Their struggle is mythological: they pull against forces they can’t see or comprehend. Holding on to one another and to those mysterious cords that descend into the underworld stabilizes them.
There is a sense that neither could do it alone, but what they combine their forces against remains a mystery. They can theorize but they better not let go, or so it seems.
Closing Time Performance
Salon Refu, Susan Christian’s gallery and event space in Olympia is hosting another series of closing-time intimate readings and performances this January. They were so well received (and so much fun) in December that the gallery didn’t want to stop.
Father and Daughter
This time I’ll read a few poems and my daughter Erica Freas will sing a few of her amazing songs. We’ve been wanting to do this together for a long time. We hope you can join us.
The New Teamwork
How We Work Together Now
When I was a kid…
When I was a kid I remember thinking that if I had a skyhook that reached high enough I could just grab on and let the earth turn under me, then set down at another longitude thousands of miles away. It seemed so simple; I could go around the world in twenty-four hours.
More recently I noticed that everything feels a lot more calm when I recognize that I’m holding still and everything else is moving around me. Even when I’m driving or flying, there can be a stately calm in knowing the world is pouring by, under over and beside my resting position.
It's a good thing…
It’s a good thing I became a poet and sculptor rather than an engineer—so much more is possible.
A gift idea for the season…
Waiting for the Curtain
In this case…
The day of waiting for the book to be announced led me to find the poem I was thinking of—and then to wonder why it wasn’t in the book. That led to one of those familiar creative dilemmas in which I questioned why other poems were in the book. Which led to the recognition that it’s all exactly as it should be. Let’s see what happens.
The unpublished poem is called “Way of Being.”
Way of Being
The way thunder tumbles,
a train coming on a warm evening
carrying heavy rain:
with shelter near we languish, nuzzling
the luxury of all that fluid change--
at hand, but not on us yet.
Deep breaths, relaxed and alert,
the work approaching, the deluge--
or is it already complete? Are we finished--
simply waiting for the curtain,
for what has been stored in potential
to play out in release?
Anchor cut, the ship
its own power and that of the sea--
into the realm of wind shifts
and rogue waves; the barrier between
life and death more porous. Tears
beginning, live emotion, the thrill
of grief as reptile-brain recalls
all the ways of destruction
as near at hand as those of salvation.
And yet we stand—somewhere between--
in the moment we've always dreamed of:
focus of habit under wraps, fear finally
two levels down, wonder driving the bus.
No need to contribute
to retirement or fasten
seat-belts—this passage worth
far more than old age or another
string of red-veined sunsets repeating
over Tahiti's ocean—this once
we let ourselves be, and be, and be.
I’m putting together a collection of poems for publication. Years ago at a reading I heard poet Pattiann Rogers say that putting poems in a linear book format always feels limited and arbitrary, because to her, every poem in a collection leads to every other poem. She would prefer to organize poems in a way that was somehow circular, or spherical. I concur. I rarely read a poetry book straight through, but prefer to enter anywhere, and hop around the pages.
Still, a book is a book. We have to find an order to the poems in order to publish. This new book is a collection of over a hundred poems, written over twenty-five years or so. Tipping my (actual) hat to the spherical, I decided to trust in divining as a way to allow chaos to assist in the process. I put the poem titles in a hat, mixed well, and began drawing poems one by one.
My dining table took part in an unforeseen way—as the poems emerged I placed them on the table in a column, one poem under the last. My table is split down the middle, so I began the first column at the split and after about twenty-three poems I had to start a new column. I ended up with five columns of twenty-three poems each.
I studied the layout, considering the poems in each column. With that complex set of perceptions and memories we call intuition, I began to see that there was a certain rough harmony among the poems of each column. I took a stab at naming the five tones. That gave me five section names.
I moved a few poems around among and within columns to bring the harmonies closer. It was so easy. A couple of hours and I’m ready to lay out the book. I know play is the basis of creativity; I’ve been engaging such methods all my life. And yet I’m still amazed every time a new twist on the game draws down a fascinating result. I could not have imagined this divine order using the feeble crutch of reason. I don’t entirely understand it, but that’s what I like most about it.
Four new sculptures are hanging around the entry stairs at the Refuge. These pieces continue the “Ring Dance” series. They hold the space vacated by an older piece that just left the grounds for permanent installation in downtown Olympia. While I’ve been focused on other things these last months these intriguing structures have been quietly gestating in the background. I’m still surprised when I see them out there, dancing.
