"The Only Reason to Make Art Is Because You Have To," said the potter to his friend.


A day without sun, a day of gray rain and gray wind, a day when you suddenly do the mad calculation of spring-to-fall days and think, “My God, if the sun comes out right at this very moment and shines down continually until the cold returns, you will have only slightly more than one hundred days of warmth.”

The mad calculator in your misfiring head fixates on arithmetic like this, the kind that comes click click click on a night – most nights – when you wake slightly after 3 a.m. and think, “My God, if you fall asleep right at this very moment you will have only slightly more than one hundred minutes of sleep left.”

And then you will yourself to fall asleep, right now, right at this very moment, and you flip the pillow to the cool side, and you flip yourself to your other side, and you stick one foot out from under the blankets in an effort to change things up in a tiny way so that your brain will shut down and you will be asleep, right now, right at this, very, moment.

But no. No sleep forthcomes. And no sun either.

You heave yourself into the grocery store. What is it you need? The brain fogs like the sky outside. Butter.  “Most Pulp” orange juice even though you are the only most-pulper in the house.  Red potatoes. Apples. A bag of frozen okra because you have a mighty craving for okra and why the hell shouldn’t you fulfill it, this one small craving you can fulfill, given that your craving for sun and warmth will never be fulfilled because the sun will never shine again.

But what is that? What is that, over there on your left as you make your bleary way down the row of apples?

Why, it is an art gallery. Right here in the grocery store, a painting, a sculpture, a mosaic painstakingly assembled from colors you would have chosen if your name were God and you were creating the earth and it was only Day Three and you weren’t yet in need of rest.

Who is the artist? Is he the man in the green apron spraying down the lettuce? The woman making the pyramid of grapefruit?

You stand and look upon the display, the colors curving and swirling, rising and falling like the tides that are so far from this grocery store on the plains.  These peppers didn’t have to be arranged like this. They could have been lumped in piles, each variety to its own, segregation by color.

The artist stood here with carts full of unpacked produce and had a vision. The artist, name unknown, looked upon dozens of cool, satiny peppers and thought, “If you begin right now, right at this very moment, with these materials at hand, you can make something that will last as long as it takes these one hundred peppers to be plucked, one by one, from these shelves. Something lovely. Something beautiful. Something that won’t last.”

And he began.


  1. Kathi · May 11, 2009

    This is so wonderful, so generous. I love your blog. It’s like a warm hug, it’s like sunlight. Thank you.


  2. kathleen duey · May 11, 2009

    Love, lovely. And wonderfully written. Encouraging, too, for those of us who stack peppers in our own ways.



  3. alison · May 11, 2009

    Kathleen, I have to admit that I’ve never stacked peppers at all, just tossed them into a bowl any which way. Now I’m rethinking that strategy.

    And Kathi, sometimes I sneak around on your blog just to see your beautiful smiling face.


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