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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Interview my Visitors, no. 2

Lori, the woman who ought to be a Bigwit instead of a Witzel, has a passionate curiosity that drives her to see and to say what and how she sees in words, drawings, photographs, and poems. Her primary blog, Chatoyance, flings a seemingly infinite number of tendrils into the aether of the internet, making connections with me and you and somebody with a laptop who is sitting under alien leaves on the other side of the world. Lori Witzel is curious about the way light tosses a glimmering, insubstantial banner into an auto repair shop, about the way decreptitude takes a a plaster wall, about the stuttered reflections on a ribbon of windows in the city.

She is a metaphysical dreamer and eavesdropper. Look: right now she’s leaning over her Starbuck’s coffee, listening to those two women with their heads bent together. She’s sketching the acanthion above the scroll of a lip and jotting down notes in the margin. She plunks down in the dirt, staring at sun through tattered leaf, camera in hand. She’s pausing in an alley to take in the weird poetry of rust on a hand-welded gate and metal rooster. Out of a clear blue Texas sky, cats are dropping onto her legs and back, sniffing behind her ear. A husband is calling from the background. But Lori just laughs and doesn’t turn her head as she steadies the camera: she’s alive, and she’s looking, and she sees.

What’s the most interesting swap you’ve seen on your worldwide swap blog, Gimme Your Stuff? And is your blog, I’m Sorry I Haven’t Posted, really a form of metafiction—since you never (“no, not ever—hardly ever”) post?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been monitoring Gimme as much as I used to when it was just a Teeny Lil’ Blog looking for swap-friends. My role is very peripheral—I’m sort of a departed founding partner of Gimme Your Stuff, and the people who really keep it growing and fun are Rikki and ThomP.

But rather than answer “the most interesting swap,” if I may I’ll share the back-story on how that blog came to be.

My friend Andy Spiegel’s friend Willie Baronet left a comment on Rikki’s blog during a debate about “Milo vs. Nestles,” rather insistently pushing to get Rikki and company to send him some Milo so he could experience Australian chocolate drink mix nirvana. I countered with a much more charming approach to wheedling Milo, and Rikki took pity upon Milo-less me and sent it to me, not Willie. (And while I thoroughly enjoyed “neener neener nearer”-ing Willie, I did share the Milo with him.)

Well, I loooooooooved the Milo. It was what Ovaltine wants to be when it grows up. And, being a woman who doesn’t have much sense of proportion at times, I decided to extend a big-as-Texas thank you to my Aussie blog-friends by getting and shipping them the fixings for a Tex-Mex party. Lots of chips, salsas, a cookbook and various other sundries were packed and sent off, and Rikki and ThomP were completely surprised (and maybe mildly alarmed.)

The Tex-Mex love made an impression, all right—the next thing I knew, I was getting mysterious emails telling me They Had Something Big Afoot as a result of our food-swap. Clever, creative people they are, they built a whole Web infrastructure to make it possible for random strangers to build bridges of fun, trust and cultural exchange.

I helped for a while, but my job and my art (not to mention cats and hubby) made me a poor partner in Gimme. They’re very kind to keep me on the roster of ringleaders.

Yes, I’m Sorry is now metafiction, and that amuses me almost as much as my red plastic Mary Janes. It did start as a trawl for those sorts of posts; I decided it would be funnier if I just stopped. (I wonder how many metafiction writers simply drove down a plot cul de sac and became post-modern by accident?)

In your many photographs on your primary blog, Chatoyance, you demonstrate a passion for the overlooked, the decaying, the peeling, the faded, the rusted, the on-the-edge, the weird-in-the-mundane, the back lot, strange layered elements in nature, skewed visions via reflections, and a look that we might call Accidental Folk Art. Is this a tendency that evolved from a mode less devoted to the world’s broken and entropic self, or was it part of your “eye” and predilection from the start?

