On White


CELIA PERRIN SIDAROUS

I've been collecting paper lately.


There are the notebooks: A sketchbook which I use for collaging; there's the colored square-ruled notebook I'm using for class preparation and some academic-ish reading; I have a small reclaimed
moleskine papered with a lovely woodblock image of a swallow (I found this on Etsy), my cream-coloured reading journal, and the two journals currently waiting in the wings for an opening... one is a squared, large-format moleskine and the other is this lovely thing from Rosa Sharn Designs also on Etsy.

Then there's the paper scraps I found at Art Things two weeks ago, the 5 advice posters from Advice to Sink in Slowly, the cards from
this wonderful artist, a calendar from this talented woman, and the always-pretty catalogues I've been snipping into collage remnants.

And there's the non-paper writing I do ... dozens of e-mails to myself, remining me of links, names, and thoughts. I also transcribe passages I want to post here later (often-times much later).

And all of this amounts to a lot of the written word and I have trouble remembering what goes where ... and more importantly, what goes here.

[see above credit]


The morning sky in winter is so predictable and yet so stunning in its stark, bleak beauty. The light is blonde and cold, the sun shines through thick mats of cloud, or through wisps of cold ice crystals, or shines clear through the cerulean sky ... always in the same pallette of white/grey/pale gold. I want to wrap myself in these cold colours, to wear them, breathe them, to walk in cold blonde light. It shatters sometimes, and sometimes it curls around the corners and into the sorts of places that don't welcome light of any season. Oysters, lemons and the color of hair that's turning from golden blonde into grey. There's a sterile sort of magic in this light, and its glory is in its simplicity. One morning the light danced amidst a school of silvery mackerel-like clouds that raced across the sky, trailing snow and ice behind them.

Winter light loves the skeleton-trees. It throws them into relief, my favorite sunrise/sunset image. Dark and bare they twist and angle against the sky, recalling Shakespeare "... bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang ..." ), Dickinson ( "... like the weight of Cathedral tunes ..." ), and this little fragment from Amelie: "Si vous laissez passer cette chance, alors avec le temps, c'est votre coeur qui va devenir aussi sec et cassant que mon squelette." [read those last words aloud, their mellifluousness is incredible]. The winter sky is like an ossuary, like an x-ray plate carried around in one's breast pocket.

The latest issue of Cabinet has as its theme the topic of Bones (as well as a variety of other wonderful articles, images, and thoughts). So there are ossuaries in my leisure reading and this quote (from Matthew 23) in my academic reading:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens' bones, and of all uncleanliness.

I've had these morbid, rigid, stark-white images scattered in my mind and throughout my day for weeks now. I find myself looking for diagrams for paper airplanes, purchasing a necklace made out of the innards of a discarded watch, reading about labyrinths and golden spirals on wikipedia, and noticing the random geometry in nature.

It's snowing right now, and four hours ago I was driving home, watching how the accumulation of white powder transformed my familiar world into something strange and stunning. The white highlights on tree-bones; the zig-zagging lattice of lines and angles that was previously a pile of drab winter detritus.

A mown cornfield becomes a pincushion, or perhaps a hedgehog, or maybe just an entirely new thing consisting of staccato spikes and undulating waves of white. Sign posts, address numbers, and automobiles look natural now, a part of this new white world. There is snow on the bleached animal skulls that hang inexplicably from various trees on our property [all gleaned from walks through the surrounding country], white on white. Things which were once overlooked by my eyes become something new, something worth re-cognizing.