Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It's somewhere under here

My world, and welcome to it.
Albert Einstein,  the proto-Yoda, probably never said,  "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
We know he never said it, because the quote has been made into many Internet memes, picturing Einstein at his own messy desk. Einstein is a magnet for quotes that sound like something he might have said. The same for Mark Twain. And Soupy Sales. 

We accept the Larger Truth, though — he could have said it! And it ain't wrong!
Never mind: I have achieved fusion — or maybe fission. My cluttered desk shows a mind at once cluttered and empty.

This is my desk, raw and untouched, on one day, January 5, 2016, representative of most days. Nothing has been altered. I play it as it lays.

The various epochs on the left side of my desk.
The work done here ossifies the farther left and right my elbows push them.

Work on something, move it to the left or right. Work on a new something, push it left and right, pushing farther left and right the thing I was working on before.

The Cambrian period is over there, about four feet to my left, atop the two-drawer file cabinet whose purpose more and more serves to hold the ancient work now settled deep into the detritus, maybe never to be seen again.

A Cambrian deposit extends to my right, too, uplifted on the scanner that no longer works correctly, but which I still have plugged in.

The Pleistocene epoch, then, is nearer, just wide of my elbows. The scissors I last used, don't know
what for, but haven't put away, probably won't for quite a while yet. Well, now that fact bothers me, so I'll put it back in the hanging tray. There.

To my right, a tray of artist's pencils our son's girlfriend gave me last year for Christmas. I should put them away too. Receipts. Receipts and receipts and receipts. They exist throughout the sediment on my desk. I could file them, but they'd just grow back.
Detritus to the right of me.
The desk is in a room in our house, a room dedicated as my office, which is a great big chunk of greedy use for a space. It was one of the reasons we got this house, space enough for my office.

It is messy sanctuary inside and out: Inhabitants of the rest of the house don't have to suffer from my mess. They can close the door. I don't have to suffer for my mess from the inhabitants of the house — unless a bill due has somehow made it onto my desk, buried somewhere in the Triassic period.

It's not ideal, and nothing ever is, of course. The room was going to be digital on this side, where I'm typing, and traditional and hand drawn on the other side of the room, but nothing ever worked out that way.

To look upon this room is to laugh. Empty shelves behind me, sadly unused, while the desktop overflows beside me.

The closest I've ever gotten to the home-improvement TV shows, which I hate, hate, hate ("Step One, crack open that cask of $500,000 cash you've got lying around. Step Two …"), is reading about the studios of illustrators I admire.

I don't do it anymore because it's depressing. Large, high-ceilinged rooms with wooden floors and tall windows with northern exposure. A counterspace extending the length of one wall, all papers neatly stacked, the computer with two giant screens blinking happily, emitting great paid work. A fleet of flat-file cabinets stacked in the middle, topped with butcher block, to form an island in the middle of the large room, where the illustrator and assistants can cut and paste (really, not virtually) and matte, and sign their latest book, none of the cutting and pasting and matting and signing getting very messy, because the assistants clean up.

And a view of the Rockies or the Eiffel Tower or seastacks from the illustrator's desk.

I hate those illustrators.

I have a flatfile. It's full. It's been full for years. It has no use except as an archive for someone else to discover, and probably to throw out the contents of. The problem for actual physical tactile artwork is I never know what to do with it when I'm done. Even the quick sketches on warm bond paper, sketches I'm just going to scan and manipulate here, on the computer, are hard to throw away. They are things, created, and throwing them away would feel like sin.

So they shift, tectonic plates of paper creeping farther away from me, imperceptibly, while I pull out a new piece of scrap paper and begin sketching, here on these small triangles of clear desk space in front of my computer keyboard.

As is my habit, I scan them on the other working scanner above my computer screen, then add the paper to the continental scrap that scrapes slowly over my desk, obscuring everything, even important things I have forgotten are under there.

I need help.

Hey! My Pink Pearl®™ eraser! I'd been looking for that.

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