Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fragile

Fragile. color pencil sketch ~ Michael Douglas Jones



Glass ornaments,
fragile, forgotten,
break so easily,
carelessly left
clinging
to the Christmas Tree.

Children,
fragile, forgotten,
break so easily,
carelessly left
clinging
to the Family Tree.

I swept
the broken bits
beneath
the presents;
their presence
forgotten.




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wallpaper

Wallpaper. oil painting ~ Michael Douglas Jones



These walls were papered by the landlord, long before this was my room, and all the tenants here before me never questioned, or presumed, that they could ever change the patterns of the walls, or of the world.

They were held by their surroundings, as sure as if there was no door, for they accepted what was presented and never questioned their décor.

When we look a little closer at the walls surrounding us, we see the seam is slowly lifting, and behind,
 we find
 no wall at all.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aloft

Aloft on 9th Street. A photo collage ~ Michael Douglas Jones

Day 20: Friendship - What kind of a friend were you in 2011? What kind of a friend do you want to be in 2012?

I am not distant; I am right here, calling to you; I am an untethered balloon that moves away from where I want to go. I drop letters and drawings over the basket side to tell you, but they get caught up in the wind and drift away. I am not aloof; I am aloft, and cannot reach you.

 ::

There is no way around it; I am a recluse. I love this world; I love people; I care deeply, but there is a deeper feeling that has always been inside of me, that keeps me inside of me. I can’t call it fear; it is deeper than that. It possesses the whole of me, but to call it phobia sounds foolish. Reaching out is the most difficult movement to make; my arms, my voice, they fail me. I reach out through my art, through my written word, to tell you how I feel, to show how much I love you.

I’m getting better, but you already know
I will never call you, though I want to know that you are well.
I will never email you, but will always give a warm reply.
I will never ask to be your facebook friend, but will eagerly confirm.
I will never stop trying to be a better friend.

I am not cold; my eyes well up with compassion complete.
I reach out to the whole world, but cannot move my hands.
If you would just give me yours;
I am your best friend, I simply need a hand.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Shift Happens

Passerines. mixed media from Eggs in Envelopes ~ Michael Douglas Jones

Day 19: Then and Now
What was your life like a decade ago? How has your life changed since then?


Often, in the last days of December, we look back at the crooked path we’ve worn in the ending year, using that same past to plan the future. Weighted down, but ready, we bring our bricks and baggage to pave a perfectly patterned road ahead. Then, as always, the earth shifts, cracks occur, and we start to stumble; yearly, wearily living along another winding path. Shift happens on this planet, I can’t plan it away. I can make scenarios, make contingencies, but I can’t make sure. There is simply no way to chart the changes that come along in a decade, so finally this year, I’m leaving my bricks behind, while I wander a bit. I still have much of my baggage, but I feel lighter already.

::

A decade ago, I had my first mixed media exhibit, Eggs in Envelopes, which developed out of one of those shifts; the sort that comes out of nowhere, right when you think your road is ready.  That story is here.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Three Onions oil painting ~ Michael Douglas Jones

Reverb11 Day 17: Loathing - Who or what do you loathe and how have you expressed that in 2011?
I never use the word loathe; the sound of it just reminds me of comfort foods, like meat loaf with loaves of fresh baked bread. With that in mind, I present, for your consideration, a dessert tale



Coarsely chopped scorn
and wild white venom
simmered
in the black beast stew;
she baked a loathe
of whole pain bread
and hate it by herself.

Her husband came home
in his cups;
much too late for supper.
She met him
with the cake knife
to serve him just deserts.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Teaching Moment


Day 15. Teaching Moment - Sometimes we find teachers in the most unexpected places. Who surprised you as a teacher this year, and what did you learn?

As we reach the middle of December, I find this Reverb11 project to be a most surprising teacher. I was sure during this year that I was paying attention and being awake. An intense year of art and writing surely was a time of focus; still these questions, near the end of the year, find me without answers. I feel like Herman Cain saying, “No, that’s a different one….I gotta go back and see….I got a lot of stuff twirling around in my head.”  Well, actually, I never feel like Herman Cain, but I am surprised at how little I remember about this year. My focus was a spotlight on my work, when it should have been more of a floodlight on my life.

