This Mystery

Hello, and Welcome to This Mystery.

Please be aware that depending on who you are and what you are prone to see and/or believe, exposing oneself to This Mystery may disturb, delight, or befuddle. 

You may find that this work has a totally null impact on one’s attention and experience – a thud that is less the effect of a ton of bricks, and more a quickly closing door.

Different mysteries appeal to different people. 

The effects of This Mystery may be immediate, delayed, short-lived or life-changing.

Awareness of and consideration of This Mystery may be both beautiful and unsettling. 

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Now that I have offered fair warning, I will bid those who have already drifted in their attentions or set their jaw against my voice a very fine farewell.

May you happen upon many blessings and much prosperity in your path.

For those of you who would like to stay, at least for a bit, I will offer an additional forewarning in regard to the sheer mass of This Mystery.

This work – in it’s totality – is an albatross of writing, image, and other media conveyances trailing back to 2009. I was 33 when I began this project. Now, I am 45.  Age doesn’t mean much to me and time is a slippery line full blurred spaces, sharp-edged compressions. Sometimes I feel very old and other times I forget that I have aged at all, standing on the front porch here during this supposed time and noticing that the air seems to hold the same light and soft warmth of a certain afternoon, age fifteen, sitting on a warm dock with my feet hung over the waters of the St. Mary’s River, all the ancient brackish smells merging with a scent called sunflowers and the cleanness of her young self and the river flowing out to the Atlantic as wide-open as all the possibilities in the whole wide world. Sometimes I am surprised when I review the facts and details of the past few decades, how many lives I have lived and let die, the people and places I have been. It seems impossible that one small life could hold so much, especially given that over the past 12 years, she hasn’t been very many places – though has still traveled much further and been far more free than most people could imagine. 

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name that state, young child

would this be a warrior,

an angel, or both? 


Twelve years is a long time to spend time with a semi-open ended creative project. Anybody who has worked on something for over a decade will tell you that the project changes and the process changes. It takes on a life of its own, outside of your will and intent.

You, the artist, also change. The project changes you, changes how you see the world and – at least in my experience – how you see yourself and how you are seen. 

 

 

 

The curiosity that is the primary driver of this work has been with me for as long as I can remember, though the questions that lend it form have shifted with time – the slow unfurling and sudden blooms of events and process, learning and synthesizing new understandings of the what and how and why of some small answer connecting to the larger scopes of my questions into the forms that life takes. 

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[The image above is made from layering numerous duplications of one of the photos featured above. There are several faces that showed up in the layers, but this face in particular – these faces of young princes, young queens, the accusation of the innocents – they stare me down and tell me a mournful secret.]


My only intent as an artist is to set aside my intent to the greatest extent possible, as I recognize my intent to be fraught with vestigial trappings of conventions and sensibility that are less my own than that of the cultures that I am adrift in, media – as it were – that I am in relation with, suspended in and evolving with. 

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Media can be so many things. It is a means – always – of expression and creation, a churning sea of possibility in the small line of blue paint, the blur of channels changing, a petri dish empire emerging on blood agar.

\.convey.transmit.express.facilitate.communicate./

.MEDIA CREATES. 

I am less interested in what my fairly flawed and foolish mind might want to express and create than I am in what is expressed and created by chance. I can’t remove myself from the process entirely, as I am the witness, the watcher, the perceived, the collaborator, the facilitator, my mechanism of sight and the movements of my hands, my body and my existence being the mechanism of chance, the object, the subject. 

Over the years, I have found that as soon as I begin to try to make something happen, to create some image or form, if I find myself thinking, even briefly: ‘Oh, this would look really cool and maybe it would be a thing that would impress…’  whatever art was rising in me tends to shrivel back. 

When my ego and will become the driver of the process, my hand becomes clumsy, my eye uncertain. Joy the leaves and art becomes something more akin to wage-work.

I am fine with wage-work of some sorts, the sorts I am able to do as a person who is differently-abled, but that is not what art is to me. 

Art is not that sort of work – the tedium and impossible rabbit hole of neurotic considerations of other people’s perceptions or possible interpretations of what I am supposed to doing, being, making in order to be desirable, consumable, worthy of what I am being paid for, paid to do.


 

There are many activities which she – by necessity – prioritizes over work on this project, but she has winnowed away almost everything that detracts from her singular focus in this exploration of form and experience, which – to the extent that she is able to ‘know’ anything – she knows is her work to do within this slipstream of seasons that has stretched on for so long. 

Sacrifices have been made both voluntarily and by the force exerted by simple lack of other options, impossible situations, irreconcilable differences. She has forgone relationships and ended friendships, truncated potential career trajectories, set aside hobbies, and turned from pleasant recreational activities that are likely to deplete and/or distract from the energies that she needs to do this work that she does – this that she calls art because that is what it is.  


