My imagination makes me human
and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world
and exiles me from it.
--Ursula K. Le Guin
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September 2001


September 20 - Nine days after the terrorist bombing, I am still in an altered state--an emotional, physical, and psychological condition I would almost compare to the days following the funeral of someone I knew well and cared for, the same exhaustion and periodic weepiness, the same mental nudging to get up, move, be productive, prove myself worthy of this life when so many have died prematurely. Sometimes, the smallest, most mindless task is a balm, like pinching the spent blooms from a hanging basket of miniature purple trumpet flowers, or . Then there is the careful rereading of Billy Collins poems in his new collection. But more is needed, and I find myself involved in more and more projects which keep me from writing, and from brooding, which is essential for writing.

But some of these activities seem appropriate and worthy. Day before yesterday, a friend called, excited about an idea that had propelled her out of bed--she wanted to construct, with some other artists, a temporary sculpture in honor of the September 11 bombings, a base structure to which the community would be invited to add their own artistic expression. Diane, along with her husband, own Hanson Art Gallery and have a network of artists friends. Yesterday, she called to say it was happening and would the Knoxville Writers' Guild contribute words to the piece.

The speed with which this has transpired attests to the creativity and generosity of the human spirit in times of crisis. Someone donated a parking lot on which to build the installation. A local construction company owned by a Jordanian donated and built the base structure designed by Diane, Julie Warren Martin, a stone sculptor, and Richard Jolley, a glass sculptor. A couple of faculty from UT's Art Dept. assisted. A communications firm wrote and funded an announcement for tomorrow's local newspaper inviting the public to come view and contribute to the piece. Writers' Guild members, myself included, will be there tomorrow to add our poems and thoughts. A poetry reading is being planned.

I happily think of this project as conforming to my own view of complexity and chaos theory: self-organising properties in a dynamic system, leading to the spontaneous development of greater complexity; a deterministic event—that is, participants following precise laws, but their irregular behavior appears to be random to the casual observer. Well, I'm no physicist, but it seems much of art is a spontaneous development. One has only to consider the poetry of Billy Collins to see chaos theory at work.

So, life goes on in this jump-start fashion. We weep and are afraid and forget what gives our life meaning, and then we are confronted with beauty and we remember. And the cycle begins again. Memory is a damnable blessing--it makes us poor and then makes us rich. And the richness is always triggered by the will to transcend, by the Billy Collinses and Diane Hansons of the world, by everyone who lights a candle, writes a poem, plants a flower, or, more importantly, grabs a pickaxe and begins the work of rebuilding. Already something wonderful is forming out of the chaos in New York City. Already it's trailing beauty across the landscape.