Friday, December 11, 2009

The Disappearing Woman


When my sister Rhonda was 5, she got her head stuck between two wrought iron rails on our front porch. I don't remember what prompted her to put her head between those rails. Maybe she was playing "Jail." All the kids on Emmet Street loved to stand on our front porch, grab a couple of the rails, and chant, "Look, I'm in jay-yul! Look, I'm in jay-yul!" This was well before the days of video games and ipods. Our thrills were much cheaper. If a kid had two wrought iron rails to wrap their hands around, they were in business. They were in jail. Just like Otis on The Andy Griffith Show.


Maybe Rhonda was playing with the idea of her head breaking out of jail. Her logic must have been:

  • I think.
  • Therefore I am in jail.
  • I think with my head.
  • If I can get my head on the other side of these rails, I won't think.
  • I'll be out of jail once I get my head on the other side.
She did have a philosophical bent early on. It runs in the family. It's a wonder I didn't pull such a stunt. Then again, that's what little sisters are for. Did I talk her into this? I hope not, but I don't clearly recall. Although I don't remember who came to her rescue, it had to be our mother. She must have spent a good fifteen minutes lightly holding Rhonda's head, coaxing my sister to turn her head a quarter-inch this way, take an eighth step backwards with her right foot--good! we've got your right ear back--now a quarter-inch that way, step back--here comes the left ear! Having given birth to breech babies twice, my mother was adept at such maneuvers. The neighborhood kids stood in our front yard, silent, in open-mouthed awe of such magic.

Has Rhonda ever put her head through a pair of rails again? Has anyone who witnessed that scene--the breathless kids, their parents watching from the windows--dared a repeat performance? Hell no. And yet we all keep trying to get our head out of jail. My sister writes. I paint.

When a painting isn't going well, I feel like I've poked my head right through the canvas. On the other side of the canvas is a wall, a place to bang my head. When things are going well, though, I feel like a magician has sawed me in half. I gaze from my severed head at my hands. They belong to someone else. They know just what to do. They coax my head to the other side of the canvas. It turns just enough...this way, then that...the top of my head disappears. There goes my forehead. My eyebrows, nose, lips, chin. I am looking at the painting from the other side. I have eyes in the back of my head. Red paint splashes over them. I disappear.

I'm feeling no pain.

Travels with the Magician
48" x 24"
acrylic on canvas
private collection, Mercer Island, Washington

How do you get your head out of jail?

115 comments:

Akelamalu said...

Thankfully I never put my head through any railings though I did once get a tiny metal ring stuck round my tooth. Mum had to take me to Dad's place of work for him to get it off for me. :)

San said...

Akelamalu, I'm afraid to ask how you got a tiny metal ring stuck around your tooth. Shudder.

Jeff B said...

I think I'm one of those ones who function best with my head somewhere between the bars and between being free of them. In school I'd wait till the night before and cram for a test. Now, I become bored easily when there is zero "excitement" in my life. Learning to relax and take a more meditative approach is something I'm working on, but it certainly isn't a natural expression of my being.

Great to see you post again!

Daryl said...

Never got my head stuck anywhere but in a book .. and I am drooling over your painting ...

Bennie said...

I must have been four or five years old when I got my foot stuck in a cinder block. I freaked and so did my Mom. Inevitably she called the Fire Department and the big guys broke the block and freed my foot. It was quite harrowing. Not quite as harrowing as the time, at age six, I essentially fell through a glass door. That episode required elbow surgery--the metal pins are still in place. The things little people do in their explorations of the world. And though I never got my head stuck between railings, I did get my tongue stuck on a metal rail while the rest of the family was ice skating at a state park. So Rhonda & I have something in common: the need to challenge our intellectual capacity, or lack thereof. My tongue felt like it was in jail!

Love you Tiny

Maggie May said...

I should think it would be harder to get a head out of the bars than to get it in in the first place. Its the ears that would be difficult as they would put up resistance. Glad your sister escaped some how or other.
So she is the writer...... well she had to put all her ideas into practice for the future!

My brother got a wooden block with a hole in it stuck tightly onto his finger and when he was very tiny he wrapped the string of a truck round his neck and he started to turn blue as the weight of it was dangling down. Luckily I was old enough to run & get my mother. He was always the one to try out silly things!

