Put A leash on It

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“Get off my property. You don’t pay my taxes, and put my rock back.” I point to the granite boulder I purchased months before to stop people parking on my land. “I’ll put it back,” the man said, pulling it from where he’d wedged it behind his truck tire. “I’ll put it back. I’ll put it back where your property begins and city property ends.” The boulder falls at me feet, the man smirks and walks away leaving his truck on my lawn. “Get your fucking truck off my lawn I yell.” My husband walks with me, I hold my older dog in a carrier near my chest, my puppy is grasped in my husband’s arms. I feel vulnerable, angry, and anxious.

This isn’t the first go around, I’ve been in other land fights, lost land in adverse possession, seen my husband slugged in the face for walking his own acreage and I’m angry, I’m so angry that I won’t back down. The man says something else about my land being city land. “We’ve been to the city. We own all the land to the road. You don’t have the right to park on our lawn. Get the fuck off our land or I’m calling my lawyer,” I yell. The man starts in about family rights, how when his grandmother owned our house he parked where he liked. “There’s this thing called real-estate. When your family sold this land, they surrendered, the rights to it you dumb fuck. Call your lawyer if you want to prove you have the right to park on my land,” my husband counters. I follow the man who walks down the alley at the back of my property watching him as I make my way to my back door. He stops and looks down at me. “Keep walking fucker,” I yell. “Your people don’t own this land anymore so stay the fuck off it.”

“Keep walking,” my husband adds coming up to stand beside me. The man looks at Dan and then at me. “Put a leash on your pit bull, man,” his eyes move from me to my husband before he continues on down the back alley towards his rental.

This is the second time this year that a man has told my husband to put a leash on me for speaking out, for voicing my rage. “Put a leash on it,” were the words the other man used. He had been a friend who stopped by after therapy, triggered out of my mind. He sat in my sun room talking about his need to shoot Muslim women for eating in our local bake shop. I confronted him, asked him how he could feel entitled to shoot locals for wearing scarves over their hair while eating cake. “After all,” I added, “doesn’t shooting innocent woman over their dress code make just as big a fucking monster as the Taliban?” Turning from me to my husband this friend of several years told him to, “put a leash on it!” before getting up to leave.

No one has ever told me to leash my husband. He’s told other men to fuck off in corporate meetings. He’s fought hard and fought back in every verbal and legal war we have ever entered into together. He’s been hit, gone to court, stood beside me while we got restraining orders against aggressive neighbors and countered our ex-military friend for talking violence against women and yet no one ever said, put a leash on it with regards to his behavior.

I’m not meek, I’m not demur. I’ve seen where those two passive modes of conduct lead people. I don’t look away from a problem and I don’t back down. I will take down a two-hundred-pound man if he threatens my home. I will sue anyone who trespasses on my land. I’ve voiced my rage over violence against prostitutes, inviting the drunk asshole who talked violence against sex workers to come see just how fast a pretty cocksucker can take down a drunk ass motherfucker in the parking lot. But even that bastard didn’t tell my husband to, put a leash on me.

Nowhere in history has it been “FUN” to be feminine. Even as I child I was told not to raise my voice or talk back to little boys because someday they would be priest of the church, men, fathers, leaders.

Life has taught me that demure woman are dead women, broken women, silenced women. I heard the stories, memorized them, watched them remembered in whispered tones, listened while the women of my family discussed a wedding where a rape attempt went unnoticed for proprieties sake. Grandma had stood on the other side of a door calling her oldest daughter’s name begging her to come out, knowing full well that she was fighting off a man twice her size. Why didn’t you fight with her? Why didn’t you open the door and fight? I asked. “I didn’t want to embarrass him on his wedding day,” Grandma answered. An hour later that would be rapist married Grandma’s youngest daughter. No one put a leash on my aunts second husband, no one did a thing.

I love men. I love women. I fucking hate this prissy society that says be inoffensive, keep your mouth shut, cover up and keep your head down or you’ll get what’s coming to you. I hate the parents who tell their children to cover their shoulders and dress down or people will think they are flirtatious. I hate all societies that tell women to cover up so they don’t entice, enchant, encourage admiration. And I hate everyone who says to turn the other cheek, that what’s done is done, to forget, dry your eyes, move on.