A friend once told me, years ago, that I was drawn to “the wreck of beauty.” Although she was referring to an at-that-time-boyfriend’s physiognomy, I suppose I’ve always been drawn to the liminal and transitional. There are qualities in the mystical notion of tikkun, bringing the broken shards of creation back together, that attract me—and there are qualities in old fairy tales, where the shadowy and broken hold the key to wholeness, which I also find compelling. And as far back as I can remember, even as a little girl, I was like this. (Oh, my poor parents!)

You take photographs, sketch, write poems (earlier it was more poems, fewer sketches I note), keep multiple blogs and generally frolic about the world of blogdom, meeting people. (Where did you encounter me, I wonder? Laurelines?) I am quite sure that this is merely the iceberg’s tip. How would Miss Jocelyn Bell describe you, were she a human adolescent, and not a hair-on-end cat about to pounce?

You are so right about finding you through Laurelines—your comments were so darn well-thought and well-wrought I had to see who that Marly person was!

Jossie, if a human teenager, would probably say (were she not texting and squealing about boys with her girlfriends), “Oh, HER. She’s always doing something, and oh my gosh, I never saw anyone so curious about EVERYTHING. I mean, Lori’s nice and all, but she just reads and does stuff and I wish she would just chill and go shopping and pay more attention to me me ME!”

And a cat-tale: Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a part-Siamese who I adopted from a young woman, a science major studying at the University of Texas. This young woman named every kitten in the feral litter she rescued after a woman scientist she felt deserved more attention. Hence, our lovely youngest cat is named after the woman who discovered the pulsar.

Thinking about your pictures, I note that you have a penchant for the overwhelming sky that reduces birds to pinheads, granaries to stubs, us to vanishing point. Is this you and Texas? Is time and space just different there? I lived in Louisiana as a child, and I recall (perhaps wrongly) the utter martyrdom of crossing Texas—the occasional joy of an armadillo football booted into the air, or a bird slashing by, or a tumbleweed catching and freeing itself and rolling on.

I think it is me and Texas—or perhaps me and the American West.

I was born and raised in New York, but when I was very little I ran away to become a cowgirl and live in Texas. Although I turned back at the first street crossing (and oh, did I get the spanking of my life) I finally make it back.

I cannot ride a horse well, but Texas is just “west” enough to feed some open, wandering part of me. Going to college in Northern Arizona left me with a thirst for open sky and land, places where people are scarce enough to make every stranger a harbinger of something mysterious. That’s not quite where I live, but it’s close enough for now.

You’re involved with four blogs (although involvement with I’m Sorry I Haven’t Posted seems rather metaphysical, or perhaps merely whimsical!) What have you found to be the most fun—or the most curious, or the most inspiring—about your links to places like The Art Blog Challenge? (And is it what prompted, in part, a return to sketching?)

I think it was Willie who linked me/invited me to The Art Blog Challenge, but that didn’t spark the return to sketching. Rather, it was a camping trip I took a little over a year ago that set me sketching again.

Friends said they wanted to travel vicariously with me and see things through my eyes. Andy lent me a digital camera, which I was quite nervous about taking (I had no love of photography, and tended to break even the simplest cameras.) Beth (the blog-less and shy) suggested I take a sketchbook, and write/draw what I saw and felt.

Their wildly enthusiastic and supportive response to what I did while traveling set me back on that path, and Laura consolidated my efforts in her gentle, double-dog-dare way by hoping I’d sketch more and more.

Although I’ve found some amazing artists through links to blogs like The Art Blog Challenge, the most gratifying thing has been the one-to-one neighborliness and support I’ve been lucky enough to experience. The generosity of people like yourself, and Dave Bonta, and Laura, and many many others in supporting creative growth amazes me.

In the sketch and notes of “Self-portrait Marathon: Take 2,” you are shown wandering and waiting for “a surprise, a wonder, a befuddlement.” You seem to be a person of much energy, and yet you are frequently very, very still—and, camera in hand, you are “waiting” on the universe to show itself. Explain yourself!

