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Opening the pastels was easy. I slipped two fingernails under the flap, and phwop she went. There I found more shrink-wrap. Why do merchants wrap package, re-wrap, and seal stuff so much? Rhetorical question, I know. They want to make large amounts of product and let it sit forever without decomposing.
What is my son pounding on outside? He needs guidance. I will be back.
He and a friend were chopping wood for the weekly bonfire and sacrifice of virgins (both male and female). I asked him to not stack the wood against the house and fled the scene.
Pastels, always pastels these days. Seizing the box, I shake it to free the package. It will not come out. Prying with fingernails doesn't work either. I don't want to tear the outer box. Scissors are nearby on the coffee table, the improper tool for the proper job. A point of the scissors touching the inner box, and it easily slides out, still mummified in its shrink-wrap. I smell them, but they are odorless. A slice of foam padding covers the top. However, I see a shadow of pastel behind the foam. A pastel of what is to come?
My daughter Amanda found my pastels last night. I was upstairs drooling at amplifiers on eBay. "What are you doing with pastels?" she shouted from down the stairs, sounding indignant. I felt threatened. What if she hurt my pastels? I imagined my poor pastels trashed and broken and ran downstairs to rescue them. She was fondling them. "What are you doing with pastels?" she demanded. She wasn't giving up.
"I'm writing about them."
She accepted that. Whenever I say writing, almost any behavior is accepted. It's like the artist with his nudes, a thing others are not comfortable challenging.
I had opened the pastels yesterday before Amanda did. They were primitive and lumpy. They were darker on top as if oxidized. There was no map for the colors unlike any civilized box of chocolates. How was I supposed to tell what color was which?
After Amanda touched them, I waited for her to leave and checked them out. A couple looked as if they had been lifted out, and indeed some of them had fingerprints from the others on them. I didn't know what to think. She is a pastel expert. I am only in love with pastel.
It is a beautiful morning for getting into pastel. However, the puppy Legend has disappeared from his sitting position below my footrest. I'd hate to find that he ate the downstairs couch while I was writing my morning 100 words. He eats everything. I can't give him rubber chew toys or little squeaky doggie dolls. He eats them. I find them deposited in little pieces on the lawn mixed in with…well you know. So I call him and he comes running to resumes his proper position.
Huh. I thought I was going to get into the pastels this morning.
I've realized that Pastel, just another color, has been slowly taking over here again.
It was a weird morning. My son woke me early. He had scraped another vehicle in the school lot and needed parental support. My son's version of the story didn't agree with the official one, and I felt he was being rail-roaded. But as I listened to junior tell his story, and to continue talking into the silence left by the officer, I began to lose confidence and wonder about the new twists and embellishments of his story. Now I don't know.
Take that Pastel!
It seems the pastels have advocates. Since I'm without real patrons, I have to listen to those I've got.
I can't draw. I have done it enough to know how, but I never developed the skill well. I know to envision the final product in my mind first, and then work from that picture. Well, that's how I do it. Then you need to know how to use your tools, especially the more complicated ones. Pastels would be complicated for me.
Uh oh. I've hit 100 words. I think I am going to be in trouble with my patrons.
The first pastel out of the box is dark blue, or violet, or some shade of those. I have noticed it before. Whenever I uncover the box, one is always leaning out, reaching. I knew I would pick that one.
I lay it on my reporter's notebook. I see that I have pastel on the keys of my laptop. My finger tips are pastel. I remember the purpose of pastel is to slow me down, so I slow my typing, my breathing. I think about pastel and about slow.
I want to keep writing. I hate this 100-word limit.
I pull another pastel, a light orange. I really need that chocolate box map. Pastel slips a couple wavy lines on my pad and then rests against the blue violet forming a ‘v'. It moved into those lines by itself. The pastels appear to be happy together. The orange has green stains on it. He has been with another pastel in the past. Blue violet doesn't seem to mind.
The green stains are probably from Amanda. She can draw. It's too bad I cannot draw. Nevertheless, I am drawing, sorta. I'm drawing on the right side of the brain.
My daughter Amanda came home late last night after her shift at the vet clinic. She found my two pastels lying on the reporter's notebook next to my chair. Kneeling she began quietly working with the two colors, blending them with her fingers creating new colors from the two. I watched, but could not make out what she was drawing. "I've got more colors over here," I offered.
"That's ok," she said. Abruptly she was done, dropping her sunset into my lap. It was a multitude of different colors. When I looked back to her, she was already gone.
