Apple & Bread drawing and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2012

I made this charcoal drawing a few weeks ago while taking a classical drawing class at the Garrison Art Center. Without Cyril, the subject of the following post, I would be able to eat only the bread.

To listen to this post, click here:SIX DENTAL THOUGHT PROBLEMS



1. Over several months in a prolonged bridge procedure, I learn the meaning of the word patient. Is there another role named for a virtue essential to it?

2. If my dentist were also a government, would I still think I should feel no pain? Would I insist on more novocaine, more gas? If teeth must be pulled, is there any way not to feel it? Not to miss the missing tooth?

3. Could I ever go without a visible tooth, as solidarity with those for whom dentistry is luxury?

4. Though no fault of my dentist, things have gone wrong with my bridge. Lab problems: color, fit.  A silver sliver of unporcelained metal. Gums so healthy they make his job difficult. My utmost patience has been required. Is there any useful alternative during reconstruction?

5. My dentist tells me about fixing broken banisters on his girlfriend’s deck. “It’s really just a great big mouth. But I can take a hammer to it if it doesn’t work, and there’s no ‘Excuse me, Mr. Wood.’” Has he had to be as patient as I have?

6. My dentist is an artist, sculpting tiny curves and planes no one but he and his assistant will ever see. Yet I feel his sculptures every day. He sculpts for feeling: the feeling of jaw and tongue, the natural bite, the blessed humble comfort of nothing out of place, though so much has disappeared and so much is newly fabricated. Who honors this artist? Who hands him prizes at what ceremonies? And can such care be taken by a group?


Any further questions? Any answers?

Intimate Furniture photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2012

To hear the spoken version, click Intimate Furniture


Spared the junk heap: a chest of drawers, a mirror and a lamp. Swaddled in plastic and cardboard, freighted cross-country to us at the request of my sensitive husband. Intimate furniture, this.

Chest with a delicate marquetry nosegay, lately relieved of my lonely sister’s glut of grim novelty outfits, she herself lately relieved of her loneliness, finally, now, at the memory home, where she sleeps in its matching nosegay bed, with the match to the crystal lamp.

Deeper in previous, chest, lamps and mirror: proud possessions of my namesake great aunt. The bureau: a home to her silk slips, society sweaters. Home to the pearls at the base of her goiter. Mirrored. Home of adornments and longing. Intimate furniture, this.

Sensing it now before purchase and lacquer: a cabinetmaker’s affair. Love of wood and of work spelled in matching veneers, glowing in torches of wood grain. Topped with the shapely frame he carved and bent, glue drying, til the day he slipped the glass in and beheld himself, maker of his own image.

One grieving day the bed and chest will reunite, the crystal lamps will find each other. The mirror gathers new faces in flashes, adjusting appearance, emotions. The chest receives the sift of peachy powder, the mustache clip, the sprouting gray. Intimate furniture. Every humble meaning, stored behind the glass, within the drawers, by the unconditional light of the crystal lamp.


Do you have a piece or two of intimate furniture?

Fuchsia Vessel iPad art & all text (c) 2012 Irene O'Garden

Note: For fans of my play Women On Fire, I am happy to say that my story “Off The Grid” will appear in July in the respected online journal Green Hills Literary Lantern. The narrator of this story would fit right into Women On Fire.  I’ll post the link as soon as it’s live.

To listen to the post, please click here NO MASTERPIECE


Had the privilege of seeing a David Hockney exhibit earlier this year.  I was eager to see his work, because when I read last year that Hockney was creating art on the iPad, it cinched my decision to buy one. (Above, a bit of my own playful iPad exploration.)

It was deeply nourishing to see an artist creating so exuberantly at 70—though it’s silly to say, since I’ll be there myself in ten short ones and I intend to do same.

Gallery after gallery,  Hockney’s bright, affirmative spirit emerged in dashing forms: trees, leaves, flowers, hillsides– a feast of shape and color. Giant paintings made of six or nine or thirty-two joined canvases.  Big exclamations.

In one densely hung room, among dozens of watercolor sketches and corresponding oils, my eye singled out a small painting  On closer examination, I was surprised to discover it was not a particularly strong composition. No outstandingly deft use of color. A middling painting. Nice enough, but not breathtaking. No masterpiece.

Hockney has sustained some criticism for the varying quality of his work. But as I looked and questioned, I realized that what drew me to the painting was an awaiting insight: creating a masterpiece was not Hockney’s intention here. He was responding to what he felt about what he saw. Seeing such a quantity of his art, such a multitude of his responses made that clear to me.

We as artists, as humans, are not called on to create masterpieces. We are called on to respond and to record our responses as honestly, thoroughly and exuberantly as we can. Whatever form our responses take, each time we do this, we get better at  it.

To make a masterpiece,  we must first be a master anyway. If we do ”master” an art, it is because we return to it again and again, asking more of it and of ourselves, in service of what we are trying to express, not of what we are trying to become, or how we are hoping to be regarded.

We can all become masters of expressing ourselves.

What absorbs you again and again? What would you say you have mastered? For me, it’s spontaneity.


To hear the spoken version, click: TENTING TONIGHT


My Flapsdown Tent photo & all text c Irene O'Garden 2012

This time of year the house feels as confining as an elevator.  We don’t have a screened porch, so a few years back, I bought a screeny tent. Every year I pitch it at a short remove from the house. My husband prefers air-conditioning, so when he is out of town, as he was this week, I take the opportunity to sleep outdoors.

I make it as tempting as can be—a well-cushioned cot, a good pillow, a bit of sheet, a puff of sleeping bag for chilly nights.  I used to have to pack a flashlight and my book. Now I can read myself to sleep on my phone, which also has a flashlight app and another our modern marvels, the Star Walk app. Point the phone to the night sky and see the stars and constellations spelled above you. I don’t always use it, because it occasionally spooks me, these hovering big pictures. They must have been a comfort in the olden, wilden days, but it’s nice to have some unimaged places.

What is it about sleeping out as the days lengthen? It’s not that I sleep more soundly. Little animal noises wake me up. Traffic rumbles more distinctly.  Often once, twice, or three times a night, my dog Bee barks a blue streak, defending me from mysteries only she perceives.

But I can’t forgo the air on these spring nights. Feathery breezes, fresh and primal scents of accelerating growth, susurrus of insects.  To be another breathing body in the night, a part of Earth.

And somehow this body feeds on the subtle shifts in light—moon dropping over the trees, the moon in all her lumpy in-between shapes. Not just the elegant Ali-Baba crescent, or the pointy Magritte slice, or the full moon, face of longing and fulfillment, but the ordinary egg moon, the glop of batter moon, the melting in-between moon, the plumping crooked tuber moon. The moons we miss indoors.

Later still, pearling sky, break of birdsong, gilded treetops and the light-planked trunks of sunrise. The eye catches nodes along the bark, like valves on instruments, discerns the firming tissues of the leaves, music visible.

Sleep out because of all that is awakened sleeping so.


Do you ever sleep out?

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