as we ourselves fade and we are no longer at the peak of our game, as if I ever was, but I have this: this promise, because of Jesus, I am re-born of imperishable seed and one day I shall be restored to a kind of eternal beauty. He will make it so. Really, he will. My faltering steps rest on it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Johnny Cash - too many "I's and me's"

From an interview by The Daily Beast with record producer and co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin says:

On our first album, there was a song he wrote, I can't remember which one it was, but I listened to it and said, "Do you think you could take some of the 'I's and 'me's out of it?" And he thought about it and he was like, "Yeah, I think I can do that." And he did. So 10 years later, I'm visiting him in Nashville. He's in a wheel chair. He's blind, pretty much. It felt so awkward. So I said, "What have you been working on lately?" And he said, "I've been working on using 'I' and 'me' less." And I said, "Really?" and he said, "Yeah. Remember? You gave me that comment on the song? That's what I've been working on." Incredible. He didn't mean it in the context of songs. He meant it in the context of life. 

Thinking recently about my own "I's" and "me's." Until we die - our enduring Holy War.