Art by Lyn Horton
I want to tell you my story about Laurel Canyon.
When I was attending CalArts, one of the persons teaching me (now famous beyond words) rented a house on a street that began at one of the deepest points of Laurel Canyon Road. His students often met there to have discussions and to move forward with projects.
One spring night towards the end of the school year, I was leaving his place; it was around midnight. I’d stopped at the stop sign at the intersection of his street and Laurel Canyon Road. I pulled out to make a left turn, intending to return to the San Fernando Valley, when a pickup truck slammed my Mustang hatchback into the retaining wall. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt. The impact threw me into the windshield and I fell into the well of the passenger side. The truck disappeared, leaving me abandoned on the side of the road.
The police had to piece this story together.
An ambulance swooped me away and dropped me at LA Receiving, where all unidentified injured people are taken. The police, or maybe it was the ambulance crew, had left my driver’s license behind.
For three days I lay unconscious as a Jane Doe in this facility. Fortunately, an attending doctor could tell by my skin and fingernails that I was not from the street. He rummaged around in my jeans and found a receipt in my pocket from a CalArts cash register—a receipt with my name on it. He was able to find out where my parents were (they lived in DC). Were it not for that doctor, there’s no telling where I would be now.
This is the story I was told.
After my parents showed up, I was moved to St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Valley. I stayed there for ten days. I regained consciousness but sustained contusions of the brain and a concussion. Eventually, Mother and I went back to DC. It took a year for me to heal from the damage to my skull and brain. The muscles in my upper outer left thigh were deadened by the truck’s impact. I had to learn to speak and walk again adequately.
Mother stayed by my side in the hospital, doing her needlepoint. She said to me: God knows you are here for a reason. I have taken that to mean that I’m an artist, that there is something I need to say. There is a lot more to the story. But I will tell it somewhere else.
In my last relationship, the arguments always became circular. He would interrupt and talk over me from late afternoon through dinnertime and into the night. He incited such anger in me. One time I was driven to completely destroy a shelf unit that I wanted to get rid of anyway. I threw the destroyed parts out a window near where this happened. Everything landed on the grass two stories down.
Another time, frustrated and angry at the non-conversation, I went to my studio and destroyed a portrait of me that a past lover of mine had painted quite accurately. It was sixty inches high by twenty-eight or so wide. I took all the scraps and stuffed them into a file drawer near my drawing table. Later I threw the scraps away.
The person I bought my condo / art studio from is the predominant property owner on this dead-end street. When I bought it, still-inhabited apartments waiting to become condos surrounded me. I was one of six participants in ownership. Now, there is one renter left, way over there. The guy next door is leaving after his last doctor’s appointment, post–open heart surgery. That is soon.
My neighbors on the other side of me are homeowners. They have different standards from mine, but since I befriended the female of the group, who works in the food service department at Williams College, her standards have changed. I’ve brought up things that really need attention, like her two dogs. They dump and pee around the tree outside my studio window and near my parked car. We are slowly working that out. The smell of the pee and the disappearance of the dumps.
The fixer-upper that was just purchased at the other end of the street has a large picture window facing the street. A huge poop emoji is propped up in the window. I am going to take a picture of it and send it to C, the majority property owner and my friend.
I have completely dug up the garden out front. This is the only house that has one. I want to be finished by July 4th. My neighbor with the dogs gave me four kalanchoes. I planted them in a beautiful pot I found at Walmart.
Listening to music in the mornings brings me closer to the studio more quickly than spending time on the internet trying to connect with people. I am printing photos of sections of my drawings now. God, I hope I’ll be creating this huge installation next year. All about branches, twigs, language, and communication.
am trying to recover from digging out the yard on Sunday.
No matter how many snippets of books I read, I never see anything resembling the life I had. Everything I read describes some sort of normalcy. My life was not normal.
I know what you are going to say.
The garden out front is almost finished except for spreading mulch. After that task is complete, I will be able to go on hikes again and return to a routine of hiking on Sundays and taking pictures of what I see, things that I find visually interesting.
My art ideas become more exciting the more I think about them. I’m almost finished with the second scroll. I have to photograph the groups of twenty drawings I did before the scrolls. There are two more groups after the newest that I posted on Instagram. That group is so seductive.
I sorted out my difficulty with X. He is so completely understanding. I was crying my eyes out yesterday morning. Beating myself up about misperceiving him. He put that to rest.
Periods of dizziness ruin my incentive to do things. Yesterday, I was supposed to go to a Laurie Anderson reopening of her VR Moon Project but I crapped out. I really love being alone but at the same time I hate it. Moving one foot in front of the other is the only way to avoid being overwhelmed.
My days are filled with sparks of memories that fit into telling my story.
I drank a lot of wine tonight. To accompany some sort of dread I feel. Guess it will work its way out by morning.
The day was spent in large part in front of this damn computer screen, making sense out of files and Linktree, and just finding out about things. The more one does, you know.
Writing about writing. I have been in less than a writing mood except for the latest story associated with photographs that I posted on my website under Photography.
