In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. My last post was more than three weeks ago. On the eve of my attending a writers colony, I recognize this is a cardinal sin. Hang on while this recovering Presbyterian looks up the format for confession on my laptop.
Say the sins you remember. Start with the one that is the most difficult to say…
I’m off to Tennessee tomorrow to hole up in a beautiful cabin on 65 acres of farm land to forage for ideas in my alarmingly atrophic brain. There I’ve said it. What if when all the cobwebs of post pandemic planning are cleared away there’s nothing left of value in there to write about?
Writers must be self-driven, independent and able to work in a quiet manner respecting other residents.Rockvale Writers Colony
Forgive me Father, but how self-driven and independent am I? Will I be able to separate from the University, the pre-semester planning, etc.? I’m willing to say as many hail Marys as I need to to make that transition to quietude and creativity so that I don’t waste the week peeking at my email and sending surreptitious Slack messages.
Forgive me Father, but I attended a potential spreader event this week. Not only a COVID-19 possible spreader event, to which I went masked, but also an intellectual banality spreader as well. The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Let me be quick to say I enjoyed seeing the huge room sprayed with oversized brush strokes by the master. The event had been effectively marketed for people who back in April were desperate to get out of their homes and fill the abyss of cultural in-person live events. Buying the tickets cheered me at the time. It gave me something to look forward to, to invite my brother and his wife to. The fact that it was postponed a month didn’t even matter. Who doesn’t like Van Gogh? Who wouldn’t want to be immersed in his work? Especially someone who studied Art History? Kid in the candy store, right?
As the Delta Variant raged its way through Los Angeles, I didn’t cancel my tickets, but forged ahead. The tickets were for Thursday afternoon at 5:00pm, and I abruptly stood and walked away from my desk at work very early and then drove like a bat out of hell. Once there, I parked and met my brother and his wife at the entry way. I think I was showing the toll of traffic and the task saturated weeks I’d been having. The kind house manager in the Van Gogh mask who checked me in at the door practically cooed at me to take a deep breath and “be there.” I wonder how many others he’s had to administer mental first aid to. Los Angeles even in COVID times is a stressful place to drive.
Once inside, we made our way through the entry tunnel and my usually photo-reticent brother was already snapping pix of the entry into the Café space.
There, there were four panels describing the metaphoric seasons of Van Gogh’s life, leading to his death by gunshot to the chest in July 29, 1890. Apparently ’nuff said. As we angled ourselves to take a picture in front of the most iconic self portrait, a young masked and gloved attendant offered to take our picture all together. I demurred, though we were framed right in front of the gigantic replica of the painting. Next, we went to pick up our “premium” pillows which I noted were coming off a cart – cleaned? Not cleaned?
Inside the exhibit, which had started – it is approximately an hour long and we arrived about five minutes into the show, we moved forward and looked for open floor space to sit down. This is where any exposure would have occurred. I navigated my way onto the floor and the “premium” pillow proved to be challenging. Getting down to the floor required a firm and full hand plant on the smooth gallery floor, followed by full leg exposure to the floor trodden on by so many other people’s Delta Variant exposed shoes. I had worn a white dress, imagining it as a canvas to better field the projections of so many sunflowers. More folly mine.
The exhibit is beautifully crafted in the way certain rides/experiences are at theme parks. Having been working on my syllabi at night this past week, and brushing up on the assigned readings, this experience really elucidates the difference between Art and Entertainment. It requires nothing of you beyond opening your eyes and taking in the imagery and sound. It is nothing like standing in front of a Van Gogh canvas and looking at the use of color and shape. As Edith Piaf’s rendition of La Vie en Rose blasts around the space, and a tart, lemon radiating sun makes its way across the wall of the gallery before setting, I found myself wondering about the purpose of such an exhibit. I decided it was a colorful, saturated in person experience, which maybe at this point in the pandemic is worth what we paid for it. As the show began to repeat, we stood, this time, putting both my hands on the floor, and began to leave, discovering a second room with non-floor seating.
Afterwards, we walked down Sunset to Vine, and I was happy to introduce my brother and his wife to Off Vine, one of my favorite little restaurants in Hollywood, an old haunt of mine from when I worked at the James A. Doolittle Theatre up Vine. We sat out in the garden, and had a lovely dinner before walking back to our cars near the Lighthouse Theatre.
Forgive me Father, but I allowed myself to be entertained and dined while at the same time a dear friend was hospitalized with a stroke and eventually moved to a rehabilitation center. How, I ask you, is it possible to hold these two realities in my heart at once without breaking from the sorrow? How can I make it up to his partner for having spent the week in frivolity while he/they have been mired in uncertainty and sadness?
Now having returned to my google page on the format of confession to see what’s next.
Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. The resolution to avoid committing these sins in the future (amendment) is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. This does not mean that a promise never to fall again into sin is necessary. A resolution to try to avoid the near occasions of sin suffices for true repentance.
Apparently ’nuff said. I’m going into next week’s retreat with my metaphoric premiere pillow and the intention to be as present as possible for the creative muse to incite. Much in my thoughts will be all of those who are not able to be in the space I am in. That doesn’t diminish my love for them, or my capture of the joy that is possible. We must all capture that joy where we can.