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“The UU Occupier,” who describes himself as “a Green, an anarcho-pacifist, a secular humanist, and a Scot,” and is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, has begun a blog called “I Am a UU Occupier.” It’s great to have an addition to the UU and economic justice blogospheres. Check him out!
Adrienne Rich has died. I have used her work in worship (“Transcendental Etude,” excerpted in our hymnal) and preached on it ( “Power“) and quoted it in my statement of why I’m a minister and what my vocation is about (“Natural Resources”):
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power
reconstitute the world.
It sometimes gets printed, incorrectly, in this way: “My heart is moved by all I cannot save, / so much has been destroyed. / I have to cast my lot . . . ” etc. Breaking the sentence into two sentences that way, and making the first half a complete statement, implies that the rest is somehow separate: that “casting our lot” is what we do in spite of this heartbreak and this destruction. But what the poem says to me, says for me, as it was written, is that it is because so much has been destroyed that I want to be among those who dedicate their lives to tikkun olam, the repair and healing and remaking of the world. That is more powerful and empowering.
As soon as I read of her death, I thought of the poem of Rich’s whose phrases have the most staying power in my mind, “Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev.” I wanted to post it here, but it does not print out correctly on the computer and I don’t want to mangle it, so I hope you will click on the link and read it as she wrote it. (I also recommend reading it aloud.)
The main texts for my sophomore English class in college were the Norton anthology and Rich’s collection The Fact of a Doorframe; if I recall correctly, it was the only volume by a single poet that was required. Piece after piece in that book was poetry by Emily Dickinson’s definition: it took off the top of my head. It never has fit back on the same way since, and marvelous things drift in and out that would not have taken shape if not for her words. Thank you, Adrienne Rich.
As usual, a mixed bag. Each of these has something about it that was successful. I’m encouraged by this, because I’m feeling stuck–like I keep doing the same things that aren’t working. So it’s good to remember that some things are working even so.
Some hands that are coming along:
I loved working on this hand, with its big ring and relaxed position. The finger the ring is on didn’t work right. The two on either side bend but it just looks, I don’t know, mangled. Fingers are almost like eyes: a few lines and shadows are enough to show their true shape; get one wrong by a little bit, and suddenly they are barely recognizable. And hands are almost as expressive as faces. I’ve been trying to sit up close so that even my increasingly myopic eyes can focus on the model’s hands without squinting, because they are still mostly what I want to draw. Although this one, Woman with Mangled Middle Finger, captures the overall expression of the pose too:
On this one, I knew as I drew the left arm that I was making it too short in order to fit everything on the page. I just couldn’t face starting on a new page at a smaller scale, or abandoning the attempt to get both hands in. Ah well, the focus of the drawing was really the two hands anyway, though I like the whole attitude of her upper body:
Nothing works here but the elbow, which I do like:
My aim in this one was to include both hands. The left one got short shrift and so came out flat. The right one, though, is a lesson to me in how few marks are needed to make the full shapes emerge. It’s quite minimal and yet it works, unlike the more elaborate shading on the forearm.
In desperation on a bad day, I really changed the kinds of marks I was making. That often helps, and in this case, it had interesting results (if a somewhat more dramatic appearance than I really like), and loosened me up so that another good one was possible (the first drawing in this post, above). Maybe I should bring along pastels or pencils so that if nothing is going well, I can ditch the charcoal and try something really different.
On this one I made myself work fast. It was only a seven-minute pose but I really wanted her whole torso and that nice twist of her neck, so fast was the only option. I tend to fuss too much over details, so speed is a good antidote.
One thing I figured out after yesterday’s session, and after reflecting on what’s been hardest for me these past three sessions, is that I am working too big. Many of these sketches fill an 18×24 paper. I went in that direction in order to get into more detail in places, but it’s gone too far and seems to be making it harder to capture subtleties of light, not easier. Next week I’m going to scale it all back down, and that might be the change that bumps me out of this rut. I should probably cut the paper in half to help myself along.
Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes (“Ella’s Song,” Sweet Honey in the Rock)
What does it take to get justice in this county if you’re a black man attacked by a white person? When will young black men be free to walk in safety?
Your assault can be captured on videotape as Rodney King’s was. You can be shot 41 times, as Amadou Diallo was. Your killer can document his own stalking of you on a recorded call to 911, as Trayvon Martin’s did. And it still doesn’t seem to be enough to land a conviction, or even a proper investigation, of your attackers.
What will it take?
For a start, it will take millions more of your countryfolk, especially the white ones, demanding justice. That’s why this Sunday is “Wear Your Hoodie to Church Day” at UUCPA. Everyone is invited to wear a hooded sweatshirt, and we’ll put our group photo out there to show the world that our hearts are broken by the death of Trayvon Martin, that we are watching, that we want the same justice for his family as we would want for our own, and that we will not rest until black Americans are as free as white Americans. (If you don’t have a hoodie, show your support by being in the photo anyway!)
Last night was the last of our midweek contemplative services. They have been very special for me and other participants, but since the attendance has remained small and recruiting leaders has been difficult, it is time to call an end to this phase of the experiment. Maybe we will try them again in the not-too-distant future, in some form, if there is a groundswell asking for them.
The theme last night was “heart to heart,” and we had a ritual of blessing little pewter hearts with something we have gained from coming to these services, and/or that we hope that others will take away with them. We blessed them silently, each of us putting our hand over them, then I gave a heart to each person, and after I spoke their name, we went around the circle speaking the blessing we had each given. So I have a heart in my pocket that holds tenderness and gentleness, compassion, clarity, generosity, humility, space for reflection, and the love and support of friends who show how they feel. All blessings I am very glad to carry in my heart. One more blessing is this congregation, whom I love so much that it’s a good thing that heart is made of pewter or it just might burst.
Edna St. Vincent Millay is speaking for me right now.
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.
Crowned with lilies and with laurel they go: but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains–but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,–
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
I still have to make my final, week-late Black History Month post. Today, though, just drawings. Mostly hands; a few feet. Our church’s lobby serves as a rotating monthly gallery, and I’m seriously contemplating having a show there consisting entirely of drawings of hands, but I’d have to have 8-10 drawings I was happy with. None of these is quite it, though the top left one comes closest. The model with the fabulous hands was there again this morning. I’m going to do justice to those veins eventually.