Janus

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I’m 65 years old and I’ve never seen a sunset in quite the design we saw last night.

It’s the first day of the year, the day we’re supposed to think about gateways and beginnings. Those are the things of which Janus was god, and it’s a little strange because I was just thinking about my late sister Judy.

Well not that strange since I think about her a great deal, but strange because at 65 one’s head is teeming with trivia and among the trivia I carry around is the fact that Judy’s high school yearbook (1960, mind you) was called Janus and I looked through that book a whole lot when I was a kid. I must have thought high school was the most amazing place in the world.

Judy was smiling in all her photos. She smiled a lot. I was recently telling this to my granddaughter whose name is Judy’s mirror image (Judith Marion became Marion Judith, weaving my mother, sister, and granddaughter together,  which is very nice).

I was telling Marion that Judy was an amazing person who never had an unkind word to say about anybody ever, not once. She was happy and generous and forgiving.

So this morning I was thinking about this new year beginning and how great it would be to be a little more like my sister Judy this year. Or well I could try for a week. Or well I think I could do it while everybody in the house is still asleep. And if I stay off the internet.

It’s a goal.

The whole thing ties into that sunset because I was thinking, if I can still see a sunset that’s unlike any I’ve seen before, why can’t there still be hope? And it ties into high school because in high school we are basically made of sheer potential and the deeply entrenched belief that we are about to change the world. (I’m pretty sure this is what I’ll miss most about my university students when I retire in May.)

And it ties into the sunset because in real life those stripes looked to me like the rings of Saturn and as I was looking at them I wondered which planet will we be able to move to when we’ve finished destroying this one.

So since this planet is the only one I’m likely to live on, I guess I ought to get busy improving my little corner of it in 2020.

Example: the detrashing movement. You know I spend way too much time on reddit, but not too much time in the terrible subs, I promise. However, I am subscribed to the detrashing sub, in which people document their daily clean-up contributions. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t contributed to this worthy project beyond being very vigilant with Travis’s poop bags; but this is as good a time as any to make that happen.

Meanwhile, as I am a youngest child after all, my main contributions have been of course to myself. Don’t you think. that spaghetti is life?

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I do.

If there’s a bright side to feeling down about the world, it would be comfort food. I’m about to embark upon a very rare winter visit to my girl Mary in San Pedro, and have already alerted her to the comfort foods I’ll be needing: her salads, this pasta, and that barley and cabbage thing she makes with savory sauce from The Spot, an ancient health-food restaurant in Redondo Beach.

In fact maybe we should eat there this visit. It’s been way too long.

It’s also been way too long since I’ve painted anything besides garden posts, walls, trim, and damn doors (ONLY ONE MORE DOOR TO GO!). So out of practice I needed to get back to basics, and that for me means Painting With Jane. And since I needed the plunge to be fun, I was happy to come across her video on painting with a spoon.

Okay, you could use a palette knife if you wanted to be like a real artist, but since I am not in that category I can paint with whatever I want. Degas had an opinion on that, and I trust his opinion.

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Spoon landscape.

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Spoon seascape.

Just the things to de-intimidate paint. And I still have a drawerful of student-grade acrylics to play with!

Another thing I like to do when creativity is too distant and scary is just copy something. Another Trader Joe’s greeting card happened to be literally at my elbow. Why not?

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As soon as I can sort out the moving boxes from my therapy office and thereby regain access to my garage art-making corner, I’ll crank up the space heater and pour some more resin. I recently bought some silicone candy molds and I’m thinking about drawer pulls that someone with a name like Marion Judith might like.

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The biblical Judith was a woman of great beauty, power, and courage; and although I doubt my sister Judy would ever have lopped off anyone’s head, she dealt with a lot of awful situations without complaint. This would be the brand of courage I have only read about.

I have charged myself with seeking out beauty in what’s left of our poor planet, however. Glad to report it’s still out there, even on our innumerable rainy days. For instance, the way the trees will decorate themselves after the holiday lights are returned to their plastic bins in all the garages.

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Or the daytime clouds I photograph because I am in dire need of cloud-painting practice:

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Or even in the gutter I had to scramble down to in the mud in my new unabashedly huge furry Crocs I ordered when my sciatica was so annoying I couldn’t really tie my shoes and I needed something to put on quick so the best dog in the world could have his morning walk.

Beauty is still there.

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Go find something beautiful.

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