Before I wrote color essays for an arts magazine, I was curator of a gallery. Before I became a curator, I was moving 3000 miles across the United States. Before the 3000 miles, I was meditating six hours a day in the snow. Before the stillness and cold, I was a marriage counselor causing many a divorce. Truth telling breaks up static. Before the truth, I gave shiatsu massages where I had to do pushups with my thumbs to keep them strong. Before weak thumbs, I memorized Shakespeare while training my voice to project on stage without a mike by repeating daily manalathavaza and other voice exercises, using a bone prop propped between my lips to keep vowels open and consonants sharp. Before those three years, I modeled flannel nightgowns in NYC and waited on tables, and before that flunked junior year of high school but managed to fake my way to graduate on time. Before that I was stuck in the middle of three brothers in the middle of the United States. And then I was born. In between all this, I hitchhiked for two years through the Middle East.
Hitchhiking on trucks, sitting in smoke-drenched cafes with only men, following a stranger to a dark hallway in Aleppo to change money for a better exchange rate, riding through Damascus in a beat-up Fiat instructed to remain silent lest the government hear us while 16-year-old boys with machine guns guard the streets– it’s impossible to know what my boundaries are. How much to assert myself. How much to speak. It’s difficult to know what is cultural and how much is individual bias. I drink four tiny cups of Turkish coffee with a Bedouin family and it is one too many; tradition deeming three as hospitable and four you’ve outstayed your welcome. Being a woman I tend towards remaining quiet and later question whether I should have spoken up. Invited to dinner ends up sitting on the floor with eight men, eating with our fingers while a woman’s hand keeps passing plates of food through a curtain. One of the men says, while casting sidelong smirks my way, “Women change with the moon or rather the moon changes women and money changes the man.”
I write this on a table of weathered wood, the turquoise paint peeling into the knot beneath my notebook. My past settles behind me and the future is now. My heart expands and my forehead softens and the sea is turquoise beyond the blond sand. Through the open window the sun lies gentle on my face. I don’t want religion. I want to experiment with other realities, but not with drugs. It must be possible.
If society is narrow then I must be wider. The world is in me. I am the world. A colorful shawl, some warm tights, a pair of wool socks and I’m on my way. I move less as I move. It is a consideration of tasks.
Dian Parker’s essays have been published in 3:AM Magazine, The Rupture, Anomaly, Epiphany, Tiny Molecules, Channel, Event, Burningword Literary, Westerly, Critical Read, After the Art, among others, and nominated for several Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Her art writing is with Art & Object, Fine Books & Collections, Art & Antiques, Art New England, London Observer, and others.