Friday, August 7, 2009


Handmade Brooms at Goschenhoppen
If you read yesterday's link, please keep it in mind when you consider the time that passes in an artist's life; in any life. So many changes. So many memories, both good and bad. With luck, we emerge unscathed and well-rounded from the experiences. We assimilate the experiences, learn from them, and base our present on lessons learned from our past. Or we don't, and we repeat behaviors that harm us. The sins of the fathers, so to speak. We are our neurosis, or the wisdom that follows.
Dear First Boyfriend,
I saw you today, from a distance. You were making beautiful pottery, the way you did in the 70's, and you didn't see me. I remember your long blond hair, and how we used to go everywhere in your little black VW bug, how we'd spend days in the mountains swimming in the streams, or go to art festivals at the local college, or lie in the big hammock in front of your family's house together. You barrel-fired your pottery there one weekend; we went to open studios at school together, and you were the better potter of us all, though I became the art teacher somehow. We knew all of the best power lines; places to hike awhile, then throw a blanket on a warm summer day, to read in the sun, or just nap. We hiked stream beds, looked for ruins. We went to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Grendel's Lair; we heard Maria Muldauer, David Bromberg, Arlo Guthrie, Murray McLaughlin; all the old greats. At home, your younger brother had orchids growing in the trees, and played Scott Joplin on the piano. Your older brother caught me looking at myself in the mirror in your living room hall and called me "Mother Earth". Your father tolerated me; your mother despised me. She was ultimately the instrument of our undoing, when she whisked you off to school with no warning. I was devastated. You were beautiful; I have a picture of you standing on the rocks at St. Peter's Village with your denim shirt open, your jeans slung low on your hips, a perplexed look on your face. You questioned everything. We were best friends.
I heard stories of you over the years, as I'm sure you did of me. We even met briefly a year or two later, when I was carrying my daughter, and we parted ways. I pictured you since then with your 20 year old face, living your life as I lived mine. You were always blond, beautiful; slender, imitated Bob Dylan and sang Neil Young songs to me in my memories. We never grew up.
I saw you today. Real life. We're in our 50's. I had to look closely to see you, but you were there; the curve of your fore-arm, the shape of your mother's face, a wisp of once-blond hair slipping from your cap. Would you see me? You were making pottery, reenacting the folk arts of the 1800's. I stayed back, unwilling to reveal my middle-aged self to you. I will let myself forever be 20 in your memory. I love, and am beloved. I am anonymous to you in my older, fuller self.
In the 70's, you took me to Goschenhoppen. Today, I returned and you were a presenter, not a boy who was sampling his culture, building his future. You were present, strong, whole. And in my memories, you will always be beautiful. You were beautiful today as you smiled at your audience, showing them the pot you had thrown on your wagon-wheel kick wheel, explaining the history of your craft. We were beautiful. Part of us always will be.
Peter said I should have spoken to you, but I couldn't. I hold those memories as precious as a drop of amber, a jewel of the past. It was good to see you. It was good to know you made it through alive.
How did we ever get to be this old?
Your old girlfriend,

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