The morning turned wet, slicking the grass and pavement with dark passion. The moisture hasn't found the pastels yet however. Today, I pick out a light blue one. It was winking at me from beneath the foam cover, but it was hard to get out of the tray. I now have pastel dust under my fingernails. I will have worse under my nails by evening if the rain lets up, and I go back to work laying stone outside.
I am remembering William Henry Gass's, On Being Blue". I remember a beautiful book. I want to read it again.
Blue Pastel Lite is hiding beneath the table. He is slowly melting there, but he doesn't know it yet. He will be a limp puddle of blue before he realizes his mistake. Like a frog in cool water that is slowly warmed until he boils to death.
Your skin comes of then you know. Bad burns do that. I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, both as a patient and as an employee. The memory that has sunk the deepest into my brain is the voice of a small child pleading, "Please don't take my skin off."
The morning is muggy, and I can't breathe. I am debating whether to turn on the air or the heat. I could run first one and then the other. I can't think of anyone who would endorse this idea. Best to leave the air for someone else to adjust.
A six-foot helium and Mylar flamingo stands in the middle of the room, his head slowly revolving. I had stopped to buy Terry a mother's day card when I saw him. Forgetting the card, I brought him home. Fortunately, Terry fell in love with him. He's a week old now.
I fired the maid. No, I let her go. No, that can't be right; she didn't want to go. I must have let her go. A lovely euphemism. She asked if there was anything wrong with their service. I lied, saying no. The phone rang several times after she left. I imagined it was her supervisor, so I didn't answer. I don't answer the phone before three o'clock anyway.
Service had nothing to do with it. I have determined that it is more stressful for me to have a maid than to clean for two hours a week myself.
The morning is wide and soft like the powder drifting from the blue pastel dragged sideways across the paper. It is a broad march across our ongoing portrait of life, and its position and size threaten to take the entire picture over. It seems everything and everyone wants control these days.
Pulling Pastel Blue away from the page, I look at him. He is flatter than he was. He is looking down, spindly arms moving, dusting himself off with his tiny hands. When he is finished, he looks up at me saying, "I hope you're satisfied with yourself now."
This is my second morning.
I am behind again.
An hour left, and
I can't move,
Crushed beneath the rolling spirit drums.
Violet and mist
And steel blue are running barefoot on my lawn
Over silver and green
The moon's lips have been sewn shut.
It is time for me to rest and dream.
I am walking long-legged over the treetops,
Feet punching through clouds,
Feeling the cold thin wind on my face,
It is cooling my eyes.
The sun waves a bright hand now across the shapes below
Drawing my soul west.
That way I go.
It's time to take another pastel from the box, that dark space where they lay sleeping in their slots. We drive the twenty miles across each one in a tractor slung between four bulbous tires, kicking up trails of pastel dust, dropping down the wall of each pastel berth, and climbing back out again. The cavernous ceiling is luminous here and far away in one corner, you can make out the web. Even from this distance, it is gargantuan. The spider is not there today. It makes the hair on your neck tingle to thing where she might be.
My toes are cold this morning, and I smell like dog. Michael Jr. bathed them yesterday, but I have become used to their quickly regaining that smell. They work hard at it. The dogs, that is. Not the toes.
The windows are open. I haven't closed them all week in this mid-50-degree weather. Sometimes I put on a shirt. Once or twice a day, I turn on the heat to knock down the moisture, and then I turn it off again.
Once you get started writing in the morning, it comes easily. That's another thing I've become used to.
I put the pastels away this morning. It's maid day. I was "picking up" for her. The service called saying they had solved their womanpower issue by hiring a new maid. They wanted to make sure I called them back to evaluate her work. Apparently, she is from Bosnia and her English is bad. They were worried that might cause problems. They were also concerned that she wouldn't be able to clean "up" to American standards. I assured them the language wouldn't be a problem, since I can't hear anything and normally run errands when the maid is here.
100Mornings-52 I didn't start writing my morning until after noon. There were errands to run; I was a consumer. I bought Star Wars tickets for the matinee. I went to the bookstore, where I bought two books. Talking to the counter person I found that I could return the books if I didn't like them. They had to be in good condition, she explained. There were morning garage sales to distract me, three of them. I bought an old tiny broken microscope in a broken wooden box. I bought two long lighters, neither of which worked. What a morning, eh?
Today we coax a pale yellow from the pastel box. Sliding it into the tractor hook, we convoy to the end, and wrestle it over the side. Workmen walk on both sides of the monolith, hard hats unseen over the top. Clothes coated with a light yellow dusting, they are scrawling their names on its sides. Dusty Dan. Hammer Down. Chuck Crane. Paul Web. Art Aloud.
