Here is a continuation of my story about my gods. Who are yours? and why? the subject of our April D-Quad in Caravan Trails enewsletter… Deadline is March 20th!
Someone asked me the other day, “If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” What if I were to meet some of my gods? Have a meal with them? Were I to sit down with Elvis Costello for lunch, I would be tongue tied, I’m sure. Or Henry Miller, or Tom Waits, or Tom Robbins. I know how to have a conversation, but I’m not good at small talk. I can chat briefly with strangers, although these people aren’t strangers. I’ve grown up with them, in a way. I know quite a bit about them, at least what they have wanted me to know. Would I want to sit and have a conversation with them? I don’t want to know they are human. They’re my gods, for gods sake.
In some way, I would love to have dinner with Henry Miller. He always enjoyed himself and other people, but I’ve so venerated him on my book shelf, and in my mind, that maybe I don’t want to go that far. What if I didn’t like him? What if he pissed me off? All those years of reverence might have to be tossed, and I couldn’t bare that.
What I want is to see the world through the eyes of my heroes, which then, became my eyes. Not to become them. Absolutely not. It’ s a yearning, a desire for more understanding, and the willingness to experience other’s experiences through their words and music, without having to make them mine. They make a road for me to look down, walk on, or turn away from. I admire from a distance. Learning to be myself, in my world, the ever-changing world, with it’s scariness and beauty.
Books are like prescriptions. Their words can be so timely, giving me what I’m looking for, what I need, to heal, to laugh and cry, to find an answer at just the right moment, or after years of searching. I revere them, have shelves of them. Shelves of gods and heroes. Altars. Going to my bookcases, getting overzealous as I write these pages, I want to pull all the books out, my influences, my heroes, what has made my world go round, and what has taught me about sex and love, spiritual beauty, darkness and pain, artistic freedom. I go back and forth in time with my books. Teenager. Adult. Poet. Druggie. Songwriter. Teenager. College student. Rocker. Healer. Dancer. The alls of me. There is no stopping me. The rampage has set in. Fertile wanderings. My books are now taking over the dining room table as I read and write. It is a feast. A feast of the senses.
Diane Ackerman opened up my senses even more, as if I needed more opening, using words as aphrodisiacs in A Natural History of My Garden, and A Natural History of The Senses. She made me swoon, reflect, to behold first her world, then mine, with my eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. Reading her words was experiential. Poetic. She wrote how “the whole body ripples in orgasmic delight”, from a sneeze. I can feel it. She watched “vines evolve from flowers to succulent purple fruits, sense-luscious and nearly bursting with fragrance”. If there was ever a time when I questioned myself or my existence, how could I not fall in love with words, again, as well as with the world, again, following her journey? Up on the “Writing Great Things” goddess pedestal she went.
In Aphrodite, A Memoir of the Senses, Isabel Allende wrote about seduction and sex and love and food. These have become a theme for me, a mantra. Be still my beating heart. She wrote “…dusk incited me to sin…in my fiftieth year I find myself reflecting on my relationship with food and eroticism…” “Aphrodisiacs are the bridge between gluttony and lust’. I too, have a constant love affair with food and wine and cooking and eating. Not only for pure sustenance, but pure pleasure, too, and adventure and the delight of a meal with a loved one or many. To read about it, then to open up every pore, to smell, eat, taste, touch, love. I believe it’s the “I Want To Experience Life” pedestal for her.
From Letters To A Young Poet, by Rainier Maria Rilke writes, “Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come”. Another art school read. That tree image has stayed with me, sometimes as a behemoth, sometimes a sapling, enduring, it’s own juices flowing. I call upon it when I need strength to continue, to be honest with myself, with my words and my art, not be afraid of what may come after. Rilke, in this book, has a conversation through letters with one man, about creativity, writing, love, passion, spirituality. The pages are bent and worn from me marking outstanding phrases. I read and reread it at a time in my life when it was relevant and needed, art school. When my peers ripped my work apart, questioned my vision and style, only trying to be helpful. When I felt sometimes as if I couldn’t stand on my own feet., I read Rilke. I was learning to express myself with words, art, and actions, always on that quest of and for experience, and trying to put it into a visual context. Rilke helped guide me, as any good god would do.
Not only thoughts on how to be an artist, but how to be alive, Rilke writes to his friend, “For one human being to love another human being: That is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” Love, selfhood, he was writing to me, I was sure. “To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours.” For me to be alone, listening and observing and not being afraid of the quiet. As I reread him now, writing this, he is relevant still. He is god.
Part 3, to be continued!