Nonfiction

I signed on to a shared studio space in Chinatown on March 1st, about two weeks before the city would declare “shelter-in-place” guidelines in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. I brought Notes from the Woodshed, Jack Whitten’s lifelong studio log, with me on the day I signed the lease so I could sit with the record of a great artist in my lap in my studio. A note in handwriting on the inside cover of the book says, “Please do not read— not meant for publishing. Jack Whitten.” What happened?

A descent into the spiraling consequences of "Cats" the movie.

When I was a youngster, we still rose, ate, slept, and buried out dead to the keening of the colliery whistle. You turned to the front pages of the Wilkes-Barre Record not for the weather report or radio listings but for the daily listing of “idle” and “working” breakers. Those who get their heat by mindlessly flicking a thermostat cannot grasp the deeply textured life that coal creates in its wake. As a child, I was often awakened in the middle of the night by the distant echoes of coal cars being shunted through the tunnels that honeycombed the earth beneath our beds. I awoke to nightmares of my grandfather fallen motionless in his black pit, and I could soothe myself only by lying on my side and placing my clasped hands under my ear until the steady thump-thump-thump eased me back to sleep.

In late January, I traveled on the Southwest Chief Amtrak from Chicago to Lamy, to visit my partner who lives in Santa Fe. The trip took around 25 hours, enough time to see our sun traverse both horizons, a circle of day and night, of light and dark. Arriving the next day around the time I had started my trip, the previous day. Afternoon to afternoon.