Sunday, May 30, 2010


yesterday i was in hibernation mode.  even though it was saturday and the weather was lovely, i barely left the house.  i allow these days every once in a while.  when you spend your workweek navigating the chaos of other people's lives, you feel a need to put up some walls and retreat from the human race now and then.  while daydreaming between chapters of island beneath the sea, thoughts of walls, my own history of walls, entered my mind. 

as a child i lived in a little (un-airconditioned) house in california's hot central valley.  the walls were made of stucco.  on summer days when the temperature rose to 106° by mid-morning, i would retreat to my little green room and lie in my little rainbow bed.  i've mentioned before that the memory of lying there in that room, the heady scent of the gardenia bush outside my window perfuming the air, the muffled sounds of lawn mowers and automatic sprinkers in the distance, the gentle cooing of doves in the backyard, serves as my "happy place" to this day.  my bed was pushed up against the wall.  i placed the palm of my hand on the painted stucco.  it was solid and cool; limitlessly soothing and calming.  the sun cast shadows of the shade tree on the opposite wall, a second layer of line and shape on top of the randomness of the stucco strokes.  i could make out scenes in the evolving design, just as one would staring up at the clouds.  the birth of an imagination.

as a young adult, my relationship with walls became less friendly.  my memories here are sporadic due to the sheer number of walls (literal and metaphorical) i lived between during this time.   a renter's walls:  painted the most flat and boring of all shades, any and all artistic expression strictly prohibited by contract.  a spirit cage of navajo white.  some years later, walls smudged with dirt and dents and peeling plaster:  the inhabitant too depressed and uncaring to tend to herself, let alone a home.  those same walls gave way nightly as i startled in the space between asleep and awake, shielding my body from the ceiling that came crashing down upon me.  i owe those walls much gratitude.  their message to me was clear and nonnegotiable:  get out or die.

it's interesting to me that the three walls in my home that i photographed yesterday are each a shade of green, (the kitchen wall being the closest in hue to those loving childhood walls on castro lane), the strong jade green of the bedroom that turns teal during different times of the day is my favorite.   

the walls i live between today are my walls.  they are color and language and art and soul and love.  they are a flower:  sepals and petal and pistil, holding promise and nurturing possibility.  the final lines of james wright's a blessing come to mind: 

suddenly i realize
that if i stepped out of my body i would break
into blossom.