The shallow hole the boy had dug became deeper with time as he scooped out the red colored clay the ground was made of. He filtered it through his hands, taking out stones, sticks, decomposed leaves and roots. Punching and smoothing it he compacted the clay to one block, thus slowly building up a monolith from clay. He devoted great care to this process, making sure that he would have a structurally sound mass with which to work. Over the course of building hundreds of small people from mud he had gotten quite skilled at this craft. Only when he was content with the sound that a slap against the block produced, a deep, saturated thud, would he proceed to sculpt. With deliberate slowness he worked from the general form to the details. Many times a form had collapsed when he had tried to overemphasize a movement or had placed the limbs too far outside the center of gravity. In the beginning he had tried to use sticks to support an arm reaching out or a leg stepping forward and though technically that solution had worked he didn’t like that the figure now seemed to defy the laws of gravity that nature put on the material and form. It was thus almost impossible by the mere use of sticks and clay alone to sculpt an outreached limb that looked natural. So he had returned to work from the inner core of the material and to rather hint at a movement that – though invisible – the eye would project into the empty space. He was always intrigued by what he could see without seeing it. He liked the way his sculptures randomly related to one another, all he had to do was to quietly look at both sculptures and discover this relationship of forms. Something deep inside him stirred when he looked at his creations and their silent endurance. He could see the form of the space in between two physical forms, it was nothing and yet visible if one cared to look, it changed constantly, stretched and diminished, even disappeared. It was actually easier for him to comprehend the properties of this in between space than the form itself. You could get out of the trajectory of any moving object if you controlled that space. If you made that space in between adhere to your inner voice you did not need sticks to build a figure. Why, you barely needed your hands, all you had to do was to look long and hard, look at the clay monolith and make some slight adjustments. Soon his people were crouching, stretching, running, turning. He took great pleasure from this.
His father began to take notice too. One night when he had returned home from the workshop the little garden patch had first caught his attention. In the twilight the clay sculptures his son had build in the afternoon had a strange quality of perfection. There were seven fresh sculptures, six of them crouching on the ground, the seventh a small figure in flight, emerging out of a block of brick-colored earth, running.
From a distance it had seemed that all sculptures possessed distinct personalities and bore individual facial features. Something about these features seemed oddly familiar to the stonemason. Upon closer inspection he realized though that the impression of an actually sculpted face dissipated from a nearer perspective – but reinstated itself the moment he stepped back like a magical trick. The inability to confirm his initial finding, to come closer to the truth, was intriguing to him. He asked himself how a not yet six year old child could have created such a sophisticated illusion. He didn’t ever doubt that the impression was created deliberately. He studied the people his son had made for a long time. Inside the house the light from the boy’s bedroom shone dimly through the drawn curtains.
For the stonemason in particular the death of his stillborn son felt like a betrayal. It was as if he had livd in the never acknowledged faith that his profession granted him some kind of special reprieve from death, that someone had agreed to that it was not to occur in his private life as long as he continued to carve memorials for the dead, and that this someone now had let him down. He was an atheist in the service of the church and loosing his unborn child felt like a disciplinary measure for his godlessness. Like many atheists he had a system of inner convictions that replaced religion. He did not believe in a creator, an organizer, a final judge, and yet he felt like he had fallen from grace.
Iris quietly lived in the shadow of their loss, simply mourning and nourishing the inconceivable thought that they should now never know him, their son, certainly not by the way of a new pregnancy as friends and relatives suggested. These well-meaning people did not realize that the depth of her grief was rooted in the very circumstances that they thought would alleviate the loss – the fact that neither she nor anybody else had ever seen this child alive; that it had in fact never been born in the true sense as he had died in utero. Her grief was that her child had lived, if ever so briefly, unknown to her, and that she would never know it. She sat at the kitchen table with her encyclopedia and with a three hair sable brush paint stamp-sized paintings on miniature panels of oak wood while thinking about all the small things she would not ever know about her son. She wouldn’t know his face. She wouldn’t know the sound of his voice. She would never hear him laugh. She would never hold him in her arms. And yet he had lived.
They never talked to each other of their feelings. After a while it was difficult to say whether they didn’t talk because they didn’t want to deepen the grief in the other, whether they were anxious that even the one person they shared their grief with would not be able to relate to its depth or even feel hurt by it – or whether it was because they were guarding their own grief with a certain possessive jealousy. The spring changed their marriage. It was the first time they did not talk to each other about something that kept their minds occupied. It became more difficult to talk about the daily life as well.
Thus they were quiet in each other’s company. Iris was dedicating herself to creating miniature watercolors, none of them larger than the palm of a woman’s hand, some as small as a postal stamp. She used the finest brushes and worked deliberately slow. She had perched a nature encyclopedia on the kitchen table and truthfully to nature had copied illustrations of small insects and birds, placing them in imaginary and impossible landscapes filled with a soft green light that on better days implied a spring day, on days of more severe depression dark and damp shadows.
the death of his unborn son, for the stonemason it felt like a betrayal. death was to be a professional matter, something to take place in the realm of his customers, who commissioned him with carving memorial stones for their … Continue reading →
He had seen them in the far off distance of the long street that moved towards the shop. Something in their movement had caught his attention. Two tall men moving oddly synchronically, not just the spacing and timing of the … Continue reading →
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.
Yeats, A Woman Young and Old
The little Gargoyle was sitting, the last of his kind, still as usual, listening to the faint sound of human voices from down below that the wind today seemed to be determined to carry in another direction. The Gargoyle sighed. Many days now he sat unmoved by the simple signs of social life the parish displayed on the little stage of his vision field. Sometimes he thought about the times when the others had contributed to his own observations with descriptions of what they could see. They all had had places of much greater exposition and had enjoyed a better view of the human spectacle down below. His own place in the shadows of the rear entrance suited the much less elaborate work that the artist had employed by carving him, basically not intending much more than creating a somehow sophisticated rainspout.
One might have thought that his first decades of existence must had been filled with envy or humiliation as his far more artistically executed companions had not failed to point out the aesthetic and social difference that clearly existed between his own simple self and their proud display. The truth was though that his nature was as simple and good willing as his face and that he had always preferred listening to talking and had been glad of their companionship despite their arrogance. Over time as boredom had led to an increasing tendency to quarrel among the more prominent members of the little society they chose him to confide in when their antagonists were drifting off to sleep, a deep, dreamless sleep, not unlike death, but the little gargoyle – clearly a failure in this respect as well as in his aesthetic execution – unable to retrieve his thoughts had been sitting alert and looking out into the night waiting for another morning that should restore his companions to him.
When they were all finally hovering quietly in their respective darkness he had often asked himself if the stonemason had known that he had been awakening the stone with his hammers and chisels and had he known would he still have chosen to give life and then abandon his creation? The little gargoyle of course had the patience and endurance of all stone creatures and one night, one week, one month of silence meant little to him. But he found that by never being able of sleeping he had lost some of his countenance, his stone nature, and during his long nights of silent thoughts while the others where embedded in an enviable state of coma had developed an inner life that didn’t seem quite suitable for a simple gargoyle.