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September 21, 2016


I spent many years trying to find the answers -- or, rather that clear and straight balancing beam that cuts through the "too-muchness" but was never successful. I am beginning to realize that "the" or even "an" answer is not the solution. Instead, as you point to it yourself, it's in the dance, in our steps that sometimes falter, making us lean too much this way or that.

Beth, I really love the first watercolour. Simply delicious! What are the yellow things in the bowl?

As for the rest, I think maybe one never works that all out. But it's easier now for me to say "I just don't have it in me" and feel more matter-of-fact about it, rather than guilty.

Nothing more selfish than writing. Just imagine what it looks like from the outside: the Selfish One becomes incommunicado regularly, and for long periods, and these days one needs a machine to verify whether anything at all happened during these absences. The Selfish One's conversational range shrinks and frequently becomes self-referential ("As I say in my current book...") and/or retreats into literary technicalities ("Did you know the difference between refute and rebut...?"). During increasingly rare time spent with others, usually reduced to watching telly, it becomes obvious the Selfish One's mind is on other things. During this telly-watching time the Selfish One will occasionally emerge from his coma and angrily denounce someone on the screen for some harmless syntactical solecism. At intervals of a couple of months the Selfish One will claim to be suffering from "block", a mysterious ailment without symptoms and any known cure, and will demand to be treated like an aged but extremely wealthy relative, now on his last legs, and much concerned with deciding who will be his legatees.

You're well out of it Beth. Have an extra martini when you get back, warm up a bought-in lasagne in its pathetic foil tray, and over the subsequent dinner insist that J "understands" you. Plan a vacation in Disneyland and raise the possibility that it's time to get rid of the family Volvo and acquire a second-hand 1960s Detroit gas-guzzler as an act of solidarity with the past. There are all sorts of alternative life-styles out there, je t'assure.

I really love your drawings, Beth, especially the ones you've been doing lately.

Oh, I like the new watercolors....

I have had the great good luck of a husband who cooks well and likes to do it. I cook dinner rarely, mostly when he is away. I can hardly say what a great gift that is over many years, especially for a busy mother.

Balancing three children's needs with my work has been trickier, and still is. I find that if I yield to their various needs without any annoyance on my part, I somehow can find the corners of time to do my own work, even if it is not at the hammer-and-tongs rate my obsessive nature would prefer. It works out. Same with helping others.

All the arts are meant to be gifts to someone else--to more than one someone else--in the end, writing may be, as RR says (in his tongue-in-cheek, amusing way), selfish, at least in affect. But in the ideal, it is not so in effect. So I don't worry about that aspect of the arts too much. Talents are made to be used, not buried in the ground.

Perhaps those of us who care about them need to contemplate other parts of religious teachings when they seem to us to set up bars against free creation. Certainly the Bible is obsessed with a creator and a creation, and is made of tales and poems that often include God's injunctions to beautify the temple or tent or breast-plate, etc. It is full of references to the beauties of the world and their singular importance-lilies and foxes, mountains and seas and the creatures who live in them. It's also quite capable of praising a generous and "selfish" wastefulness, as in the nard and broken alabaster jar. These things, too, have something to say about beauty and human creativity.

I don't have good answers to these questions, but I am here to say that the questions are live for me too.

Oh, and I love these watercolors. The plums and the cosmos!

I always think that if I knew what I really wanted the rest would fall into place, and that not knowing is the problem. Not sure how true that is.

I'm reading Virginia Woolf's diaries this year and she struggles with exactly your questions.

The second watercolour is lovely, Beth, and aren't plums wonderful? My favourite fruit of the year.

I suppose one reason I chose to live alone is that I can be as 'selfish' as I want with my time, as absorbed as I want to be with whatever is absorbing me, and no need for apologies or excuses. However I was also exceptionally lucky when married to have a husband who was supportive and didn't mind my 'absences' whether literal or metaphorical, and I didn't have children so that lets me off the hook too. Anyway I think it's more to do with individual character. A person (not me) who is driven, obsessed with an inner creative demon (or daemon) will pursue it regardless of whether this pursuit will damage their rapport with others; they will not think of themselves as selfish, the concept won't arise. Countless examples (not all of them male) among artists, writers etc. Maybe they weren't/aren't nice people and maybe they didn't have happy families, but.....

I do hope everyone realises that the gloomy, self-centred, bowl-of-laughs portrayed in my comment was me and none other. That I wasn't casting nasturtiums.

I think it was clear who was writing, Robbie! But cheer up, and toss all the nasturtiums you want - I happen to like them, both in my vases and my salads!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.