This is precisely what makes Reverb11 such an excellent exercise; it asks questions that we could be asking every day. I’ve never been one to make resolutions or keep a rolling record of my days, but that sort of attention to the detail of life completely wakes me up to what I am doing. It wakes me beyond what I thought I was; I thought I was awake, when I was sleepwalking.

Now, I’m going to do what I always say is future's futile hope; I’m going to make resolutions. I dislike even saying it, but you can hold me to it. I am going to carry my camera everywhere I go; I don’t mean my camera phone; I mean my real 35mm. There were so many moments, so many miracles, that I saw this year that I could have shared, like the day the praying mantis nest hatched. Have you ever seen that? Hundreds of tiny green twigs scurrying about, faster than light, eating each other; you have to separate them to various locations of the property or they might devour their kin; crazy, but an intense sensation, so much to learn about life.

I will keep a journal of days; the weather, the sounds, the stories of the bees, the comings and goings of the all-around-me.  Like you, I am at the center of the universe; that should be noticed, appreciated, repeated in your story, history, her story.

Sure, there are other solutions and resolutions I should reconsider, but attention is my daily deficit. My attention needs my attention more than my diet, my exercise, or my phobias. To paraphrase my old buddy, the Buddha, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

I could wait until January first, the new year’s day, but I will start early, in the morning, tomorrow morning, Friday; no need to set an alarm; I will be awake.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gratitude

Drawing by My Girl, 2009

Day 14: Gratitude - What five (5) things are you most grateful for from 2011? #reverb11


“An amateur artist is one who works all week at something else so he can paint on Saturday and Sunday.  A professional artist is one whose wife works so he can paint all the time.”  Ben Shahn, American artist 1898-1969


1.    Grateful for my wife
I have loved her since she first sat behind me in 12th grade Science class. Our first date was Senior Prom. A year later, I had to go into the service; she married and divorced; I married and divorced. I made it my mission to find her once again. It took ten years; I will never let her go. She’s a tough critic of my art and writing; most of the time she thinks I would be more successful selling khakis at Kohl’s; still she leaves at 8 and returns at 8, so that I can be this.  She is the saint in my story.  

2.    Grateful for my girls
My art was my first love; it consumed me, satiated me, but it never jumped into my arms, or cried on my shoulder, full of fever. Art isn’t love like that.  I never had children of my own, yet here they are; 40, 35, 12, and 9. They were gifts received by circumstance. Grateful doesn’t begin to encompass what these girls give me. On Friday nights, when they all gather round, it is so loud, they can’t hear my heart, but I can. I act the curmudgeon, so don’t let them know how much I treasure the moments when they bound into the room.

3.    Grateful for my family
My mom lives with us in her own little apartment that the county calls a Registered Living Unit. Someday, I will tell you about the absurd law that regulates such an apartment in this county. Anyway, I count my mother as one of my girls, and I’m grateful for everything she does daily; she was the first one to insist that I should be an artist, no matter what others might say. She is my unconditional fan, so I must discount everything she says about my work. Sorry, mom.

My brothers, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my in-laws; there are so many loving, supportive people in this family that could be saying, “Why doesn’t he get a real job?” They don’t; at least they don’t say that to me. They are always there for me.

4.    Grateful for my online friends
I have met more incredible artists, writers, and heroes this year than I could imagine. They give themselves to the arts and to others without fail; they set high standards that make me work harder, and better, than I thought possible. I am, daily, grateful for these souls I’ve never seen or spoken with, yet they move me in life to a place high above where I once walked.

5.    Grateful for my locals
From the local galleries to the local farms, there are those who advocate for artists, who advocate for a better world, who advance community when the world seems more isolated. I am reclusive, I am most comfortable at home, but this year my locals have pulled me out into the open air of community. A year ago, I would leave home with sunglasses on and hat pulled low; now I’ll stop and have a word with folks, because I feel welcome in a world where I once was worried.

I am grateful for much, but not for things. I am indebted to you; when you read, I am real. I am not an imaginary friend, I will be true. 