Because I am by myself I don’t drive long distances these days. It concerns me that this will become normal, like taking the train to NY. (Will I ever get to NY again!?) I want to see the Eva Hesse retro at the Gugg. But the heat. Being on the second floor here means that it takes ‘til 5 p.m. for the heat to rise and the sun to be correctly positioned to tell me to turn on the air conditioners for a little while. It’s time to turn off the one in the living room.
Back in Worthington, I was never hot during the summer. I took pictures from where I sat on the living room floor on Sunday evenings, looking out at the terrace with the sliding door open. The air would come through the screen and cross through to the windows behind me, opened to the porch in back. I hope the people who live there now have learned to appreciate what I did over those forty-two years.
It’s a new month. My son becomes forty-two in exactly one week.
I just deleted all my email from my inbox. Hope there was nothing important.
Around one o’clock, I was ready to leave my condo and go out. I put on my Merrell running shoes and my compression top, did minor pre-stretches, went out the door, talked to the neighbors who were washing their truck, and got into my car.
Since there’s been very little rain, I have not gone to the Cascades Trail; it leads to a really beautiful waterfall halfway up one of the foothills of the mountains. Today I went. It is the least taxing trek to take and be in Nature. I made the mile-long climb, leaving the trail occasionally to take pictures from the stream banks. I had on the wrong shoes, and so was wary of slippery rocks and mud; if I’d put on my hiking boots, my steps would have been more certain.
The falls were running despite the lack of rain and the drought around Western MA. Once I’d seen them, I was happy. The sound of the water going downhill almost became enough for me.
People who visit the park get right up in the rocks surrounding the pool that the falls create. Their presence ruins any pictures that could be taken from a distance, which mine would have been and were. I hung around for some time listening to the water, photographing it flowing right below me.
I started back but my balance was off going downhill. I began to feel dizzy and ill and dehydrated. Eventually, the trail flattened and was less hazardous because there was no water and fewer rocks. But I had to watch for tree roots exposed from erosion and from having been trod upon thousands of times.
I was exhausted when I reached my car. I drove to the co-op to buy some yogurt and garlic kraut and organic wine, some store-made chicken salad to put into my dinner salad. On my way home, I remembered that I had to edit P’s copy she’d emailed to me before I left. This irritated me. The saving grace was that she told me she’d found an intern.
I thought about the energy I’d put into the article I’d worked on and how I had to regain it, somehow, in order to start all over again. This irritated me, too.
These are the first new words:
The house in which I lived for forty-two years was built in the 1890s.
And then I will go on.
It’s late. I finished P’s editing. I’m trying to figure out what detachment means. Maybe it will become clear when I’m not really thinking about it; maybe later. I am going to stretch now.
Ate too many cashews, washing them down with a fancy chocolate protein drink.
Getting ready for my trip, the anxiety I feel leaving my North Adams condo is real. I go through the days imagining what I need to take with me, what will fill one large suitcase to be checked in at the counter.
To get to the airport, I take the route I used to take from Worthington. I have to add an hour and fifteen minutes to the forty-minute ride. In the few days before I depart, I have to go to the dentist, go to Pittsfield to sell some of Mother’s gold jewelry so I can give my son and his wife a partial wedding present of cash, take pictures of the public art billboards in Pittsfield, one of which bears my photograph, cook the perishables in my refrigerator and freeze them, pay a few more bills, and pick up all my prescriptions in Williamstown because the pharmacy in North Adams is closed. The pharmacist lost his wife and there is only one pharmacist who can substitute. Or NONE.
The jewelry decision was hard to make. Mother wore the earrings and brooch for two historical and truly memorable occasions. (I “remember” them only through photographs.) One was the wedding of Margaret Truman, the President’s daughter; the other took place in Norfolk, VA on September 7, 1996. Mother was invited to christen the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier. It was a big deal. President Clinton spoke, as well as a raft of other high falutin’ dignitaries. A video on YouTube documents the entire event, but I can never find the point at which Mother spoke. I’ve seen it only once. She was speaking from the era in which she (and I) played a part. Drama was her thing; she missed being in the theater.
I decided that cashing in the jewelry was something I could do now; I know how to do it, whereas my son would never know what direction to take. It makes me think that I should liquidate all my valuable art and whatever cannot fit in the safe deposit box to relieve him of these future divestments.
I have begun many stories in my mind. Maybe one of them will take shape when I come home.
Hemingway never came back for his things at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. I am certainly not Hemingway, but I seem to have his attitude, or else I am slowly acquiring it. I’m so sick of ghosting, and the people who have no reason to care. If they don’t care, then why try. I will keep my mouth shut until I stand on firmer ground. Whenever that is.
Lyn Horton (BFA 1971; MFA 1974, California Institute of the Arts) has been a visual artist for over fifty years. She has a long history of writing about creative improvised music for well-known publications, including her reviews of recordings, musician profiles, editorials, and liner notes. Her artwork has been exhibited in solo shows at Max Protetch Gallery, NY; Claire S. Copley Gallery, LA; Northampton Center for the Arts; Bradford College; and Smith College, and in group shows at Siena Art Institute, Italy; California Center for the Arts, Escondido; and MASS MoCA, North Adams. She lives in Western Massachusetts and is represented by Cross MacKenzie Gallery outside Washington, DC.