She is explaining again. Trying to make the point that this work, this project, this art, this mystery of what she sees and why, is the most crucial thing that she must do in her lifetime, it is the thing that – like it or not – that is hers to do, the thing that if she does not at least try – in some real way, not these careful stepping ½ in-½ out gestures of disorganized effort she has been making – she knows with a leaden sort of crumpling sadness that she will not only ‘regret’ it, but that she will suffer. Her soul will suffer.

She doesn’t need to make that point anymore.

She has recently discovered that the pictures and shapes made when she layers one photo over itself again and again, are the same shapes that she has been watching emerge in clouds and in the branches of trees and the edges of rain-washed sand for the past decade, watching and wondering about. If she layers photos of different clouds, the same shapes arise. No matter how no matter how the layers stack, eventually the same sort of shapes seem to arise – the same shapes she has been watching and documenting since 2010. The layers make triangles and eyes, faces like ghosts.


Elon Musk recently tweeted that ‘physics formulas are the rendering rules.’ Although it’s true that I have raging pareidolia and apophenia, there are basic forces at work in shaping our physical world and there are many examples of ways that the rules of physics dictate form (see D’Arcy Thompson, On Growth and Form). Would we be so dismissive of shapes in the clouds if they showed us the world unseen, revealed to us the ways that gods were once seen and possibly – maybe by some people – felt.


She walks around the house in a pleasantly round suspended state of precipice, aware that regardless of the outcomes or whether anyone other than herself ever considers this work, she knows that she has happened upon something very interesting – at least to her. She can’t wait to find out what happens next, what she might discover.

It doesn’t surprise her that she has been avoidant of moving this project forward, posting and refining and sharing. There is a part of her that wants to stay here suspended at the protracted precipice that has become the landscape of her life, always right at the edge of moving forward, slipping back. She doesn’t know what it would be like, to make real what she is now capable – if she works hard, stays grounded – of making real.

She considers the possibility that perhaps she has come across something of interest in the matter of universal forms and rudimentary patterns in nature, sacred symbol/icon/figure/character/letter, the origins of human myth and maybe a phenomenon that in some places at some times in some contexts may have been considered to be holy/supernatural/numinous/God/gods/ancestors/Earth in some sort of story or another, a phenomenon or set of phenomena that perhaps are holy/supernatural/numinous/God/gods/ancestors/Earth conveying through a means slightly beyond immediate experience in the 21st century Western consciousness – a sort of sense we’ve long forgotten we have, a way of seeing that spurs in us a simple human calibration with the larger workings that are ever-present, ever-working, ever-knowing.

It is possible that this work may create hope for people – even if the clouds-layers-sacred-forms thing turns out to be explainable in a way that warrants the clouds-layers-sacred-forms thing to be dismissable, even laughable.

Even if I don’t ‘prove God with pictures of clouds’ – (*laugh*) – this work may still be interesting and perhaps hope-producing for at least a couple of people, ’cause of the mental health, creative resilience, transformative spiritual emergency, spiritually-engaged activism, experimental new media and creative nonfiction aspects of what this is, which – as it turns out – is a story, like sooooooo many other stories.


2 thoughts on “This Mystery

  1. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JSmqQSj5YBXJinY1aIcY90PoBdimvodHIQJIDpXkang/edit

