Eroica

The winged horse teased me for over a week. First by resisting my every attempt to shape the wire into something even vaguely resembling a horse. I refused a photograph, though I admit to watching my favorite part of the movie “Black Stallion” ( the scene on the beach with the boy: the bonding scene). That was the night before I took wire in hand and began the attempt. I wanted essence of horse as a wild, barely knowable creature – a powerful mystery. The addition of wings were bound to call forth the mythological “Pegasus”. This too I refused. I wanted a new and uncatagoried creature. Horse, but not horse; a being heroic in nature, yet flawed. I don’t do perfect. I have always stubbornly embraced the beauty of imperfection, but as I struggled with the wire and realized the oddity of form that began to emerge, I knew I would have to work as hard at acceptance as at shaping the wire. The temptation to predict my failure was picking at my brain, closing my throat, making of my hands a bloodless battlefield. My fingers warred against one another, Every believable action was countered by a destructive element. Each graceful line was undone by the line that came after. Or so it seemed at the time, as I persevered, disregarding the awkward and messy appearance of things. How desparately I wanted to leave the field – to cease my effort – to throw down the gauntlet, heroic gestures be damned.

Yet I finished the dance, for it always comes down to a dance for me, and I’m not going to stop until the dance is over. I know; I am mixing my metaphors. First she’s on a battlefield, then on a stage. Perhaps they are not so different after all. In the seventies, I made so bold as to dance to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, donned a purple tunic and the spirit of Isadora, and commandeered the shining floor of the Ocean Springs Community Center. I was one small impetuous figure presuming the right to share the space with Beethoven’s genius, not to mention my father’s, whose brilliant murals danced on the walls behind me. I marched, lunged, and stood still in a pose of conviction, believing in the woman warrior in myself. I could go forth and conquer the enemy that would suppress my  freedom of expression. At that time in history feminist warriors backed my every movement. It was the best of times for women who saw themselves as heros. Oh yes, our gestures were stymied and fought against. Our opponents were hurt, confused, and fearful of losing control. But our dance was mighty in effect; it was long over due.

So last week I thought I had finished the particular dance that was trying to evoke a winged horse. I hung it against the black cloth that showed all of its flaws in stark relief. I looked at it with a critical eye and thought it not good enough to present to the public eye. I pretty much dismissed the beauty of its imperfections, until last Friday when my grandson called it “…my favorite of all your wire sculptures, Nanny.” In a flash I saw it with a generous eye. I saw the gesture of the horse as lively, joyful, and yes, expressing a heroism that is apparent to the unpredjudiced eye of innocence. I realized the dance wasn’t over.

I took her lovingly and carefully into my hands, believing in what I had seen with a ten-year-old’s help: the heroic gesture. I had also seen that the long curving lines of the torso needed re-enforcing, so I doubled the wire of the torso, bravely twining the new wire around the existing wire. I had to be firm in my intent, even as I trusted the power of the initial gesture. What  had seemed flimsy before, assumed a sturdier more substantial reality. A few delicate adjustments, and she was ready for the stage again. Now she galloped, glorious and free, against the dark cloth that defined her stage. Imperfect, yes – but definitely heroic in her dance – determined to dance on.

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3 Responses to “Eroica”

  1. Kendall Says:

    Beautifully written, beautifully designed–the horse, the writing about the horse, the writing about the process of creation itself. I love your tags, too. I am still sick and jetlagged and am about to embrace my own imperfection by going to bed for the afternoon. Love to you, dear maker.

  2. leiflife Says:

    Thank you, dear buddy. I enjoyed writing it – yet another many-layored blog. It feels important the dance of the horse – the woman, and the recalling of that time – the time of the woman warrior. Have I summoned her for a reason?

    I want to call you, but know you have need of rest. Maybe tomorrow…

  3. Ann Says:

    It’s a constant battle, so it seems, and meanwhile life’s going on and we have less of it all the time. We are being too hard on ourselves trying to attempt perfect and find the imperfect perfect too. Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child to put us back into track, into the real life with the real proportion.
    You write beautifully, Leif. Kendall said it all. And I love your horse, the woman warrior, the dance. Life.

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