Cezanne, Vessels Basket and Fruit, 1888-90
If you look at the left front edge of Cezanne’s table in this painting and then look at the right edge, you notice that there’s something strange happening. Either Cezanne was drunk or he deliberately painted the table from two different angles. He was not drunk. Cezanne knew that all objects exist in time and space and just because our human vision only experiences one angle at once doesn’t mean our human minds aren’t simultaneously aware of all the other options. Cezanne—the most cerebral and philosophical of painters—is asking us to set aside our ingrained assumption that a painting should frame a single point of view. He wants us to admit that art and life are complex and multidimensional things.
I bring this up because I have been lamenting a post I wrote last week about an act of conspicuous Jell-O production. I am not happy with how mean-spirited I came across in that post and I wanted to delete it several times. But I also wanted to apologize first, which I’m doing here. If ever it was possible to hold two completely contrary viewpoints in one’s head at the same time, such was the case with the Jell-O. I was both offended by the salad (offense combined with equal parts jealousy, self-loathing, and general grumpiness) and impressed with the care that went into it. After all, my neighbor chose to share her talents and time. And who did she share them with? ME! (oh, and a bunch of other women, but we're talking about me here). It was an act of thoughtfulness and generosity on her part and even if there was the tiniest hope that she would get a bit of praise and a few compliments (one being from me) out of it then who am I to begrudge her that?
So I could have gone either way in my verbal painting of the evening and I chose to go with the single-minded, negative slant. Frankly, I went for the humor. I laughed as I typed the blog post (I’m still amused that I finally got a chance to tell the “Diane’s house is too clean to clean” story) and in my new spirit of posting more and editing less, I posted it without thinking it through.
I should have thought it through.
Because I know better. I have written two other snarky posts that I regretted later and deleted (one about my husband going deer hunting and another about poorly-written student papers). Whenever I try to put my tongue in my cheek I somehow manage to stick it out very rudely.
What really got me regretting the post was the thought that many of my family members and good friends share their “virtuosity” in generous ways as well. Once when she came to visit, my friend Tara (chef, artist, all-around classy person) showed us how to make dipped and ornamented Oreos. We had a blast making them and when we gave a few to our friend Gayle, she loved that we were giving her these little masterpieces.
My sister-in-law Echo makes birthday cards so intricate and personalized that we all can’t wait to see what ours will look like. Last Thanksgiving, my sister Teri spent about 2 hours helping me skewer vegetables and assemble them like a flower arrangement so that I would have something fun to contribute to my in-laws’ dinner. My mother has decorated wedding cakes Martha Stewart would drool over (does Martha drool? Does it come out in French twists? Am I getting rude again?).
I think we all have things we do well and love to share with others. I once had time to quilt (alas, in another life) and I made this I-Spy quilt for my friend Kathy’s baby. It took me so many hours to make that the baby was nearly 18 months old before I finally finished it. Did I do this to impress her and make everyone who saw it envious? No. I made it because I love my friend and I like to make quilts and I wanted to try something really challenging for a change.
Anyway, it has all been yet another learning experience. Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:
1. Don’t write when I’m grumpy
2. Don’t write mean stuff.
3. Not even when it’s supposed to be funny.
4. Because it might be funny but it’s still mean.
5. When I’m offended, look at all the angles.
6. Look again.
7. Then look at myself in the mirror.
8. Wipe off the mirror because it’s covered in toothpaste.
9. Jello is spelled Jell-O
10. Go ask my neighbor for her Jell-O recipe because I should really make it someday for my family.
11. They’ll LOVE it.