Sunday, November 4, 2012

how do you know when your work is done?

i must confess i've been very satisfied to do nothing creative in the past two weeks since leaving the lookout. this summer i enjoyed the day before my days off because i dedicated it to cleaning house, loading up the truck, packing the laundry. i closed down the computer by noon. what a relief! no pictures to work with, no snow-white pages to fill. i abandoned the effort of digging into my past, my psyche, and blackening  the blank page. 

yes, i find it so much easier to simply shuffle my stuff around. for 14 days i've been going through boxes and tossing bags-full  of papers, taking cameras and gadgets to the local jewish thrift store. they provide a free, walk-in health clinic once a month, so that produces something concrete. a new, never-used electric guitar and  a synthesizer keyboard. more manila envelopes than i could count. 

as for the storage spaces i rent: a hundred and twenty boxes of books going to a friend starting a used bookstore in berkeley. (two trips completed, two to go). everything not packed in boxes, like the musical instruments, had to be cast out. true, i've a whole wall of manuscripts, notebooks, letters, memorabilia. to tackle that i need a bit more courage. forty years of writing, ten of taking a million pictures a years, mementos of travel in forty countries, not to mention the laden army-lockers once belonging to my father. 

so, here i sit. yesterday, i spent the whole day rifling through boxes of camera equipment, getting them organized for a future sale. the rabid picture-making of the past decade seems to be waning. why take another photo when i already have one like it? and as for writing a poem, i've kept a couple thousand from the past. repeating myself has never been fun, the reason i couldn't become a teacher.

ah, i have realized: there is no good ending for an artist. all the pleasure has been in the work and the process the first love. which leaves out children, most people's true legacy. it is a risky business. death, drug-addiction, failure can dog the kids, eliminating your gift to the future. yet, when it works out, the parents can say, 'i've done my bit.' and they can putter in the backyard with a clear conscience. in fact, anything taking a lot of effort and concentration hardly seems worth it. their time has passed them by.

last night i watched a documentary of the intellectual life of new york in the fifties. i passed through in 1954, retaining scars on my face to this day from hitting the bottom of the swimming pool in the st. george hotel. hmm, i wonder where that picture of me standing in front of the statue of liberty with bandages on my upper lip and forehead might be? showing off for my mother again, leaping off the high-dive. is that what it finally all adds up to?