The Art of Cohabitation — Do Opposite Muses Attract?

Years ago when we first moved to San Francisco, I found a painting by Lance Morrison at a local gallery. “Jilanne,” it said. “Take me home and I will be your writer’s muse.” The hummingbird, flapping its ethereal wings faster than the eye can see, looking solitary, magical, and somewhat spiritual, whispered its way to my heart. I bought it. The title of the painting?

“Silent Word”

The Writer's Muse

The Writer’s Muse

Close up of the Muse

Close up of the Muse

I sat in my living room, facing this glorious painting and worshiping my muse for silent hours. (Yes, this was before we had a child, when silent hours were as plentiful as copper pennies and squandered just as carelessly.) But I was not meant to remain in such a blissful state on the couch. My husband had other plans.

If you were to put the two of us into Meyers-Briggs boxes, I’d fall into the one marked “Introvert,” someone who recharges batteries during alone time–quite a bit of alone time. Put differently, if you received a laptop or smart phone with my kind of battery, you’d get about 10 minutes of use time for every hour of recharging.

“Lemon!” you’d yell, and hightail it back to the Apple store.

In contrast, my husband is an Extrovert, someone who withers on the vine if he has to spend too much time alone. He is an entrepreneur with a battery that would run the Energizer Bunny into the ground.

So about the same time period that I was worshiping my new painting, my husband and I wandered through San Francisco’s Open Studios and found a crazy (in a good way) sculptor named Nathaniel Price. His work, a cast resin head filled with wood blocks wrapped in wire, screamed of mental overload. The head’s thoughts were confused, tangled, struggling to get out.

I shuddered. I felt like that too often and didn’t want the reminder. Of course, my husband insisted the tangles were ideas waiting to be communicated, a social explosion, and loved it. So he bought it.

But does he ever sit quietly in the living room and worship that tortured head? No! He’s too busy.

Occasionally, he’ll pass by the head on the way up or down the stairs and give it a quick pat.

Who am I kidding? I’m too busy to sit in our bipolar living room, so these two works oversee our son’s Lego building, rope swinging, and general cacophony of play.

Husband’s muse – Noise II

Close-up of Noise II

Tangled thoughts – Noise II

But after our son goes to bed, I imagine these two muses duking it out in the wee dark hours, never conceding loss or claiming victory–the true path of marital bliss.

27 thoughts on “The Art of Cohabitation — Do Opposite Muses Attract?

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    “if you received a laptop or smart phone with my kind of battery, youโ€™d get about 10 minutes of use time for every hour of recharging.”—I love that. I have written many times about being an introvert, and I’ve read many things on the topic, but your description nails it perfectly.

  2. Margarita says:

    Hmmm, I’m not sure they’re duking it out. To me, the head is filled with infinite ideas waiting to be expressed and the hummingbird is one of those ideas that broke free and is expressing. Just one point of view…xoxoM

  3. Laurel Leigh says:

    Well, I have to think back to a time when I had a guy underfoot to drag stuff home I didn’t want. When I was married, we designated an “ape room,” where my hubby at the time could put his mis-matched furniture, oversized TV and even a stuffed ape we somehow ended up with. Long way of saying that I don’t have any objects I’d call muse. My best writing environment is empty walls, no art, no distractions. I fantasize about a “white room,” with white walls and floors and nothing in it but a desk and laptop. Not sure I’m really speaking to your topic, but I do know that whenever I’ve been in your house I’ve loved looking around at the art and arrangement. As for Rem’s head-bust thingy, well, that might have ended up in the ape room, only because it wouldn’t fit into my country cabin type decor or imaginary white room. What was the question? Was there a question? I have to go read your post again! Wait, I have it. You are the muse! You certainly inspire me to write and reflect. Maybe I just need a poster of your head on my wall . . .

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      You’re killing me! Love the Ulysses-style riff. Maybe you just need a photo of an ape to get you rolling. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      Whenever I think of white walls, I think of Woody Allen’s film, Interiors. But if that’s all I had to look at, I’d start to feel like Barton Fink. Wall-paper would suddenly appear (Short story – The Yellow Wallpaper) and start peeling around me.

      Now back to your regularly scheduled program…

  4. mskatykins says:

    What a fabulous post! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I prefer your muse, but I think that the two are quite fantastic and if they are indicative of different personalities and inspirations, then I think that’s really special! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fabulous writing, great inspiring thoughts.

  5. johnnycrabcakes says:

    Ok, no offense to the hubs, but that head is just plain creepy….not sure if I could live with it. But perhaps that’s because it mirrors some aspect of my personality that I’m not comfortable with? Especially since I usually go in for creepy. The painting is fabulous. Love the power of all that negative space. And the title would definitely have sold me on it.

