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Word Art: Fire Meets Water

If you told me to write a love song tonight, I’d have a lot of trouble.  But if you tell me to write a love song about a girl with a red dress who goes into a bar and is on her fifth martini and is falling off her chair, that’s a lot easier, and it makes me free to say anything I want.

–Stephen Sondheim

Despite the constant blather one hears about “thinking outside the box”, I find that creativity can be more effective when executed within boundaries.  Sometimes the limitations are a function of the medium, other times the limitations are self-imposed to catalyze the all important question “If I can’t do this, what can I do?”

Poetry is a good example of this.  Any poetic form, from a haiku to a limerick to a sonnet to a sestina, places limits on the words you can use, whether the syllables, the rhythm, the rhyme or even words or lines that must be repeated at specific points.  Those rules force you to narrow your choices, to pick the word or the line that will fit the form and carry your intended message at the same time.  And yet within those limits, the possibilities remain endless.

I go back and forth on whether the textual portion of my Word Art would be considered poetry or not.  I suppose with the rules of poetry having been slackened to include just about anything made out of words, I could call it poetry and no one would be in a position to contradict me.  But I still don’t feel quite comfortable with the notion, since the words aren’t worked out in advance and once they’re written, there’s no room for revision.  First draft poems, at best, then.

The particular rules for this poetic form, if you want to call it that, are still being worked out.  This piece was an experiment to determine how it would look visually if I used a boundary instead of the end of a sentence to change ink colors, as I’d done in other pieces up to that point.  I picked two distinct colors–blue and red–traced a slight curve to split the space and with some vague notions in my head about water and fire, I sat down and began to write:

Some days, I am water and what enters me is dissolved and becomes a part of my me, an addition to my overall sense of self.

And then there are the other days, the days I am fire, when that which enters is fuel to be fed upon, to be transformed in a source of energy, of heat and light.

Unlike the elements I emulate, I can shift in one direction or the other without the risk of cancelling [sic] myself out.

Fire added to water leads to steam.

Air is supposedly my element according to those who measure such things by the alignments of the stars. I am not sure of this.

Or maybe it’s true if steam is close enough to air to count.

I spend enough time with my head in the clouds, to hear some people say it.

Though, clouds are formed by way of sunlight, not fire.

Fire from a distance, rather than directly applied.

Where the zenith of the sky meets the depths of the oceans, then the clouds form between.

Where the fire of action meets the water of contemplation, the steam of ideas is formed.

And steam can be harnessed to drive engines, as we all know. (Or, rather, those of us those of us in modern civilization all know.)

But steam only drives when it is channelled at the moment it is formed.

Once it has escaped, the force of it is no longer enough to push solid objects in the way.

And so when the waters of our contemplation meet the fires of action, hesitation is only going to lead to a fog.

Action without contemplation only burns out, or rages over everything and destroys all in its path.

To contemplate without any action, well, one could argue that water wears away stone, but it takes longer than a single human lifetime in order to do so.

(And even if we are granted additional lives, each transition tends to interrupt the chain of thought.)

So keep your fire as it should be kept and keep your water as deep and pure as you are able to do.

I’d originally designed it to fit into one of two lonely picture frames that had been sitting without pictures in them for years.  (My next entry will probably be about the piece I did to fill the other frame.)  This one had been a bridesmaid’s gift from my sister-in-law and I realize with some embarrassment that she and my older brother have been married for well over a decade now.

Fire Meets Water -- original frame

Fire Meets Water -- original frame

Not long after finally putting something in that frame (before then, it still held the thank-you note from my sister-in-law with the message STEP AWAY FROM THE ANIMAL PRINTS!) I realized that it would be the perfect size for one of the school pictures of my youngest niece.  I made the substitution and moved the work over to one of the frames I’d gotten from a thrift shop run where I’d bought as many frames as I could with a roll of quarters.

Fire Meets Water -- current frame

Fire Meets Water -- current frame

The frame is imperfect but suits it well.

Prints of this work are available here.

The original is not for sale.

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