Nuts in May

Meg Wolff said...

Beautiful painting, San!

My jail were little metal balls that went to a game. I swallowed them one by one, until my mother noticed that there were only rectangles and squares left and my face a shade of green!

I'm eating better things there days!

Carol said...

It may sound perverse, but I love stories like yours and your commenters'. The experience is so universal!

I get my head out of jail in one of two ways: Hiking or inquiry. Or both! Sometimes I can be a wild woman walking through the trees and having an animated conversation with myself. When I come back home, I'm a new person (and Mr. CarolForPeace is very happy about that!).

Elizabeth Bradley said...

During a heatwave, (temps of 105 and above) one summer, I had a length of iron fencing put up to keep the dogs our of the front yard. My little female cairn terrier, (think Toto), got stuck trying to squeeze through the bars. We had gone to the beach. When we came home she was almost dead. Luckily she survived. So, your sister and my Bonnie have something in common.

I stuck a rolled up ball of aluminum up my nose when I was three years old and my big brother was babysitting me, he claims it never came out.

Celebration of Life said...

I love the story and love the painting. Like Bennie, I got my tongue stuck on a metal clothesline pole. I was gullible when my older sisters prompted me! It only happened once, just once, no matter what anyone says!
Have a great weekend!
Jo

Raven said...

Lovely painting! Alas, my head remains stuck in jail way too much of the time. Writing and reiki both distract me from it, but I'm not sure they release me. Wonderful post as always.

~Babs said...

I once had my tongue stuck to the freezer in the fridge. Mom said it was paybacks for tattle-telling.
Now when my head is in jail and I can't paint,,,I tidy up the studio. That almost ALWAYS helps,,as many times it's the clutter that's got me bogged down.
This is a beautiful painting here,,obviously you were out of your head,,,

G-Man said...

San...
It was so very nice of you to drop by my humble blog today.
I really appreciate your well wishes.
Any friend of the beautiful Lime, is ALWAYS welcome at Chez Knowitall.
Have a Wonderful Week-End...Galen

chewy said...

When I'm stuck in jail I play the "get out of jail free" card. (wink)

Actually, like Babs, I put things back in order by straightening up my studio space. Clear my head by going for a long walk. Then have a cup of tea to relax and ponder on the things I saw on my walk for inspiration.

Sandi McBride said...

I write. I write and write and write...and of your featured paintings...I could write a book about "of two minds"...I love it.
Sandi

Lee said...

When I'm stuck in jail I do one of two things. Sometimes I immerse myself in fantasy, of any kind, until I find myself out of it. At other times I hold running coversations with those bars. While the exact details escape me I think I too have found myself stuck between two bars, although I'm pretty sure they were made of wood.

Hugs,
Lee

SandyCarlson said...

Lately, I haven't gotten my head out of jail. But I have traveled the blogosphere and discovered I am not alone. I really enjoyed this.

Kim said...

How do I get my head out of jail? I think I've got a life sentence and there is no parole.

paula said...

san i would say this is a pretty intense post....such interesting analogies. and oddly, to me, that painting looks painful!
i love how your mind thinks about things...poking through to the other side of the canvas..the magician.
dreamlike and surreal.

Hilary said...

Beautiful paining, San. Your colours are always just perfect. Your sister's tale sounds just like an episode of Leave it to Beaver. :)

My head escapes jail with the click of the camera. :)

Kim said...

I love this painting, San! The colors and the movement are great!

Playing jail was a part of my growing up, too...silly, but we would play games where the "bad guy" would be caught by the "good guy" and we would have a hearing and everything.

To get my head unstuck, I always journal, do yoga, etc.

I love this post.

murat11 said...

I see the Crimson Tide doth run in this painting. I like its shape, and is that a panel/patch, upper left? Where the head went through and returned? In my current Bangkok obsession, I read where Shiva cut off one of Brahma's heads, after B became unduly obsessed with one of his creations. A tangential association, as your teleporting head is engaged in higher matters than divine ogling.

I like your sister's Cartesian logic. Given your transmigration from writing to painting, was she a painter first?

