I’m in my socks on a quiet street in the old section of town, pulling goutweed out of the garden. It’s early on an idyllic spring morning, full of bees and growth, flowers and a gentle cool breeze. A starling, harsh and insistent, comments on my weeding. I explain that in the ecosystem of my tiny garden many things grow, and that the manifest destiny that is Goutweed’s nature would change all of it into a monoculture. This is why I must, however reluctantly (I’m not feeling reluctant at all, not even shocked that this is so), do my best to kill or maim Goutweed. I tell him I prefer his sweet starling voice to this rasp.
Muttering about invasive plants and the more tender, solitary ones I seek to protect, I feel myself ease into the beginning of this three-day inner working space.
The mornings early articles were about artists – Kahlo, O’Keefe, Yayoi Kusama – specifically, their struggle to give artistic voice to the particular forms of madness they’d discovered in themselves. Our relationship with others; our relationship with our own minds – maybe the greatest challenge in being human?
I found myself writing about strict ordering of colour, the music and the muscle of line, the often oppressive heaviness of form. This was somehow inside of thoughts about the utter sanctity of solitude, the necessity of it. It’s here I build fortitude, here where I can examine and own my relationship with crow-darkness; my internal, eternal desires (lust even?); my old, creakingly reliable rigidity.
Scratching the surface, but then this is day one of three.
The goutweed surrenders to my will, stem by stem, and as I stoop mutter pull I hear the sound a badly injured animal would make if I were in the bush. It’s coming from a largish man in spring coat and backpack. He’s standing at the end of the street, not five houses away.
He and I are the only ones visible. I instinctively give him space, content in my goutweed campaign, not looking, but listening. He moans again. Mutters (to himself), You shouldn’t have done that. It wasn’t right and it’s not okay. You’re not okay, you need help. You need to get some help.
I know he knows I’m listening. In fact, he called me to listen, with his moans.
I think to myself that this is a shared moment of something unnameable but infinite. I think that every human everywhere works this way, all the time, every day. We do our best to make friends with our madness.
My talkative neighbour has seen me – as I hear the creak of his side door I hear myself too, muttering not now not now… But there he is, coffee in hand, ready to chat.
Startled by the interruption we run with our minds, the largish man and I, to seek solitude again, where the fragile thought-threads can be followed, observed, even understood a little.
You just missed me! I say to coffee-cup-neighbor. Too bad! I need to go in now and get back to my work. He says ya sure that’s ok. Inside, I can feel the door as I close it.
I feel happiness.