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Around in circles...

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I find myself going around in quarantine circles, screen to screen to

With dizzying regularity. Like a pirouetting ballerina, only not graceful.

Laptop, desktop, upstairs television, downstairs television, iPad, cell phone.

Emails, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, word docs, Netflix, WSJ, Amazon Prime,

more Instagram, first drafts, Hulu, back to emails, Zoom meetings, texts, evening news blocks, late nights with what’s-his-name, on-line shopping, webinars, more writing, more FB, more Zoom, instant messaging, ad infinitum.

Orbiting around and around screens. Like a caged hamster on a plastic exercise wheel.

Text message ding and once again AT&T sends a warning that my screen time usage is close to my limit and that I will be charged for the excessive use.

Occasionally when I close my eyes at night, I see a fluorescent white screen image in my mind.

At times my eyesight blurs.

Too damn much screen time.

At one point during month four of home sheltering, I banned my television screen, opting instead to linger outdoors until bedtime. As much as I enjoyed the soft sounds and honeysuckled scents of summer evenings, this lasted just four days. The pull of Succession, The Last Dance, and Good Behavior, too strong.

One of the first things I did back in March when this all began was purchase a jigsaw puzzle, an offensive move to keep from freaking out over 24/7 shelter-in-home dictates.

From Oprah’s 2019 list of Favorite Things, I chose the Gradient Puzzle about which she mused, "If any puzzle can help you reach nirvana, it's probably one of these contemplative and colorfully ombré 500-piecers." I selected the bronze, teal, and pearl white version.

Good diversion from screen spiraling.

My plan of attack—separate the pieces into colors and then find all straight edges to make the frame.

Getting them separated into the three piles took forever; very little differentiation in the pieces in the limited color palette. Patience wearing thin, interest waning. Finally, three giant mounds of puzzle pieces separated by hue, toothpaste white, Pacific Ocean bluish-greenish, and bronze-y coppery penny-looking.

Needle-in-the-haystack search for straight edges and I was ready to begin work on the ins and outs of the cardboard contrivance.

It had taken me three weeks to get the frame completed at which time I tackled the body parts—hundreds of Amoeba-looking white segments, even more coppery-colored irregular pieces, and a boat load of flat, oddly shaped deep turquoise chunks.

After two stress-producing days of struggling to insert the same color male into the female jigsaw puzzle parts over and over to no avail I gave the damn enigma away to my young friend, Sara. A smart but tactful Sara regularly sent pictures of her progress.

She finished in six days.

Day Four...almost done!

A month later, my art loving friend Linda gave me what else—an art lover's puzzle, Color Study of Squares, a Fine Art Panoramic of the work of Wassily Kandinsky. One-thousand pieces. I quickly shelved it and returned to screen surfing.

The Kandinsky puzzle stayed on that shelf in my dining room until one recent afternoon when the screen surge got to be too much once more. I put the box on the dining room table and opened it to a sea of vibrant hues—purples, oranges, crimsons, jade greens, sapphire blues and more, a grand representation of the color wheel. I knew the artist,

Wassily Kandinsky, and his art. His signature abstract shapes and energetic multi-colors were a welcome relief after Oprah’s bland tricolor.

You might recognize the work of Kandinsky, who is credited with painting the first purely abstract work of art, from Google’s home page doodle in 2014 as they celebrated the artist’s 148th birthday.

I knew the work of Kandinsky and his companion, Gabriel Münter, from my work at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Wassily Kandinsky XXe Siecle, no. 3 1938, Woodcut on paper

During the course of their life together—from 1902 to 1914—they were deeply involved in the birth of Modernism. And one another.

I’m a sucker for romance and improvised togetherness so I lapped up stories about their art and love in a book by Annegret Hoberg, Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, a fascinating collection of their love letters and their bold, expressive creations.

Before diving into the puzzle, I had taken the book down from the shelf and revisited their liaison, filled with passion for one another and their work.

Serendipitously, when finished I placed the book on another piece of art, a colorful wooden box on my coffee table created by Los Angeles artist, Melanie Rothschild, who must have been inspired by Kandinsky’s circles in squares. She calls the design on my box Rocco and states she was inspired by her neighborhood Italian restaurant and the round letters that followed the R in its name.

In her book, The Art of Mistakes, she offers visuals on creating round shapes, Kandinsky-esque circles, and encircling them with multiple lines made by drawing thread through black paint.

I tried.

Dismal and messy failure on my part. My black paint-soaked threads refused to go in circles, opting instead for my blouse, my right arm and somehow, a surgical-style-scar mark beginning at my left earlobe and ending just below my nose.

Despite my puzzle foibles and my artistic blunders, I remained committed to limiting my daily screen time away.

Day to day, I continue circumnavigating at home, Billy Preston’s “Will I Go Round in Circles” lyrics relentlessly cycling in my mind.

