25 February 2001
I'm not very good at doing nothing. It's good to know one's own strengths and weaknesses, and this is one of my weaknesses. It takes a good deal of effort for me to do nothing. When I say I'm going to do nothing, usually I mean "nothing coherent," and I end up writing down a story idea, filing a few rejections in my lovely folder (new for 2001!), wiping up the knives that can't go in the dishwasher...doing something. Just not something I can whack with a stick and say, "There! Something!"
About a year ago, I found out that two of my friends had been talking to each other about how I needed to goof off more. That was a pretty scary thing. Has it improved? Not really. Right now, though, I have the urge to paint. I've been getting this off and on for awhile now. I know where the paints are. I should just do it.
For anyone who doesn't already know this, I don't paint seriously. Not at all seriously. "Wow, that's certainly...enthusiastic" is a perfectly acceptable response to one of my paintings. I started painting because I had to take a class at Gustavus on "art participation." In their infinite logic, they had decided that while Appreciating Poetry and Appreciating Fiction were "art appreciation" courses, actually doing either the poetry or the fiction did not count as "art participation." And the dance classes were all full. (I took eight years of dance as a small child up until early adolescence. Some people claim that dance will make you more graceful during puberty, more comfortable with random speedy changes to your body. If this is true, I would have managed to injure myself by breathing, had I not been in dance. Anyway, I figured I had done some dancing at some point and could take a random class in it to graduate. Nope.)
Painting had its cool moments -- mostly singing Juice Newton tunes with Nancy and building frames, at first. Then I got into it. We were supposed to do self-portraits. I did mine all in blue, with a field of stars as the background. I faded into the field of stars. It was cool. It looked like me, in a sort of Expressionistic way. Then I got really inspired by my aunt Mary's journals.
My aunt Mary is a painter. She lives up in the North Woods (of Minnesota, for those of you who have no default North Woods) and paints and reads and gardens. Let's put it this way: there are four Lingen siblings. My dad and his older sister Ruth are duking it out for the position of "the normal one." Aunt Mary isn't even in the race. (The fact that my father has even made the finals in this competition really says something. The pros for his side: he's unlikely to start casual correspondence with a list of woes, including the death of a dog and nearly blinding eye infections. The cons for his side: well, he's my dad. Never been "most normal" anything before, not sure why he should start now.)
So anyway. Aunt Mary made me a couple of journals. Her painting still is interesting -- abstract and somewhat mosaical. (Is that a word? It is now. Mosaical. That's the real Secret Magic Word. "Queue" was just a trick I played to throw you off.) From her, they come off with nuance and shading, direction, all sorts of other lovely things. But they also come out looking...well, do-able. And I had never thought of painting myself a journal cover. There are only so many paintings I could do on canvas, especially since bookshelves cover most of our wall space. But my journal qualifies as something practical. So I talked to my painting prof, and he got me some bookbinder's glue, and I did two journals, one of them very satisfying. Since then, I've switched from oil to acrylic, and viva la difference. As long as I do something vaguely geometric in composition, if not in over-all effect, I'm pleased with the results. And guess what? I don't have to challenge myself all the time. Sometimes I can just do fun stuff that works. (Yes, Mom, this lesson finally got through to me. Sometimes it'll take you a good twenty years. But you know. It happens.) And I think I know what I want to do, in greens, since I live in the middle of five months worth of spring anyway. (California weather...grrr....)
So I didn't paint today. I did have a partner in crime, when it came to goofing off, though, and his name is Matthew. Matthew is in first grade, and a more delightful little boy I swear I have never met. And I know a lot of kids. He's a babygeek. Loves math, reading, talking to weirdo grown-ups, all sorts of stuff. I keep threatening to kidnap him. His mom keeps threatening to drive off into the sunset and leave him (and his older brother and his younger brother, both of whom are also pretty cool little people) with me. His mom is my friend, too, and she has the attitude that I can be the Responsible Adult and say "no" enough when I have kids of my own. In the meantime, I get to be the Fun Adult.
Matthew helps with being a Fun Adult, a lot. That kid just makes me smile. There's a lot of other stuff that makes me smile, too. But I'll let you come up with your own examples. I'm just going to enjoy one: comfie jammies. G'night.
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