Outside snowflakes are whirling and the wind is rattling the window panes. Inside, bent low, I am watching other flurries. Dashes on a copperplate, days of lines creeping forward with the hands of the clock. From time to time, looking over my shoulder on days like this and seeing how much remains to be done, my husband asks "why do you do this to yourself?". Something to think about... and there is time to think about it. There is time also to think of nothing, monk-like, in my little cell.
But, let me consider it here.
It's true that I could add in tonal values in other, faster and smoother ways, and sometimes, in other etchings I do that. But tones built with line have a special charm. The whole, finished artwork stands as much on display as the individual particles and mechanics of its construction. In the best old engravings and etchings, plain and simple line is alchemized into the softness of silk or velvet, the rough and gnarled bark of a tree, the smoothness of a leaf, softness of a child's face, or the hard edge of a table. It can even become the sky. I have always been especially fond of etchings and engravings for this very reason.
And, when I finally sit up with sore ribs and spine, more than I feel that discomfort, I feel satisfaction. Rendering these seconds into a glowing coppery light (which photographs can't do justice to) is sometimes tedious, but often it is almost hypnotic. I have read that incense is or was used by Buddhist monks in Asia as a sort of hourglass during periods of prayer and meditation. These dashes and dots do something of the same, I suppose, and at the end, the seconds of creation are written out for the future "readers" of this strange Morse code I write in.
Not that I claim the greatness of priests or master engravers for myself, of course. Anyway, there is something still greater that compels me to spend my time in this way: it is necessary. Building the image in this way is the only possible method to bring the image I hold in me into the world.