Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life Is Food

Vessel, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"

Ever have a day when things connected? When the events unfolded gently, not with a lot of fanfare, but they nonetheless felt inevitable? Not life-changing events mind you, just quiet events that affirm being alive. Sunday was that kind of day for me. It was a glorious autumn morning. I was driving down Old Pecos Trail, under the big, achingly blue New Mexico sky. Yellow chamisa lined the sides of the road, interrupted here and there by purple wildflowers, whose names I don't know. The shaggy contours of the junipers, loaded with berries, looked about to burst with their own joy. I was listening to NPR.

The theme of the program was death, or more accurately, that border between life and death, the territory that is the closest we who are living can get to death without actually dying. One man told a story of jumping off a bridge. He had methodically decided that his death would be best for all. He had analyzed how his death would affect each person in his life and was convinced that they would be better off were he to take that last step into thin air, plunging into the water, and the death just beneath that water, below the bridge. So that's what he did. He took the plunge.

Only thing was the very moment he saw his hands leave the rail, he realized his was a huge mistake, he knew he loved life with all of his heart, he wanted desperately to reverse his action, to be standing on the bridge again, walking back into life and the people there, all the unfinished business, the sloppiness of it all. He hoped, probably more deeply than he had ever hoped, for a miracle. He wanted to survive.

That was his lucky day. A member of the Coast Guard had witnessed the jump and they were there in minutes, pulling him into their boat.

Other stories followed. The story of a neuroscientist who put a comatose patient into an MRI tube and instructed her to imagine she was playing tennis. The areas of the cortex that would light up when a person was playing an aggressive tennis game, or even imagining such a game, lit up brilliantly! Someone was in there, someone in love with life, as limited as that life appeared to those of us out here. There was an imagination at work. Then there was the story of the woman who was not comatose at all. She walked around. She spoke. She could play a game of tennis if she wanted to. A real game of tennis. Only she really believed she was dead. She could sit on chairs and touch tennis balls, but they seemed not real. They seemed illusory. It was decided she too was in there, but she had no sense of self out there. Unlike the comatose woman, she had no emotions to link with her thoughts. She had no purpose. I believe she was devoid of imagination and dreaming. She was among the Undead.

Later that evening in Albuquerque my family saw two vampire plays by Mac Wellman. In Dracula, a contemporary interpretation of Bram Stoker's tale, the director chose to "split" some of the characters--they were played by two actors. When a character would speak or perform an action, another actor, a kind of doppelganger, would repeat the words, and the action, but slightly differently, more softly, with less emphasis. I realized that we the audience were witnessing the in here and the out there selves. We were seeing our own divisions, our own apartness from life, our own Undeadness.

During the intermission we were asked to take our personal belongings and leave the theater, to have a cup of tea in the courtyard. When we returned to the performance space, we were to see the second play, Swoop, sandwiched between the two acts of Dracula. All of our chairs had been turned in the opposite direction for Swoop. Whereas in the first act of Dracula, the back row of chairs was highest up, and the front row, where I'd been sitting, was on a level with the actors, now the front row was highest up, facing a stage curtain several feet above. I eagerly went to the top level and sat down in the center chair. The curtain opened and I found myself staring directly up into the eyes of a vampire, who was looking back down at me. Perhaps that was a stage direction to the actor--look right down into the eyes of whoever is sitting in the front-and-center chair. That would be me! I loved it!

There were four actors in Swoop. All were characters from Dracula, including one character's split selves, who had moved through time and space to hover in the air seven miles above present-day Manhattan. They delivered powerful, far-reaching monologues on the absurdity and beauty of existence, what one referred to as "the blur." Their words swooped down at us, fast and furious. As Bennie remarked later, it was really challenging to follow the ideas and the images, which blurred together like gazpacho ingredients thrown into a blender. We were nonetheless compelled to drink in all that we could. We were hungry for the blood of it all.

As one vampire said, "It is a need to prey (and yes, I delighted in first hearing "prey" as "pray"), that so incessantly needles...needles some to madness, awful woes and bellowing, and some other, happy few, notably me, to my sustaining updraft, my hilarity. I look down through veil upon veil of wispy vapor and behold a city of food."

Yes, it's all about the food. Life is a feast, although not always what we'd hoped for. Sometimes it helps to have our chairs turned in an opposite direction, so that we look briefly, for one dark moment, into the eyes of he who would take our precious life, our blood, our food, from us. To know that the chair we sit on is real, that we have the choice to climb down from the drama, wrap a scarf around our vulnerable necks, and simply drive to a diner. For a bite. It's good to know the ones we hold dear are waiting in the wings for us, with a cup of tea, a bit of conversation over shared food, maybe even a lifeboat.

