Talking is highly overrated; at times, even unnatural. Many people fill the space they are frightened by with their own words. Interjecting themselves into places in which they do not belong.

Other sentients go about their days in relative quietude. There are moments of exchange – even chatter for some, but we as human, are prone to talking far too much. This view comes from someone who lives in isolation in the mountains. But it is also from someone who teaches – in which case, what i must do is choose my words carefully.

All sound is mantra.

This is what leads me to believe in saying things only once (outside of the realm of teaching). I am not about telling stories repeatedly related to my experience. I find that behavior to be the most boring pursuit there is.

I prefer to listen.

However, within 53 years of life there is an element of nostalgia.  Of revisiting; sometimes because others ask what I was doing at a particular age, or in a specific year. This tends to be in the arena of teaching.  The other times this willingness to say something is when it is a reflection of what brought me to this particular point in time. An investigation – a mulling over of the “chicken or the egg”.

As my mother lay dying of lung cancer in August of 1997; I am standing at the foot of the bed – the hospice caregiver sitting in a chair across from me asks, “Have you thought about what it will be like to be an orphan?”…………                                                           


Needless to say, if I had been a different kind of person, I would have freaked out at that question. That was the stupidest and most insensitive thing a hospice caregiver could possibly ask at that moment – gods I hope she gave up that job. The thought had never crossed my mind – couldn’t even grasp the concept.

I suspect the reason she asked that question was because she knew that my father died when I was three and a half; my mother was now dying and I had no siblings. Most of my extended family was up in years and for the most part exceedingly distant – as was I. Death was easy, in a sense, as there had been much of it in my life because of the age of the family. My cousin Pat used to say “the Carucci’s do death well”.  And we do.

Chicken or egg? Was I born with a fierce independent streak which gave me my ability to deal with life in this way – or did life teach me this? Some say we choose our parents which means we choose our scenario because of what we need to accomplish in our life.

I was going to be a painter.

I would offer that my shock and response to the stupidity of the hospice worker’s “orphan” question came from the fact that I had never thought of myself as ever having parents. There is no concept of being an orphan if you do not have the concept of having parents.

I do not find this to be an unfortunate or sad thing at all (though Aunt Rose would say with deep sorrow in her little voice, “Oh Jen, you have been alone all of the days of your life“).  I have been surrounded by magnificent life-long friends – my most treasured who said to me long ago, “Your family is where you are”.

My mother did what was necessary to take care of me as I was growing up. There was a point at which she became emotionally unavailable and additionally was not equipped to foster or facilitate the interests and educational goals of a young woman living in the 1980’s. I was on my own entirely.

In the 1970’s I was firmly committed to and engaged in studying on school-year weekends and through the summer months at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This I loved above all else. Other than where I am now, the Art Institute Museum and the School were the only places I ever wanted to be. Looking, researching and making in silence. The Columbus Drive Building was completed as I was leaving 8th grade. I remember deciding at that time that was where I was going to go to school. The decision never changed.

Not an orphan or perhaps always an orphan. We never see ourselves as others see us. I was raised by the Muses who came to me through a most generous group of gifted, wise, loving and dedicated art educators.  The visual sciences remain my path for silent observation and for the continuous pursuit of an elusive, pure, truthful perception that is beyond words.




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