If someone trespasses in your life, back them down. If someone touches you inappropriately, knock them back, if someone hurts you, string them up in a court of law. If your daughter or sister, son or brother is screaming on the other side of a door, break it down. And if you are broken in the fight, remind yourself that it’s better to die on your feet than live as someone else’s bitch.

 

The Sacred Act of Loving Art: Part 10 of Rain on a Cloudless Day

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For as long as I can remember, Mommy has taken us to every art exhibition and museum in Salt Lake City. We tour galleries and studio openings, my mother describing brush strokes, paint layering, visual dynamics and the importance of shadow play. We have been informed that we are in the process of learning to appreciate art the way she does. And when we grow tired, hungry, or want to go home we are made polite and educated on the merits of pointillism, the modern movement and the many fold reasons as to why we should always hate Picasso.

Once while touring an exhibition on contemporary cubist paintings we broke rank and rebelled. My sister cried and I whined and we both insisted on going home. Mommy took us quietly in hand saying, “I have brought you here and you WILL LIKE IT!” These words have since become a family joke repeated in a clipped German accent. On that day however, they were far from funny. With aching feet, we walked, listened and appreciated everything until the natural, mother dictated, conclusion of our tour.

As young parishioners in the church of art, we still pay our respect, say our obeisance, utter our prayers to the masters of water lilies and sun flowers, abstracts and impressionists, while haloed saints writhe in anguish and a multitude of glowing cherubic Messiahs rest in various possess upon their mothers laps. Art is our religion, our daily practice and our saving grace. We bow down and are made humble by all that God has inspired in humans until we too feel the spirit move inside, us bringing us to our own God given gift to create.

Mommy paints, my sister has music, I write and my father makes stained glass. We live in museums, poor endless hours into fat glossy paged art books and discuss what it is to live in art-for art. My world is the world of my family, I am guided by its opinions (Picasso is bad), its beliefs (Diego Rivera couldn’t paint his way out of a box) and its rhetoric (Monet’s work is light and color perfected). Secretly I love Diego Rivera and am concerned about Claude Monet’s eyesight but to say this to Mommy would cause her opinion of me to sink which is a thing I dread. So I keep Diego to myself.

I would like to watch Mommy work. Her paintings begin as sketches on canvas, washed in with dark pigments which are then layered over until she reaches a level of such depth that her figures are alive. But she needs silence to connect with the canvas and painting for her is not a family act. Family to Mommy is order, hard work and tolerance.

Daddy is different. He is gone all day, his work is exhausting but he has energy for us. When he’s home he makes up long stories and reads out classical books, giving all the characters their own voice. But of all the wonderful things he does, I love his stained glass windows best.

I creep down into our dirt cellar where old window drawings hang pegged to heavy wood beams. Dust from the dirt walls and hard packed dirt floor coat the old wood table where his newest drawing lays. Numbers that represent color are drawn onto flower petals and grass stalks. I watch him cut green glass and place it on the jig saw puzzle drawing. The color and shape of the glass fills in the part of the picture that will be a leaf. Night after night more pieces are added until every piece of glass is cut and placed to make the window. Then the glass is soldiered together and taken out of the dirt cellar into the light.

This is why I love glass. I love the way the light shines through it. I love the way it changes the world from ordinary to magical; it makes mere sunlight turn green, blue, purple, and red. I love the way glass is molded and shaped, its rich color or prism cut edges accentuating every sunrise and passing ray of light. Glass is an art form that actively adds magic and beauty to a constantly shifting landscape.

Mommy says art reminds us why we live, it adorns our already beautiful world with more color, adding magic to the mundane. Art stirs our heart and floods us with a passion for more life, more color and more living. I hope I always see life as a blank page or numbered drawing ready to be filled with shards of color. What Mommy teaches me in our long museum marches is respect, dedication and the thousands of ways one can create. What Daddy teaches me in our shadowy dirt cellar is that art forms in every kind of unlikely place. All it needs is inspiration, intention and a little light.