108 comments:

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

A delightful post about a provocative day and evening. Thanks for sharing it here.

katie jane said...

Wow, what an interesting post and also, what a most unusual play. I love this kind of thought provoking entertainment. I find the eerie netherworld between life and death fascinating. Amazing that the man who changed his mind was rescued. I've always wondered if suicides have second thoughts right before it's too late to do anything. And I've wondered if people in comas are really still "in there". The mind is a strange place.
I also like the thought of time travel. Maybe I should have gone into psychology. I love to analize stuff, (sometimes far too much).

Kim said...

This is a great post, San! First of all I adore your painting, as always! Now...

"Life is a feast!" It sure is, my friend. I adore the way you bring it around to being no matter who you are or what you have been through, life always ends up being about the lessons - a feast of lessons. People come through the most amazing traumas having learned several lifetimes of lessons. We seem to be given so many opportunities to figure out what it is we have to know.

Those days of perfect unfoldings and perfect dances come along when we least expect them, but oh they are so welcomed. Thanks so much for sharing your exceptional day!

Akelamalu said...

What a great read this post was San, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The play sounds amazing!

Lori Skoog said...

#1. The painting is GREAT!

#2. It is obvious that your real life serves as a great inspiration for your writing.

#3. Your words are very meaningful.

#4. Sounds like you had a spledeiferous evening!

#5. You live life to the max...
I love it.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

Ah, I love your mind San. Also this painting! And NPR. Food for the brain. Fabulous post and great story telling. Thanks!

sukipoet said...

They flags look like prayer flags to me. A most thought provoking post. NPR is just so wonderful, with so many interesting programs. I too am fascinated by those threshold places, those in between places. That play sounds amazing and thought provoking too. I like the way you say it's all about food. And all your play on words about food and drinking it in etc. Yes, most import are the loved ones in the wings, waiting to sit down with us at the diner and reflect and be. I have read the post twice and will read again. So much here.

The Things We Carried said...

I love the way you see.

Sandi McBride said...

You know why I love coming in here (other than that I adore your talent)? It's because you never disappoint...and its the perfect season for such thought provoking fare as you have offered up to us on the proverbial platter!
Sandi

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Wonderfully spiritual and life-celebrating post, San!!!!!

Thank you, my friend!

Thumbelina said...

I can always trust your ponderings San to take me deep in thought. The distance between in there and out here can be phenomenal. You describe it effortlessly.

And the painting as always - exquisite.

SandyCarlson said...

I love your day. Thanks for recreating it here for us. Sundays and NPR are like that. Just loved it. Thanks, San

chewy said...

Recently I've talked with 3 different people about t-shirt graphics and sayings, specifically "Life is Good". You've taken a new spin with "Life is Food". (smile)

Celebration of Life said...

I love your post, San! My head is swimming with your images! I also love your life boat painting!
Jo

Carol said...

What an exciting exploration of some of the not-often-spoken-of entrees in the banquet of life. I love that you hold lightly this life experience, letting all possibilities flow. I feel lighter and more connected by reading this. Gracias, San!

jeannette stgermain said...

The painting is very fitting with what you write about death and un-deatch.
Had no idea you were so philosophical:)
(but often artists are leaning in that direction)

Lee said...

This is a very thought provoking story, San. It has me thinking about wilderness and how one person can know their way in it and have confidence in their survival skills and how another can get totally lost and feel terrified by the very effort of facing life without knowing how to read the road signs that are right in front of their face. I'm going to be going to be attending the quiet day that our church is holding this Saturday. I believe I'll be thinking about that and your insightful post. Thank you so much for sharing this. I loved especially the bits about theatre. It was that very different way of looking at things and how would this represent that which made me study drama in college. Lucky you to have seen those lovely plays!

Hugs,
Lee

Hilary said...

San you never fail to take me somewhere different.. to make me think and to make me so pleased that you blog.

Daryl said...

Anything that makes us think outside the 'box' is a good thing. Many use so little of their imagination due to the daily grind of life and its reality being imposed on us ... most excellent post, San

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

An amazing story from an amazing experience...thank you so much, I was spellbound!
Love, the painting, love the colors and love the shapes!

The Green Stone Woman said...

