Deleuze and Strawberry Jam
For Proust, it was all about the madeleines.
For me it is unquestionably strawberry jam.
During my childhood, I lived in a five story concrete apartment block, number 82, in a vast complex of anonymous buildings in a corner of Seoul, Korea. I still remember that it was slightly humid as I walked home from the bus stop, although I can’t remember whether I was wearing my favorite pair of mustard colored corduroys. The entrance to our section of the building was a pair of heavy glass doors, and only one side opened. On that day I pulled open the door and was hit by the smell of strawberries. It was a concentration of an intense fruity strawberry scent with an undercurrent of sweetness, like caramel. We lived on the top floor, with no elevator, so it was five flights of stairs to get to our apartment; ten half sections of steps broke up the trip with 180 degree turns. I remember that the strawberry scent became stronger and stronger as I climbed, but it never occurred to me that it could be originating from our family’s kitchen. I was 9 years old. I rang the bell and when my mother opened the door, I was hit in full force by sweet, sticky, strawberry-ness, a total immersion, which included all the heat and moisture from the kitchen that comes from cooking fruit down and boiling the jars to preserve homemade jam.
Deleuze talks about the "rhizome" in his writings, particularly in A Thousand Plateaus. It is, as I am beginning to understand, an idea about multiplicities: interconnections that are non-hierarchical chains that may not be directly joined but belong as a component of a greater whole. How does this connect with strawberry jam? I am an American living in London, grateful but displaced from much of what was familiar while I go to graduate school. Encountering a new culture, living with a different syntax of my native language, and struggling with the strain of lockdowns plus disruptions due to the Covid19 pandemic. I climb the five flights of stairs to my apartment, even though there is an elevator, and they are also divided into ten half sections with 180 degree turnings. A spoonful of strawberry jam, savored slowly; 40 years drop away.
That morning, at the market, my mother had acquired the bargain priced boxes of overripe strawberries and had spent hours washing, then trimming, then cooking down all the fruit. It was a labor of love.
I just found the following post, hidden, buried in digital ephemera of my own website. It was written just a year before my husband died suddenly and my world was upended. I don't recall writing it, or why. I've learned a lot about fear since then, it happens when you look into an abyss. I post it as an offering for anyone who wrestles with fear.
February 4, 2016
It is that unnamed thing that lurks just under my rib cage and travels up while I least expect it, often while am happily working in my studio.
So, what does an artist who has to wade through skeins of fear do to tame the unnamed fear? Name it, so as to slowly unravel it. Work fast enough to keep any paralysis from over-analysis at bay. Chirp my optimism out loud so as to keep redirecting my brain. Meditate. Pray. People don’t realize that I choose, every day, to be positive. To say “yes”. To feel the fear and move forward anyway. Sometimes I can barely keep my thinking in a straight line.
The greatest gift I received was the observation made by another—that before you can have compassion for another, you must engage in compassion for yourself. It’s much harder than it sounds. Real compassion is not feeling sorry for yourself, or being narcissistic or letting yourself of the hook. Real compassion is accepting who you are at that moment: accepting your flaws, seeing your gifts and acknowledging the choices you have made up to the present moment—easy and hard—and accepting them as lessons for the future. Compassion is choosing to recognize the value of a thing, person, yourself, even when it is beyond your understanding.
Hi, I'm Romi. I'm an American artist who lives & works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have the amazing opportunity to live in London while working on a MFA program in painting and decided to blog about the experience. So here we go!