Monday, November 21, 2011

how did i find the other me in me?

discomfort. (unpleasant to say it, but somebody had to.) by changing places and circumstances, cat-sitting for a week in berkeley and roaming the streets and museums of san francisco. we're not talking extreme deprivation, just a change in routine, the house cold, the bathroom upstairs, walking to the subway past the homeless posing as demonstrators and kids flooding out of the high school for lunch.

what happened? people started talking to me out of the blue. a couple before a flamenco concert, a pretty grad student from san francisco studying in paris and complaining about the bus service. another time a woman from philadelphia asked me where to get off for golden gate park. she praised the transportation system! and said, 'how wonderful to live in a clean city.' yes, i remember years ago a pop bottle exploding on the top of our family car passing through her town.

i found myself joking with strangers, complimenting them on their work, in other words i came out of my shell in some way that encouraged people to speak with me. what a pleasure. that hasn't happened in a long time. and it's all because of discomfort. back home in my little room, i don't have to go anywhere. i'm not pulled out into the world of Titian and Pissaro, not stunned by a beautiful painting by Manet and a couple by Watteau.

in fact, i had a small epiphany. after gazing at photos in the realistic manner, not to mention aisles of art in the same style, i stumbled on a little cezanne. i'd never understood his appeal to picasso and the moderns. this time he felt absolutely refreshing, me seeing his piece as an abstraction. what a relief from all these wonderful, ordinary, expected versions of reality. abstraction lies behind every work of art, yet it took cezanne to bring it forward.

yes, here in my little nine by twelve foot monk's cell, lovely trees out the window, the bathroom and hot water a step away, the Internet service like lightning, heat in winter, coolness in summer, a soft bed, food a quick fix, i tend to rot away in my thoughts, my very pleasant daydreams. this time, coming back, i asked myself, 'where have the last thirty years gone?'

a few photos and watercolors from this expedition, the revolving door, and that is definitely meant metaphorically: