Appearance like a Chimney Sweep

It is the clear intent of the author to ascribe a connectedness to the Earth to Rafaela’s character. This is evident in the hyper-context that shows each of her chapters are labeled by words such as Dusk, Dawn, Midnight, and their subtitles refer to her physical placement in the world at the time such as The Cornfield, and To the Border. She seems to be a vessel of life within her environment for which the natural world and shift and move within her. She also feels a dissonance from the man-made world, made apparent with her obsession with lines that are scattered throughout her narratives, such as the line of light infiltrating the orange. This same theme presents itself again in her Chapter 18: Daylight- The Cornfield. A very brief notion reads, ”she thought, the snake’s path skirting the wall seemed oddly straight. If only the snake could define the nature of the straight line”, presenting the same perplexity of the orange mentioned in Chapter 1 (115). Ive often wondered about the nature of the straight line as well, who invented it? No where in the natural world do we find straight lines as a natural occurrence and it seems Rafaela is similarly perplexed because her mind is one with the natural world. She allows her environment to move through her freely, and most noticeably than other characters, however, it is also present in other characters that they are mirrors of their environment.

Chapter 17 paints an image of the way our environment moves in us in the description of Manzanar on page 110 that describes ”The man had a blackened appearance like a chimney sweep. Like the underbelly of the overpass itself, it seemed rather permanent”.  While Manzanar might live in the brush of an overpass, he is the overpass himself and we see the duality of the universe as it exists physically and externally  and then how it exists identically internally. Unlike Rafaela, the environment is not beautiful or natural but is instead a dirty city scape.

Buzzworm also represents a character that soaks up his environment that becomes a part of him, of corse, in an auditory manor.  He seems to soak up the world through the constant buzz of news, jazz, and radio frequency humming in his ear, into his brain and then undoutably becoming a part of the person he is. Much of this novel demonstrates the interwoven nature of environment and individual shown through diverse methods of ‘soaking it in’.


One of my favorite artists, Charmaine Olivia, captures the sort of whimsical nature that combines the individual to the natural world. All of her paintings depict women as sort of one with nature that sort of captures Rafaela’s nature. Each of her paintings seem to have a magical realism element!


Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.34.29 PMThis painting depicts a woman with nature and flowers growing from her head as if she is one with her environment as much as she is an individually. Interestingly, the sunflower above her head also appears to be a sun which parallels a mere flower to the huge mass that is the sun, blurring the lines of the structured universe.
Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.35.36 PM

This painting depicts the woman as a sort of windy being, with her face drifting across the canvas. There are also faint butterfly wings stemming from her being. I find these paintings to compliment the oneness of magical realism ensues– that the outside world is as much alive and soulful as we are as humans.

One Response to Appearance like a Chimney Sweep

  1. Erin Davis February 9, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    This post and, especially, those pictures struck me. I wrote a blog post for last Monday about the idea of the “invisible” line and how it seems to only be seen by Rafaela and Sol. They are so connected to the land, a trait in which everyone seems to be craving on some level or another. This is seen through Gabriel, of course, but also through Bobby. I have often seen his craving to return to Rafaela as a desire to return to nature and, thus, feel whole again.

    I feel that this desire lies within each character, though those that live in LA have become detached and alienated from this natural realm. Instead of scrutinizing orange trees they drink cocktails and eat sushi while always filling their lives with constant work and consumption of mass media. However, Manzanar is probably the most connected to nature, of course, but I definitely think that he must create a sort of beauty out of the pollution and urbanization he has been dealt.

    Thus saying, I really enjoyed your blog post and really want to look more into Charmaine Olivia. She really captures the fact that, as humans, we are connected to the Earth far more than we think. There is a reverence and respect for this idea within her paintings which, of course, can also be representative of Rafaela. Very beautiful!

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