Thursday, September 2, 2010


Handmade postcard, Delfina Piretti


I have incurred a five-week hiatus in my journals; my father died on August 2nd, eight days after my last posting. In July, I wrote an essay I called The Almost Zone; reflections, among other things on war and my father, who served in WWII. Here is the last paragraph of the essay:
From The Almost Zone: Besides the clothes he wears - and he is helped in and out of them by the staff - the only objects my father has in his possession are his glasses and his walker.  He lost his wallet soon after he moved into the Alzheimer's facility, he keeps nothing in his pockets, I took his ring off his finger and he no longer wears a wristwatch. My father has almost left this life, but his almost zone is very different than, say, my mother's in her last months. She was aware of all her objects and remembered everything, from who won last year's Wimbledon to how much yogurt was in the refridgerator. My father's almost zone in a crazy one; sometimes he thinks I'm his brother, between my visits he almost always thinks I'm overseas, he doesn't know where his living or why he lives there and remembers no ones name. He is trapped or liberated into a kind of relentless now. He's quite alert in the now, keen to respond and his dry and sarcastic wit can be as sharp as ever. The relentless now of war is said to be horrifying and intoxicating - though at other times tedious, mind-numbing boredom, drugery and idleness. I wonder how much my father's life now is like it was fifty-six years ago, when he was stationed in Guadalcanal or Tokyo?

William S. Scheffel 12-October 1921
to 02-August 2010.

In the almost-zone of my father's last two years of life we spent a great deal of time together. During this time and following my mother's death, I moved my father from his own apartment into an independent living center, then into assisted living and finally into an Alzheimer's facility. This time was a continuous lessen in the vulnerability all human beings are born into and return to in old age. In his last years, what my father desired most from others was also what he was able to give, what we all most want and most want to give: affection and love.


The handmade postcard at the top of this journal, and the artworks below are all expressions of what I call the handmade life. As I wrote in the previous journal:
I first heard the term "the handmade life" from Clarissa Pinkola Estes' telling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairly tale The Red Shoes. In brief, the red shoes represent the glamor of the careerism, consumerism, acquisition and ambition. The wearer of the red shoes, though beginning with good intentions, is eventually "worn" by the shoes, swept into a life of speed one cannot control. Taking up the handmade life means taking off the shoes - an initially uncomfortable, disarming, confusing, lonely and very vulnerable process. It means saying "no" to a lot of things and saying "yes" to... slowness. Perhaps the foundation of recovering our connection to the "indigenous mind" is slowness.

All of the artworks on this post were done by my friends and many were given to me as gifts: postcards, greeting cards, birthday cards and condolences upon my mother's death. Most if not all were make of "junk" - things that have been or otherwise would be thrown away: old magazines, cardboard boxes, business cards. The products of imagination, accident, affection - premier creations of the handmade life.

Birdwoman, chipboard and acrylics
on plywood. Elizabeth Trulio

Oil pastel, Lisa Havelin

Collage, Cathy Hubiak

Collage, Theresa Luttenegger

Watercolor, Devin Scheffel

Ink drawing, Devin Scheffel

Collage, Melina Mejia Stock


Below is one of the most important poems, in my opinion, of the 20th Century; Rant by Diane di Prima. Diane is a teacher of mine; I've heard her perform Rant at least once and I have lived with the poem for many years. I once taught a course on it. I might easily call it the "western version" of the drala principle. It is an artist and human rights manifesto, an explication of our first suffering (when "we hesitated to speak," to quote Gaston Bachelard), the existential backboard upon which we etch our legacy, a warrior's song of courage, a diagram of the handmade life.


You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology
a cosmogony
laid out, before all eyes

there is no part of yourself you can separate out
saying, this is memory, this is sensation
this is the work I care about, this is how I
make a living

it is whole, it is a whole, it always was whole
you do not "make" it so
there is nothing to integrate, you are a presence
you are an appendage of the work, the work stems from
hangs from the heaven you create

every man / every woman carries a firmament inside
& the stars in it are not the stars in the sky

w/out imagination there is no memory
w/out imagination there is no sensation
w/out imagination there is no will, desire

history is a living weapon in yr hand
& you have imagined it, it is thus that you
"find out for yourself"
history is the dream of what can be, it is
the relation between things in a continuum

of imagination
what you find out for yourself is what you select
out of an infinite sea of possibility
no one can inhabit yr world
yet it is not lonely
the ground of imagination is fearlessness
discourse is video tape of a movie of a shadow play
but the puppets are in yr hand
your counters in a multidirectional chess
which is divination
              & strategy

the war that matters is the war against the imagination
all other wars are subsumed in it.

the ultimate famine is the starvation
of the imagination

it is death to be sure, but the undead
seek to inhabit someone else's world

the ultimate claustrophobia is the syllogism
the ultimate claustrophobia is "it all adds up"
nothing adds up & nothing stands in for
anything else

                        THE IMAGINATION
                        THE IMAGINATION
                        THE IMAGINATION


There is no way out of the spiritual battle
There is no way you can avoid taking sides
There is no way you can not have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
you have a poetics: you step into the world
like of suit of readymade clothes

or you etch in light
your firmament spills into the shape of your room
the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

A woman's life / a man's life is an allegory

Dig it

There is no way out of the spiritual battle

the war is the war against the imagination
you can't sign up as a conscientious objector

the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance
it is a war for this world, to keep it
a vale of soul-making

the taste in all our mouths is the taste of our power
and it is bitter as death

bring yr self home to yrself, enter the garden
the guy at the gate w/the flaming sword is yrself

the war is the war for the human imagination
and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you

The imagination is not only holy, it is precise
it is not only fierce, it is practical
men die everyday for the lack of it,
it is vast & elegant

intellectus means "light of the mind"
it is not discourse it is not even language
the inner sun

the polis is constellated around the sun
the fire is central