I love your painting, San, and wish that I could be as good an artist as you are, because you have a lot of imagination and most definitely your own style.

I like your point of view on life and think I would feel safe in your hands with that cup of tea following. Two sugars, please.

San said...

Bonnie, your visits are always a pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

San said...

Kate, yes, "the eerie netherword" is fascinating. And yes, the mind is a very strange place. I could see you working in psychology, but I believe that art IS a way of working in psychology, so in that way, you're already there!

San said...

Kim, you are quite attuned to these unfoldings. And I love your take on the feast of life as being a feast of lessons.

And thank you VERY much for your kind words about the painting.

San said...

Akelamalu, you would have loved the plays. Wish you could have been sitting on the front row!

San said...

Lori, how I love your numbered items!

1. Thank you.
2. Much obliged.
3. Gracias.
4. Mercy buckets.
5. Thnx.

San said...

Food for the brain is right, Leslie. Pass the stories. And chew with your mouth open.

San said...

Suki, your gracious comment is a feast for my ears. Thank you.

And you know, I had intended those little forms to suggest prayer flags. I should have known you would get that!

San said...

The Things We Carried, I love your comment.

San said...

Sandi, I like that you come here, prepared to chow down. I like to see a good appetite in a reader/writer.

San said...

Nick, you of all people, would see the spiritual aspects here. You are sometimes quite saintly. Must be the Alex influence.

San said...

Thumbelina, you clearly have a sense of that phenomenal distance and the magic that resides there.

San said...

Sandy, something tells me you have many such days.

San said...

Dar, I hadn't associated LIFE IS FOOD with LIFE IS GOOD. Now I'm the one who's smiling.

San said...

Thank you, Jo! I am now picturing your head swimming with images as you are locked in the mall. Wink.

San said...

Carol--De nada, amiga.

Your banquet of life metaphor, its less-spoken-about entrees, is striking.

San said...

Jeannette, I agree with you. We artists lean in that direction. I believe our work is a way of getting at the truth, from various angles.

San said...

Lee, I love your wilderness analogy and the fact that you are going to reflect on that during your quiet day in church.

And I can see you taking drama, thirsty for that new way of looking at things. I believe your work in church is carrying on this tradition.

San said...

Hilary, such a generous compliment you've paid me. Thank you.

I feel the same about your blogging.

San said...

Daryl, that's a great point. It IS so hard to escape the monotony of the daily grind and live with imagination. This is a problem for everyone who draws breath, no matter their way of earning a livelihood.

San said...

Mary Ann--"spellbound"--such a beautiful word. I am honored that you bring such a word here, and that you enjoy the painting. Thank you!

San said...

Irene, I would most definitely enjoy sitting down with you, talking about everything, over a cup of tea.

Two sugars coming up!

Shrinky said...

What a delightfully thought-provoking post, San. I think many of us are caught mid-way between our inner and outer worlds from time to time.. isn't it just a matter of degree between a deep sleep or a coma? And yes, life is very much like a banquet, the feast is delicious if we have enough to sample, but we can also lose our appitite if we are too glutinous.

Once again, such a beautifully expressed post, you are simply a pure delight to visit!

Bennie said...

San, thanks for such an eloquent post which described your day and our evening perfectly. I can still see those vampires, it was such a visceral work of dramatic art. A treat for every part of us, except thankfully--our necks!

Laura said...

Hello San, Thanks for your visit. i always enjoy them :) I loved this post. The way that the events of the day all flow gently into each other ...I always see such a vivid picture when you are describing it all..I feel like I am watching through a window. Thanks for the glimpse. The plays sounded fabulous! Love and Light to you always.

jsd said...

Wow, San, much to mull over here. When you spoke of the chairs being turned around I thought of repent in it's church usage, that being, to turn around and come back.

To look into another's eyes and to be seen, how often do you see people walking through life literally with their eyes to the ground, or purposefully not making eye contact, and the ones who can do so fleetingly.

When we fail to see one another we create ghosts out of ourselves.

Artist Unplugged said...

What a interesting post, enjoyed all the tidbits of it and your painting is wonderful.

SandyCarlson said...

I think life is food. Your post made me think of the many times in the Bible when angels or healers do their magic, they tell the recipients of their ministrations to go eat. Jesus did it all the time, and it's a wonderful thing. To remember that we are here now and that a good meal and a change in perspective can restore our lives.

The story of the man who jumped and the realized his mistake made me think of Paul's Case, a wonderful old short story.

