December 3, 2012
But there are also the weeks, no, months, of drought. The hand-wringing days of concern where, in the sending of the work, you wonder if you were off by one or two letters in the email address or if insufficient postage was placed on the envelope, or the phone lines have been cut by some creeping intruder lurking without. Drought. I've known it. It will curl the ground up from itself for lack of moisture. The days you look at the page with words on it, and you wonder why the bell clangs and does not ring.
The painting above was made by Isadore Schwartzberg, my father, in 1932. He was 15 years old when he created it. Oh, yes, over the years, that painting has been woefully abused, shunted aside, suffered through a big flood in a spring Chicago basement. When I was myself 15 years old, I tried to clean it: using a wet rag on the face and skirt of the figure -- only to find actual paint on the rag. My heart cried. My father should have been a painter. Instead, he did what most men in that day and age did. They conformed for the sake of their families. Just look at that left hand's index finger. The masks of comedy and tragedy. The palette and brushes. He was 15 years old when he did this. I'm told it hung for some years in the students' wing of the Art Institute in Chicago.
Now it hangs in a special corner of my home. Over five feet high, it beckons my friends and guests when they come to visit. It speaks for itself. They move toward it as if an invisible force were guiding them. I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have told him to never lay down the brush. It's the choices we make that make us. No one stands alone. We've all heard the adage that we're born alone, we die alone. But I believe we are so inextricably bound to one another that our forms mesh, that in truth there no margins. Being in this world is a deeply ingrained business. Rain comes in many forms.