For the Wordsmiths:
Birth of a Movement
The swift sea breeze on Block Island inaugurated Pablo to a deep-seated longing he never knew he had. Each sniff was a salty reminder of the brine from which all people were created. Each breath inhaled history.
For a boy from a country with shoreline and history aplenty, this was something of a surprise. He’d spent countless hours in years past spinning forth into the lush shallow bays around his home town, watching the sun set over golden water, carrying home fresh-caught fish from the docks, but those were the hot pursuits of a Latin sea, not the brisk snap of New England hard-faced life.
This summer had taken him entirely by surprise. He’d come here thinking he was simply a guest of his wife’s Pilgrim family. Never did he anticipate how the stark shore would strike him cold with nearly erotic urges to create….something. Notions of a languid holiday spent nervously pacing the lanky stretch of pebbly beach on the crest of a Yankee compound were no longer, instead he struck out each morning searching for the heart of that wild aching place.
Driftwood was first. The tangible muscularity of the once-live being honed smooth by roiling surf caught his imagination. Each piece a history, twisting into a sea-wraught new form, ripe for renewed creation. Pablo hauled worthy pieces to a green spit of land high above the beach, piling them in glorious gray splendor under a hot ripe sun. Grasshoppers sunned themselves there, unaware of his plans, which pleased him.
At night the tangle spoke to him in moon-burnished whispers. He would skuffle to it in hope of seeing their dreams, his slippers lifting fireflies from their beds to glow a way forth. Sometimes his wife Eden would accompany him, holding his hand while her cotton nightshift whipped about her ankles, scattering grasshoppers. He would show her a branch of this, a stick of that, and she would run her hands along it, sometime kissing each piece, tasting its salt and sharing it in a kiss. Eden understood, and would leave him to his work in the deep night, her skirt-lace gathering sea-burrs on the dark walk home.
In August, he had done a thing of which he was proud. On a glorious latesummer day family and friends were invited to a picnic at the place of his creation. At lunch the gathered few looked askance at the tower of sticks. In the afternoon they played around its pillars, marveling at the heft of the what the sea could regurgitate. At sunset, the full purpose of Pablo’s coercion with the sea became evident, a vast wooden dromedary rose up dangling a perfect backlit box, a stark charcoal juxtaposition against breast-soft clouds. Exclamations of surprise and delight mixed with chirps from piping plovers. A success was in the making.
Someone asked what he called it. With a nod to his silent beast of burden, and a wink to his wife, said “Cubism.”