Hah! I wish I could—and goodness knows my husband wishes I could as well!

I guess I’ve been blessed with a large helping of paradox.

One of my favorite approaches to walking along a hiking trail? Stepping just off the trail, just to one side, and waiting. And waiting. Deer come close, mistaking me for a shrub (as long as they can’t sense my human scent.) People walk by and do not see me at all. Lacey little bugs flitter by. And it’s all such a delight for the eye and heart, my mantra through those moments can only be “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

And a heartfelt “thank you” to you, Marly, for asking—it’s good to reflect on all these things, before I pop up and see what I need and want to do next…

* * *

a definition from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia:

In gemology, chatoyancy (or chatoyance) is an optical reflectance effect seen in certain gemstones. Coined from the French, meaning "cat's eye," chatoyancy arises either from the fibrous structure of a material, as in tiger eye quartz, or from fibrous inclusions or cavities within the stone, as in cat's eye chrysoberyl. The effect can be likened to the sheen off a spool of silk; the mobile, wavering reflection always being perpendicular to the direction of the fibres. For a gemstone to show this effect it must be cut en cabochon, with the fibers or fibrous structures parallel to the base of the finished stone.

Some gem species known for this phenomenon include the aforementioned quartz, chrysoberyl, beryl (especially var. aquamarine), tourmaline, apatite, and scapolite.

Chatoyancy can also be used to refer to a similar effect in woodworking, where certain finishes will cause the wood grain to achieve a striking three-dimensional appearance.



  1. Marly, thanks so much for interviewing me! It was wonderful fun...but were you following just out of my line of sight when I sat down in the dirt to get the light through that leaf?


    If you don't mind, I'll post a link to this on my site, and see what sort of a motely crew I can send your way.

    And thanks again...I'm flattered to be in susangalique's company, although I do wish my spelling was as spell-binding as hers.

  2. You have your own witzel-wizardry! Be-spelling of a different sort.

    Sure, fire up the circus cannon. I'll be expecting Lori's Special Incoming Pals.

    I have my little spies out for details like that one. The Pot Boy comes in handy...

  3. Oh my, I'm smiling like a maniac, reading this dialogue between two of my favorite Unmet People and two of my very, very favorite creators. I've reread the interview twice-bordering-on three times. Marly, your questions and observations were incisive and straightforward and of course, so intelligent, and amused, too. Lori, you ARE something, that's clear. Many somethings, all of them to my liking.
    I'm so happy I was the original connector between the two of you. I'm proud and pleased and still smiling.
    Lori, thank you for taking up your sketchbook and pencil again. Your work is just what we need, out here in the nonTexan world.
    Marly, thank you for another delicious interview and, always, for your writing and your generosity in promoting others' work.

  4. I think you are the spellbinding one. You are the illuminator of perspective.

    I read the first half of this all most as soon as Marly posted it, and have just now finished it as my relaxation treat while I drank a cup of coffee.

    very nice interview. I always loved your profile pic with the orange framed eye. It does speak of a keen eye and sharp whitt. You rock on girl.

  5. Wonderful interview and responses! Enjoyed it very much. I guess I qualify as an Incoming Pal but I'm planning on returning soon for a good explore. (I need to keep my eyes open for the Pot Boy??)

  6. Hope you had an easy landing, MB of the motley crew! I do get around. Perhaps I'll whip down to the Carolinas and Texas and have my face immortalized by L & L--or else stay here and let them just imagine the contours of my face.

    And now, back to the sweet clash of pots in the kitchen.

  7. "and somebody with a laptop who is sitting under alien leaves on the other side of the world."- ME!

  8. It's so good to be distracted when one is drudging away on the laptop, being dutiful rather than making up stories... Although I'm about to go see N's jumprope club jump.