My head's been through the bars for years now. Never realized you could back out. I just keep them decorated with tinsel and Christmas lights.

Ange said...

San -
What did YOU do when you were little to keep YOUR head out of jail??? I spent hours under a tree alone drawing or reading. I still do - when ever I can - and otherwise put my body through a gruelling adventure race which means neither the body nor even the head rule - only the spirit exists. It's the vibrancy I love: Yellow is such a difficult colour for me to paint!

beingmumbeingme said...

That's a beautiful post.

Once upon a time I used to run or cycle to keep my head free, these days I don't have that sort of freedom so I sit here typing and reading.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it makes me feel as though I've added another bolt.

But I'm trying...

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Wonderful story, San! You know, Rhonda may have had no reason for sticking her head between those bars except that they were there.

As my 4-year-old little sister once said about her 5-year-old playmate, Sally: "5-year-olds are silly."

Mike Golch said...

I came for a visit form saintly nick's site.he is right you have a great site.I'm adding you to my lost on my Blog Roll of honor.

Abbey said...

I came over from Nick's Bytes to tell you how wonderful your painting are.

San said...

Jeff, your profile picture says it all. You need the "excitement quotient."

:D

San said...

Daryl, since I varnish my paintings, drooling is always highly appreciated.

San said...

King, I had forgotten all of those episodes from your earlier days, except the one involving the plate glass window. OUCH.

I'm so glad you lived to tell these stories. Had you not, my own life would have taken quite a less eventful course.

LOVE.

San said...

Maggie, I believe you're right about the ears resistance factor. You must have studied engineering.

Wow, your brother's episode with the truck and the string and his neck and the blue face--I never heard anything like that. He was quite the misadventurer, wasn't he?

San said...

Yes, Meg, your diet has improved dramatically. Metal balls aren't that macrobiotic, at least not as I understood your book. :)

San said...

Carol, you're right. These experiences are universal and it's so much fun to read about others'.

I like your jailbreaking techniques. They fit.

San said...

Elizabeth, the ball of aluminum must be the secret of your success!

I'm so glad you got home in time to rescue poor Bonnie.

San said...

Jo, I am going to fact-check your story with Rubye and Ellie. Just kidding.

Thank you for your wonderful support!

San said...

Raven--writing and reiki--I should have guessed those would be the tickets for you. I believe you are free!

San said...

Babs, thank you for acknowledging my out-of-head condition. :)

You know you've made me remember getting my own tongue stuck on an ice cube tray. Remember those metal ones? YIKES.

San said...

Galen, thank you for stopping by. My thoughts are with you in the coming weeks...

San said...

Chewy, when you haven't drawn the "get out of jail free" card, those are great ways to get out. Uncluttering, walking, then remembering what you saw--sounds like a way to unclutter the head.

San said...

Sandi, feel free to write a book about "Of Two Minds." I'm thinking cover illustration.

:)

San said...

Lee--running conversations with those bars--that's a powerful idea! Thank you for that.

HUG.

San said...

Sandy, you are definitely not alone. Look at the comments here. Thank goodness for blogging!

San said...

Kim, I love your joke. I know you felt it too obvious to say "I gather up scraps and piece them into something beautiful." But that's just what you do. You can't fool me.

San said...

Paula, when I made the painting, it didn't look painful to me. Just paintful. But come to think of it, it was purchased by a trauma surgeon and a nurse. Seriously.

Go figure.

San said...

Hilary, your escape mechanism delights us all.

"Leave It to Beaver." Yes, I can see that.

San said...

Kim, you and your playmates really played jail to the hilt!

Yoga and journaling--those are excellent ploys. YES.

San said...

Paschal, keeping the bars decorated--that's wise. Your Shiva story makes me shudder, that, and the fact that you observed the patch in the painting, and the spilled Crimson Tide.

Good question regarding my sister's past as a painter. No, but ironically, her sister (her twin) used to draw, and to this day, loves to encourage the artistic talents of her grandchildren.

San said...

Ange, that's a real state of freedom--when neither the head nor the body rules, when the spirit IS.

Speaking of trees, when I was a kid, I loved to climb a tree and read a book in the branches.

San said...