San said...

Shrinky, I know I certainly get caught somewhere in the middle from time to time.

You, of all people, my dear, know how to feast. When the time is right.

San said...

Bennie, "visceral" is a good word here. I'm so glad we went. Thank you for suggesting it!

San said...

Laura, I'll bet you've had such days yourself. That's why you could envision it all so well.

Blessings to you...

San said...

JS--turning the chair around as repentance--that is a profound thought!

Yes, it is far too easy to live as a ghost, never seeing others for who they are. To see another is to be alive, not one of the Undead.

San said...

Artist Unplugged, I am honored that you like the painting. Thank you!

San said...

Sandy, you're right. I hadn't thought about that, how in the Bible, a person who is healed is told to grab a bite to eat!

For some reason, I'm not remembering the story you refer to. I am going to look it up...

Indigo said...

Indigo Incarnates

I've always found the vampire mythos fascinating. I think the figure of "vampire" was representative of the nobility of the Dark Ages that preyed on the common man. They didn't suck blood, of course, but instead the nobility sucked the wealth and resources of the peasants and did so without mercy.

~Babs said...

A beautiful painting,,a big bite of Artfood, wonderfully tasty, and very easily digested.
Leaves me wanting more!!

Tammie Lee said...

fantastic! Your telling of your evening is perhaps as wonderful a tale as your evening was. thank you for sharing.

So lovely to have you pop into my blog, it has been way too long!

Dave King said...

That is an exceptionally fascinating post. It is the sort of story that you (I) can't see through the eyes (mind) of the teller, though it is absolutely convincing. That is what makes it so fascinating.

Meg Wolff said...

San,
I enjoyed this immensely. I'm always amazed with you insight and ability to put it into words.

Maggie Neale said...

San, such a grand post.....your words are food for me. Sometimes when I see a long post, I want to skim, but yours held me through with excitement, awakening thoughts laying dormant. Inner and outer lives, yes! You are a fine writer, had to go back and check out the painting which grew during the reading....and all those comments...what an enjoyable time!

Raven said...

What an exquisite piece of writing. Santa Fe seems like such wonderfully creative place. and that play sounds like genius. Have you ever read the Anne Rice vampire books? I thought they were brilliant explorations of life and death and the deep, deep issues of good and evil. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend them, especially the early ones. I always love seeing your paintings.

Kim said...

This was a very interesting story, San. Food for thought for certain, we really need to look at what we feed our souls.

Peter said...

I've come close to death on three occasions. One was a near fatal accident, one was an assault and the other was mother nature getting far too close for comfort. Only one resulted in an injury, however slight, it reminded me again that our days here on earth are numbered and for us to make the most of it doing good here on earth while we can.

Take Care,
Peter

A Cuban In London said...

It's called synchronicity and it's a spooky feeling. I have had it many times, too. I absolutely loved your tale and was drawn to it completely. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Lynette said...

What a wonderful, spookyish post for October San, I enjoyed every word...it was almost like sitting in that front row with the vampire staring me in the eyes! A wonderful and enjoyable read and your painting is a feast for the eyes!

Maggie May said...

I always love the colours in your paintings, San.
And what spooky things going through your mind! LOL!

Nuts in May

Cheffie-Mom said...

What a wonderful day!! And yes "Life is Food". I love it!! Congrats on the POTW Award!!

lime said...

i think i am most struck by the man who was saved from his own nearly successful suicide attempt and by the coma patient. i suppose it is because those are two things which have touched me personally through family members and the desire to know what was going inside each of them was so great and so unanswered.

thank you for weaving the various threads of your day together for us to consider.

Brian Miller said...

great post, thought provoking. congrats on the POTW!

Dianne said...

a wonderful story of how much more there is when we're open and interested

beautifully written as always

Anna said...

San you are genius, I loved this post. Especially about the man jumping from the bridge, that was something else. I am sure those who committed suicide in the past and did not survive probably went through same, but didn't get the second chance, and how about those who didn't have a choice. Death is something scares me, especially now. Life if too precious. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts San. Anna :)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"that we have the choice to climb down from the drama, wrap a scarf around our vulnerable necks, and simply drive to a diner"

Great line, as are many in this piece. Enjoyed it very much. Your blog is a great find.

murat11 said...

I love the torrent of double and triple meanings in your last paragraph, batwings and bites and vulnerable necks. Juicy, cuz, most juicilicious.

distresseddamsel said...

