margaret, smile, on easel

I regularly listen to Bach as I paint, in particular his violin sonatas, and I usually find myself reflecting on the same thought.  No, I am not reflecting on the polyphonic structure of contrapuntal composition in Baroque violin concertos.  I wonder how the heck Bach had twenty children.

And then I think of my wife.

While I am at the easel, smearing paint on pieces of linen all day long, my wife is scouring the top of our Chambers oven, she is picking up kids from nursery, she is spraying nasal medicine in baby Quinlan’s nose, she is powerwashing English Ivy entrails off the back wall of our home, she is singing Liam to sleep, she is buying car seats from Target, she is reading about controlling children’s temper tantrums in parenting books, she is folding laundry, she is creating brochures for my portrait paintings, she is laughing at Evan as he runs out the front door wearing nothing but a diaper on his head, she is sweeping, she is plucking ripe tomatoes out of the back garden, she is making Syrian kibbe, she is crying because Quinlan is sick, she is arranging babysitters in the evening so that she and I can go for a walk, she comes to my studio to pose for a painting, she runs to the office to check on an order of linen that is coming in.

That’s how Bach had twenty kids, and managed to scribble out a few tunes here and there, as well.

margaret, smile, 2

margaret, eyes

 

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
“Vain man,” said she, “that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.”
“Not so,” (quod I) “let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.”
– Spenser, Amoretti LXXV
ONE day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washèd it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide and made my pains his prey.
Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay         5
A mortal thing so to immortalise;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.
Not so (quod I); let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame;         10
My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
  Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
  Our love shall live, and later life renew.