it’s never too late to write….a love letter to shiny and j.o.j.

photo by hero starr

outside my window, i hear the hum of my grandmother’s silky voice through the trees. in it, there has to be a message, a telegram out of the dazzling sky — coming east…toward me…

it is a crown of hawthorn, a doorway to hope and everything possible…

i keep the old photo of my grandmother beneath her crystal ball she left me on my bureau, with a lemurian quartz on each side. and i listen…

young, old, we all have a message…i am committed to flow, resurrection, and the nonrecognition of death.

it’s never too late to write, or paint, or write a poem, or sing….

when i went to university, i always admired older people in my class who were continuing their education. they were different. they knew something. i studied them, the wrinkles on their hands, deep crooked lines on purply skin, eyes in golden slumber, and in them, the face of god. i told myself, i wanted to be like them when i grew up. i never did grow up, but i learned that it’s never too late to write, or paint, or write a poem, or sing…

photo by hero starr, art by shiny

“shiny,” my love and best friend, is a painter. so was her mother. shiny was a painter when she was very little, but then she gave up. i kept telling her — paint! the winds blew from the west, and one morning shiny was somehow delivered to a new world in waves of liquid indigo, searching for the beatific vision. shiny started to paint again. she painted fairies, angels, and mermaids, and mermaid angels! and ships to take me away in. when, i am bold and voyage out to sea in the ship shiny paints, i arrive changed, in a different, better place.

old photo album

i started to write after my “accident” (i call it the” glorious rupture”) when i was only five years old. but then i stopped, like shiny stopped painting. this morning i woke up and wrote a letter to shiny and dropped it at her door:

“i picked the flowers you like - in my head at least— the ones in the painting you gave me — with the three outer petals the color of an over ripe tomato, and the center i remember, a funny tiger face, yellow with black dots. when can we vagabondize again, like the summer we met, we lived on champagne and cucumber sandwiches and whatever stuff the farmers nearby were selling? you taught me the only thing worth knowing is beyond the comprehension of the mind so now i roam the beaches at night and take a daily walk through the old part of the island, which is deserted, at least it feels that way. tell me something new.”

in the afternoon, when the snow was flying, like magic i got a note back from from shiny. it was left on my table outside my door. it was written on a depiction of the goddess andromeda in chains. was i andromeda, and shiny, perseus sent down to save me? the note said:

and so i did and what i learned helped me break my chains.

born in 1852, the marblehead, massachusetts artist j.o.j. frost, died in 1928. frost did not go to the grave with “the song still in him.” frost started painting at the age of 70. for frost, it was never too late. his lack for training was his asset. he used whatever he could to paint — old house paint, old wall boards he scrounged, whatever he could find. frost would tote his paintings around marblehead in a rusty wheelbarrow to try to sell them for 10 cents apiece. he set up a mini “museum” of his paintings in his backyard. the townsfolk made fun of him. frost never sold a painting. but he kept painting until he went to the grave. he did it for love. god bless j.o.j. frost.

painting by j.oj. frost/photo by marblehead museum

when frost died in 1928, he left all of his paintings to his son, who gave about 70 of them to the marblehead historical society (according to their website, the marblehead historical society is now the marblehead museum). in 1950, when the frost house was sold to new owners, they discovered 30 paintings nailed to the wall studs, all facing inward. the paintings were restored and placed on display at a newbury street gallery in boston. today, many of frost’s paintings are on display at the marblehead museum, but also at the smithsonian, and at the museum of fine arts in boston. frost is considered today to be a significant american folk artist. skinner auction house reports a recent sale of a frost painting for $58,570!

painting by j.oj. frost/photo by marblehead museum

shiny later told me that a painting of a ship she painted was up for sale at a local gift shop in marblehead. the shop owner had left he a message on instagram telling her that a nice woman from the marblehead museum had just bought shiny’s ship painting, and told her that it reminded her of the work of j.o.j. frost. that’s how shiny discovered j.oj.

today, i heard my grandmother’s voice again-

…there is a telegram out of the dazzling sky — coming east…toward me…

…it’s never too late.