I made this small oil painting on gessoed masonite panel back in 2000. I had almost given up making art. Frankly I was having an identity crisis. I was profoundly unhappy, lonely too truth be told, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. At that time I carefully hand-wrote thoughts and ideas in small notebooks, rewriting over and over what I thought were my better lines, in an attempt to spark my imagination and to become inspired, but it wasn’t working. From the outside I probably appeared a little mad in my socially detached obsessive melancholia. I ended up with a large quantity of fragments, a heap of them, which left me faced with an additional quandary, that if any overall meaning was to be revealed to me I must patiently fit together all these pieces of different puzzles which had all become mixed up in the same big box. But just the task of sorting out all the pieces was too much for me. I felt like the proverbial dog returning to its vomit, and soon I gave up. I thought to myself, “Truly to enter the Enchanted Realm of Art is granted only to the chosen few, and my application has been rejected.”
In my dejection I puttered around to take my mind off myself. Almost as an afterthought I began this picture, expecting it like my written efforts to go nowhere, but I didn’t care anymore. Maybe what’s best in us only emerges once we’ve ceased taking ourselves so seriously and trying so hard.
. . . . . . .
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word in my play-box was hollow, the concave letters fused cursively into one large magical toy, which I lifted above my head like a sacramental vessel. When I tilted it forward, sand poured out, and it kept coming. As I moved the Word around above my head and rotated it, I was slowly buried up to my armpits. I stopped before my head could be covered. I put the Word down and gave it a gentle push; it slid down the mound of sand, and I pulled my body free.
After shaking and brushing sand off myself, again I lifted the Word above my head, but this time water flowed out, which I showered all over the mound of sand as I walked slowly around it. Once the mound was saturated but not too wet, I packed the sand tight, patting it all over with my plastic shovel, and shaped it into a large cone, smoothing it all out with my bare hands. When I was finally done I stepped back and was well pleased, but it wasn’t yet time to rest. I walked thrice around the circumference to establish a magic circle, then walked backwards around it thrice to complete the magic circuit. Then I stepped into the zone of consecrated protection, reached over and stuck my hand down through the peak of the cone of sand, working my arm into where before I had been buried. I reached my arm in up to my shoulder, and I pulled out a handful of sand, which I tossed outside the magic circle; and I did this, thrusting my whole arm in and out, until a clear, narrow hole was created, smooth on the inside and reaching down into darkness.
Next I took a jar of soil I had saved from a garden of esoteric flowers, unscrewed the lid and poured it into the hole, followed by a sprinkling of grass-seed I took from my conjure bag. Then I took two pieces of fine burlap which from a distance appears as skin, the same used for scarecrows, and in them dolloped paste of writings from my past which out of despair and fury and self-hatred I had burned to ashes, mixed it with my piss and significant droplets of my blood, having crushed and mixed these ingredients with a pestle. I tied up the dollops of paste in each of these two pieces of burlap with thin white silken ribbon, kissed each for a send off, then sent both flying down the hole. Two roots of mandrake for my yearning followed, along with squirted out leakage from my self-absorption lathered over bits from broken toys which remind me of my youth and small bone chips and teeth from a skull I dug up in my obsession with death. For good measure I fired in a prickly Sweet Gum fruit, and as an anticlimax dropped in a crumpled up image of a hindu god. With gathered conviction then I plunged my arm back into the hole, I wiggled my thumb around, making space enough to snap my fingers thrice, and I made a wish.
Three days and three nights passed, and in that time when not curled up asleep and dreaming I sat in deep meditation, when suddenly startled I jumped up because coming from inside the hole I heard not only crunching, clicking and snapping, but a continuous low hum which at intervals broke into mumbling and gurgling before returning to the lulling of the low hum. In disbelief I turned away and stuck my fingers in my ears, rubbing inside, and I also rubbed my eyes. But when I looked again not only did I continue to hear the sounds, but a smooth mound, a curious tantalization, appeared like Mother Nature’s meatloaf or cake, soil seasoned with sand and coated lightly with clay, with a flat circular surface covered with grass. This grass-topped mound floated around the cone of sand like the satellite of a Mother Ship, no doubt emerging from the hole when I wasn’t looking. I had the impression if it flew outside the magic circle it would crumble and fall to the ground.
Then as if from an air cannon a beach ball shot out of the hole, flew high in the air, and landed on the small circular patch of grass, bouncing with backspin like a good shot in golf; but before it came to rest, it spun on its axis and then began moving on its own, rolling around and bouncing like the crazy uncle of the famous bouncing ball. Pursuing immediately was an anthropomorphic insect which scampered out from under the floating grass-topped mound, a leafy green mealy-mouthed creature with an oblong head, five pairs of arms and a pair of legs, with the color of its segments alternating between the azure of my aspiration to purity and perfection and the acrid yellow of my bitterness and waste. This creature seemed to have been lying in wait on the underside of the floating grass-topped mound, using the lull of its low hum as a seductively sustained base tone for its mumbling and gurgling to attract prey or maybe a playmate. Maybe it was lonely and desired a friend. Maybe it was a messenger from Beyond playing out in disguise a special wisdom for gifted natures, or maybe simply because the beach ball bounced across its path it now strove to grab hold of it. I had no clue what was its real aim and intention, whether profound or superficial, but my curiosity impelled me to move closer, until finally I gathered enough nerve to ask the creature its name, whereupon cryptically it replied: “Buggly Woo.”
I was left amazed and puzzled, not knowing if this was its name or only a reflex exclamation to ward me off, but whatever it was, once the creature uttered it, two freshly skinned figures as luminous as healthy blood cells were catapulted as if by some supernatural power out of the hole, both flying through the air like trapeze artists and nimbly landing on the small circular patch of grass. Though each appeared to wear its face around its center of gravity, these two figures didn’t seem wholly subject to gravity’s law. On landing both began dancing around and snapping their fingers, always in synch and with the confidence and grace of professional ballet dancers, each taking a turn spinning around and leaping over the back of the creature as it pursued the beach ball which rolled through legs like a croquet ball through wickets. Sometimes the beach ball just went crazy spinning in place before letting itself go. It seemed to be having fun, and it never got in the way. In the beginning was the Word, and now the Word was the ball. It always found space in which to roll and bounce even as the creature wheeled around in pursuit of it. A larger harmony seemed to preside over all, and I was overjoyed, transformed into a child again. I clapped my hands and also danced around; but it was by letting my enthusiasm get the best of me that I made my fatal mistake. I desired to participate directly in the scene, to dress my hand up into a puppet. I believed I had done so already I was so caught up in the scene, so wiggling my fingers I reached over and touched the grass, and that was enough to break the spell.
I must have been hit by a giant wave and knocked unconscious, because all I know when I came to my senses and looked around is that the cone of sand had been demolished. There was no longer a magic circle and only the suggestion of a mound remained. I was face down and soaking wet, with dirty white ribbon tangled in my hair and seaweed wrapped around my legs and neck. I had cuts on the palms of my hands which I must have received from desperately trying to hold onto the Word, wrested violently from me and carried away. My play-box and the magical illusion had been destroyed. “Not even a memento,” I grumbled. When I rolled over however I discovered I had been lying on a small panel which was partially covered with sand. When I flipped it over and wiped the sand away I was stunned – I gasped at the sight. It was the Dance of the Thimbly Whims.