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fear

Day 13: Fear  #reverb11  




Back when you were drowning,
 I dove into the deep end,
 pulled you to the surface,
 where you could catch your breath.
 Now that both of us
 have our heads below the water,
 I fear you’ll finally find
 that I never learned to swim.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Unseen Symphony

original oil sketch by Michael Douglas Jones

Day 11 What do you wish you had done more of in 2011? #reverb11

In my memory of moments, there were too few early summer evenings, outside on the cedar bench; my old friend, the cedar bench; the two of us, grayed with age, waiting for the moon to rise. We would sit in silence, as audience to the sunset songs of crickets, frogs, and creek; all in perfect harmony. Somehow, they knew which symphony was scheduled each evening. Too soon that faraway chorus was overwhelmed by unseen cicadas practicing a Philip Glass concerto behind a green curtain; too shy to let us see the performance. I applauded anyway, but the moon was rising; there would be no encore. Even the crows cawed out for more. We waited, and wished; we wanted more, but all and all, it was enough to last me through this winter.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Dance of Beauty


Day 10: A Moment of Beauty  #reverb11

 The whispering muse requests your prescience for the dance of beauty occurring at this moment.

Beauty is not fleeting. Our focus is fleeting; our attention to the dance of beauty is fleeting. Beauty is not a moment; it is a movement. We lie in the grassy field of our youth and watch the billowing beauty of clouds moving to the east, waiting for one to resemble a shape we call beauty. The cloud flowers into beauty and fades to background.

The moment a flower reaches its fleeting peak, we cut and keep it, as if we could save the moment when it was perfection. It was always perfection; it was always beautiful; it was we that didn’t notice. The flower moves into focus and fades into background again; it was beauty before, and beauty as background. Before it became flower, before bud, before seed, before soil and water, it was beauty. Beauty is all there is.

 You also are beauty unfaltering. Before you grew to fit the form we call beauty, before you were born, before your parents were born, and even before that; you were beauty. All of that is the dance of beauty. The dance was never born and never dies. Beauty is not fleeting.


From the seed comes the flower;
from the flower comes the seed,
as the circle never-ending;
you and I are this
that always was and always will be.
Inside seed, was always flower;
inside flower, was always seed.
First came not the one, nor the other;
as perfect beauty,
always was, always will be.



Friday, December 9, 2011

Katydid.




Day 9: My Best Photograph of 2011 #resound11 #reverb11 



On an early August morning, watering the mandevilla, I noticed this Greater Anglewing Katydid on a leaf, not moving; I watched on and off all day, and it barely moved. It’s not the quality or the composition of the photograph that stays with me; it’s this reminder every time I see it. A katydid is stunningly beautiful, but hardly ever noticed, like us sometimes. We try so hard to fit in, to be liked, to be part of the group. If we can just blend into the crowd, we might be accepted, gathered up in the arms of a likeminded world and loved as one of them.  This masterful disguise helps us not get eaten, but we don’t move; we don’t make our mark on the world. I don’t think we have to be extreme in standing out, like katyGaGa, but let our wings show, just a little. Will you do that?  Katydid.





Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Will Stay Here in Joy

Day 8 Joy #reverb11

A past fraught with pain;
that is my past;
a future full of fear;
that is the future;
this moment is not past
or future.
I will stay here,
in this moment,
in joy.




There were 52 Friday nights in 2011, with two full moon Fridays. Which shall I choose? Just about every one brought me joy. There will be 52 Friday nights in 2012, with three full moon Fridays; how can one complain? Friday rarely disappoints, and if she did, she would be forgiven.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To Leave the War House Locked

To Leave the War House Locked ~ original oil painting by Michael Douglas Jones


Day 7  #reverb11 Forgiveness


In my past, there was a warehouse where I stored my weapons of war.  My anger and hurt were in there, with my drawn out plans of vengeance against those that had wronged me.  I locked it deep inside me as I went about my days, and now the lock has rusted shut; I cannot get back in, and I've forgotten what I was fighting about.

Perhaps it is time to forgive those that have wronged me and to leave the war house locked.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On This Carousel

Day 6 What made you laugh this year? #reverb11

Despite the peeling paint all along the midway, we answered the carny’s call, and climbed aboard on New Year’s Night. With a jerk, we started circling quickly counterclockwise.

