My friend Tara had to twist my arm to get me to the Phoenix Art Museum. How crazy is that? Of course I wanted to go, but I was worried about the kids and worried about Ken trying to keep track of all four of them in a strange big city without me, and worried about the cost of the tickets, and worried about dragging poor Tara with me through a museum at the speed to which I am accustomed, which is only slightly faster than it took for the artworks to be painted in the first place.
As it turned out, Tara talked me into it, bought the tickets, never complained once about my torturous pace, and added her own insightful comments as we went along. Ken had a good time with the kids in the Science Center and they never missed me. It’s nice to know that I can indulge in doing something entirely selfish once in a while and get away with it.
I also now have stored up in my head at least a year’s worth of art to write blog entries about, so I have Tara and Ken to thank for that as well.
I’ll start with my favorite painting in the museum – Girl at the Window by Nicolaes Maes – from the "Rembrandt and the golden age of Dutch art" exhibit. The placard next to the painting described it as a critique against the sin of laziness. I disagree. If the artist meant the scene to criticize laziness, why would he have made it look so appealing? The gorgeous colors, the lush fruit, the beautiful girl set in a beautiful space – I could not get enough of this painting. I stood in front of it for several minutes and soaked it in. I even had to come back and look at it again after leaving the exhibit. (It’s also one of those cases where the reproduction literally pales in comparison to the real thing. The colors were so much richer than they look now. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or maybe you could buy a plane ticket to Phoenix and see for yourself. I’m sure you can stay with Tara. She won’t mind – as long as you leave a few bucks behind to replace the plunger you broke while you were there.)
I don’t think the girl in the painting is lazy. She is just thinking. She thinks a lot. And in her thoughts as with her body, she inhabits ledges – she stands at a windowsill, the border between the inside and the out, between the shadows and the light, between contemplation and action. Her age also puts her on the ledge – she is young enough to resemble, with her flushed cheeks and apricot-colored headband, the sweet fruits that frame her window. But she is old enough to know what comes next, and here the clichés of “ripening” and “fruitfulness” threaten to take the metaphor too far. But she is not there yet. She is only leaning into maturation. She has opened the window but she remains safely inside.
And there’s the critical difference between a window and a door. The girl may be at the ledge, but she can only lean so far. If it were a door, the next step would be implied. But with a window, there may be observing and contemplation and planning, but no stepping. Only thinking. Which is not a bad thing, or even a lazy thing. Unless you stay at the window for too long. And if, like the girl in the painting, you’ve brought a pillow along to make the ledge more comfortable, perhaps that’s a bad sign.
There’s a moment at the beginning of Hamlet where Hamlet promises his dead father that he will sweep to avenge his murder “with wings as swift as meditation.” The irony, as it turns out, is that Hamlet’s meditation is anything but swift. It takes five Acts for him to act. He wastes a good deal of precious stage time meditating and holding up skulls and talking to himself and thinking up future movie titles like “What dreams may come” and “The undiscovered country.” And in the meantime, the bodies begin to pile up around him.
If you’re still with me, and I’m not sure why, my point in all this is that I think I think too much. I need to do less living on the ledge and more living on the edge as in doing brave things and acting on my good intentions. While in Arizona, I visited one friend who is about to turn 40 and has decided it’s time to quit her comfortable job and go into business for herself. On the way home, we stopped to visit two more friends who are about to put their home and savings on the line to buy 10 acres of land so they can board horses. I admire the heck out of my gutsy friends. In their honor I would like to do something daring.
But what to do?
I would suggest shaving my head, but Britney beat me to it. I can’t sign up for a marathon right now thanks to the sore foot. I’m not too fond of horses. My teaching job isn’t all that comfortable to begin with and my other job – my full-time mothering job – well I don’t think my kids would appreciate it if I quit that one. So that leaves me with the one thing I’ve always thought about doing and talked about doing and daydreamed about doing but have never taken past the “wouldn’t it be loverly” stage: writing a book.
It’s all there inside my head but I have to spend the time to coax it out and write it down. This will take some sacrifices because I already feel like I have no time to spare. But I think, if it’s important enough (and it is) that I can find 30 minutes a day to commit to it. I plan to keep up on my blog because it’s good therapy for me (plus Gabie thinks it’s HIS blog and would be greatly concerned if I neglected it.) But if you notice that I’m not commenting as much on your blogs, please don’t hold it against me. Call me a lurker, call me selfish, call me crazy, but please don’t call me lazy.