Photo: Minneapolis Institue of Arts
Maybe it’s the coming of winter’s darkness and cold that is causing me to be jumpy in the head. My thoughts won’t settle and my body wants to do everything fast.
Yes, winter can be beautiful, the contrast of white snow against red berries or the diamond shimmer of ice crystals across a field, but its beauty is not enough.
Some people have said that one must dress for it. I’ve tried wearing two of everything and still the air bites. It’s the breathing part where I have trouble. The air is cold going in, warm coming out, where it wets and freezes the scarf wrapped twice around my face. And movement, even the smallest, opens up a space, a slit, like an ever expanding wound, sometimes at the wrists, where coat and gloves meet, sometimes at that delicate indentation at the base of the throat, where scarf and coat separate, an incompatible couple.
I hate the way winter spreads itself so wide, snaking across continents, charging north, sneaking south where it doesn’t belong.
No more pretending. No more searching for the defect, the weakness within myself that prevents me from liking it. I do not like winter and I do not want to be where it is.
I had the same feeling of wanting to take flight a couple weeks ago when Pook and I had an hour to wander the museum while waiting for Ian, who was in the building next door was dancing to Footloose.
It began pleasantly enough with us moving past the Chinese bowls and ewers and vases, me looking for the oldest item, Pook looking for the most recent.
We strolled past the silkscreens and, as we moved into the Americas area, I saw the chunky beaded stilettos next to the soft beaded moccasins. It seemed predictable and gimmicky and I was aware of moving from observation into judgement. Is it that life has gotten too easy that we seek to make it more difficult by, for example, wearing stilts for shoes?
And then we came to the squat wooden man. It was a poutokomanawa that had once graced the ridge pole of a Maori meeting house. It was no bigger than a five year old child with stout legs and a round belly. But its face was fierce and daring and the paua shell eyes, glinting green and blue, spooked me. I didn’t want to turn my back on it and I didn’t. I sidled out of the room.
As I understand it, the poutokomanawa was carved to represent a strong and spiritual ancestor, representative of the identity of the community.
If that was the custom in this country, what would our poutokomanawa look like? Would it be white like winter, with squinty, glinty, greenish-blue eyes? Would there be bags of money in its hands, maybe a gun on its shoulder? Maybe it’d be just a screen, all HD and everything.
That is not my identity.