Saturday, April 28, 2007


i once had a friend who told me that all problems are solved in the shower. i loved it then and love it now. what's not to love about showering? bathing? i remember that as a kid, 1 of 5 girls, stealing enough time to take a really substantially therapeutic shower or bath was serious-precious. now that i have a home w/ 3 bathrooms, i need not worry about time or space or sisters banging on the door. and while i still enjoy a nice, long shower, i don't luxuriate like i can or maybe should. sure, there are environmental/water-use issues, but i am not honestly thinking about that when i cut it short or decide to put it off -- the longer, more lavish bathing experience -- "until later." it may have something to do with guilt. or maybe it's that i have a sense that i can't recapture that experience, the feverish delight little children display when water is in play. writing this is encouraging me to take up some form of hydrotherapy, and soon (of course, um, i still need to shower, today). and this has little to nothing to do w/ writing, so apologies there . . . or maybe there is something to be said, something about the joy of seeing the water move, flow, slip, . . . the way you can see things even through it and how water changes what you see and how you see it. oh sure, we've been using the concept of "fluidity" in our theoretical work on writing forever now, but it has, or, had (for me) become a sort of stable concept (because of its ubiquitous appearance, especially in writing the postmodern) . . . and so i guess it does help me to see this image, the joy on Fiona's face as the water slips through the holes in the bucket that holds her bath toys. it's freaking-out joy, it's uncontainable, limitless . . . even a little scary. seeing this image inflects the fluidity concept, reactivates it, remotivates me to contemplate its presence in my brain as it tries to write, as it tries to think about writing, as it tries to imagine ways of teaching writing. and, sadly, i'm also moved to think about resistance to the visual in writing instruction, which simply makes no sense to me. because. i'll never forget, after having been put on "permanent suspension" from UF in the 80's, after working a lot of horrid jobs and becoming a successful cosmetologist and then blowing that . . . i went back to community college, where we used Warriner's English . . . and on the cover was this lovely image. i found out, i discovered my first Rothko. on Warriner's English! it was a powerful association for me, English w/ contemporary art. it still is. this image (left) of the book seems to suggest a Rothko, and i'd so wanted to include the actual image of the book, that edition --which i'd love to think i still own but am almost certain it's gone -- but i can't find one. it was a lovely blank white field w/ an all blue Rothko at center. i'll never forget looking for info on the cover image and seeing "Mark Rothko," and then rushing out to find out about him, learning about de Kooning, Motherwell, Pollock . . . thinking about what they were doing and wondering how it represented grammar . . . and Composition . . . (composing made sense) . . . later reading Vonnegut's Bluebeard and wanting to love it because it dealt w/ the abstract expressionists . . . i remember not loving it, actually, but forgiving it because it was about identification, finding a field of vibratory pleasure and maybe, even, power (all that from its "origins" in Composition. ha. ha.). but so back to resistance to the visual in Composition . . . sometimes, the resistance registers visibly in/on the body . . . you can see it, the fluttering frustrated hand, waving away your theory/comment at The Big Conference or hallway chat, the face turning sour, the sense of your opponent simply drying up before your eyes (which are, conversely, overfull w/ tears trying to flow but for your mighty attempt at registering an affect of indifference or "maturity" . . . as though you think maybe you too should dry up and get serious about writing, about written discourse). ach. you see how this is moving. and it's interesting because i am right now feeling as though i desperately need a drink of water (which is not uncommon for me as i have diabetes insipdus, which is not diabetes mellitus -- the insulin requiring diabetes. DI is a condition many people develop after having surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, and i had just such a surgery in 1994 (for a nasty mass called a craniopharyngioma). sometimes, the pituitary is scarred from the surgery, and you can no longer produce anti-diuretic hormone; that's me. there is a medicine, but it's difficult to manage, especially if you have one kidney, also like me (born that way. fabulous). so now it's flowing, right? and all of this forces me to recall the time i walked into the MCA in Chicago (one of my favorite museums) and saw Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," of which i'd known nothing at the time. it regarded me coolly (who doesn't want to say that?) as i walked in the door. it was the first image i saw (probably explaining my affection for the MCA). i remember staring at it and thinking how beautiful it was and how calming it was and that i felt spiritually connected to it. my husband walked matter-of-factly by and seemed to know the photo, the controversy, everything. he asked me if i'd read the info on it (i hadn't . . . i was vibing out on the image). when i did read the text, the image evolved into a sign from god that all was well w/ the world, even w/ my one kidney and DI and my sense that i was/am a horrible freak of nature. you see, for people w/ one kidney, pee (my preferred term) is a Very Good Thing; when you stop peeing for any appreciable amount of time (and for people like us, we know what that is), you need to get to the ER and fast. for people w/ DI, pee is a fact of life . . . we go a LOT (hear the tune to Faith No More's "We Care A Lot" . . . i always do). so i sort of saw the image as a sign from god that DI (which seemed like a curse) was actually the thing that could help my sad kidney to be okay (it's pretty ugly and looks horribly abnormal . . . it looks blocked because it's stenotic, narrow, where the kidney connects to the ureter; whenever an x-ray tech sees it, they come running back in the room to see if i'm actually alive). so pee is good, for me, and maybe even DI is good, for me, because, well the DI keeps it flowing through, in a way (although ask my husband how he enjoys pulling over all the time and he'll tell you it's not all that; actually, he's sort of normalized the patient response and is always asking if i need to stop, which is very sweet). so but back to the image: i love to tell my students about my experience w/ "piss christ" because when i tell them what it is, about the materials used and the methods of production, about a crucifix that the artist has dropped into a backlit tank full of his own urine, they expect to hear me wail in disgust or even to offer a critique, similar to the one offered by "Sister Wendy Beckett, an art critic, consecrated virgin and Catholic nun, [who] voiced her approval of Piss Christ. She explained in a television interview with Bill Moyers that she regarded the work as a statement on 'what we have done to Christ' - that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents" ( . instead, i get to tell them that the image is god speaking to me and that my particular lens compels me to see it as a kind of affirmation. but, no, visual images are merely stimuli, arhetorical; they don't have a place in a writing classroom.

1 comment:

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

eventually found the book. in my own library. i'll someday post a pic. you are relieved.

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

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