the moon + e.e. cummings

The phases of the moon are the main thing I remember from an astronomy class I took. This moon, for example, was supposed to be a waxing gibbous, but the impreciseness of the crayon obscures that. But trust me–it’s a waxing gibbous. (My favourite moon phase is  the waxing gibbous, but my favourite moon phase name is actually the waning gibbous. It sounds like some sort of curious little creature.) Ever since I took that class, I look up into the sky with interest at night to see what the current moon phase is; the class taught me to appreciate its beauty more.

E.E. Cummings is one of my favourite poets. The first poem I read of his was “in Just-” which was in a poetry anthology I used in English in eleventh grade and which I immediately loved. Since that time, the love for his work has only grown.

I was leafing through his book Tulips and Chimneys trying to find lines to use for some sort of art project. After I found a couple about the moon, I was inspired to create this. I first traced the moon, using a cup to create a waning gibbous, in white crayon and then added some stars. I next used a black watercolour cake to paint over the crayon. Finally, I typed up the lines on my typewriter, cut them out, and glued them on the sky.

cummings

As for the text, I appreciate imagery, and the lines

the moon is hiding in

her hair.

The

lily

of heaven

full of all dreams,

draws down.

evoke some lovely images. The moon being “full of all dreams” is very romantic and mystical and lovely.

ta-te-ta

in a parenthesis!said the moon

)

is rather Cummingsian (Cummingsesque? Some other word?) in its use of punctuation, spacing, and whimsical wording. The moon said, “Ta-te-ta,” but what did it mean by that? Was it in a parenthesis because it was an aside, or something not necessary to know?

What do you think of when you look at the moon?

Misfortune Collage

I have spent much time sad without channeling it into anything (relevant information: I have major depression). There are long stretches of time I can’t remember very well because I didn’t write about how I was feeling or leave any other sort of expression of it. All I can vaguely remember is that I was sad, and the nuances of that feeling are forgotten.

I want to try more to express myself artistically when I’m feeling well or bad alike. I don’t want to heap even more expectations on myself when I’m obviously already not feeling well, so instead of saying I should do it, or need to do it, I will try to just point out to myself that it will be helpful for the future, to keep track of time and to create some sort of tangible expressive artefact.

Recently, I did attempt to qualify my mood with a collage. It is called Not knowing in her fear what to begin with, full of sad apprehension, she expected some misfortune.

About the title: several years ago I bought a Russian grammar book from a deeply discounted used book sale. I like using book excerpts for collages, and my intention was to find interesting phrases to use (and find out how to write them in Russian!). The title was a sample sentence in the book. This was a gem of a line to find as it was so representative of how I was feeling.

misfortune (1)

In the top left is a page from the book Hang in There! written by Lucille Boesken and illustrated by Fran Kariotakis, copyright 1972. It’s one of those books that is sincere and means well (it reassures you of the book-giver’s friendship, for example) but contains dismissive language like, “Tomorrow your worries/And troubles will ‘scat’/Just trust and believe/It’s as simple as that!” I chose the page because I felt it was descriptive of having depression, and there was a certain satisfaction to just including that one page without the syrupy “encouragement.” I think the sad sun is an interesting image–I’ve only seen drawings of suns with faces that are either happy or neutral. I feel like this sun could be a symbol of me–maybe because I can smile and be extremely friendly and laugh sometimes, but then I have extremely hopeless and despairing moods too, sometimes simultaneously. Someone who only knows the happy-mood me could be surprised that I actually have serious depression. You don’t expect the sun to be sad.

The gas mask is there as a symbol of horror (for example, of what awful things humans can do to each other) and fear. The hearts and definitions reflect the connotation of the heart as the centre of emotion. They are part of a dictionary page that is layered on another dictionary page, this one missing the definitions for ‘worriment’ and ‘worry’ (and replaced by the collage’s title in Russian). ‘Worriment’ and ‘worry’ are toward the bottom left (pasted on top of the Hang in There! page to add to the sentiment of the rain not quitting and cares pressing you down).

