I've Lived In Chico, CA 9 Years Now. Incredible.
If You Miss It, Paint it In
The California Northstate area has a surfeit of marvelous scenery, and artists of all kinds. The NPR radio Magazine for the Arts to which I contribute as co-host has recently expanded their format to include more visual artists – my assigned area.
The stations I work with together reach the entire Sacramento Valley area, which has led me to dig pretty deeply into the histories and artifacts of several communities. I’ve only interviewed three artists for the program so far. The work of radio program production is intense and sometimes I wonder how I got myself into this considering I am working two jobs besides.
I’ll be deep in thought about my relative insanity, and then one of the artists I meet or interview, who miraculously all seem to speak the same language I do, will say something that makes me think great, sustaining thoughts for an hour, a day, a week or longer.
And that sums up the value of all my efforts to me.
I was recording a show airing today with artist Dolores Mitchell. (When you can, have a look at her website: https://doloresmitchell.com/ )
Dolores shared details of her current exhibition, which includes paintings near waters of scenic Vina, CA, site of a lovely Trappist Monastery.
“The herons have eaten the Koi that used to live in the streams,” she said. “Those fish are works of art in themselves.” She detailed her frustration about the Koi demise as well as her repeated visits over a summer to produce her series of “water paintings.” With the herons presumably looking right over her shoulder, Dolores proceeded to “paint the Koi back in to every one of those pieces.”
“It’s as if in some sense you replaced a beauty that was lost,” was my return thought, “putting it right back where you felt it belonged for yourself and others to enjoy.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about the concept of painting in whatever it is we miss - or that, or who we wished were still there. I don’t mean in the literal sense of course. But when I started to write about my transition into Chico life from marvelous Chicago- a place I still miss very much, along with my family and friends there - I realized that in the act of creating a space for that which was lost, I was able to paint myself more assuredly, more deliberately into a new scene. Chicago was and still is a big player in my world as a result, and I am better assimilated into a new world that emerged for me quite suddenly.
To carry the theme a bit further, I have photographs of departed loved ones hidden in odd places; between books and inside desk and bureau drawers. Letters, too. I run into them from time to time.
Thus I keep the dear faces and comforting writings of others embedded in my own, very current life landscape.
Don’t we all do that, or something like it? Have secret conversation with loved ones who’ve died, engage in memories of times past that can’t ever be again? Yes, there will always be new things to replace the old. For all I know, there may be some new little fish about to make an appearance in the clear waters of Vina (that hopefully won’t get eaten). But it’s the way of life to lose things, and the idea of “painting it back in,” in terms of metaphor if nothing else, is so beautiful to me.