    What sort of leaves are overhead, Belinha, there on the other side of the ocean? Giant blue leaves? Tiny red leaves? Serrated and dangerous? But it's winter in Portugal... They must be imaginary leaves. Or buds of leaves to come.

  9. Hello Marly!So you came to meet me under the leaves!!! I liked the interview. Lori is one of my favourite bloggers.When I started to visit her blog there weren't sketches only peculiar photos.I'm glad she started posting the sketches.And that is just one of the things I like.Ah!!She does a fine fruit cake also!:-)

  10. Lori is indeed a gem. So glad that you did this interview,

  11. Yes, the leaves were cut out of paper, very bright and crisp!

    Ed, Belinha, and mb--
    I'm glad some of her friends have left a message--and there are lots more interview fan notes at her site, as well.

    Be sure and drift over to Chatoyance and take a look at the many avocations of Lori...

  12. I saw a blank covered billboard last night on my way home. At first I thought there were shadowed faces on it and I thought, that looks like a shadow texture that lori witzel might paint, then I realized it was just a white tarp covered sign that just looked like it had shadow faces on it. I saw it today and it was indeed an ugly white tarp

  13. I was scrubbing a copper pot and thought I saw a Witzellian moon on the blackened bottom...

    We've got witzel-sight!

  14. It ain't me, I swear!


    What y'all may not know is there are Picture Imps afoot, dancing just out of the line of sight and tossing moonbeams and sunshadow and synchronistically propped miscellany artfully across our paths.

    When you see something particularly resonant and mysterious and fleeting, remember to thank Them for leaving that momentary Imp-pression...

  15. Thats a beautiful thought. I really thought some artful computer generator had lightly shadowed this, but it was defintly Picture Imps .

  16. I thouroughly enjoyed reading here! As a poet, I found it very interesting and informative...thank you!

  17. I love Lori's site, I have gone there and lurked. I do need to leave a comment.

    I also find this a great interview. Very well done.

  18. Thanks, imps and Hammer-and-Tong and blog queen and Susanna and Lori and all--I'm whirling off but will check in anon.

    Anybody who left Jeanne Larsen a message about her translations of Tang poetry will find an answer now...

  19. Well, thanks to everyone who's stopped by to learn about All Things Witzel!

    This has been an absolute treat, Marly, and I so appreciate your Q & A, and all my known and heretofore unknown blog-friends popping by The Palace...

    It's sunny at long last, so I had a lovely day out with a camera in hand...TTFN!

  20. Hey M,

    I wanted to tell you, for what reason I know not, that just now I played my first song by memory. Its called, Drink to me only. I played it on both my accordions, even the one with the sticking G, while walking around the house. This means that for at least one song I will be able to make eye contact with people while I play.

  21. Lori,

    I'm glad you're glad--there are now many more people out there who have been infected with witzel-sight. (Just got rid of a virus in the bowels of my computer. At least, I hope it is gone.) They stopped by and went on, invisible, but changed.

    I'll have to go see what you've done, now that the rain has stopped.


    That's grand. Putting notes together is a calling. Anything to turn back the brokenness of the world!

    Do you mean the Ben Jonson lyric? "To Celia"?

    That is,

    Drink to me only with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine;
    Or leave a kiss within the cup,
    And I'll not ask for wine etc.

    With the traditional tune?

    I like that piece very much--I love sixteenth- and seventeenth-century lyrics and songs.

    Now you need to learn Edmund Waller's "Go, lovely rose." (The music isn't old, though.)

    A traditional tune I love is the one matched with "Down by the Salley Gardens" by W. B. Yeats. (Not to be confused with the reel with a similar name.)

  22. Excellent interview - bit late coming over here, I'm afraid. I hope everyone else hasn't already left the room. 'Wreck of beauty' is such a great phrase. I know exactly what that means (at least I think I do) and I love it too.

  23. It's what happens to your mind and the kitchen pots when you play with Miss Havisham too long.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.