Art and Love Gone Wrong

Second of a series of excerpts from my memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, released April 2014. 

Quick catch-up. My husband starts taking off for weeks at a time. No explanation, no apology, just yards of attitude. After twenty-five years of marriage no less. Here I’m thinking back to when things were good between us.

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I remember the day I cast his face in plaster of Paris for the mask. He lay on his back on the cement front deck, Vaseline smeared all over his face, his beard and moustache matted with the goo. I’d finally persuaded him to go along with my experiment, but he almost lost it when I kept slathering on Vaseline. He couldn’t even stand sunscreen on his face. So there he lay, two straws sticking out of his nose while I kneeled beside him with a bucketful of plaster, slapping it on. I hoped this was the way it was done. All I knew for sure was that I had to hurry and finish before the stuff set. Just as I was about to plop down the last handful of plaster, he grunted.

“What’s wrong?” I yelled. Sticking his index finger in his ear as if I’d broken his ear drum, he made a rolling motion with his other hand for me to hurry.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m almost done,” I said just as his hand came down on top of mine. Plaster flew everywhere, some of it plugging the end of the straw sticking out of one nostril. He made a snuffling sound and, Frankenstein-like, struggled to his feet.

“Wait, wait!” Jumping up, I glanced around desperately for something to clear the straw. A bamboo twig? Too thick. He flopped back down and growled. I crouched over him.

“Snort it out!” I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Doubling over, I staggered around, crying with laughter. He reached blindly for me, his growl now a muffled roar.

“Sorry,” I managed to gasp, and I kneeled beside him. I touched the plaster. It had set.

“Listen, I’m going to get this stuff off right now, it won’t be long, okay?” I bit my lip to stop the giggle that bubbled up and started tugging on the edge over his forehead. He roared in pain.

“I told you we needed more Vaseline!” I shouted. Twenty minutes and a million microscopic tugs later I held a hair-speckled mold of Larry’s face in my hands. He sat up and glared at me.

Now I couldn’t help the grin that stole across my face. His encouragement had led me to the world of the arts, a world I’d yearned for back in Zambia and didn’t know it.

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I left my house at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning for a meeting with my tribe—five women writers—in Santa Barbara, three hours away up the coast. I didn’t return until 9:45 that night. And then I couldn’t sleep for two hours because I was so wound up. I also had a sore tongue: a tiny rip on the right side from all the wagging it did. I didn’t shut up the entire time. Neither did they. It was a love fest. And I had never met them, well except for Britton, the gorgeous blond on the left in the photo below, who drove me from Laguna Beach.

You can read all about the actual meeting, on Jayne Martin’s blog, injaynesworld. There’s no way I can top her brilliant account, except to tell you what I took away from the meeting, other than fun, camaraderie, and encouragement: connection. It’s what I needed on the cusp of sending forth my memoir. A circle of women, strangers even, supporting each other as only women can do with their intrinsic thrust to support and nurture.

How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go . . . a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman . . . a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find the ancient flow already there within yourself . . . waiting to be released . . .

A place of women . . .

How might your life be different?

~Circle of Stones, Judith Duerk