From voting to finding the shard with the face to listened to Barack Obama's speech in one day was quite a span. Obama spoke of the voter who was 106, what an incredible span of change she had witnessed, and wondered what his daughters might live to see if they were lucky enough to live a century. I couldn't help but wonder what Pete would think of what just happened. There is a clue, but it is a dark one.
I found this newspaper article in the Historical Society archives, from the Somerset Interior Journal, dated November 7th, 1876. Pete would have been 39, and he may have been part of the "mongrel conglomeration". I didn't post this yesterday, as it just seemed a little too much of a downer on a day of celebration, but here it is:
" The day for which all other days were made (as the negroes and radicals seemed to think) has at last drawn to a close. Since 5 o'clock this morning, the ground in front of the courthouse has been swarmed with a mongrel conglomeration of humanity. At six o'clock the spacious doors of the courthouse were thrown open and the sheriff announced that the voting would commence. But as some enterprising individual presented himself to vote, it was ascertained that the poll books had been left at somebody's house so a messenger was dispatched for them, who returned to discover that the ballot box had not put in an appearance. It was sent for and brought, but for sooth, it was then discovered that no pen and ink were present. All things at last being ready the jam commenced; country negroes, railroad negroes, town negroes, big negroes and little negroes, took possession of every available point of egress to the polls, filling the air with their peculiar perfume, and crowding out entirely the Democrats, who felt above being jammed by such a throng. Every Radical was jubilant and seemed to think that they would everything own way. Toward noon, the Democrats began getting in their work, and wonderful to say, the polls closed with a Radical majority of less than ninety votes. This is a tremendous Democratic gain, considering that the Radicals have usually a majority in this precinct alone, a gain of about 200 over former elections. Every means that is low, unfair and contemptable has been resorted to by the Radical wire pullers in the county, but it has utterly failed them, and tonight they hang around with fallen crests, and looking as mean as their prototypes, sheep-killing dogs. Their secret meetings, running around railroad camps to secure negro votes by duping them with lies, of the foulest description, tacing their officials in the district to buy votes for Bradley and introducing social equality have done them mighty little good. While the Democrats have everywhere gained strength and have reduced (we have no doubt) Bradley's majority in the county, from six hundred to less than three hundred. Hurrah for Durham, the white man's candidate."
So we've come a ways, since that day. However one need only roll the tone around in your ear which Sarah Palin used to describe how Obama wanted to make government "like a part of your family" so that otherwise pure homes would have to admit "Uncle Barney Frank" - to realize that it will be a long time before a person who has a minority sexual orientation will be elected president, or marry in most states. But I digress...
Back in the summer I was asked to teach a class of minority students for a day. I asked them to name their favorite color, then we made a list of all the words the class could think of associated with each color, a method for revealing how some such associations are cultural, some personal, and thereby a key to how clusters of meaning have a structure and endurance.
Everyone in our culture recognizes the connection between "the blues" and sadness. On the other hand, because of the sky, almost everyone also recognizes the connection between blue, depth and infinity.
Then I asked them to make a list of words that they associated with the word minority. It started out with negatives, but pretty quickly they caught on to what I was up to and started giving counteractive positives - words like courage. Poets are the shapers of language. It surprised me though, when I asked a room full of African-American teenagers to describe the first time that they knew they were being discriminated against ~ 3 students did not mention race, they said it was for being intelligent (ie doing well in school). I heard from their teacher that they liked my class, so I felt good about that - but I didn't feel comfortable telling my story to them. "It is the fear of sharing our stories that keeps us apart."
After Mary Beth mentioned that the face on the shard was a half - I flipped the jpeg in photoshop and printed copies of both sides and butterflied them together. Then I added eyes from the photo of the unknown boy in the Dias de los Muertos image and photographed the result. The repetition of digital processing enhanced the coolness of tone in the original white to blue-ish. No doubt if the process was repeated over and over, eventually the blue of infinity would appear, like the video screen at the end of The Approach of the Mystery. The face of the spirit in the spring seems wizened but wry - like a good-natured ancient snapping turtle who knows its strength. We used to say that if a snapping turtle chomps down on your toe, it won't let loose until it thunders. So maybe You'll Always Come Back is, in part, about the virtue of persistence. Stravinsky said "I can wait as an insect waits."