Still way too much screen time, but I make a conscious effort to intersperse efforts on both completing the puzzle and dabbling in art-making.

A thrill to find the puzzle’s fourth corner (only 996 pieces remaining) and then I began to build the frame.

Question? Will the quarantine end before I finish the puzzle?

High probability.

On my desktop screen, You-Tube, I found a step-by-step “Creating a Kandinsky circle painting” exercise.

Dilly-dallying around making more circles ala Kandinsky. Sizes, shapes and color choices are endless.

So is my daily circling.

One last "avoid-the-screens" activity, of course, is reading.

I love to read, but find it hard to focus sometimes.

Here's some compelling ones I've managed to finish...

Red at the Bone; Jacqueline Woodson

The Henna Artist, Alka Joshi

The Splendid and the Vile, Eric Larson

and on a lighter note:

The Gown, Jennifer Robson

City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert

And just yesterday I received my copy of Musical Chairs by my daughter-in-law's sister, Amy Poeppel. Instantly warm, funny and full of surprises!


Well, Join the club.  I spent the morning  preparing the house for the housekeeper and just put makeup on in prep for dinner with the kids. Finally figured out that those activities take place on Thursday.  Oh well, guess I will just put my slippers back on and fix a cocktail. FC

Marilyn!! I miss you and our women's group. Our intimate circle of reading, sharing, and enjoying one another's company. Thank you for sharing this piece with the world. I read it. I enjoyed it. It brought me some solace in these wild quarantine times.

I definitely feel like I am going in circles, but focusing the unfocused energy on work instead of anything personally fulfilling. I hate it and I despise myself for doing it. I'm trying to also figure out how to balance the screen time and do more for myself during these challenging times. I'm back at our home in Santee and I think of you ladies often and the power of writing. Elizabeth

I am truly blessed to live in a rural area and with a great circle of friends.  We meet in each others' homes for drinks, conversation, and canapes.  The Ski Lodge is open for drinking and eating.  I have a commitment four nights a week and either walk one and a half miles or ride my bicycle fourteen miles every day.  I have always been a reader, so television is a night time diversion only and usually with NPR.  I visit daily with my neighbors when I walk.  I will be pleased with all the Covid is behind me, but life is good. mmm

Stay well and keep writing!

Hi Marilyn,  I hope things are not as frustrating there as they are in Edmonton.  How I hate having to wear a mask every time I go anywhere - geesh.  I plan on re-reading your book, as it is so very special.  One of the things that make is special is having known Jack, and when you write so lovingly about him, I can put a face to him.  I also can picture your home and that magnificant view you have, as we were there on two occasions - a Finesse night and Jan's birthday party - both memorable.  The only book I ever re-read was a book called Coppermine. by Keith Ross Leckie.  LOL Jackie

Thank you for brightening my 157th day of goin' 'round in circles. You are a treasure.

But Sue Ellen, who's countiing?

I feel for you, we are not as closed in! Walks in the woods, early walks on the golf course cart path, knitting, reading and bridge with three friends rotating houses! Guess something to be said for living in such a rural area except now there is a wildfire going on but quite a ways from us and hope it stays that way! Miss you!😊❤️JS in Colorado

Great book Marilyn!! Yes going in circles!! Talking to my sister in law and she said she was just going from chair to chair.. from book to book.. from something called lunch and dinner. I understood exactly what she was talking about 😂😍👏 ... ann j in Lubbock

I enjoyed this post more than any other I think. I loved everything you said. I loved your puzzles. I loved your table. For some reason reading what you are doing made me less frustrated with the fact that I am doing just about the same things only my surrounds are not as pretty. Your photography is also so interesting. Any way thanks. I am in a better mood after having read it. Keep up the good work. Judy Presswoood. Houston

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Love it again, Marilyn. Thank you for your good writing and all the art notes. Oh, and also, I had to go find "The Circle Song" by Bonnie Raitt. Not a frenetic "going in circles" kind of song, more Bonnie Raitt "longing" kind of song.


13 de ago. de 2020

Your Gradient Puzzle looks waaay too hard. A 1000-piece landscape occupied my kitchen table for about three months. Finally said: "Enough!" and boxed it up. Now working on a smaller 500-piece. But it has been a good time for reading. I've rediscovered fiction!

More importantly, I just finished "The Orange Woods" last night. What a lovely memoir. I made my living as a writer for more than 50 years but never enjoyed your kind of talent. It is really special. Yours and Jack's love story reminded me of a song I heard a year or so ago, "Love Like Ours" with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, music by Dave Grusin. You can find it on YouTube sung by Peg…


Your writing always brings it home - but never more than this one. My circles have gotten smaller and smaller and had less and less to do with anything remotely artistic. I shall take this cautionary tale and do more walking, more reading, more talking with dear friends. I LOVE your writing and your Kandinsky circles. You can keep your jigsaws!

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