Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing…
Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude.
— Michael Chabon, from Manhood for Amateurs
Hundred of needles are falling off our Christmas tree this year. Instead of throwing them out, I made a little tree of them.
I drew a pine-tree shape with Elmer’s glue on a cedar shake I had in the basement, then sprinkled the needles onto the glue, mimicking those glitter and glue art projects we did in kindergarten.
I burned the trunk into the wood with a soldering iron. The burnt cedar had a good smell.
Next I stained the surrounding wood surface (after realizing it would have been easier to do that before I added the glue and needles) and, after the stain and glue had dried, gave the whole thing repeated coats of a clear adhesive spray.
I’m hoping the adhesive spray will prevent the needles from browning. Either way, I like how the needle tree turned out. It’ll make a good decoration for the season.
I’m starting a daily* study of general knowledge–the common coins, in other words, of a rich education. This is stuff I should already know, or used to know but forgot.
I’ll use these books:
- The Story of Art
- A Little History of the World
- The Intellectual Devotional
- The Intellectual Devotional: American History
- The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture
- The Intellectual Devotional: Biographies
- The Intellectual Devotional: Health
The first two were written by E. H. Gombrich and they’re great primers. I’ll read a bit of one every day. The five devotionals have page-a-day entries, so I’ll read one page of each. My daily reading will take less than half an hour.
I’ll likely forget much of what I read, but something’s bound to stick, and that’ll be more than I knew before.
Today I read about the APGAR test for newborns, John Smith, hieroglyphics, Sigmund Freud… I can’t even remember what subjects I read about five minutes ago. Hold on, I’ll check.
Okay. I also read about Khufu, the Nile, and the alphabet. Feel free to quiz me if you see me walking around looking smug.
(I read that Freud had a brief zoological stint and is credited with discovering the testicles of eels. This seemed too good to be true so I dug deeper online. He apparently tried to find eel testicles for a month but, like many before him, failed.)
* I’m starting mid-December rather than January 1 because I know myself. I’ll miss days. I’ll be lazy or sullen other days. But if I get a two-week jump on a 365-day program, maybe I’ll stay on track for the end of 2017.
My dog Bones and I are amazed by the strangeness of an indoor tree. We ought to be used to this after previous Christmases, but we aren’t.
The room is different. A mysterious wildness is suddenly inside–more than fragrance, more than a lingering bird aura. It’s a feeling we’d like to experience all year.
Could the room have a permanent pine tree? Not one of those evergreen houseplants people keep in pots, but a serious outdoor tree (indoors).
Keeping it alive would require, of course, sawing a hole in the floor so the tree could root in the huge, well-curated compost heap in the basement. I’d carry buckets of rain inside because tap water isn’t the same. Or the rain could be diverted from our roof, via elegant pipework, directly into the house.
Basement drainage would be essential. Earthworms would keep the compost vital.
A ceiling hole would encourage the tree’s lawless vertical growth into the home’s second story, where yet another room would benefit from the tree’s existence.
Squirrels would add crazed vitality to our placid environment. Bones would enjoy an aerobic and spiritual lift.
But would the lack of weather and seasons weaken the tree, however well we nourished it? Might the pine grow depressed?
Would we ourselves tire of its presence, as we often tire of familiarized wonders? It may be simpler, and more successful, to admire the trees outside and, when even they have ceased to thrill us, allow the annual strangeness of a Christmas tree to resuscitate our amazement.
Because that’s the only way it works…
When you openly, radically trust people, they not only take care of you, they become your allies, your family.
Sometimes people will prove themselves untrustworthy.
When that happens, the correct response is not:
Fuck! I knew I couldn’t trust anybody!
The correct response is:
Some people just suck.
Moving right along.
— Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking