It’s the space between the leaves that makes me shiver, that makes me cry, that makes me need to bow my head.
Why? Because in the words of John Hejduk
, “I believe in the density of the sparse.”
When I was a little girl I used to lie in bed in the dark and listen to Allan McFee — hey, Canadians, do you remember him? — on my radio. “Eclectic Circus” on the CBC was where I first heard Ry Cooder and a whole bunch of other pretty amazing music, and everything about Allan McFee’s looping, swooping train of thought made me feel shivery and expectant and shivery and charged and shivery and stirred.
Those were the days before window technology got so goddam fabulous and airtight and prohibitive and censorious. The crumbly old French doors of my room that led out onto a crumbly old balcony stank with frost in the winter, and I would lie and listen to Allan McFee’s odd, skewed, immense intelligence and his mad, perfect playlists and watch the moon on the frost. Sometimes the cold would abate enough that the frost would slide away into nothing and then, since since my parents’ house was a block away from the tracks, I would lie in bed and wait for the night-time train whistle that made the goosebumps come. I would lie in bed and watch the branches of the huge old Manitoba maple that grew at the end of our backyard move in the wind. I liked then, and I like now, that cold music. I liked then, and I like now, bare branches filigreed against an unblue sky.
So much of what moves me in art is that
place — the place where the spaces are. It’s just like those bare tree branches or even branches in full leaf: without the space between there is no way to appreciate the thing that fills the space. The moment of anticipation is a very delicious thing; the moment of silence, the moment of space, is the moment that allows revelation to come. And it’s not that I’m a minimalist, in any way, shape, or form, because I’m not. I have a collector’s bent, for sure, and my house is full of objects: skulls, typewriters, alphabetica, anatomica, books, and much, much more. But I like and need — no, love
and need — the crack in everything that lets the light get in
What is absent is just as important as what is present. More important sometimes. That is a thing worth remembering, altho’ I sometimes forget to remember it. But I remember it now and am glad that I do because the density of the sparse is full of epiphanic goodness.
After Long Silence
by William Butler Yeats
Speech after long silence; it is right,
All other lovers being estranged or dead,
Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade,
The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,
That we descant and yet again descant
Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song:
Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant.