Portrait of an Artist as a Single Dad – Pencils

A great crash from Sophia’s room. An avalanche like distant trees toppling in the shock wave ahead of a meteor. I know I should be more diligent or insistent or some other force implying word about the cluttered space known as her room. But I am not in a position to point fingers. In my room teeter stacks of books, papers, drafts, bills, junk mail, envelopes, receipts, empty beer bottles, boxes with their gutted contents spilling out from earlier searches, something that is either an animal pelt or an overgrown slice of pizza, computer stuff and other flotsam. And that’s just my bed. Sophia comes whirling out of her room, sketchbook in one hand a fist full of pencils in the other, asking if I have a particular shade of colored pencil. I do not.
This off peach shade has a name and I do not remember so as to log it here, but to be sure, she needed that one and the sound of a forest being leveled earlier an attempt to find said pencil.
Now I know many artists have particular habits and needs in relation to their surroundings and can be quite specific or the whole project can come to a halt. Ernest Hemingway typed standing up as does Gunter Grass. James Joyce clad in a white coat on his stomach with a blue pencil, Friedrich Schiller let apples rot in his desk, Gustave Mahler retreated to a cabin in the woods, Twain’s writing room, Flannery O’Connor wrote in the same place at the same time and Agatha Christie wrote anywhere she could set her typewriter and on and on. Sophia’s triggering domain a part of her creative process. Lord knows I don’t want to be responsible for stifling creativity.
But now there she stands with a fist full of pencils, and many more scattered in her wake, and none the right color. “I need it” she says. I know as any fine actor who has studied his lines that this is my cue to offer to drive out into the Saturday for this pencil. I also do not want to be the known as the guy who stifled her Off-Shade of Peach Phase anymore than be known as the guy who got in the way of Picasso’s Blue Phase. What one father must do to keep art moving forward and free. Give me colored pencils or give me death. Okay, not death, but maybe a nasty head cold.
I do understand. I myself have become fixated and searched for the one specific thing to help bring my project life. A breath of some detail that I searched for in stacks of books (No not everything is online to call up with a keystroke), looking for that one book in a stack of boxes still prisoner from my moving about the country. That one thing I remember Antoine de Saint Exupery said or a fragment of an obscure poem in a collected work of which I can only remember the cover’s color and on what side of the page the poem was printed. All work ceases and the search becomes the work.
“Thanks,” she says as I put my book down and get up. I find my keys and head down to the local art store and buy a pencil and drive on back. Before I can shut the door behind me she has materialized. A spirit of art. I hand her the pencil and she kisses me on the cheek and disappears into her room/studio/den/chaos.

Well, I think. Ain’t that a peach.

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