Beingmum, yes, you're trying. And I believe you're enjoying success. Cyber networking is a blessing when we can't get out because of responsibilities. And your responsibilities are important ones!

San said...

Nick, you are a wise man. And that four-year-old sister of yours was wise too. I agree. "5-year-olds are silly." Very silly.

San said...

Mike, you've honored me twice. By coming here and by adding me to your blogroll. Thank you!

And many thanks to Nick for sending you here.

San said...

Thank you so much Abbey. I tried to go to your blog, but it looks like you don't have one. A blog reader--I appreciate that! I hope you will visit again.

The Green Stone Woman said...

Your painting is lovely. I do love the color red in a painting as it gives it a feeling of passion and life at its most intense. I simply love the color red, I suppose.

I get out of jail by rearranging my living room or my bedroom. The harder the work, the better. It releases my creative juices and makes the muse come to me. I like nothing better than sitting in a rearranged room.

Poetic Artist said...

The things we do as kids and how we bring into our adult life. I wonder if you did not talk her into it.LOL...I love the entire post.
Katelen

layers said...

What a funny humorous lead into what you/we go through trying to paint or do anything creative-- trying to poke through, break out, see the other side-- fun post.

Tammie Lee said...

Fun to read your process with painting. Your sisters tale remind me of being that age and sticking my tongue on the freezer shelf- ouch!

Shrinky said...

Another wonderfully thought provoking post, San.. and I adore this painting, it's so full of energy!

I used to work very long hours in a pretty demanding environment, my escape then was to jog for miles, and to skydive at the weekend. Feels another lifetime ago now. These days, both my almost permanent jail and only occassional release is in writing - 90% turns out as absolute dross and depresses me no end, but then once in a while I find a spark that runs ahead with a life of it's own, and then - pow - suddenly I find I am sky-diving again! In between the 90% of constipated would-be creativity, I turn to cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and to my portrait photography for release - but those only offer a limited day-pass away from writers block prison (sigh).

jsd said...

I had one rough summer which involved my knee and my foot. There was alot of construction going on in the cookie cutter subdivision I grew up in. One morning I stepped on an empty pallet wearing flip-flops and well the nail went through my foot. I other incident involved cement sewers; a kid would get indise and we would roll it. I was on the end and the momentum pulled me over the top. My knee got lodged, and no one was paying attention, so I had to drag my knee out otherwise it would have been crushed. Now, I don't step on pallets nor do I roll cement sewers :)

I don't have any consistent way of getting out of my own head. It used to be poetry; now it's a mix of journaling, poetry, and photography - none of these are consistent. Though I think and hope I have finally found a way to articulate those thin spaces one finds themselves in with others.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Love the painting...strong yellow and it works!
Oh, the "Rhonda Dilemma"...how to get out of a tight spot? In art making I always believe in the plan of taking a break, meditating, and try again! `

San said...

Nora, I've enjoyed the color red since I was a little kid.

And like you, I find it restorative to sit in a rearranged room. What IS it about that?

San said...

Katelen, I am going to ask her what she remembers about it. What if she tells me, "But it was YOU who got stuck!"

San said...

Donna--"poke through, break out, see the other side." Clearly, you've been there, babe.

San said...

Tammie, someone else mentioned a tongue on the freezer shelf scenario. What were you trying to lick up?

:D

San said...

"A spark that runs ahead with a life of its own." Shrinky, that phrase is a keeper. Among the 10%, which I believe is an underestimation of your success rate.

I didn't know you did portraits in photography. Woman, you are full of surprises. Good ones.

San said...

JS, you are a master of "articulating the thin spaces." And you manage to do it without rolling cement sewers or treading on pallets in flip-flops.

A good thing too!

San said...

Mary Ann, at one time I didn't care for the color yellow. But now I find that it often shows up prominently in my paintings. It makes me feel good.

Thanks for the reminder to take a break. I so often become obsessed and forget to let things go for a while. Those whiles away can be really replenishing, no?

lear1958 said...

Hi San, I had forgotten that incident. Thanks for such a creative spin on my big misadventure.

San said...

OK, Rhonda, so it WAS your misadventure. I began to wonder if it was my head that had gotten stuck.

