Monday, August 18, 2008

Martin Puryear

Today during my late lunch break I decided to go see the Martin Puryear exhibit at the National Gallery. It was incredible! The brochure calls him "post-minimalist," although the work seemed very minimalist to me, despite being huge pieces. A Flickr search brings up some really great photos of his pieces at a few different galleries.

My favourite piece was Self. It's a monolithic black piece and part of a series examining space and hollowness in his work. I was particularly drawn to this one because it is a solid black wood shape that was built around a armature that was later removed. It's also one of the few that was painted (most are unfinished wood and other materials). So it's a work that is highly refined on the outside, yet its most important feature is completely hidden from onlookers. I love that it is so unknowable, like so many things in life.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dear Aaron:

Today is the third anniversary of your death. After you died, Chris told me that eventually I would remember the good things and forget the bad things. I still remember the hurt and pain as clear as day, but I can finally remember the good things too, and they are what I prefer to think of now when I remember you.

I remember what an amazing musician you were. You were a fantastic trumpet player; you could scream out those lead lines like heroes you studied so carefully. Not only could you play the instrument well, but you knew all the little idiomatic details of the music you played. I remember how you called yourself "El Gato" after Cat Anderson and signed all your emails EG. And how proud you sounded when you told me the guys on the QEII nicknamed you Cunard Ferguson, a combination of the ship line you were on and Maynard. And oh, I remember when you got that Maynard play-along cassette and had to pull your slide all the way out to play with it because it was so flat. You did it though, and you could get every note.

You inspired me to be a better musician. You told me to play my bari "like a big 'ole black man," and I did. You told me to "blow it hard," and I did. I remember the hours we spent sitting in the living room playing Aebersoldes, you coaxing and coaching the jazz out of me. I got to play with the symphony, you know. I think you would have been proud of that. I don't really play any more, but whenever I listen to jazz I remember you. I think you would like the music that I sing now. It's different from your music, but it's beautiful. It's the sort of music that you can throw yourself into and let everything go. Your favourite hymn isn't in the book, but there are plenty that I think you would love.

I remember the way you looked when you heard something in the music that was especially great. You'd sit back in your chair (the brown and white threadbare one), you'd put your hands out with the fingers splayed, and you'd smile so that I could see that crooked tooth we called "'Ole Chomper." Then you'd get up and rewind it again and again. Whenever I imagine you in my mind it's always in that chair, smiling at the clever line you just heard.

I remember the way you used to read with me. Some of my happiest memories are of times we went out for coffee or lunch with our books and magazines and sat together and read. Except we spent more time reading to each other and talking about it than actually reading. Whenever I read a Harper's or Atlantic or New Yorker I think of you. You taught me how to really appreciate the words I read, and you taught me how to care about the words I wrote. Before I met you I would write carelessly, but you showed me how to respect the written word, and to cherish it. How to loose myself in it.

I remember how you used to love driving out in the country. You'd tell me about your grandparents and your time spent up in Grande Prairie. We'd reminisce about growing up on the prairies, yet both in different worlds. I remember the time we were driving to band camp and the car broke down. Nobody else could find us because we'd taken a scenic route that day. It was so cold out, and we walked through the snow to a farm house near by. The old woman who answered the door was so generous, and called her friends at the Morinville towing company to come get us. While we waited she made us instant coffee, and you (who loved your coffee even more than I do) drank it thankfully. And when we left, I remember you said, "did you see the shotgun by the door? Good thing she didn't answer the door with that."

I remember the little boy inside of you. The one who became giddy at the sight of trains and airplanes. The one who got engrossed in stories, books and games about military history. Your handsome face would light up if we got stopped at a train crossing, and we'd sit and count the cars as they passed. You'd tell me how the train worked, and what was probably being carried in all the freight cars. I remember the year I bought you a flight in a Cessna 4-seater for your birthday. I know it wasn't your first time up in one of those, but we sure had a great time flying all around the city for an hour.

I remember the day you died. I was at work and my mom called to tell me. She picked me up and we went and spent the afternoon with your family. I hadn't seen them in a long time, and we just prayed and hugged and sat and cried together. I was in shock for a long time. Everything I did felt absurd for months afterwards. I think you would appreciate this: On your death certificate, under place of death there's just a longitude and latitude listing. I've always thought that was appropriate.

Your funeral was one of the hardest days of my life. I bought a new outfit and I styled my hair. I remember that for some reason it was very important to me that I look my best that day. I didn't visit you at the funeral home because I decided I didn't want to see you that way; I want to keep remembering you as alive and warm, not cold and lifeless. When they brought in your coffin my heart broke. I hadn't seen you in a long time, and the thought that the man I loved, and shared my life with, and whom I thought I would share my whole future with was only inches away on the other side of some thin wood made me feel as though my body was being torn apart. At the interment I didn't want to leave. I sat alone with you for a long time, but I could see that the workers wanted to finish their job and go home, so eventually I tore myself away. I sure hope they're all right and you're up in heaven now.

I remember our wedding day. It was one of my happiest days, and is one my most cherished memories. When I walked down the aisle and saw you looking at me with such adoration I felt like a princess. I felt like everything would be okay. Better than okay even. We were so in love, and you challenged me and made me a better person. I don't believe that I made the wrong choice in marrying you, even though it ended so badly. You were brilliant and handsome and warm and generous in spite of all your flaws, and I think we would have been very happy if you had somehow managed to fight off your demons.

Almost every day I catch a glimpse of you from behind out of the corner of my eye. I know it's not really you, but I like to think it is. It comforts me to think that you might be watching me grow and change. I'm stronger now, and more confident. I'm not someone who lets herself be hurt and used by people any more, and I think you'd be proud of me.

The happy times that you and I shared together are precious and so special. We shared something that neither of us had or will have with any other person. I am who I am now because of you; you're a part of me and you always will be. I think of you every day, and I always will.