Ring Dance #2/ CORE, which was at the west end of State St. on Percival Landing in 2012, is now mounted permanently in a street-side parklet near the NE corner of Fourth and Franklin Streets in Olympia. In the daytime its shadow walks across the sidewalk and climbs the building to the east. At night the streetlights print two copies of the piece in shadows on the wall. I’m honored to see the piece out on its own in the world.
All the Ring Dance pieces are based on the abstract arrangement of circular elements. They are fabricated using a procedure that avoids pre-thinking what the result will look like. I collaborate with the elements and processes, adding them one by one to the piece, and sometimes in repeating clusters. As an overall thrust surfaces I work to enhance that. The process is unnerving at times. I don’t know how it will come out and that can make me anxious. Continuing anyway leads to final pieces I could never have imagined in advance. So I proceed.
The new pieces, Ring Dance numbers six, seven, eight, and nine, are the result of a series of interwoven creative experiments based on rings made by slicing pipe, and a “staple” form made from a length of heavy channel iron. I wondered what would happen if I introduced the linear, masculine element of the staple, mixing it in with the rings. I also began experimenting with opening the rings so that they could intersect in new ways.
All four pieces developed at once as I played with the elements and connections that fascinated me. At various times I thought it was all moving toward one piece. At other times it was all moving toward more scrap. Finally one piece after another emerged as discreet siblings. Just like us they are made of the same stuff. Through whimsy, chance, and intention, each becomes a unique character.
For Olympia’s 2013 Percival Plinth Sculpture Project I applied with the TINE BALL I put together a year or two ago. The core of the piece is a double spiral made from the half-circle spring-steel tines of a hay rake. I knew that if it was accepted into the exhibition I’d have to come up with a base for the piece, some way to affix it to the plinth and hold it up against the sky.
The TINE BALL was already galvanized and powder-coated silver. When the proposal was accepted, I fabricated two curving rods from a scrap-pile of short 7/8” steel rounds, and cut out some brackets that would allow me to bolt them to two of the 3” spring coils on the tines. Some scraps of 2” angle iron became a base that would fit the design constraints of the plinth.
With the piece all together I realized I wanted it to be red—like OXYGEN (Ring Dance #5)—in order to stand out in the complicated downtown, harbor-front space of Percival Landing. It’s summertime—powder-coating took four weeks. I installed it June 10, on schedule.
To me, part of TINE BALL’s beauty is the delicacy of the form. A breeze can make it shudder. It’s a bit delicate for the “fraternity rules” classically considered for such situations. I knew there was a risk in putting it out where the public can interact with it. The sign says “do not climb”—but eight days after installation someone apparently did just that. My guess is he or she tried to get inside the ball. I know, I’ve thought of that too. Tine points broke loose at each hub.
Now we were only one week from the opening reception. I had to repair and reinforce the piece, and get it coated again (third time’s the charm!) We took it down and over the weekend. I repaired and beefed-up the hubs and added nine more welds to stabilize the belly of the ball.
C T Specialties in Olympia was just as busy as the first time I took it in for powder-coat, but they recognized my plight and had it ready in four days. I tipped them enough to buy everyone a couple of beers, and loaded-up the rebuilt TINE BALL still hot from the oven. We bolted it back on the plinth fifteen minutes before the opening reception began. Unbelievable.
Now, the risk is still there. The piece is stronger but still delicate—you wouldn't see the difference unless I pointed it out. It might be able to withstand another exuberant “return to the womb”—but I hope I don’t find out. Meanwhile, it’s there. Come down and see it.
If you get there during July or August, the city has ballots available in pamphlet-boxes on the landing. Olympia will buy the sculpture that gets the most votes, for their growing collection. Voting ends August 31. Here’s an essential voting tip: your vote won’t count unless you fill in the box that asks what it is you like about the piece you have chosen. The answer is subjective; you can’t get it wrong—so answer the question and be counted!
In other news: Debi of 33 Image Design rebuilt my sculpture and furniture website. It’s now searchable and very slick. I also have a verbal commitment with Gallery IMA in Seattle’s Pioneer Square to begin representing my work soon. I’ll let you know.