December 29, 2012 – Where Moth and Rust Destroy
My brother and sister-in-law drive up to Dallas from the Austin outskirts with my niece and their dog Rien for the weekend. I’ve been back in the United States for all of six days and I don’t know how I feel about it. Only eight days ago I was at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. A month ago I was in Sweden. A month before that I was on a ship sailing the open sea. I try to keep from making the comparisons aloud. There’s such a fine line between relating experience and being pretentious. I bite my tongue and just tell these things to myself. The distances I’ve traveled seem unbelievable at times. What I’ve seen, whom I’ve met, and the paths I’ve taken are like fiction and poetry—unexpected in their turns and a little bit like rhymes. The memories are my own, but so far removed from this familiar place.
I look around. The trees that line my parents’ street are comforting in their grandeur. The roads are unchanged enough so I can still, and always, find my way around. The house, with its generationally thick familial ties, beckons me inside. And I have future plans that move me onward and forward. Despite the unconditional love that hovers cloudlike in the air, I have a subtle fear of having to live here again. It’s a subtle fear that tastes like regression. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I even like coming back to Dallas several times a year; it’s comfortable for visiting. I always say, “It’s a great place to be from.” I lived twenty years of my life here, but Dallas seems, once again, too big a city for me.
With the noise of Lima far behind me, miles of towns and kilometers of countries passed beneath my feet, States lived in and left; I’m not sure where I belong. I’m not sure where I really want to be. After all, I’ve been tempted with the splendor of the globe. I feel both disconnected and at ease. Life is duality, right?
My culture shock in returning to my native soil is my yearning for the tranquility of Sweden, for the perfection of Croatian coffee, for the wine of Italy that no matter how cheap to buy was always good. I already miss the freedom I’d had with my travel budget—the world had seemed so accessible and adventures so affordable. That season is past. It’s time to buckle my proverbial moneybelt and settle down.
By settling down I mean living for two months in the Northwest with a friend and then staying for a yet unspecified amount of time with the aforementioned brother and his wife.
The thought of being in one place for longer than a month does have its appeal. I imagine the streams of uninterrupted time. I imagine writing a whole book (I’ve got the idea for it in mind, and surely I’m that productive). I can finally catch up on my blogs. I can read everything I’ve neglected reading.
I might have forgotten how time flies by.
I’ve already been in America six whole days when my sister-in-law Marie, art lover and artist, suggests we venture over to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to see the Lucien Freud Portraits exhibit. We leave the niece and dog with my mom and dad, and Marie, Ben my brother, Jesse my oldest sister and I take the highway to Fort Worth.
The disjoint between the old world I’ve so recently left and the world I’ve returned to dissolves a little when I see the Richard Serra construction outside the museum. His work is easy to recognize. A tower of rusted panels stands nearly twice as tall as the museum itself. Richard Serra, I think without any doubt. I feel learned. Knowledgeable. Artistically educated. I saw Richard Serra in Spain and I’m seeing him here in Texas. The world isn’t that far apart. Everything is connected.
There aren’t the ubiquitous signs telling us not to touch so some of us do. We venture inside the sculpture and my brother stomps his boots. The sound echoes up through the spire and my sister joins in on the percussion. I look up. The sky is the universe, the universe is us. We might have sung there inside the rusted metal. Or maybe we just hummed.
In the museum, we make our way through the permanent exhibitions and then find our way upstairs to the Lucien Freud. We split up and view the portraits on our own time, with our own thoughts.
I’m not just thinking about art. I’m not just reflecting on the layers of paint, on the depressed expressions, on the thought of what it must have been like to be the grandson of Sigmund Freud, on the portrayal of the nude form or of the muted colors, I’m also thinking of transition, place, work, life, questions, money, living and how I fit into it all. How my life is exactly what I make of it. Or don’t.
I’m the same me who left this area so long ago and I’m completely different. In fact, I’m more me than I’ve ever been before and I don’t want to lose the fullness of experience. I don’t want to stagnate. I’m outside the box and I want to stay outside. I want to be one who even says, “What box?” but always without pretention; a natural eccentric without affectation.
That’s not too much to wish for, is it?
I sneak away from the Freuds with my doubts held in my closed up hands and venture into a hall, find a back room with a chunk of art that looks like a stack of gigantic bricks. It’s an untitled piece made from Texas Red Granite. The plaque on the wall says: The universal quality of these forms in a sense makes Rückriem’s work a metaphor for the way humankind makes his way in the world.
I stare at the piece again and raise my eyebrows. I’m not disagreeing with the plaque—to be honest I don’t really understand it--and I’m all for art being metaphor and for metaphor being art, I’m just hoping my way through the world is a little less blocky, a little more organic in form and maybe even just a little less red. I open my fists and let my doubts fall to the ground. I tuck my desires and dreams into my pockets where they’ll be safe and accessible. I know that my future is one I write myself. After all, I am universal quality, metaphor, and crazy enough to live by the seat of my pants.