And you are quite welcome for the "creative spin." Now that reminds me of someone who had their brother climb into the clothes dryer. I can't remember who that was. Let me think...it'll come...

Sparkling Red said...

I wait for the sentence to finish. I have a lenient judge. I've never been sentenced to more than a few months at a stretch.

Incidentally, in real life I've never got any part of my body stuck in anything. The closest I ever came was stapling my thumb.

San said...

Spark, I'll refrain from asking what your thumb got stapled to.

And you are fortunate indeed to have such a lenient judge.

CoyoteFe said...

When I was five or so, I was on a elevated train platform in Philly with my mother and grandmother. There was a wrought iron railing, so - of course - I stuck my head through it. Closest thing to the crazy mountain climbers who do it "because it is there!" Needless to say, there was general panic when the train came along. Luckily I escaped jail! Now I am an escape artist!
Your painting recalls a Phoenix rising to me.

lime said...

wow! great post with a great question. i'm really trying to figure that one out because since going back to work i feel more imprisoned than ever. oddly enough an ice storm that trapped me this weekend made me feel a bit freer.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
~walt whitman

katie jane said...

Usually, if I am "stuck in jail" I take time out to read a book. I've been reading a lot of books lately!

Cricket said...

Where is heaven?
It is where you are lying
asleep, drunk.

- The Zenrin

As good advice as any. The power of positive drinking. Perhaps this won't get you out of jail, but you'll feel better about it for a while. Congratulations on POTW.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I like the painting very much.

Jail? I get out by putting my pen to the paper in my journal. Always seem to feel better after that.

Doc said...

I like that painting!

When I am stuck I simply have to get away and go for a drive... clears my head.

Mental P Mama said...

I think you write AND paint;) I do some of my best thinking in jay-ul. Congrats on the POTW!

Helena said...

Sleep.
Sleep is the healer.
I say to my partner, when I can feel the black abyss coming back, "I need to get my head down" and he knows that that means about 3 hours in bed. Light sleep, radio on very, very low, low light, big duvet and me curled up underneath, feeling *safe*.
Later on, I have a cup of tea.
You have to remember to be gentle on yourself. If someone close to you were down, you'd put an arm round them, stroke their hair. This is how you have to make yourself treat yourself. No condemnation, just gentleness, and the permission to check out for a while....

Lynette said...

That must have hurt, so painful on the ears...trying to squeeze back through those hard porch rails. We kids knew how to play back then and I'm thankful I grew up before computers and computer games. We knew how to use our imaginations, even though sometimes it could be painful, like in your sister's case, ouch! San you worked pure magic with 'Travels with the Magician' it's gorgeous!

Lynette said...

San, after reading some of your other posts which made me smile, I have to share what my daughter did when she was little. We were playing the game tiddly-winks, where you flip the little plastic disks into a cup. She stuck one of them up her nose and my husband had to get it out with tweezers! LOL, scary but it turned out ok. :)

Carol said...

Beautiful beautiful painting, San!

Only thing I can relate to your sister's head in the railing: When I was teaching 2nd grade, this darling little 'devil', Patrick, stuck black crayons...one in each nostril, up his nose, pretending to be a dragon. You got it...they both broke when I caught him, and he ended up in the ER!

gaelikaa said...

I write. That's it!

Congrats on POTW

San said...

Fe, luckily you lived to tell that story, and many others.

Phoenix rising--I love your vision!

San said...

Michele, the Whitman quote is certainly appropriate with regard to your outlook. How about this Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of lesser minds." That's probably a paraphrase, not an exact quote. After all, exactness reflects a foolish consistency.

San said...

Kate, there have been several responses here revolving around books. I guess we bloggers are the reading kind, no?

:)

San said...

Cricket, I admire your wit.

Thank you for stopping by here. I hope you'll return often.

San said...

Midlife Jobhunter, thank you!

Journaling, that does provide release. I should do it more often. Thanks for the reminder.

San said...

Doc, there's something about moving in a car through space that does clear the head. Good idea.

And thank you so much for visiting. I have to get over to your place...

San said...

Mental P. Mama, to do good thinking in jay-ul--that's what I call being present.

Thank you for coming over from Hilary's. Isn't she great?

San said...