Pastel is a pale reflection of color, a dream allowing many interpretations. It does not force you like acrylic or even oil. It lies there and waits for you to come to it.
On the paper, Pale Yellow becomes swirl, becomes typhoon, and becomes the crazy white whale. Leaping in a lazy arc of sky, Pale Yellow swallows the sun on the way down. The whale crashes against the water, swimming hard to drown the burning thing in his belly, the thing that wants to rise.
The sun glows after Pale Yellow has gone. It drops into darker water. Burning pale skull fish hide their lidless eyes. The ragged fire settles, touching the earth who whispers pastel brown, cries in surprise, and bellows bloody rivers against the sky.
It is dark outside.
I'm wearing shorts now. My body says it is time, and I have to admit I am not cold.
What I am is irked. I am irked at the things my family expects me to do. To them I am nothing. My goals and needs are nothing to them. My writing is not a productive use of time. They strew things throughout the house and over the lawn. They leave dirty dishes in the sink, sticky stuff in my car, and lists of things to do. They complain when I don't do them. I sound like a frustrated househusband.
I have Purple Pastel. Maybe it's lavender, or lilac. There's no map Yanno. Think about Pastel Purple. Purple prose. A softening of the fire, a buffering of the decor. A prose with grace.
I can hear Pastel Lavender as a bar of sweet music. She is intimate and lives in a palace of a powder box, She drinks candle wax and breathes incense. Incense.
Pastel Lilac is spring singing in an old church with the windows open. She is home later, hanging broken from a jar of water, gasping for breath.
I wonder which pastel I really have here?
I let the dogs run in the woods this morning, while I climbed the heart-attack hills, wading through trillium and some purple flower I didn't know. The purple flowers were like a new neighbor to whom I had not yet introduced my self. I stepped over streams and circled swamps herding the dogs away from the lake, away from the lake.
I have thought since my 100 words on purple prose I might want to add a little pastel to the book I am revising. I'm still learning about living. I'm still learning about writing. Those are good things.
Pastel Purple is sunning himself beneath the lamp on my side table. Like a puppy left free to run the house, he was delirious this morning, dispersing shoes evenly throughout the house, tipping the trash and proudly dragging out smelly table scraps, and leaving muddy prints on the tan carpet. He's resting now. His smudges are on the telephone receiver, my computer, and the table itself. Sighing, he rolls over onto his back letting the lamp warm his belly. I've got to round that boy up and pull another Pastel soon. I will watch the next one more closely.
It is quiet this morning. Since I have sat down, I've counted the sounds. I've only heard a few of them. I heard the heavy bomber buzzing of a large fly. I heard a small convoy of trucks and heavy equipment moving down the street. The subdivision is growing. It is merging with others now, as cities do along the main roads. The bulldozers are carving more art through woods.
I hear the keys on the laptop as I punch in each one. The key rather than the finger makes the noise. I hear the ringing in my ears.
The day is Sunday, with its Sunday sunshine, children at home, and cool breezes, and the cat is at the window begging to be let in.
Amanda comes down the stairs. I can hear the groan of each tread as she steps on it. She rolls by with the vacuum. I am thinking she is going to clean up the dog hair on the carpet where she trimmed him this morning. Smiling at her I say, "Well thank you."
Amanda grins, rolling the vacuum past me and carrying it upstairs to her room. I must be doing something wrong.
I could see the Pastel I would pick this morning right away through the protective sheet of foamy plastic. I thought it was red, but it turned out to be dark orange. It didn't want to come out of the box. Having spent most of its life there, it was afraid to be pulled into the larger, more uncertain world outside the box. It rolled over and slid deeper into its slot when I touched it. I've seen this behavior before, and I only picked at it a few times before using a small screwdriver to pry it out.
Pastel Orange reminded me of the book I had just finished, "The Life of Pi." The main character was a Bengal tiger. (I can now see readers throwing their copies of the book at me.) Nevertheless, that is how I read the book. Reading a book is just as much an art form as is writing one. It is a creative act that takes a set of materials and turns them into a representation of the subject. In the reader's case, the subject is the book. The writer and the reader are co-conspirators. Neither is either without the other.
Pastel Orange remains the tiger this morning, crouched on the notepad, eyeing the whale there. The tiger in Pi's book also eyed the whale, and since the book was a multi-level allegory I suppose I should consider what this eyeing the whale is all about.
I think the author was keeping his eye on Moby Dick, the novel, not the whale. He wants to write a book that will be assigned reading in literature classes for generations. He makes that obvious by writing an extra chapter creating the second level of allegory. No one would have found it otherwise.
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