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Musing Attractors or How to Write

For my latest painting, I was inspired by piñatas I saw in the Mission district of San Francisco.

I had two smallish canvases, and I decided it would nice to make a diptych. I saturated the backgrounds with two shades you might see on walls in Mexico. You can probably guess who the mean guy is! The elephant and donkey look a bit bemused. And naturally I included my two favorite icons, the flying saucer and the pig. I guess it’s worth mentioning here that my paintings, including this one, are all on sale.

“Piñata Diptych” acrylic on two canvas, May, 2017, Each canvas 18” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I’ve been getting some writing going on my new novel, Return to the Hollow Earth.

At this point I’m trying to stick to projects that, in one way or another, obsess me. But it can take quite awhile to figure out the next one. Eventually there won’t be a next one. The muse won’t show up. I had about a year between finishing my last novel Million Mile Road Trip and starting the new one. Slowly working myself up about it, with some effort, in some ways it’s like self-hypnoisis, getting into a sufficient state of obsession. And you’re wanting to get yourself to stay in there for months and months.

Having fun with the research. Reading about ships rounding Cape Horn. And about sly, speedy opium clippers now repurposed to bringing household goods to San Francisco for the 1850s gold diggers. But it’s slow work.

I’ve been getting outside fairly often. This is the field near the cliff at Four Mile Beach north of Santa Cruz where I like to go.

Sometimes I think I have a touch of “impostor syndrome.” I can turn that around to help get started. Like telling myself, “You never really were a writer. You don’t in fact know how to write at all. You were faking it all these years.” And so on. And at some point I rebel against that abuse, and start a book just to show…who? That voice in my head.

Speaking of old-time sailing adventure we went to a party on Treasure Island in SF Bay where the host actually buried a “treasure chest” in the sand and supplied shovels so the kids to dig it up. It’s a platonic ideal: the sand-buried chest of goodies. Was great to see.

Here’s one of the treasure-chest clues in a jar on a stump with the new half of Bay Bridge in the background. I’d never properly seen that bridge before, other than driving over it.

As I already mentioned in a recent post, looking at a shape like that stump, I sometimes get the feeling that these gnarly “strange attractor” forms in some sense inhabit our minds as well. For centuries many humans made the mistake of thinking the “real” forms were things like cubes and cylinders and parabolas.

And not quite getting that the true forms didn’t have precise shapes, but they had shapes you got used to and learned to recognize and the world can’t help but make them. The strange attractors. This photo is of a water pipe next to the head waters of Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos. Dig the zigzag line of manmade stuff with the live water above and the captive water in the pipe. A beautiful spot, full of music mana.

An attractor that’s the shape of a blown rose. Or a hairdo with one too many perms.

Situational attractor, a.k.a. Platonic ideal. Proudly holding a colorful fish that your daddy caught ice-fishing. I spotted this little girl on Fremont Lake in Pinedale, WYO about five years ago, during a “ice fishing derby” and got the shot.

Logico-physical attractor: the mirrored stump in the undulant green teeming-with-microorganisms water. We are the microbes, natch.

My old friend and fellow author Charles Platt turned up at our house the other day, making his way to the Maker Faire. Very comfortable to chat with him. We’re in our 70s now, and still trying to sell our books. It never did get easy for either of us. But we never stopped.

On those same muse-haunted cliffs by the sea again this week with Sylvia along to shoot me waving my cane.

Glad to be writing again. It passes the time, and it’s pleasant to exercise one’s hard-won craft. And when I’m working, it drowns out unwanted chatter in m head re whatever problems or tasks or anxieties I might think I have. Not that it’s so bad to be all socially active and pondering and painting certain kinds of pinatas…but even then you’re wearing the fireprooof suit of divine madness, issued by the muse to the artiste.

Rewriting this post at 11 pm, upping the Dada / Surreal content, inspired by seeing a show “Finding San Jose” by a cellist multimedian called Cellista. It got my head loose, a good thing. Film, ballet, recorded music, in a small space in Japantown here in San Jose. Struggling art, the frail green shoot that cracks the sidewalk.

3 Responses to “Musing Attractors or How to Write”

  1. Gayle Packard Says:

    “Struggling art, the frail green shoot that cracks the sidewalk.” As I read that sentence, it resonates deeply. It permits reflection on what it is to be human in the world we live in. In your paintings I see a reflection, critique and juxtaposition of the world and its truths.

    I Just finished reading an article by Chis Hedges: The Artist as Prophet in Truthdig. He talks about the artist as a truth teller and why they threaten those in power. The phrase, “struggling art” encapsulates our lives today. Thank you for your insightful blogs.

  2. James Littlefield Says:

    Just a note to say hope that wasn’t you from whom I stole a line about green fuse sidewalks cracking forty almost fifty years ago.

  3. Rudy Says:

    Gayle and James, glad you appreciate the power of the green shoot. Speaking of green fuse, James, thanks for reminding me of Dylan Thomas, “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.”

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