Landscapes

When my mornin’ comes around, no one else will be there
so I won’t have to worry about what I’m supposed to say
and I alone will know that I’ve climbed the great big mountain
and that’s all that’ll matter when my mornin’ comes around

~ Iris Dement

My mother’s brother, my uncle Geoffrey, died last October. The cancer in his body from years of smoking metastasized quickly, and just as soon as he was admitted to a terminal care facility, he was gone.

I did not visit him before he died, as he would have not recognized me nor would he have cared that I was there. My sister visited him religiously, but my mother could not face the inevitability, so she kept her distance. However, once he was gone the sheer tsunami of mortality washed over her, leaving her to wander through the landscape of life’s uncertainties.

During his life my uncle was a fairly well-known local artist in San Jose. He created etchings, lithographs, and taught at the local university. His art is in several public permanent collections including the San Jose Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts San Francisco, Lannan Foundation New York, and Crown Press Berkeley.

Just a week ago my sister invited me to his house to choose some of his prints for my own. He had this great studio in the back of his house in Willow Glen — a messy converted garage filled with his creative life. As I stood at the table flipping through his prints I felt like I was standing inside of him, that the walls of the studio was his body’s frame, his art his presence, and the thin layer of dust on the floor his heart. I don’t know any other way to describe it.

One liked one piece in particular very much. It was a print called “Tapas” and he had made ten versions of this print. I think I chose 2/10 and 6/10.

This time I spent looking at this piece got me thinking about how little we know about the mind. I felt like what he put down on paper was his interpretation of his mind’s landscape. I sensed that his prints were a rendering of how life’s wind, rain, sun, death, fruits, and flowers leave their marks on our brain, and this output was my uncle trying to make sense of it all.

Tapas

Seagulls

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding.” – Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach

Last Friday I had a meeting near the ocean, bright and early. I always think it’s going to take me a while to get there, but it never does, and on this particular morning it was no different. This is a meeting with myself, to talk with the birds and to take it down a notch, so to speak.

Sometimes when I’m down by the sea I buy some bread and I feed it to the seagulls. They all descend at once, some watching and waiting cautiously from the rocks, others bold enough to snatch the bread just near my feet, where the opportunistic pigeons are getting in on the action. I always coo at them with my favorite sweet nothing of the day, rehearsal I’m sure for the day I’m a crazy old woman. A man in the parking lot of the nearby restaurant snaps my picture.

I take a deep breath and intently watch the gulls. I love how their yellow and black eyes contrast beautifully against the feathers on their head. Most, I assume, are California Gulls (Larus Californicus). In my limited research on gulls, however, I’m sure these gulls’ plumage changes, depending on the season, so I could be surrounded by a melting pot. I know I have seen Heermann’s Gulls (Larus Heermanni) on the shores of Monterey.

I remind myself to bring my camera next time, to take some pictures and put some names with some beaks.

Larus Heermanni