The spectacle of the sky: On grief and the aesthetic voice

"Blue II" by Joan Miro

“Bleu II” by Joan Miro

Yesterday we buried my friend. As solemn an occasion it was, and as gratifying an experience to share beautiful stories with strangers-now-friends, I still had time to be angry.

First it was a waiter who, in telling an uplifting story, used the word retarded. I find that vile and hateful, and usually I tell people so. I couldn’t muster up the righteous indignation that would overcome the mortification I’d feel for creating a scene where we were.

Second, it was a waitress, who didn’t bring me milk for coffee. That was it. It pissed me off, and I left my full coffee cup there on the table, hoping she’d notice I hadn’t drunk it. I practiced scenarios in my head:

Waitress: “Oh, is something wrong with the coffee?”

Me: “Nah, I’m sure it would have been delicious with milk.”

Maybe my indignation wasn’t exactly righteous. But angry was a good enough distraction to get me through a day where I had to eulogize a friend of 25 years. Because that’s something I’m always ready to do.

I’m home now, and this is today. I let myself wallow, only getting out of my pajamas at 5pm. I figured Happy Hour works better when I’m pretending to have earned the happiness after a long day.

I spent some time in our guest room/office, where a reproduction of “Bleu II” by Joan Miró hangs. You see, my friend. My deceased friend, gave it to me several years ago. He told me I needed to invest in art. He told me this wasn’t valuable, which is why he could so readily part with it. But I needed to start with something beautiful, and then find my aesthetic ‘voice’. Something would speak to me, and I’d have to invest in it.

But, as he was wont to do, he made sure I knew something about Miró, as I had to care about what I curated my life with. I know Miró said this:

“The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I am overwhelmed when I see a crescent moon or the sun in an immense sky. In my paintings there are often tiny forms in vast empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains – everything that has been stripped bare has always made a strong impression on me.” 
(Twentieth Century Artists on Art, 1958)

Things are pretty numb right now. Whether it’s that I was able to get out of bed at all today, or that I was able to start sifting through the sadness in my head to start making sense of it all to start moving forward, this isn’t easy.

But I’m looking forward to seeing beauty again. I’m looking forward to laughing without feeling guilty. After this experience strips me bare, I know that I’ll be able to do those things someday soon. I just have to wake up tomorrow and start looking forward to being blown away by the spectacle of the sky once more.