Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Later, by the Ringed-Round Hill

Just last night my husband rolled his eyes at Glee, and its pretentious mourning of Whitney Houston, and I scolded him, and told him remember when Steve Irwin died? Because he knows good and well that we sat up late and cried together, watching the Crocodile Hunter's funeral. At which point Noah's adam's apple grew very jumpy, and he cleared his throat and said he didn't want to talk about it anymore, but that Steve Irwin was such a wonderful person.

So full of life.

Just last night, and then this morning I find myself crying over coffee grounds, heart sick and sad to hear that the world has lost Maurice Sendak. Through my own tears I am baffled by this, our human proclivity to mourn the deaths of people we have never met. Then I think that the human soul is like God. I believe that the Divine presence is an actual thing in our world, very real, and that because it is real, any person can feel it and know it, no matter where they are born, or what religion they are raised in.

The power of art is similar to this; invisible maybe, but real. Through a person's art we have known a bit of their soul. Because I didn't know Sendak personally I may not know which part, exactly, of his soul that I have known, but I have known it all the same. It haven't known the personality, but I have felt the touch of another soul through that soul's art, a touch just as real as coffee grounds and orange peels and Tuesday mornings and the Divine. When we mourn artists we never knew, Heath Ledger or Georgia O'Keeffe or Whitney Houston or Maurice Sendak, we mourn the part of them that reached out bright speaking through their art and named us, and knew us, and left us changed. Our spirit knows this, and so it mourns. This is why we have to keep making art, all of us, whatever our form. Because this is how we connect, this is how we know each other, when the exquisite, orgasmic friction of soul on soul is too much. Art becomes the medium that makes connection so intense it is painful, possible.

Possible for us to look into each other's eyes, and not die or turn to salt or stone.

My dad used to read it to me, Outside Over There, Ida with her wonder horn and her serious mistake, her frenzied jig that made sailors wild beneath the ocean moon. And I read it to my girls, that and Wild Things and Bumbleardy and We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy. All his work so deeply rooted in the subconscious, so powerful for it. I've been told before, but I remember now, that we must write to our favorite artists and tell them what their work means to us before it is too late. We can't assume they know.

So, then, here are the lines, the ending, which always makes me cry:

I'll be home one day, and my brave, bright little Ida must watch the baby and her mama, for her papa, who loves her always.

Which is just what Ida did.


  1. This is perfectly lovely and just perfect to read while the tears drop and the coffee grows cold.

  2. Of course it's the art. I have been puzzling over this since Whitney died. No one even thought of her one day and then mourned her in the streets the next. It rankled, but then rankled even more last week when I got all choked up over MCA. But you say it beautifully. It's the art. It's the pieces of them that they put out there that have captured pieces of us.
    More tears today for Maurice Sendak. A truly singular artist. I am so glad that he put those pieces of himself out there instead of keeping them shut up in journals of insecurity. Now they are pieces of so many people and live on.

  3. I applaud your husband for rolling his eyes at pretentious Glee (oh the hatred I have for that show!), but I also applaud you for writing such a lovely tribute.

  4. I completely understand the sentiment of grief when an inspirational artist passes. When you're affected by something--whether it's art or a memorable baseball game or whatever--it sticks with you. You're thankful for those experiences and the people who made them possible.

    This is a lovely tribute. I'm glad I landed her to read it tonight.


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