Your post has got me thinking about how we often fail to miss out on the beauty of life only to realize it during the exact moment when we are on the brink of losing it. I defin itely agree with you that sometimes in order to appreciate how much we have we have to come face to face with the one that is going to take it away.

San said...

Indi, I like your interpretation of the vampire figure. Makes a lot of sense.

San said...

Babs, such comments make me salivate. More please. :-D

San said...

Tammie, yes it's been too long. Life keeps getting in the way of blogging.

I'm really glad to see you here though.

San said...

Dave, I am really honored by this comment, coming from a wordsmith such as yourself. Thank you much.

San said...

Meg, I'm always amazed by your support. You are a jewel.

San said...

Maggie, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm the same way about long posts, always tempted to skim, and it's great when I feel like lingering.

San said...

Raven, I haven't read Rice. Yet. I did see the film based on "Interview with a Vampire" and some friends of mine in San Francisco used to live on the very block where some of the book was set. Does that count? :0

San said...

Yes, Kim, food for thought--the next best thing to Krispy Kremes.

San said...

Peter, you've been there, man. No wonder you value your life and your family and your work so.

San said...

Cuban in London, I believe synchronicity is the grease that makes the gears turn. Thank you for visiting me.

San said...

Lynette, I felt you sitting there beside me, staring up into the vampire's eyes. Talk about spooky.

San said...

Maggie May, thank you! You've been known to have a spooky turn of mind now and again.

San said...

Cheffie-Mom, thank you for letting me know about Hilary's acknowledgment. Isn't she wonderful?

San said...

Lime, so you've been touched by a couple of such incidents in your family. I would wonder the same thing.

San said...

Brian, thank you so much for stopping by!

San said...

Dianne, being open and interested--those are two qualities to nourish. You have them in spades.

San said...

Anna, you do have a huge reason to hold life dear. And he's walking beside you in that profile picture. Lovely.

San said...

Jobhunter, I'm so glad you found your way over here. Please visit again!

DeeDee1Whoa said...

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CoyoteFe said...

Nicely written! I love the thought of how a change in perspective allows us to see ourselves and others so differently. Thanks!

Carol said...

Hey San!

I just wanted to tell you that I'm thinking of you and hoping that things are going well for you this autumn day.

I just had to come over and bask in some of the beauty and uniqueness your energy in this blog. Aaahhhhh... now I'm refreshed.

Much peace, much love,
Carol

San said...

DeeDee, thanks for the visit. When I have a bit more time, I'll return the favor.

San said...

Paschal, thank you for leaving a juicy comment, one I can sink my teeth into. And I'm sorry for posting it so late. I'd forgotten I'd turned off comment moderation for older posts and I didn't even know you'd stopped here.

I had about 85 spam comments put on most of the older posts of my blog. Very offensive links to porn sites. It took forever to go and remove them all. I mean I had porn links posted after my post about my uncle's death. Someone reading that is really going to beat a hot path to "hot Asian girls."

San said...

Distresseddamsel, thank you so much for not only visiting me but taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

I look forward to visiting your blog!

San said...

Fe, how wonderful to see you here again! With a graceful reflection, as ever. Thank you.

San said...

Carol, we too are having absolutely radiant days. Early November is seldom like this, and I'm basking in the comfort as well as in the glow of your radiant comment. Sigh.

San said...

Chuck (Meanie), as I was moderating comments, I glimpsed one from you that came in about the time of Paschal's. I clicked to publish it and it never appeared on the blog.

CURSES. Sometimes this blogger software really annoys me. Your visits are few and far between and I treasure them. I never got to read your comment. CURSES.

plainolebob said...

CONGRATS ON YOUR AWARD

The Modivated Mommy said...

I just found your blog, and it is truly interesting! I love the art and in the intensity of your words. I hope that you don't mind that I will be following your blog from now on. I hope that you will follow mine as well.

San said...

Plaineolebob, I really appreciate your return visit; I'm not sure how your first comment slipped through the cracks and into cyberspace along with the spam comments regarding Viagra and Cialis. :)

San said...

Motivated Mommy, I'm delighted that you've chosen to follow my blog. I'll be off to yours soon...

San said...

Kathy, I enjoyed your comment enormously, I clicked to publish it, and got an alert that said "comment published," and yet it never appeared here. This has been happening with comments lately. I'm sorry.

Diane said...

Love the water and boat. My dream is to own a boat someday. :O)

SandyCarlson said...

I needed this reminder that life is a feast. Thanks.