Caught up in waiting to be understood, I almost missed the moment when it was my chance to understand. A neighbor I rarely see texted during the holidays to say she was homesick for back home. Me, too I nodded back. She was missing family near the Mexican border and I was missing family near the Canadian border.  Holidays . . .

 Gwarlingo: a Welsh word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it strikes. (Also the name of a  wonderful website filled with art.)

My neighbor and I share the end of a dead-end street filled to the curb with eight inches of last November’s ice.  Sometimes winter makes for a cozy setting, sometimes a trap. I thought for a moment before I realized what was what, and texted back an invitation to see a movie on the other side of town. She fired back with a yes. 

In the way that a saw is trued in the saw shop to cut more cleanly, good art is a truing of vision. – Jane Hirshfield

It’s the clerk’s hand on January 7th reaching across the sales counter to pat the hand of a teary-eyed customer who just shared the story of her morning car accident. Seven used to be my lucky number. It can’t be that anymore.

It’s the letter in the mail received at work written from a shaky hand, in red ink, addressed to the secretary asking sincerely and with dear endearments if she’d kindly send two free stick-on-calendars to his home.  Or the man who realizes too late he can’t make his appointment on time and calls to scrub it,  introducing himself on the phone with the brave statement: I am only 71 but I have dementia, so I won’t be able to explain myself.

Be the lake, not the glass.

The Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, was featured recently in Gwarlingo.  A rare collection of his Polaroids appear now in Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids.

Why Polaroids? He had every sort of film product available, but he chose Polaroid to capture how it feels to see things for the last time by using something we often dismiss. Art, he wrote, is a confession. “Modern mass culture, aimed at the ‘consumer’, the civilisation of prosthetics, is crippling people’s souls, setting up barriers between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.”





About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

9 responses to “scrub


    Thank you, red mitten. Art IS a confession…and a testament.

    Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2014 18:11:41 +0000 To:

    • redmitten

      dale, i have been thinking of this very thing for some weeks now. and here you are, stating such is such. yes. and also this: to give testament without giving judgement. nice to hear from you!

  2. Beauty, kindness. Thank you.

  3. I think, rather often, of how we explain ourselves to ourselves without, if we can manage it, explaining. It feels more comfortable to see it as a Polaroid – a company whose products enchanted me in a way new, smart stuff does not and possibly never will. It is all and, really, only moments. There is the continuum and it is still moments. Yes, beauty and kindness. xo

  4. Beautiful post for this morning. The hand reaches out, an opportunity to soothe another soul, to understand rather than be understood. Yes. Be the lake, not the glass.

  5. This is a wonderful post over at Gwarlingo. Thanks for reminding me of them. I like this idea of metaphor rather than symbol also.
    This is a great photo. (yours). I think it’s covered why, in that opening bit of the Tarkovsky post. 🙂

    • redmitten

      rose- ah i love what you said about metaphor rather than symbol. i learn from you every time. swish. and a side note about the photo. as i was inside taking the photo, unbeknownst to me, he was outside taking shots. same thing but way different views. not a word exchanged.

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