    Today is the very first day of the New Year, 2022 – THE YEAR that is the year that has my favorite numbers in it in quantities I will rarely see. So many twos…round and cozied, 222 that triangular form that feels so good to hold in mind, satisfying and self-contained, held in balance, tensile. As I was sitting here, reflecting on the events of the morning thus far during which I a) watched a video I made last night as a means of saying hey to people and also ringing in the NEW YEAR which is a big deal to me (as I mentioned in said video) due to my having a 10 year plan that was formulated in 2012. Therefore, according to my calculations, this is the year that the 10 year plan will come to fruition. Just in time. I have truly bottomed out in – ah, excuse me…I had in 2021, which is a time that no longer exists, reached a conclusive point of failure non specifie in le economies. True that I am alone and sitting on my porch after a genuinely wonderful and perfectly inhabited New Year’s Morning and am accustomed to nobody reading this stuff, and also that I need to be at least partially cognizant, but not neurotically cognizant of the fact that PEOPLE ARE GOING to read this and that for the sake of not offending my Francophonic frens, I should probably not experiment with speaking French. I will re-up my engagement with DuoLingo shortly, as I’ve some languages to re-learn, again. Anyway, it’s been a great morning. I have been struggling so so hard, was struggling…literally scrabbling slogging through the dark and strangely humid strangely haunted days of the end of the last year, consumed by an itching non specifie that was deep in my skin, raising my tattoos like welts and making my bones tingle, and burn, exhausting me and basically plaguing me with a heaviness that some might call depression, but that I am more inclined to name as the phenomena of existing in a state that is less than self-sovereign and finding oneself with very options that seem viable, sustainable, like something you could actually do without completely glitching the fuck out in your ability to interface with all the seriously confusing and super real and super dis real (autocorrect keeps insisting on Disraeli – and I don’t know what that means). Anyway, after some lofty little stretches after freeing decisions were made, difficult knotty dissonances untangled and smoothed, lines straightened and missing stitches corrected…well, it seems I’m bound to sometimes revisit that landscape that I am eternally exiting, that swampy sucky spot in me that is some seeping family wound that these fuckers have left me holding the bag with. Let me compose myself (note that I am actually the picture of composure, sitting on the porch on the mid-morning sun of the first day of the new year and my hair is the color of a my little pony’s hair and I am so fucking stoked about that for no reason other than it makes me happy)…I do recognize the conceptual exasperation of being the primary vessel of family wounds and – possibly – family curses, as well as gifts and secrets and stories. I bear these things out in my life, through every day. They are in my bones, these familial belongings, these tethers and burdens and hand-me-downs and scars, unbidden gifts. However, let me not careen into ancestry in this specific comment…as I came to make note of the morning, and of the conversation with a man on the street during which he – within the first 60 seconds of our greeting one another told me he had a plate and screws in his hip and that he wished someone would shoot him in the head. “Therapist asked me if I wanted to commit suicide and I tell her no, I want someone else to do it, shoot me in the head, can’t take it no more.” I had been photographing and videoing the sunrise clouds and feeling immensely in awe and grateful and also aware – though dimly so because my situating and relativistic mind was quiet – that I was more engaged with the clouds and the sky – feeling it all more on this first day of the year that o bring my plans for sovereignty of self and integrity of purpose to fruition. I didn’t hear the man walking by. I was with the sky. I told the man about the intent to procur three large stones, two slabs like coffin benches and one boulder like a mountain, to put on the strip between the sidewalk and the street. I told him about the sanctuary, and here in a few minutes – a few hours maybe – I will make another video and I will tell other people about the sanctuary and thus I will begin to make it real. In the meantime, I need to go check my black eyed peas, soaked through the watch night and simmering in the most perfect savory broth I could imagine.

  2. It doesn’t seem at all strange to her that her skin would be burning, old tattoos raising up like welts, sharp points of stinging like – of course – Yellowjackets. Get to work, get to work. Only when she is working, and doing the right work, does her skin stop burning. The tattoo on her back and the sheath of blue roses covering her right hand and forearm like a glove or a cast are the worst, though there are burning channels under the dragon-bird on her thigh, inguinal lymph nodes swollen like pearls under the soft thin skin stretching over her pelvis, one node adjacent to her femur round like a marble, though still not so large as the lymph node on her neck had been throughout her childhood, always causing doctors to remark. “Oh, it’s always like that,” her mother would explain as the cold medical fingertips rolled themselves over the lump in her neck that didn’t hurt, didn’t move, didn’t shrink or grow, just stayed there all through her childhood, a slight rise in the line curving from her jaw if she held her hair back and tilted her head, studying the creature of herself in the incandescent wood cabinet dampened light of the bathroom across the hall from her adolescent room. Her mother told her that the lymph node came up when she was a baby, less than six months old, after her head got burnt – somehow – on a stovepipe at The Farm, where she lived for the first unremembered winter of her life.

    It doesn’t seem strange to her than she should have a surge of stinging during this season, that the lashes of old black ink in thoracic bars across her back from neck to sacrum and onto the sides of her ribs, so much like a ship, the soft empty space of her waist, below her liver, below her spleen, the softening ropes of her core. Her head is filled with watery places, dark and dank, the fetid holding hull, and as she tries to sleep for respite, sleep to escape to those schools and those fields, those strange roadside hubs, the maps of the cities she goes when she dreams, the rivers and waters she swims in, old places re-inhabited, reconfigured, sprawling to new places, forest trails and the look of canyons from the uppermost view, gold green damp cool morning and those thin grassy roads cut through pines that you know lay east from the town you’ve never really been to, but that – in the dream – is home, where you walk from downtown in the dark sometimes, cut through neighborhoods of dew heavy azalea, knowing the way because you go there a lot when you dream, and just like in real life, as you move through the streets, you know where the water is in relation to you, and you can almost feel it there / the river to the south pulling the land away from the roots and sometimes running so high it pulls you away from the boat, but it’s always okay…you’re never scared in the dreamworld, even when you’re about to drown, even when you know there are ghosts in the rooms all around and you can feel them there, just like you can feel the river. There are only a few places you’re afraid of, a few things that are never quite seen, but that you know you never want to see, that you never want to be seen by, and so you stay away from those rooms, that dark secret room by the greenhouse, the hidden rooms inside of rooms, walls painted pink in one, a nice seeming room, but still she knows not to stay long, keeps the door closed when she is in that house by the river, and there are buildings she is glad to come home to, the rise of a street like SW Morrison but far more sparse in traffic and business, just a small tacqueria, a brick building, small apartments with walls of hinged windows, cold rattling glass and clear sunlight, all those elevators and running up and down stairs, the classrooms and campuses, the track at the edge of it all. She loves dreaming.

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