Underneath that is a couple of scrap excerpts from the E.E. Cummings book Tulips and Chimneys, from the section entitled “La Guerre” (“the war” in French). One of the poems in this section is “Humanity i love you,” which actually expresses the opposite as it progresses to the last lines, which are the ones I’ve included. (What interesting bookends to a poem: “Humanity i love you” and “Humanity i hate you.”) I do tend to obsess about seemingly insignificant things, but part of my being depressed also includes a heaping helping of existential angst and despair about the state of the world.

In the middle, above the gas mask, is a selection from a book of proverbs and quotations. The full quote is, “He who is virtuous is wise; and he who is wise is good; and he who is good is happy.” Messages like this, conflating virtue and wisdom to happiness, have hurt me–because then what are the implications if I’m chronically not happy? Luckily I don’t internalize those messages as much anymore, but I definitely used to–especially when I first started feeling down and didn’t know the cause. I thought I must be doing something wrong or must be a bad person. When I see thoughts like this, it still angers me a little though, which is why I pasted the word ‘lie’ beneath it, along with synonyms (it was from a thesaurus page).

This simple collage packs a powerful meaning to me. Represented are aspects of depression that affect me, like chronic worry about day-to-day things (‘worriment,’ ‘worry’) as well as worry about the state and nature of humanity and how flawed and unjust the world can be (the gas mask, “Humanity i hate you”). Perhaps I should make some photocopies and hand them out to strangers who nonchalantly ask how I’m doing but don’t really care about the answer. That is how I’m feeling, buddy. Thanks for asking.

On Gratitude Lists

I grew up learning that, paradoxically, bad things happened to good people (“for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust”) but good things also happened to good people because they were good, and bad things happened to bad people because they were bad. Now, how do you tell why a bad thing happened to you? Ay, there’s the rub. Is it a test sent to refine you? Or is it a punishment?

Nowadays I try to take a more nuanced view of what even constitutes “good” or “bad.” I’ve realized that this way of thinking–essentially, we get what we deserve–has hurt me and my self-esteem. Even placing people (and events) into such stark categories as “good” and “bad” is inaccurate and quite all-or-nothing thinking.

I have been tasked by multiple people to write a daily list of things I am grateful for for the purpose of improving my negative thinking. However, I have struggled with this. Looking for feedback, I have asked the people closest to me how they would assess my gratitude, and they have all said that I am one of the most grateful people they know. So if that’s true, why do I balk at making those gratitude lists? Because for everything I list, it reminds me that I don’t deserve any of it.

I don’t think I deserve anything good that comes my way because I haven’t earned it. I am painfully aware of all of my flaws, and it is very hard to live with myself. I see people who don’t have what I do, and I wonder why they, who must surely deserve these things more than I do (through hard work, exemplary character, much more effort, etc.) don’t.

I have come to realize that I think that people rely too much on the idea of meritocracy. I do believe people’s actions have consequences, but I don’t think that the good and bad consequences are as tightly controlled as people make them out to be. A lot of life is just luck and chance in my view. I say this not to dismiss the important work that people do but rather to counter those ideas I mentioned at the beginning about good things happening to good people because they are good. If you believe that line of thinking and misfortunes befall you, you will start to think you are a pretty awful person.

In a recent therapy session, I started talking about those assigned gratitude lists and my struggle to complete them. My therapist pointed out that maybe the word “gratitude” was the problem. Maybe I should call them something else.

I am trying to settle on a name, and I want it to be something about the universe that reflects the chance and arbitrariness of the good things that happen to me. I do not want it that way because I want to keep believing that I don’t deserve anything good. But you see, I believe that all people deserve good things. Just by being a living thing, someone deserves good things. If I believe that about others, maybe I should include myself in the collective that is humanity. We can actually still be grateful for chance and arbitrariness! We just don’t have to think that we are completely responsible.

(By the way, please feel free to disagree with me if you think I am missing something important. Like I said before, I don’t want to diminish anyone’s effort or work. I think people can enact change. I am focusing more on good vs. bad things that happen to us.)

I think “Chance Blessings from the Universe” could be a good name for my list. That way I can be grateful for the positive things in my life without feeling like I have to earn and deserve them. I can be grateful for things that cross my path and leave it at that, without feeling unworthy.