Playing with the durm und strang

My daughter has been wearing earrings in the form of black cats, spiders, pumpkins and ghosts for a couple of weeks now.  She works at a pre-school, where naturally a dress-up holiday featuring yummy snacks is a Big Deal.  When I visited the pre-school earlier this month the walls of all the rooms were covered with kids’ renderings of colorful leaves, witches on brooms, fluttering ghosts and lots of other scary things.  Piles of  drying leaf cut outs  were painted and puckered on stacked trays, ready for tiny fingers to squash them into new collages.

This isn’t a holiday I’ve had enthusiasm about over the past few years, since we stopped finding bunches of kids at the door.  It’s become such a commercial event  for adults on the calendar.  It’s fair to mention that my dad was in retail while I was growing up, so a jaded attitude about over commercialization of traditional events occupies space in my mental territory.  I love seeing the fun kids can have with this season, though.

One of my last jobs featured annual decorating contests which got so extreme that long, wide sheets of black plastic were hung from ceiling to desk height in a big central area everybody had to pass through, making it tricky to walk around.  It was supposed to suggest a castle, but the impression was more landfill.  Desks got wrapped and speckled with protruding skulls, swords, broomsticks and rear ends of witches.

Costumes were not quite a job requirement, but came close.  Not everyone working there flourished amidst the hoopla of people racing around demanding admiration for their efforts, leaving their work for others to do.  A few of the Native Americans were distressed — in certain traditions a few Halloween symbols are reminders of darkness, evil, even.  Hispanic people might be saving energy for the highly colorful and more spiritual tradition, the Day of the Dead at the beginning of November. People cook for loved ones who have passed, bringing food to the graves.  Amazingly decorated sugar skulls are way less scary than realistic ones.  Edible artwork.

This year I’m not expecting much activity around the condos.  The west coast has gotten into a rainy spell, for one thing.  Which all causes me to consider how to illustrate the familiar theme of A Dark and Stormy Night for a Facebook creative group I participate in.  This gentle California rain is what the Navajo would call female rain.  New Mexico, where I spent twenty four years of life, rarely gets that, abounding instead with crashing great downpours called …. guess …. Male rain.

Which evokes images of regiments of alpha males, duking it out  up there till the battered clouds are squeezed and crushed out of existence, pouring their misty lives out onto the unready desert below.

And will this appalling US presidential election never end?  Durm und strang, every day dominating news  outlets with its addictive reality show quality.

It sneaks in and sucks people’s brains out — or so it seems. Pay attention to who we really are in our hearts and heads, or we’ll turn into a nation of political zombies.

The essence of male rain, to me, is streams from fire hoses colliding with rooftops, trees, the unprotected.  The soil can’t absorb that much water slamming across it in so short a time, which causes flash flooding and the erosion that gives the Four Corners its amazing mesas and cliffs.  If only something also amazing — and enduringly good for people — would come out of the election…

California rain feels more the way things should be.  Quieter, offering the earth time to open up to it, plant roots the opportunity to take in the bounty without losing their hold or getting their leaves torn off.  Given the multi-year drought in the region, soaking rain is a great bounty.

But… it doesn’t conjure up the kind of image I wanted for a Dark and Stormy Night picture.

What I finally did was pick a favorite model (Elf the Willing Corgi), a window in the condo, and a stormy evening sky from New Mexico.  She’s got a big ball nearby to whack around  AND a biscuit she dropped onto the window sill in her eagerness to see where all the racket was coming from.

Elf on a Dark and Stormy Night.  Drawing by Emily Lee, via iPad and Procreate

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