Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ce N'est Pas Une Cigarette (This is Not a Cigarette)

I’m a huge fan of the painter Magritte and I’m lucky enough to live about 2.5 hours from a good collection of his work. This is housed at the Menil in Houston. I was just there recently, sad that my favorite Magritte, Empire of Light, wasn’t on display, but delighted that I was able to find a new favorite, The Origin of Language, which very much made me think of a recent trip Warren and I took to Hawaii. (Yes, we are spoiled with all of our traveling.)

[The Origin of Language]

One very famous Magritte that was not hanging—though an early sketch of it was—is Ceci n'est pas une pipe (This is Not a Pipe). As I recall from a long ago trip taken as a chaperone with a bunch of eighth graders to see this and other works, the title is a reference to the fact that, though you’re looking at a pipe, really, you’re not. You’re looking at a painting of a pipe.

[This is Not a Pipe]

That said, l was thinking yesterday about my ongoing battle to quit smoking. After smoking for about fifteen years, I quit in 2000. To do this, I first took up knitting and then, when my hands were really obsessed with the knitting, I made the leap to quitting. It worked and I stayed quit for six years.

By that point, I was in a really bad marriage with some really angry stepkids who, despite the fact they were legally adults, frequently acted like tantrum throwing toddlers. Now that I’ve been away from them for over a year, I can have a bit of compassion. I think that what they were most angry at wasn’t me. I think they were furious that their mother died when they were little, and no one helped them grieve properly. So when I showed up, it was final proof that their mother—who’d been dead eleven years at that point—wasn’t coming back. All hell broke loose and they got really ugly with me. And then they got violent. And my anxiety shot through the roof.

I began smoking again.

I’ve been trying to quit ever since. I’ve had days, weeks, and even months of success. Then I backslide. I wait for others to bully me into it, like my kid or Warren. But my son doesn’t live with me anymore so he’s not around enough and, besides, why should he be in charge of my dirty habit? As for Warren, he has no sense of smell whatsoever. I could be smoking in bed next to him and, if he were sleeping, he’d never even notice.

So yesterday, as I was recalling how knitting got me over smoking that first time, maybe I could make a quilt to get me through this time. Even though I’m a lousy quilter, once the idea of quilts was introduced to me, I did get a quick case of Quilt Head, where everything I looked at had the potential of being turned into a quilt. Looking out a plane window at patches of land, being in an Olympic sized pool—that big rectangle a beautiful blue dotted with colorful swimming caps and bathing suits.

So I thought, maybe I’ll quilt a big cigarette. Or a box of cigarettes. Though I think an actually cigarette, as if it were unrolled and flat (but still lit) might be funny. Orangish and gray stripe at the top to suggest a burning ash. White for awhile with three gold stripes where filter meets rolling paper. Something like that. And, for the back? Bright pink with appliquéd lungs done in even brighter quilt. And perhaps, in French, This is Not a Cigarette-- Ce N'est Pas Une Cigarette.


Sarah E. said...

I like your thought-process!

lisa said...

I love your idea, and as far as not smoking
I quit after 15 yrs and have been free for 4.
I wish you the same success.