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Island Life

Part of my morning ritual here and elsewhere generally includes the washing of the dishes. This is not because I am obsessed with cleaning, as a few people know all to well. It is because in a world cluttered and compelled by a variety of projects, it just feels good to wake up and finish at least one of them on a regular basis. On a relative scale, dishwashing can hardly be considered a task of monumental importance, unless of course one has failed to address the issues revolving around soiled utensils and plates for several daily meal cycles in a row. At that point, one might be willing to consider the value of the dishwashing machine we do not have, although the sense of accomplishment of overfilling the drying rack after conquering a many-meals encrusted dinnerware pile gone critical has its benefits in the feelings derived from not only finishing, but finishing strong as well. That is a phrase that rattles through my brain caverns a lot- finish up strong. It was something that has echoed down the corridors from my prep school days as we were always urged to “finish up strong’, and continue to be reminded of that as each year finishes and donations to the cause are strongly solicited. I take peculiar pleasure in linking dish washing with this particular inspirational phrase, because I kind of believe that clean plates were never high on any of the headmasters’ lists of accomplishments that might serve to make any of us “worthy of our heritage”, another of those phrases we find welded to our conscience bin by prep school pep talks, and kept always at the ready as we continue to muddle through the mire.    

So, while the year has just officially passed, that is not the reason I have begun to think of the word “finish”. As it turns out, the minute movie group I belong to was recently tasked with constructing sixty seconds worth of cinema concerning anything we deem appropriate in visualizing what a finish is. Is it a stop, or is it a win, or is it a surface and texture one applies to something in order to finish it? Is it a punishment, as some might consider that the command  “finish your vegetables” could be? As with many things like this where something is brought to your attention and suddenly that thing or word begins to appear everywhere, in contemplating the idea of “finish” it soon began to appear as an echo repeated all through this past weekend in the commentary around the various holiday football games, with the talking suits on any given network all earnestly debating a team’s ability to “finish”, which in most cases had more to do with not choking than it did with showing strength and perseverance all the way through to end. As it is though, I just fired off an email to a friend in Seattle and asked if he would be willing to commit to the digital flickers with one minute’s worth of expounding on what it means to finish a painting. I have asked him in the past if he would be willing to be hounded by a camera from start to completion of a new work, an idea he was less than enthusiastic about participating in. But it sounds as though he is interested in this shorter project- we will see where that goes.

In the mean time, there is an event which is fast approaching that could result in a finish to an ongoing process which has been discussed here on and off for the last year and a half. I am sick of talking about it and have even less enthusiasm for living it. With that in mind I am hoping that my imminent sojourn to New Hampshire, so that I might soon sit in a room separate from my sister and with all our respective legal counsels in tow whilst yet another legal personage shuttles back and forth, eventually sees a mediator person arrive bearing tidings of something resembling agreement and settlement. Hopefully. What it all has felt like for these long months is something akin to John Barth’s ‘Frame Tale’ in his book ‘Lost in the Funhouse’. For those unfamiliar, this particular story consists of the front and back of one page, along with words which are printed vertically along the edge of that page so that if one wanted they could cut the printed part out and, with a single twist and some glue or tape, attach the two ends together  to form a Moebius strip, one of those curious items that should maybe not exist in the real world, since with that simple twist the front of the strip now connects with the back of it, seemingly creating a three dimensional object with only one side. The words that create the Frame Tale- ONCE UPON A TIME THERE printed on the front and WAS A STORY THAT BEGAN on the back- are then locked in a continuous loop once the ends are joined after applying the twist. This of course is the one-sided fairy tale that my sister has created on her own regarding her misguided duties and self-serving antics with the family estate. As the family lawyer was a co-trustee in all of this, I have struggled from this end with the grand “complicit or negligent” debate. None of this has really made any sense, and so I am ready for it to finish. Most of the talk of late has been of my being made whole at the completion of it all. But unlike a competition where a hard fought victory brings so much more to the finish, there is still the hole left in that potential whole that this journey has brought to the table. When I walk out of that room in a few days I am hoping it will be without that three-sided blade that has been stuck in my back for far too long now. It is still to be seen if the finish does anything more than just mask the damage done way beneath.