“We die of cold, and not of darkness. . .” – Miguel Unamuno
A great many Chicagoans will tell you they love living here because of the seasons. We actually get four seasons here; not in any kind of equal proportion, but we get all four seasons. There are two months of blazing hot, humid summer, nine and a half months of gray-layer-cake sky and nut-numbing winter, and two days of Spring.
The season I live for in this city is Autumn. There are trees on my block that turn to pure yellow fire and at dusk or dawn are unspeakably beautiful. There is a bit of a bite in the air and nature, even in the city, begins to pare down to its essential shapes and colors. The landscape shows its bones.
October has always been my favorite month. It has its sadnesses; the end of baseball for the year, which in Chicago–at least this year–is a welcome relief. October seems to me a month of reckoning. Whatever one failed to do with the rest of the year? Well, this is a good month to rectify this. It seems to me a month that is good for coming clean. Twenty-nine years ago, I got out of rehab in October.
Every morning the sun came up and some sense of contentment, if not happiness, seemed at least possible. I almost always have a winter exhibition to prepare for; it takes my mind off of other memories. I lost my beloved grandmother and father in autumn, and I think often of both of them.
The end of autumn seems to be Thanksgiving, which is the holiday that means the most to me. It is when I take the day and remember to be grateful for the immense luck of my station in life, and remember those whose strength and forbearance got me here. Autumn is a time of reflection for me.
Last year, I spent part of the autumn in Istanbul and unlearned a lot of crap I’d been told and taught about Islam and Muslims, and it was good. I had this hopeful feeling standing outside the Spice Market, next to the Sea of Marmara; that we pretty much all want the same things. I was far away from the poisonous 24-hour news cycle which is there only to scare us and divide us as people.
Autumn is tough on moths. The first chill usually kills them. A few hearty bugs make it until the second or third frost, but eventually they die of cold, and not of darkness.
The Autumn is also when the new art season begins every year. This year, I opened the season at Pierogi in Brooklyn with my new etchings. In the front gallery, there was a wonderful show of graphite drawings by Michael Schall, a gifted young artist from Brooklyn. I had the smaller room in the back and the new etchings looked great there, like a small box of jewels. I had a great time with all of my friends and my crew from Chicago flew out in force and had a lot of fun.
What I love about Pierogi is the shared sense of community. There aren’t a bunch of asswipes standing around and staring at each other’s clothes and appraising one another. It is a place about the community of artists; long on goodwill and short on pretense. Every exhibition I’ve ever had here I felt I was among my friends—that after a long, fractious journey through this career, I’d finally found my community.
It is a marvelous bunch–odd, funny, journeyman, and women—artists, who are in it for the long-haul; and yet have an immense sense of communal pride. This is the community Joe Amrhein and Susan Swenson built, and were kind enough to welcome me into.
It is also the beginning of football season. Usually, I have all of my pals over every Sunday to watch the Bears. This year, I’m just not feeling it. I’d rather work on my etchings and walk my dog. Ever since they let Michael Vick back in, I can’t get interested in the NFL. And I used to be a fanatic.
I don’t have three hours to burn on this stuff anymore. I think autumn is nature’s momento mori–a reminder that we will all attend ONE funeral–and I won’t waste the time anymore. I often tell young artists that the only thing on this planet worth buying is your own time. And I am right.
With the three hours I bought myself every week, I read more poems–James Wright, Wallace Stevens, Anne Sexton, Mark Turcotte and Reginald Gibbons. . .the good stuff.
I joined a health club and go swimming and it wakes you up and breathes new life into you on a daily basis. I allow myself to watch more nature shows on the Bug Channel–the oceanic stuff hypnotizes me in a wonderful way. I take walks and I watch the every-morning drama of my bird feeder. . .the cardinals, house finches, sparrows and blackbirds. . .I have it made.