Friday, August 29, 2008

This year's Grief

While we're on the topic of cathartic poetry, here's another I wrote about my life out there with Tommy out in Albuquerque. No, it wasn't all bad. But being raised to not make a fuss and be a good girl made it real hard for me to get in touch with my anger.

Tommy took all the room in a house. His anger was big. His bigness overshadowed everything. Every time. And it was worse on vacations and holidays. Great timing.

This was my only Thanksgiving away from the family, while I lived out west with Tommy for three years, trying to save him. Ridiculous to think that I could. But I was sent as a peace offering, mostly my doing. I was sent to fix him.

I tried to start a seed garden. Every tiny green leaf that emerged in a morning was eaten by nightfall.
I'd come home to him in a funk. Once he was out of work for months. He actually played so many rounds of solitaire, his deck was nearly bare, all the ink rubbed off with all that friction.

I had a cat from college named Gabby that I brought out there with me. Tommy laughed at the neighbors who told me to keep her inside because of the coyotes. So I trusted his advice. Listen to your big brother, Anne. She got eaten within a few months.

The "house" we lived in was a trailer out in the desert. It shook during the washing machine's spin cycle and every time he went into a rage. I'd drive home from work each day thinking to myself, "today will be different. I'll walk in and kiss him. And we will be brother and sister." That never happened.

When he took his life, we flew out to Albuquerque to settle his house, etc. Dad kept a small sample of his ashes with him in a little blue felt bag. We drove out to the mountains with his ex wife and son, Nathanael. We said a few words. Dug a hole. Buried his AT hiking boots in the ground. Nathanael shook out the contents of the bag onto his boots. Bits of bone poured over his boots and the hollow sound they made is something I'll never forget.

So this year's grief is all about me rocking the boat and allowing myself to get angry. Tell the truth about how awful he could be. That it wasn't my fault he was unhappy. It wasn't. Not one bit.


Seeds died in sand.
Coyotes ate the cat.
You rubbed out faces and hearts
with round after round of solitaire.
Sing to him, Mom said.
So I did.
And I failed.
Spilled truth in the trailer.
Whitewashed the brown paneling.

And I can’t save you,
Scattered on top of hollow hiking boots.

Resentment. Rage.
The house you shook.
Buried bone
and ash.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Books

Here are two soft-cover accordion fold books that literally spill their contents and a tape-bound book made from a vintage road map of Greece.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

11 years ago today...

We buried Tommy - giving him back to God. Letting him go after a lifetime of walking on eggshells. Each year we spend a weekend remembering him - say a little prayer and share our thoughts. And every year is different, depending on how you grew to understand yourself differently. Depending on how strong you are to see new and painful things.

This past year was all about really getting angry with Tommy. For what he did - took his life FROM us. TO us. AWAY from us. It always takes me a while to get angry - to just realize I might be. But this year was a huge growth to me, were it not for Tania's poetry class I helped teach (just the bookmaking & design part) I would not be the person in touch with more of the truth as I am right now.

I wrote a few poems and sent my sentimental thoughts of missing him away. I gutted myself - exposed an angry monster who had been ignored for too long. It was a wonderful cathartic experience. Almost too scary to revisit.

Here is the first real poem about my losing him. The day we got the call from New Mexico that he had finally taken his life. Walking across our lawn to meet my mother - whose face and posture I will never forget.

I am grateful to have a voice. To remember details - to take their haunting power away by really looking at them.

And I am so grateful to the students of the poetry class and to Tania, who sat with me and helped me work though it. You were all very generous with your ears and comments.

Two Mouths

I am walking across the lawn
to the aching arms of my mother
who has just learned Tommy took his life.

She looks just like the mother in Picasso’s Guernica.
Face distorted, she cradles her dead child
and cries out with two mouths,
one nested inside the other.

I never understood the meaning of
that painting until now.

Cubism distorts and slices
into space — into our understanding
of how time is supposed work.

How that arrogant Spaniard
knew how to paint a mother’s grief —

How my brother could give his mouth
back to our mother - no longer his
no longer
to his own body -
crying back to the being
who once gave him life.

Anne Elser

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


SO here are cuttings from some of Dad's blueberry bushes up in Rabun Gap. We picked about a million berries and found baby sprouts bushes at the base of many of them. I took them home and potted what you see here. I've got about nine plants going. A little bit of rooting hormone and lots of water should do the trick. I HOPE they'll be ready for planting in the Fall. I hope they even make it that long! The whole hard wood/soft wood cutting thing mystifies me. With any luck, I'll have six bluesenberry bushes in my back yard in a few years.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Travel Journal Sketchbooks

Here's one of four sketchbooks I made for Mom for her trip to Italy in a few weeks. She wanted to be able to paint in a more portable medium, so we hacked large sheets of water color paper and coptic bound them in 4 small books. They all open flat and come with a thin elastic band that can hold the book closed as well as a pencil for drawing. The covers were cut up from a vintage children's encyclopedia set. Cute, no?


Mom did not like the water color portrait I did of her. So here's the real lady. Cute, isn't she?

Saturday, August 23, 2008


A quick portrait I did of Mom. And a pattern study. I think I wanna do more!

The men in my life.

Daddy and Anton's creek sandals up here in Rabun Gap. We are up here thinking of Thomas, who died this time 11 years ago. Tonight we're out for mexican food - that was his favorite. I'm going to have a margarita for sure. I hope I say something obnoxious because he would have liked that. Wish me luck!

Single Crochet One, Sip Two.

I'm up in Rabun Gap this weekend and brought some cotton yarn with me. Crocheting coasters to coordinate with the decor up here is way more fun whilst drinking a bloody mary.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Amazing, amazing work

I stumbled across this artists blog and am enchanted with just about everything HELEN DARDIK makes. I love the abstraction of this Ma Ma piece and her patterns are AHHHHMAZING.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Anton's First Haircut!

He looks like such a little BOY now. I was proud of myself for not crying as he sat there in a red airplane chair. My little bunny's growing into a big bunny. I think I'll let it grow a little so there are less layers.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Vintage Cloth Book Score

Look what I fund today at Atlanta Vintage Books. Just think of the beautiful covers I can make with these fabric pages. The colors are simply yummy. Oh joy!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Type Is Mass

This is Hagen's Type Is Mass abstract cut paper book. These shapes represent masses of type, image in a conceptual composition. You can see the flow of the book, its masterful pacing, its elegant simplicity. One idea transitioning into the next.
Her next step is to replace some of the shapes with text, paragraphs of copy that vary in weight.
Bravo Hagen!


Sunday, August 03, 2008

New Unsupported Blanket Stitch Book

We had a bookmaking brunch at my house yesterday and I think we've formed our own little "Bookmaking Club." Here's mine - covered with a couple of Martha Stewart vintage alphabet cards.