Chin Music

Our writing teacher gave us the assignment to write a short piece with at least a few sentences containing only single syllable words.  The following piece contains (I hope) ALL single syllable words! Note that some words ending in “ed” are two syllables (like wretched) and others are one syllable (like biked). The sculpture in the picture below now resides in our living room, above the maple credenza.

To look at it now, with all the years that have gone by, I can see that my dad got a lot right. The calm frown. The small nose turned up. The round ears with a back tilt.

In a few ways, though, he was far too kind. I did not have a strong jaw line then. But Dad gave me one in clay.  A firm one at that.  A tight cheek and a proud chin.

In his clay bust of me, Dad had my eyes wide and large, though when I sat, I had kept them drooped. There’s not one thing wrong with that, of course.  His choice. But truth in art is a strange beast. We seek truth, but… um… wait, let me start at the start.

Dad had a lot of skills. He was book smart and folk-wise.  He was smooth in sports, strong of song, and could cook trout on the grill with the best of them. He was fine, too, we all found out, at art.

As a break from being a prof, he took an art class to learn to sculpt.  Right from the start, he showed a keen eye and firm hand.  

Dad asked me if I would pose for him. I was eight or nine years old at the time and thought it would be fun. I also just liked the thought that he would spend time with me. 

He drove me to his art school shop.  It had drifts of saw dust on the floor, walls filled with reels of twine and slops of paint, and a roof of fir cones left to rot. I thought it quite hip!

Dad let me touch a mound of cold wet clay.  To get my hands soiled. To feel the clay as if it were a life to mold. And that’s just what Dad would do! Mold clay to life.

He had me sit on a chair. I was to point my head to the left and as best as I could, not move.

The pose was for an hour or so.  We did it for two or three days straight… an hour each day.  And as I sat there, from time to time, I would look at Dad and the clay that was to be me, and I came to be filled with pride and awe in his work.  Dad’s eyes and hands and those thin steel tools turned the wet brown lump of clay into a brand of me that was hard and strong and would last an age. I felt seen as he cut and rubbed the clay. I felt known. I felt loved.

Dad said that he tried to sculpt me as if I were twelve years old. Not sure why he chose to age me, but I do have a guess.  I think he hoped that as I grew, a bold chin would form on my face. Sad to say that that did not come to pass.

Even for the cause of art, we’d both have to take it on the chin.


4 thoughts on “Chin Music

  1. Interesting piece in style(one syllable words!) treasured memories with Dad (of which you had many) and self image (the “weak chin”). Of the latter, at what point did you conclude that a prominent one was superior?


  2. Very nice writing, and poignant memory. I had read the previous one, about the pebbles, unless you revised it.

    You are home from your SW adventure. I also enjoyed reading about your flexibility. This is a busy – aren’t they all – week, but maybe we can walk or chat some time next week.


  3. Lovely in three dimensions. Interesting assignment. I started reading, wondered when I was going to get to the one-syllable bit, looked closer and saw I was midstream already — and it felt so natural that I hadn’t even noticed it.

    Great assignment. Great topic. Thanks for the picture to go with.



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