Last night I was looking over all my drawings from the Tuesday life-drawing session and Joy said, “You know what I like best about these? How much you’re loving drawing them.” I couldn’t agree more. I did not set out to love drawing during this sabbatical; it didn’t occur to me that that was possible, people who draw for pleasure always seeming like another species. I just wanted to tackle my fear of it and, I hoped, reduce that fear. Now I go off to these sessions with excited anticipation, and the two hours fly by. I do feel some trepidation when I face the blank sheet of paper and the real live inexpressibly beautiful model, but it’s minor. Amazing.

I keep thinking of a repeated theme from a book my sister used to have (probably still does), Letters to Horseface by F. N. Monjo, which comprises fictional letters from the boy Mozart to his sister. He keeps encountering this and that musician and saying “The clarinet is such a beautiful instrument–I have to write a concerto for it” and likewise about violin, flute, etc. But in the last such remark, IIRC, he decides the human voice is the most beautiful of all. That’s how I feel about drawing people. Cats, trees, stone walls, the light falling on a rooftop, are all beautiful beyond words (and certainly beyond my capacity to draw them), but nothing inspires me like “the human form divine.”

Current project: collages/drawings to illustrate Emily Dickinson poems. I’ve been thinking about this one in particular–meditating on it as in lectio divina, trying out drawings, seeing what emerges.

The Soul should always stand ajar
That if the Heaven inquire
He will not be obliged to wait
Or shy of troubling Her

Depart, before the Host have slid
The Bolt unto the Door —
To search for the accomplished Guest,
Her Visitor, no more —

(No. 1055)

By the way, ministers and other users of online quotations pages, be wary. Looking for the text of this poem, I found many incidents of the paraphrase “The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience” passed off as something Dickinson herself said. Typically of her, the poem is subtle and complex, and typically of internet quotable quotes, the misquote isn’t. Of course, internet quotations pages are 99% copies of other internet quotations pages. If you can’t completely trust your ear to know when something sounds like 1860 and when 2010, when it sounds like something Nelson Mandela would say in his inaugural address and when it’s more like Marianne Williamson (and who among us has an infallible ear?), it’s best to confirm the quote with Bartlett’s or some other resource that actually identifies its sources.

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