Helena, now I have the urge to go home--I'm at work right now--crawl under my big comforter--and be very cozy and quiet.

San said...

Lynnie, your generous words about my painting are music to my ears, but your vivid description of pulling ears out of jail bars makes them smart. Sounds like you've been there!

I completely agree with you with regard to the imagination--it's a kid's best toy. Come to think of it, that goes for adults too.

San said...

Lynnie, I remember tiddly winks. Neither of my kids ever got a tiddly up their nose. Or a wink. Which is which anyway?

San said...

Carol, Patrick the crayon-breathing dragon must have been a hit in the ER.

What a harrowing day for you! But so funny in retrospect.

San said...

Gaelikaa, I'm honored by your visit. I look forward to reading some of your writing on your blog...

Peter said...

Hi! I'll be away over Christmas so I'm here early to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – take care, Peter

San said...

Peter, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Safe travels, friend.

And may 2010 be very good to you!

Anna said...

Oh poor Rhonda, and you are so right about the different times, I still remember making my own toys from acorn, lol.

San I dropped by to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Lots, lots of happiness. Also I wanted to send warm thanks for being a good blogger friend. Anna :)

Carol said...

Happy Holidays, San! Warm wishes for this season and for the new year.

xoxo
Carol

~Babs said...

Just driving by to say Merry Christmas to you and yours!

San said...

Back atcha, Carol!

Happy journeying to you...

San said...

Babs, next time don't just drive by. Drop in for some cookies.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Lee said...

Right back at'cha San! Merry, merry Christmas and may the New Year bring more joy than you could ever imagine.

Love,
Lee

San said...

Lee, those New Year wishes are very generous--thank you! And same to you, friend...

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Hurray, San! A Mac! That's the best for graphics I hear). I'm so glad you can now get into my blog. I thank Santa Claus, whatever be his/her name, for your new computer!!!!

Blessings to you and yours for the remainder of 2009 and all of 2010!

Alex is happy for you, too.

San said...

Nick, I am feeling so blessed to be married to Santa (Bennie). My laptop was a Mac too, but it was older, a hand-me-down from my daughter, and had encountered some glitches. I'm at work now, but when I have some time at home on the new i-Mac, I hope to blog about my good fortune.

Blessings to you and Alex...

San said...

Anna, how did I miss your comment?

I count myself lucky indeed to have you as a blogging friend. Happy New Year to you and your family, my dear!

Shrinky said...

Just popped by to wish you a happy New Year, San. Hope 2010 brings peace, health and happiness to you and yours (hugs)!

San said...

Same to you, my dear Shrinky!

Love and joy to you and all at the House of Shrinky in 2010...

HUG.

Meg Wolff said...

Hi San,
Wishing you the best year ever! (Though I bet every year is BEST for you!)

San said...

Meg, I appreciate your optimism.

I am wishing that 2010 exceeds your expectations. And I know you have high expectations!

distresseddamsel said...

If we are to look at the bigger picture, we can see that your sister had learned one of the vital lessons in life: Getting involved in anything that excites us is nearly effortless, but getting out of it after we have learned that we have made a mistake is downright difficult. Luckily, when it comes to art, I always held on to my philosophy that what seemed like a mistake is but another portal opening into a different world. Usually, I block those sensors in my head and see where it leads me, and so far I have never been dissatisfied with the results.

She Writes said...

Hope you are okay! You are missed.

Sunshine said...

Hi San

Its been long time so how are you doing.. I just want to wish you Happy New Year.. Hopefully, this year brings you lots of happiness and prosperity in Life...

Missing you
Love
Sunshine

jingle said...

it is Happy to visit your blog,
keep posting COOL stuff. :)

Anonymous said...

When I read this post last December, I was stuck in the midst of several creative projects: feeling trapped by a voice I had established, a personality I had cultivated, and a range of topics that had begun to feel way too familiar. Made me irritable and resentful -- and this post of yours came along and helped me see how much of my feeling was self-imposed. For whatever reasons, this post of yours gave me permission to do what I knew I needed to do: step back, wriggle loose, breathe. Anyway, it's about time I stopped by and said thanks: so thank you!

Hope the chilly of winter is past, and you are enjoying the full bloom of a Santa Fe spring!

--anno