    And I could have sworn I was following you but….turns out I wasn’t…fixed.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, the negative space is what allows my mind to work effectively, to provide open space for thoughts and putting them in some sort of order.

      I know how you feel about the whole “follow” thing—that, and the way WP seems to arbitrarily set delivery preferences. Thanks for the follow! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  6. heylookawriterfellow says:

    I am sure your husband is a wonderful fellow, but if that head DOESN’T represent a tortured soul tormented by his thoughts then I’ll eat my hat. Look at the expression on the statue’s face! Look at how those “ideas” are represented! There is nothing here that doesn’t say agony. No wonder you shudder.

    Hm. Perhaps this resin head could inspire something in your attic? Just a thought.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Oh my. You’re talking heresy! Even if we had an attic, I’d be afraid that, in retribution, it would come sneaking down in the middle of the night to pluck the feathers from the tail of the hummingbird.

  7. Gretchen McCord DeFlorio says:

    First, I love the comments and wish I could click “like” by some of them!
    Second, I remember the painting, but not when I met it; however, I DO remember meeting The Head, and I thought it was very creepy!!!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      So you can see that it’s still haunting our humble abode. Some of the “artsy” B&W photos that Rem took of it when it first settled in really make it look tortured.

      Maybe I should turn on the “thumbs up/down” symbols for the comment section. I’ve got to figure out how to do that in WordPress.

  8. Gretchen McCord DeFlorio says:

    Now on to the serious thoughts.

    You should never feel like a “dud” for being who You are!! The only way any of us can be the best we can be, the only way we can contribute greatly to the world and to those we love is by simply being Who we Are, moment by moment. Stay centered, which means being true to who You are, and You are giving all you have to give to the world. “Dud” is what “hyperactive overachievers” call those they don’t understand…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I agree with the way you characterize your and Rem’s MBPI types, and I love the metaphor and analogies with the artwork. HOWEVER…. let me add some thoughts.

    I have been spending a lot of time with seeming flocks of hummingbird (black-chinned and ruby-throated) lately, as they are migrating through our area, and I always put out feeders. I could not agree more with your descriptive words: “ethereal,” “solitary,” magical,” “spiritual.” They are without doubt each of these things. But they are so much more! You think REM is the Energizer Bunny?! These tiny, delicate little guys, who look like they could be wiped out if you blow on them yet migrate across the open Gulf of Mexico; these tiny, delicate little guys, beautiful, ethereal, spiritual, and magical, spend the entire day fighting, chasing other magical creatures away from their food source or their potential mates. I often say if they didn’t spend so much time chasing each other, they wouldn’t have to eat so much. They are noisy — I’m sure their decibel level per ounce exceeds a jet engine exponentially. They buzz and dart around my head as I sit quietly (me quiet, not them) in the morning with my tea, as if I wasn’t there; sometimes I fear one will ram into my head and puncture my skull (I’m sure he would be undamaged). They are solitary only because they expend so much energy keeping others out of their territory (or trying).

    All this activity, all this ferociousness, all this territoriality depends on hearts beating as rapidly as 1200 or more beats per minute. And the heart rate of these spectacular, magical, spiritual birds drops to as little as 50 beats per minute at night when they rest, when they RECHARGE.

    As for The Head, it always struck me as struggling, yes, but sad in the silence and loneliness — solitude — of its struggle, the internal struggle. I think it’s quite interesting that the major Extrovert was drawn to what seems to be a very solitary figure.

    In thinking all this after I read your piece, what hit me is the necessity of contrast, the extent to which apparently contrasting parts of our selves are so deeply intertwined and interconnected, we couldn’t have one without the other.

    So your “dud”ness is what allows you to be the magical, somewhat spiritual Being that you are; and Rem’s “social explosions” are what allows him to create the tangles of ideas in his solitary brilliant mind.

    If I had more time, I could express this more eloquently! But I think I got the basic points out!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Wow, Gretchen, you’ve given me some things to chew on! I love your hummingbird observations. So true. Without ever having been there, you’ve given me the experience of being on your deck with those magnificent kamakazis.

      And your different perspective on how to view these two “objects” as representations of our personalities. V-e-r-y interesting, as that guy on Laugh-in used to say. And I won’t add the predictable punch line because I think you’ve exposed a different aspect of truth. One that I need to consider. Thanks!!!!

  9. Sheila says:

    I prefer your muse. ๐Ÿ™‚ Just looking at those tangled thoughts gets mine all in a tangle. The freedom of the bird is much better. That’s funny that your husband gives the head a pat every once in a while. Mine likes strange things like little supposedly artistic skeletons that wear clothes and hats and play musical instruments. They can be pretty scary. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, Samir, I’m thinking that writers tend to gravitate toward the painting since so many are introverts. :o))) But I do like the comments here that expand my view of the two artworks.

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