Conceive me as a dream of stone:
my breast, where mortals come to grief,
is made to prompt all poets' love,
mute and noble as matter itself.
from Beauty, by Charles Baudelaire, translation by Richard Howard
Parisian-woman-mannequin stands in a shop window. Young, delicately featured, surrogate femme, provocatively attired in gray jacket with plunged neckline and no bra. A black, broad-brimmed, feathery hat perched on her head. Her unwavering gaze fixes me from the sharp edge of a deep shadow. She is mysterious and alluring. As I study her, she blossoms into fantasy, crooking a finger at my libido, teasing it up and into the open. I long for her to invite me into the depths of the shadow to be whatever I need to be with her.
She is new in town and has quickly become one of a number of surrogate femmes I routinely visit as I walk from one end of Main Street to the other. My "girlfriends,” I tell my wife when she sees the pictures I have made of them. I visit them to see how they have chosen to dress and what sort of come-hither attitude they have hopefully chosen to adopt this month. Spring and summer are my favorite times. My girls are reliably clad in playful sundresses that can, I fantasize, easily be lifted above the hips for quick lovemaking in elevators, closets or bathrooms. Or they are wearing something bare midriff or that hardly conceals crotch and breasts.
As I think about this I remember Sam's bare midriff a few days ago. It was a frigid winter day and I remember both the twinge of excitement and the involuntary shiver that passed through my body as I reveled in her belly button and thought about frigid air washing across it. I asked her how she could stand to be exposed in such cold weather. She told me it was very warm in the store and that she puts lots of layers on before she walks out the door.
I wonder about the longing and desire my surrogate femmes are able to provoke in me, how easily they coax my libido forward. Even the headless ones have their allure if they are posed and dressed in the right way. Surrogate femininity does not have to be very like the thing itself for the animal mind to embrace it as a promise of procreation. I wonder at what point libido would retreat, unable to conjure warm flesh and blood against the facts. Would it fade away the moment I reached out and touched her on the arm or brushed her cheek? Could it be prolonged to the moment of cupping a breast in my hand, discovering it to be lifeless, unyielding, cold? Could I possibly make it to the point of embracing her and rubbing myself against her, of ejaculation across her hard washable belly? At what point would libido falter?
Crepuscular: of, resembling, or relating to twilight
Things emerging from and submerging into darkness interest me.
Life is like that. It materializes out of the primal darkness of the past into the dawn, plays gaily and struggles mightily in the light of day, reminisces both fondly and regretfully in the advancing penumbra of evening, then melts back into the primordial pitch black night. We are most dazzled by the light of day, believing that this light is the heart of the matter. We can't comprehend at all the immensity of the darkness on either side, and how puny this little light of day really is.
I went to bed and woke up pondering my new website configuration. I was very distracted during my walk this morning. There are many decisions to make, it will be a major reconfiguration and a lot of work. I feel, on the one hand, daunted, and on the other, excited, to the point where I will lose sleep and let other important things slide because I won't be able to let go of it.
Strangely, I had been thinking about how to combine writing and photography. I had been thinking it would require some kind of web reconfiguration. And then BOOM! I fired up the editing panel of my Behance Pro website and was confronted with Adobe's decision to kick it to the curb in favor of a new (and, I hope, improved) alternative. I have until spring to migrate to the new format. There was no indication of whether that would be early, mid or late spring.
Uggh! was my first reaction. Alright then, it's time anyway, was the second.
My writing and picture making have evolved into a project with the working title "Days, Weeks, Months, Years." The project flows from daily walking and writing excursions. I have charged myself with the task of intentional and thoughtful observation of my surroundings and through them, as it turns out, I am looking deeply into myself.
Sometimes I worry that I have become a navel-gazing and useless-to-society “artist.” That I have taken refuge in art because I have failed at things more useful. There might be some truth in that, I don't know. What I do know is that this exploration compels me to the point where it has taken over and there is little I can do but sink my whole self into the enterprise and hope that something useful and resonant comes out of it.
My sole New Year resolution is to diligently and unflinchingly pursue my writing and picture making and to share my discoveries openly and honestly.
I am convinced that making art has value to society though society often fails to value its artists enough. Some number of its members must travel beyond the perimeter to search for and retrieve truths that are useful to the whole. The hard part is that no artist can be the judge of whether their production is valuable to anyone but themselves. They can only do what they do.
The best artists are visionaries. Like all visionaries, they risk much. Society defines and manages its perimeter, providing powerful incentives and disincentives to stay within an acceptable-to-it territory and offers little to no support to individuals who venture outside the walls.
To state what we witness, what we think about what we witness and what we long for within what we witness, in an honest way, is to be human, is to be relevant, is to be useful.
Not many people do this, or are even interested in trying. The way of the visionary is a hard way. Harder than anyone can imagine because visionaries who succeed and are lauded for their efforts are the tiniest fraction of those who embarked for the frontier. Most of them perish on the journey, swallowed by the darkness of obscurity for all time.
A cryptic message on Facebook this morning. It irritates me. I struggle with people who speak in code on their social media. Am I your friend or not? Clearly you have a special class of friends who have the decoder rings you’ve distributed.
And then I realize that "ground control to Major Tom - goodbye" is announcing the death of David Bowie, at 69, of cancer, and the spectre of my own death, lurking in the shadows of the evening of my life, rushes out.
Just like that, my generation has started passing away. There have, of course, been tragic, too-young-to-die deaths. We worry about that possibility for ourselves and the people we love, but we comfort ourselves with the idea that we haven't reached the age of the average lifespan of our species.
This is different. This is the approaching darkness itself. I am being moved to the front lines of a battle nobody survives.
There is much I want to do. Do I still have time to do it?