STATE of mind - issue 6

September 9, 2017


I'm going to tell you a story, one that Nate Dimeo, the creator of The Memory Palace, told me. I's about the things we can see and the things we can't. Take, for example, the sculpture you see above. If you haven't already, look at it for a moment, long and hard. What if I told you that this sculpture, called The Death of Cleopatra, was carved in 1876 by a woman? That's interesting, isn't it? A woman, and such a big piece of marble, in 1876. Now, what if I told you that woman's name was Edmonia Lewis, and she was the child of a Haitian man and an Ojibwe woman? What if I told you she was the first American woman of color to be recognized on the international stage for her immense artistic talent? What if I told you that she carved this statue for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and that everyone who was anyone thought it might be the most exquisite sculpture carved by an American ever (period). But, after Philadelphia, the work went missing; it was seen here and there (the here being at a dive bar in Chicago, and the there being at a horse racing track), but was found, finally, in a salvage yard outside of Chicago in the 1980s; it was covered in layers and layers of graffiti.

I've seen it before in person. I stood in front of it and didn't think much. I didn't wonder who made it or think it was even very beautiful. But no one told me either; there wasn't a plaque that said "attention, onlooker: it is a miracle this even exists. Look closely." There was no plaque that told me her story (Cleopatra's or Edmonia's). I didn't know then that the woman who carved this with her hands now lays in an unmarked grave in London.

Now, look at it again. That's the power of the story. Joan Didion famously wrote, in The White Album, that "we tell ourselves stories in order to live," but I think it is true, too, that we listen to stories in order to see.

Click here to listen to Nate DiMeo's story about Edmonia, and see her image below.


"I have used my strength for the purposes of destruction. But now I can use it to build something that will last." After I read those words, I committed to reading every interview Rachel Cusk gave. This week I came across this New York magazine's The Cut interview with Cusk. If you aren't sure, scroll to the end and read the last paragraph, and then you'll know. 



Who doesn't love a free hobby? NASA's website has been my most recent. I've found myself visiting and re-visiting the "moons" section, marveling at all I didn't know I shared a solar system with.