Life is Hard, Clay is Soft
My father Jack was an artist.
When I was little, my room had murals of nursery rhymes on all the walls. Jack jumping over the candle stick. Mary and her little lamb. The cow jumped over the moon. And a little mouse running up a clock. I still remember them. Dad painted them for me. But we moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Long Island when I was 5 years old, leaving the painted walls behind.
The coolest place in our new house was the basement. Going down the stairs was a stained glass window my Mom had found covered in dust in an antique store. For some reason they had it installed going down the dark staircase to the basement instead of a window. It was a beautiful reclining lady, her face and hands were hand-painted and illuminated in a garden with butterflies and flowers around her, and round glass circles above and below.
When I grew up the window resided at my lake house in Connecticut for 18 years, enjoying the western light passing through. Now she lives at my brother’s ranch on Pioneer Road only five miles from me above a fireplace well lit from behind. It is our Family’s Treasure.
There was a bar downstairs and above it was a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe with her elbow up above her head, turned aside, posing all pink and blonde and pretty. It wasn’t this one but this was the closest I could find.
The best part was the Art Table, a large piece of plywood always filled with projects on it. My father had made a life-size bust of my face and head out of a plastic clay. I wanted to make something too. My father had used up all the clay. He was a generous-spirited man. Out of the back of the head—the clay one of course, all curly hair—he took a handful of the cool gray clay and gave it to me. It felt wonderful as it squished through my small fingers.
Day after day Daddy would give me more and more clay, and the figurine of Wendy’s head went hollow as the clay became giraffes and tigers and snakes. Soon the clay replica went limp and was gone.
Now thinking about, it a sadness flows through me, tinged with great joy, that Dad gave me a wondrous adventure as we cannibalized his own sculpture creation of his daughter—allowing my wild creative energy to grow and flow like the raging river it is.
Sometimes when I paint now, I hear his voice…Alizarin Crimson…Rose Madder Light…Ultramarine Blue…In life he never taught me the painting colors (that I recall), but somewhere in the Akashic record, my father Who Art in Heaven tells me the colors to use and I am filled with a Cadmium Yellow joy to hear his voice. Over and over again.
“Thanks Daddy,” I say in my head.” Thanks again.”
He answers back, tenderly, “Of course, Wen.”
Years later I made a plaque of clay and jewels, it says My Truth. ” Life is Hard – Clay is Soft. ”
It stands outside my front door now, beaming a welcome to all my visitors who come by.