Wanted for Christmas

December 23, 2005

Dear Rodney,

I may be totally wrong on this one. I'm thinking that artists
are among those who don't really want to receive too many gifts
for the Holiday Season. It may have something to do with the
overabundance of joy in our daily lives--or the consequent
guilt that arises, but we artists, by and large, are not into
materialism. At this time of year there is little that we might
covet. Actually, this year the only thing that I want is one of
those radio-controlled tarantulas. And that's hardly a
gift--it's entertainment for others--controlled by me of
course--perhaps to set off drama among the nieces. They are
nice nieces. "Funny Uncle Bob," I'll hear them scream when my
radio-controlled tarantula haltingly emerges from under the
Christmas tree. "They come in with shipments of Bolivian
trees," I'll tell them. The little darlings.

But I digress. The only thing that I can ever remember really
craving was the know-how to do a decent painting. I'd seen what
the really great painters could do. For my stocking I wanted a
zapper--perhaps a pill or an easily gulped liquid. Picasso
chutzpah, Sargent talent, Monet joy. Put this stuff in bottles
and you could name your price. Pop one just before stepping
into the studio, and "Schazzam," I'd be the wizard I always
knew I was. Actually, I think these twice weekly letters are
like little silent pills--some that work for one and not
another--or that work one time and not the next. "What a bunch
of pap," wrote one subscriber after my recent letter about
creativity and love. She unsubscribed from the freebee. That's
the good thing about giving a gift. No one ever complains about
the price.

But I digress. We don't need stuff. We need ideas and energy
and subjects and motivation and time and lots of other things
that can't be bought and are not sold at Wal-Mart. Happiness is
not under the Christmas tree but somewhere in the air above it.
It doesn't stick to traditional dates or statutory holidays. It
can sometimes be found on the most ordinary of Thursdays.
Sometimes it just blows in like a swallow in December.
Sometimes when you want it most you can't have it. And
sometimes you're up to your elbows. That's why we don't need
regular stuff. We're into bigger stuff. And if we need tools or
paint or clay or something we just go out and buy it anyway.
Which reminds me, I'm outa here--last minute stuff.

Merry Christmas,

Robert

PS: "Thanks to my work everything's going well." (Claude Monet)

Esoterica: It's a sort of ecstasy. It's like a drug. It's that
feeling you get when you've given everything in a work of art.
And it connects, really connects, not with everyone, but with
someone--maybe someone special. It's the possibility of the
existence of such a high that keeps us believing in things even
more preposterous than a jolly bearded chap descending over
6000 chimneys per second. "And for a breath of ecstasy / Give
all you have been, or could be." (Sara Teasdale)