It Iff Classes Discovery Art History

Very often, a creative block manifests itself as an addiction to fantasy. Rather than working or living the now, we spin our wheels and indulge in daydreams of could have, would have, should have. One of the great misconceptions about the artistic life is that it entails great swathes of aimlessness. The truth is that a creative life involves great swathes of attention. Attention is a way to connect and survive. “Flora and fauna reports,” I used to call the long, winding letters from my grandmother. “The forsythia is starting and this morning I saw my first robin. . . . The roses are holding even inthis heat …. The sumac has turned and that little maple down by the mailbox …. My Christmas cactus is getting ready….

 

I followed my grandmother’s life like a long home movie: a shot of this and a shot of that, spliced together with no pattern that I could ever see. “Dad’s cough is getting worse …. The little Shetland looks like she’ll drop her foal early. . . . Joanne is back in the hospital at Anna …. We named the new boxer Trixie and she likes to sleep in my cactus bed-can you imagine?

 

I could imagine. Her letters made that easy. Life through grandma’s eyes was a series of small miracles: the wild tiger lilies under the cottonwoods in June; the quick lizard scooting under the gray river rock she admired for its satiny finish. Her letters clocked the seasons of the year and her life. She lived until she was eighty, and the letters came until the very end. When she died, it was as suddenly as her Christmas cactus: here today, gone tomorrow. She left behind her letters and her husband of sixty-two years. Her husband, my grandfather Daddy Howard, an elegant rascal with a gambler’s smile and a loser’s luck, had made and lost several fortunes, the last of them permanently. He drank them away, gambled them away, tossed them away the way she threw crumbs to her birds. He squandered life’s big chances the way she savored the small ones. “That man,” my mother would say.