Blowin’ In: Hidden Art
By Susan Mangan
“Stone Crab on an Irish Table”
By Susan Mangan
Impenetrable armor, molten red, claws dipped in peat colored ink
housing ivory flesh, sweeter than clover honey. Is this rare succulence worth the battle?
To crack, to penetrate the shell of an Atlantic stone crab is worth
the travail if the crab is boiled in a seasoned pot with whole cloves of garlic, wedges of lemon, and sprigs of garden-fresh rosemary.
Cottage doors open to the soft breeze of a summer’s day. The briny scent of sea and salt mingles with the fragrance of sheep manure and field heather.
Land and sea conjoin.
The battle to crack, to pry, to persuade the delicate flesh is worth the mere moment it lingers on your tongue while the dogs scramble beneath the table to chew on shards of discarded chain mail.
Unceasing summer light begins to shift atop the mountain above the house. Consider it a sacrilege to call this time the Golden Hour. In Ireland, when the day is fine and the wind gentle, the hour between dusk and night is divine.
How I wish to be a visual artist: to paint, to capture the dimming of day during twilight. That masterpiece, however, is best left to nature alone. No ordinary pastel could ever truly convey the grace of light as it casts a hushed spell over an Irish mountain in summer.
Perhaps this is what the artist does. The artist observes with a stillness that belies her intent, the active workings of her imagination. She communes with the light and the images that surround her form.
The artist does not seek to compete with nature at this moment of grace, armed with easel and brush, pencil and paper, violin or cello. She remains still and inhales the air, every sense alert to the change of that light and the effect that encroaching darkness will bring to the land. With humility, the artist knows that she could never compete with the broad magenta face of an old rose as it peers through the vast violet tangle of fuchsia.
To the casual observer, the artist may appear passive in her quest to discover art. She sits for minutes on end, and at times, the minutes may turn to hours, and the hours to days. Ultimately, the light reveals hidden art as morning dew dries beneath the burgeoning heat of midmorning sun.
A yellow butterfly may pass beneath the flight of a fat bumblebee. A hummingbird might mistake the lavender hue of the artist’s skirt for a columbine bloom dancing in the breeze.
Ephemeral, Nature’s cast of players bow to one another.
Summer damsel flies give sway to autumn’s woolly caterpillars. Flitting white cabbage moths nod gracefully to the crickets as the they serenade the close of summer. Hoary frost coats meadow furze while a bright winter moon lightens the deep darkness of an Irish field. Yes, art is hidden everywhere: beneath the moon, amid the tide, drowning in the shallow depths of forgotten creeks.
Art begins with the rising of light at dawn and hides below the tide until the moon pulls the crashing waves back and reveals inspiration. Along the Irish strand, the tide recedes leaving bladderwrack in its wake. Otherworldly, this maze of seaweed speaks of primitive beauty with each turn of vine and billow of bloom.
Donned in wellies, the beachcomber may procure half of a once perfect sand dollar. The poet imagines the mate of this sea urchin lying beneath the depths of the sea, perhaps in the hull of a wrecked ship, while the essayist muses that its match is hiding beneath crushed ocean glass a mere toe’s length away.
Until the art is found in field, stream, or sea, a pot of stone crab has been set to boil on the hob, welcoming the artist and her family to the table for a summer’s meal beneath an Irish mountain, as the day slowly dims, to a starlit night.
*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected].