Musing on Blue Violets
I sent a long love letter to someone; I sent it to the wrong person. The wrong person responded as the right person. It was difficult to read. I was reading words to me as if I were the right person. She responded with an open heart; she exposed herself with little hesitation, tore down her own walls, answered where the other person was supposed to. She took my words as hers, gave her words to me, exposing me further after thinking I had nothing left to give. She believed in her response, forcing me to believe in it just the same, denying me my ability to look away. I owed her my attention. I reread my letter.
The places where she once never existed, I could now only see her.
Was I there that night he speaks of? Of course I was, or else he would not speak of it; and I would not have this response to offer him. If this is what he meant, then this is what he shall receive from me.
I was certain I was there that night and that she was not; it was before I even knew her. But now there she was, there in my words. I read about her, in that moment meant for someone else. There was nothing I could do. I had to be honest and say it wasn’t meant for you, that I had made a mistake. She said she didn’t believe in mistakes. I said I make them often; she said she didn’t believe that either.
I thought about what I had written while sitting in front of her, the specificity of the words meant for someone else defining a moment with another now and the inability to blame my late night trigger finger on late night consumption. My words then, too articulate; excuses now, too innocuous. I wanted to be yelled at, ostracized, a scene to be caused on my behalf, an easy way out. Yet in front of me, hands not pleading, present, eyes, mouth, ears; a veil easily lifts.
Having begun the year reading Lydia Davis’s novel, The End of the Story, and completely identifying myself within her, the narrator, I decided to commit the entire year to reading only female writers. This has led to nearly five months of refusing books recommended to me written by men, questioning myself even while reading articles written by a man if it’s more than a few pages; and one particular incident, while resisting the advances of Middlemarch, being gently reminded that George Elliot’s real name was Mary Ann Evans. I wasn’t sure exactly what my goal was with the start of this endeavor, if it would prove to be problematic or look spiteful toward men; but the subject of woman and the idea of there being such a thing as the feminine voice piqued my curiosity and seemed only able to be explored personally through an absolute engulfment of women’s words. As we often place ourselves in the characters or situate ourselves as the narrator of what we are reading, my desire has not led me to feel like I can identify as a woman but has begun to help me understand how I internalize my relationship with women, in and outside of myself.
The German expression for coded, indirect communication is to speak durch die blume, or “through the flower.” Conversely, to state something bluntly is to say it unverblümt, or to “de-flower” one’s speech, proclaims Vielmetter in her recently published book, Blue Violets.
The artist’s book has become a rather indulgent affair in recent months for me. I find it not only an inexpensive way to show support to artists and learn more of their practice but a particularly refreshing trend. Each month I hope to post excerpts from various artists’ books around Los Angeles. Ariane Vielmetter’s short book, Blue Violets, stood out to me in a particular manner: it jumps easily between personal anecdotes and associative research, all while circulating around the blue violet. Its passages both expose the artist’s vulnerabilities and reflexive strength through delicately powerful prose and a steady flow of subversive aggression.
I allow peoples’ stories and work to arouse stories in myself. Immediate connection is wonderful but sometimes patience allows for empathy and understanding: being able to step in. I end where Ariane begins in her book, with a poem written for someone.
Like the little violet
that blooms in hidden places,
be always pious and good,
even if no one sees you.
Be like the violet in the moss,
humble, modest, and pure,
and not like the proud rose,
always wishing to be admired.