2011 was a colossal carnival carousel spinning beyond control; faster, and faster, revolution after revolution. Sousa military marches shrieking in quickening 4/4 time; the bursting, blaring calliope sending white hot clouds of steam into the night, exploding the bright blue bulbs above us, darkening, sparking earthquakes and hurricanes, and still it spun faster. The strongest among us wrestled with the snapping wires that tethered the horses to the platform, but as hard as we worked, with arms stretched wide, we could not make the ends meet. No one could stop the whirl and there was only one way off. Brave faces on the verge of breakdown finally gave up and were thrown out into the gravel, where surrounding clowns laughed and left with all the brass rings. Avarice and ignorance watched from atop every spinning painted beast.

As I struggled to make my way through the mayhem to the safe center of the circle, I heard my little girls, out on the edge where the speed was greatest. Out on the edge, laughing loud and enjoying the ride.



When the mind worries, it works up a dreadful scenario and forgets how to laugh on the carousel.




Even when the ride is rough, these two make me laugh.

Monday, December 5, 2011

One Day Like This


#resound11 DEC5: 2011 Theme Song

This month, writers from all over the internet are reflecting on 2011 and thinking ahead to 2012. I decided to join in this time, because I am between projects and know how important it is to work at your craft every day, even if it is only for an hour. In January, I will start a new project, but for this month, you can share in my own story, which at times may not be pretty.

Today, I chose a lighter subject, my 2011 theme song. Every life has a soundtrack playing behind it; a mood music that we hear as we go about our day. Music is an aspect of the arts that has always been of equal importance to any art I make. The photo above is from back in the 80's, when my brother and I formed The All Night Band, a three chord rock and folk outfit that played bars and such. These days, I have many moods and a hundred Pandora stations to reflect each of my personalities. If I’m working on a project, I usually can’t listen to music with lyrics, because the words are distracting, so I’ll listen to something downtempo or classical. My girls are always asking why I listen to sad music so much. I suppose it triggers a deep feeling that helps me find the depth of detail in writing or art. I simply tell the girls that sad music makes me happy; they roll their eyes and off they go. Sometimes, if there is a lot of chaos swirling about, I will go to simplynoise.com, turn up the brown noise and create a cocoon compatible for work.

My theme song for 2011 is not sad at all. One Day Like This by Elbow was introduced to me last spring on Twitter, by either mark Stratton or Brandee Baltzell. It immediately became the song I wanted to hear every morning; a song that starts the day off perfectly. The hook, the lyric, even the video, puts me in a mood to enjoy the world, whatever it brings. It came at an intense time of writing and art, when I was really starting to pay attention to the details of my world; even on chaotic days, I would stop and pay attention to the real world around me, if only for a moment. Real attention is a humbling experience, but also a moment when we can realize that this is all one flow, unfiltered.

Enjoy; it's looking like a beautiful day.

Here is a link to the official video that first attracted me; I love the joy found in this mundane job:



Here is a link to the band performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra:



Sunday, December 4, 2011

reverb11: Let it Go

Day4 - Addition through subtraction - What have you let go of this year?


2:24 to 4:32
a.m. every night;
behind my eyes,
a flashing, ever flashing.
A torn retina
of flashing thoughts;
night after night.
Not nightmares;
madness.
A fist of thoughts
grabbing me,
pounding me.
Look at this.
Look at this.
See what you made me do.
There is nowhere,
no way
to look away.
The fist flashes
and grabs another thought;
pounding me.
This is worse;
look at this.
Now you’ve done it;
Look at this.
Behind my eyes,
my fist of failures
flashing.
You will never.
You will never.
You will never.

Until I
take a moment,
take a breath;
you are my mind,
you are not me.
I am this breath;
One breath, two,
three to ten.
I am this breath;
take a breath;
give it back.
Let it go.
Breathe in,
receive;
breathe out,
return;
receive;
return.
Take a moment;
give a moment;
let it go.
Fall away.



I have studied meditation and Buddhism for years, but only understood it intellectually. Only this year, have I learned how to calm my thoughts and let them fall away, thanks to the books and videos of Karen Maezen Miller.   http://www.karenmaezenmiller.com/videos
While meditation has nothing to do with sleep, the calming breath can be used at any time of the day or night. This has added hours to my sleep and, surely, years to my life.



Saturday, December 3, 2011

reverb11: A Moment in Time


Day3 - A Moment in Time - one moment that you lived in 2011 that you will never forget.

