Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My dictionary of English etymology says amateur is formed from the past participle of  the Latin word amare or lover.

I'm an amateur at most things, dumbfounded about others.  I have no idea why a large format picture, like the picture of cedar waxwings in yesterday's post at first allows me to click into a larger image and then, an image large enough to see lice on the bird's wings.  Minutes later, when I click on the image while editing my spelling, I get a black screen with a mid-size image not much larger than the original image. If you know don't tell me, because I love wallowing in ignorance.  But that's not what I came here for this morning.

Jack of all trades, master of none, that's me.  As an amateur artist, I've created works of art like an acrylic painting I gave my mother when she was still alive.  Titled "Jaws of Death", she quickly hid the picture of gaping jaws dripping with acrylic blood in the basement rec-room of her home outside of Milwaukee. A few years ago, I found a complete rabbit tail leftover from an owl's late winter night feast .  That bunny behind coupled  with a weathered old board, a label that fell off a serviceable straw broom left in our pole shed by Crazy Angie (a Chief Sunbird #365 broom so the label said) and a momentary burst of inspired poetry is wrapped in plastic in the pole shed.  I ran across Haiku Bunny yesterday while sweeping out box elder beetle carcasses.

Artists like me are insecure about showing people their creations.  When the santero says, "You done good." after I showed him a copy of one of his Virgin Mary bultos I carved from cottonwood root he gifted me, I feel perhaps I may be an artist.  When a woman who lives both in Belgium and Sedona, AZ (she works as a translator) purchases a plank table I made and asks me to sign the table, I think I may be a craftsman. The momentary giddiness helps to dispel my fear of being alone with this attractive, single, cosmopolitan woman in her expensive home in the new age capital of the world.

There's a creative high after a work of art is completed and goes on display. One could bask in the glory of
the moment, however, my Anishnabe mentor and friend cautioned me to be careful about carving off  too much of myself. The thinking here is akin to an artist in old age unable to create something new, relying on repetitive copies like the mystery writer who takes the same characters, a thin plot line and writes another New York Times bestseller in the alphabet series A is for...B is for...you know what I mean.

When a Michigan tribe member and the chief counsel for the tribe drive ten hours to pick up a ceremonial drum that took me three years to make, I was thrilled that I'd made myself a niche as a white man making drums for Native Americans. I still list drum maker as my official occupation when I want to be flip.  I will always be a drum maker. By the way, I haven't made a drum in years, not counting the piece of elk hide with a hole I wanted to recycle.  That drum, although playable, is now a decorative work of art after the real artist in the family, Dawn, painted a hawk on the surface disguising the hole as the hawk's eye.  You can see it at Seven Roads Gallery  after I figure out where it is. It has been misplaced  In the meantime here's the drum.
When it comes to the written word, I'm also an amateur.  I spend way too much time searching for the right word,  agonizing about content, insecure that nobody but me gives a hoot for my thoughts. When I remember the old aphorism, in simplicity there is beauty, I'm vindicated for drinking too much coffee in the early morning.

My neighbor walks over to where I'm tossing limbs into the back of my truck on the south fence line.  He's bringing water to a feisty stallion penned in a shed.  He offers condolences.  In sympathy, he tells me about a recent encounter with the doodad neighbor who wants to fence the cornfield behind us( my neighbor's horse farm also abuts the field).  The neighbor(I'll name him Bryce) tells Rick( the owner of the horse farm) that his electric fence is crooked. He wants to install a new, barb wire fence the length of the Rick's south fence line.  Rick says, "you're kidding me," several times.  The last time he repeats, "You're shittin' me."  Then he says, "I'll send you the vet bill when one of my horses is injured by the barb wire fence.

We trade stories about Bryce and as Rick walks off he says, "I may have to throw his ass in the river." I don't feel so bad about all the curses directed toward Bryce for his anal retentiveness.  A crooked fence indeed. 

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