Featured Writer: Jodhi Reis

The Stink Bug

Zoned out, centered, and confused beyond my own comprehension, I meditated in the late noon sun braking poly-prisms off every shiny item surface. The real world was closing in-unemployed with undeveloped dreams to leave the Army (on each canvass). The dig dove deep inside to find out about who I was.

"Perhaps I can push this through a brush dipped in chrome yellow," I thought.

The leering world's eyes became just another mirror bouncing light around the living room and I heard the gentle buzzing of an insect barely audible over the still of silence hugging empty into refuge-respite from my self-doubt working body blows through the losing rounds.

When buzz shattered last lines of calm I pried my eyes into investigation; stretched into stiff muscles and out of a Taiji stance I'd learned called "hugging the tree." The presence pulled into a great magnet.

This stinkbug stuck to a framed pane of glass on white French doors that separated the living room from bed. He was an inch square, bent slightly out of symmetry into a tank-like polygon. Brown. Still.

A strange sensation crept ahead. Meditation residuals?

I knew this bug had something to say: cryptic riddles from a friendly sensei, or luck wrapped in another being being present. We observed one another silently for several moments, each staring into the burry void looking for the form beyond forms-an essence of the other. Whoever he was… he felt friendly.

I left him alone, dove back into a frantic search for creativity. No time. Big dreams!

"My future needs me!"

Days passed until I heard that sound once more, scratching through the air, armor wings buzz-sawing around.

'The dream book!" I thought.

I flipped pages of a book on dream/symbols given by the eccentric aunt, assuming:

1. That if all life is Maya (dreams within a dream)

Then 2. The book on dream/symbols could also tell me about a bug (of distinguished connection) seemingly adrift in the wrong dimension-in this "real world."

"The Stinkbug: Natural talents used in a negative manner" it read.

How could this be? How could my favorite stinkbug deceive me? Lie to me as a friend and fill my head with thoughts that my arc aimed in the wrong direction?

I decided the best thing to do would be to avoid thinking about it anymore. So I forgot back into the murk: dissolving the self, to find the self, sprinkled with the motivation to create something beautiful-a painting of prose in parallel poetry parked fit for fine art. The Stinkbug had me all wrong.

Weeks passed and I progressed in meditation. I found warmth and white light and comfort and a connection to something that I had to call God because it was the most misunderstood word of my arsenal. It fit this feeling. Still, the paint sputtered in nothing I could call complete, no wage or worth in a world of wealth (measured by men I didn't trust (with or without the starched Class B's).

Then one night, as if silenced in heart failure, the buzzing reappeared into a brown polygon plopping into a pool of wax accumulating at the base of one of many lit candles positioned around the easel.

Cryogenically sealed in hot clear wax the same stinkbug drew my attention from the half-finished picture of false starts. I paid no attention to the rigid strokes of paint to over calculate the odds of an ominous bug falling from the sky to die by the candle I'd lit.

'You didn't kill this,' I thought, curiously worried that I'd crossed the 8-fold path's Right Livelihood. Had I not left the Army life of Infantry (defending freedom 5.56 millimeters at a time) for the life of a starving artist, then perhaps my studio candle could have spared the psychic stinkbug.

'I don't have time for this!' I protested.

The stinkbug knew just as well as I did that I had to pour myself into my natural talents-with a brush and ideals and technique and God can I make rent this month? Just sell one painting, hell, complete one worth a damn!

"I thought we were friends… stinkbug."

I continued struggling, surging ahead with meditation (enough or should I do more?) to keep connected to the source why all art births. This bug doesn't know how hard it is, and if he did he surely wouldn't give up above that flame, he would have approached a Kamikaze arc.

I shook the shakes out. The thought that I was over thinking this began to turn my stomach. None of this is connected. Stinkbugs don't teach people about art.

Enough time passed and I had forgot altogether what the stinkbug even stood for. But when another ended turtle shelled inside the pinch of canvass/easel on my working stand I instinctively scanned the dream book.

"The Stinkbug: Natural talents used in a negative manner," it read the same.

I put the book away, cleaned my mind of speculation or theory. I sat for a long time: lotus legged and locked inside a penetrative place, thinking of the bug. He looked pathetic with the 36 x 40 weight of white pinning half his legs, the rest resting paralyzed-eternally or otherwise I wasn't certain. Black sadness filled the color of his shadow. I felt trapped under that painting myself. Crushed. Crippled.

"How many more deaths do you need?" a voice echoed through my thoughts.

I winced away. The movement naturally grafted my glance into the shadows of the room, away from candles onto canvas juxtaposed with feelings of despair. The collision of several stinkbugs (with many miscalculations of effort) carefully awoke a noose climbing down my crown to coil carotids with clove hitched fear. The accumulation of unfinished canvas filling the room with noise was overwhelming. Planes of spilled cards colored particularly.

'Beautiful strokes in places,' I thought, 'but stilted in spots. Unable to free what pains me.'

The stinkbug pinned inside his squirming. My polygon talent looked as brown as my iris, reflecting colors mixing one another. Our presence pulsed awoken dreams I'd had only as a boy:

I hunched over hardwood floors, crayons and blank paper scattered the solitude of feeling truly alone. Years beyond puberty would crush me into this ignorant ego. Many choices made to forget how beautiful creativity could be. The interplay of life, decay and death is celebration-a process. It washed over me as a spontaneous meditation, cleaning my fears with hope burning candles into the hissing smoke of first light.

Jodhi Reis: Captain Jodhi Reis poses pen name for an American Prose Pilot commissioned by the United States Military Academy: thrown from planes and thrust through combat with real bullets and false ideas. Born: Massachusetts, 1978. Currently resides in Portland.

Email: Jodhi Reis

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