There is only one moment in time; this one. Books will tell you that; I can tell you that; even the internet, which never lies, can tell you that. Do not, for one moment, believe it; find out on your own if there is only one moment. Don’t listen; live it. Logic is my lantern; I listened, I believed, but I never lived it before this year. This year, I actually stopped.

 Stop.

 Wait.

 Do not move.

 Be mindful. Eye full. Ear full. There is the moment in all its beauty, or banality. Just because we savor a moment never makes it nirvana; it is what it is, which is you, in a moment, a universe in a universe, ad infinitum.

This was the year I started to stop, savor, and set to paper every seemingly insignificant aspect of a moment. 2012 is the year I will do that every day, at least once a day; it will make all the difference in my art, my outlook, my life. It will change my world completely. You can believe it. I never lie.



Friday, December 2, 2011

reverb11: It Will Be Different

If you could choose one thing that your children experience in a different way than you have, what would it be?


When I was ten, I slept with a loud old wooden box fan at the head of my bed, pretending it was a rumbling old truck that, every night, kidnapped me, taking me far away from my father. It was a two-ton Reo, green, like the ones I saw across the road at the Army base. Miles away it took me as I slept, but when I woke, I was still there in that bed, in that house of pain. Morning brought the light and I could go outside, away from the house to ease the fear.

By the time I was 13, I could maneuver the night; a quick cat, in kid's clothes, scaling walls and trees in quiet escape. No matter how late at night, as soon as the front door knob clicked open, I was up and gone; in winter weather, I had a ready place inside the closet, beneath a blanket, knees to chin, quiet breath. Not my first choice, closets are inferior hideouts, there’s only one way out. Many nights, I crawled out the window and slept on the flat roof, safe above the ground. There were too many other nights that I had to run to the field beside the Boys’ Club, within a copse of trees, away from cruising police cars, waiting, waiting for dawn to bring light to my world. I could not sleep out there; there might be monsters, but they were less dangerous than my father when he came home drunk, angry, and looking for a fight.

I still sleep with a fan beside my bed, a habit now, but necessary to sleep at all. The slightest noise wakes me and I do a check around the house. My family is sound in sleep, and I will sit for a moment, listening to a child’s breath; a child asleep in a dream with no trucks; simply sleep as it should be; so very different than mine. It’s not much, but it’s everything I wish for them.




.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

reverb11: one word

one word.  
encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. 
explain why you're choosing that word. 
now, imagine it's one year from today.  
what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?

WRITE

Write. Right? Writing is what we do much of the time, but never think much about it. We write; we’re not writers. It’s a means to an end, a narrative that gets our point across. I, seriously, never thought about it until this year. This year I wrote a book. It didn’t mean to be a book; it started as a blog about an art exhibit, a narrative to get a point across, a sketchbook of words about art without drawings. That’s the way I’ve always worked; a visual artist that sketches in words, and then illustrates those words, discarding the writing once the visual is finished. This year changed that system, changed my thinking, changed my art.

I have noticed that, every ten years, my art changes dramatically. This is not a conscious effort; it happens, and then I discover it in hindsight. I won’t go into the centuries before 1990, because my memory fails me, but I didn’t consider myself an artist until 1992 when I had my first solo show of trompe-l'œil still life oil paintings. Before that I was a student of art, a dilettante, dabbling in every medium I could find, trying to find the one, the serious one, because I was a serious artist. Of course, being serious meant that I made up so many rules to paint by, that I painted myself into a corner with rules and lost the joy of the art.

To find the joy, I started working in mixed media in 2000. This method was very similar to how I had worked before; write down the narrative, and then set up the props; only now, I wasn’t spending another 300 hours painstakingly painting an exact replica of the scene; the props were the art. The academic oil painting was no longer necessary.

It is only now that I see that writing is the thread that runs through the art. Every ten years, I seem to simplify, to pare down the excess of the art; maybe that is wisdom of age, or losing the muscle to carry it all. Either way, coming into 2011, the words had become the joy of the art, while the actual visual piece had become the accompaniment.  Was it even necessary?

That is where I find myself as we end 2011. Write. That is the word that I discovered this year; that is the word that completely encapsulates this year. I write; that is the root of my art. I’m not ready to call myself a writer; I am still an artist, perhaps a writist. Maybe my 2012 word will be writer.