Free form Friday – not imagining the worst

I track your progress through the action in the bank account. Logging on to take care of daily business on the home front, I see the payments and withdrawals made by you on your travels:  A stop in Metter for gas where I know you get out and stretch your legs, possibly buy a diet Coke for the last hours on the road, a visit to CVS suggests some mundane need like batteries or gum. Dinner at a steakhouse in Savannah where you enjoy fried oysters and read your book while eating, enjoying your solitary time.  With perfect trust I observe your progression through the hinterlands of Georgia as reflected in the bank account.

But what if it wasn’t?

In an alternate world of secrets and lies a la Walter White, this bank account map could tell a very different story. What if the stop in Metter was really to meet a contact for a drug exchange? In the innocent parking lot of the QT, you  pull up to pump number three. You start the gas flowing and open your back door, seemingly to rummage around for a jacket or new CD. The car on the other side of the island is a nondescript white car, dented right fender. The driver starts his gas flowing, opens his back door. In your rummaging, you drop a packet on the ground, a brown lunch bag. The guy very graciously picks it up and hands it back to you. You nod your thanks, finish pumping. You get back in your car and drive away, heart pumping like the gas through the hose. On your back seat is now a different brown bag then the one you dropped. This bag now contains meth, oxycontin, heroin, or crack.

The stop at CVS is not for batteries or gum but for condoms.

The dinner at a steakhouse is not a solitary affair at all.

The Air B&B rental  is not owned by a nice elderly lady at all.

The 10 days that I think you are doing shows could be very different. The bank account only shows the form, not the substance. Those deposits coming in could be for anything;  sale of drugs, or your body, or someone else’s body. Or even if you are doing shows, maybe you’re not doing them alone. Twenty days a year in Savannah is enough to build on. The BFF librarian in Midway really could be a BFF. A BFF with benefits. The possibilities for daily betrayals are endless.

Secrets and lies. According to the tabloids they happen all the time. Infidelities, secret lives,double families, hidden addictions. How do we ever really know? 

But with perfect trust I observe your progression through the hinterlands of Georgia as reflected in the bank account. Smiling as I count down the tanks of gas and the diet Cokes in the small towns you pass through until  you come back to me.

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A Quiet Ecstasy – Day 5

Ah ecstasy. How I love it! Ecstasy in the studio – what a concept! It presupposes a studio which is nowhere near my reality. My studio is the living room floor, the office floor, a computer on my lap, a chair at a desk, the couch – a moveable feast of packing and unpacking whatever tools I need. Sometimes it is easy – a computer and a cup of tea. Other times it is grazing through the shelves to pull down what I will use, spreading out then cleaning up a shared space. Not for me is the gift of leaving work out to contemplate, gaze upon, muse over. My creations have to be done in an hour, maybe two. If not, it may never be returned to. Knitting, OK, easy to pick up and return to but it is also not my art. Jewelry, same thing though I usually finish a project in an evening. Writing is delicious because I can start, return, muse and post when I feel like it.

So ecstasy in the studio? Not sure I can relate. But ecstasy in art or inspiration? Ahh, not that I can relate to! The sheer thrill of stringing words together, aligning thoughts, intent, concept and vision. Poetry streaming out of my fingers as they fly across the keyboard, contrails of typos in the slip stream of my passion made visible. Words are my ecstasy. A well-crafted sentence makes me rejoice – whether my own or others. Practically writhing in appreciation of the perfect description. The old days saw me with pen and paper, crossing out, inserting with circles and arrows. These days how easy to cut and paste, delete and edit. Taking pleasure in the tippy tap of the key board. Delicious. Usually crafting in the in-between times – early morning, late night when the world is asleep. I sit propped on pillows with computer perched on knees. The only sound the light breathing of the dog and the rhythm of the house – hum of the refrigerator, whir of a fan. The red eye passes over, carrying its cargo of weary souls to their new destination. A train howls in the mournful distance. I tap out the rhythm of my life, my thoughts.

Ecstasy is a quiet thing in my writing and artistic life, perhaps slightly louder thing when I sing with the chorus, walk in nature, appreciate my community. But this quiet ecstasy is important. Sustainable. Highs are great but as the wise best book I never read said “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” I seek balance, not skewing between incredible highs and crashing lows. Rejoicing in the everyday flow of my life. Rejoicing in the fact that I am writing, that I am creating, that I am intentionally creating time for my artistic self. Not that I have to make a living at it, not that it has to produce money but because I am not whole without art and creativity and because I am constantly exploring new media – jewelry, collage, knitting, writing, a rich toy box of the content dabbler.

So for me, the wish list is for more time to create, to explore. Perhaps a space dedicated to art, but at the very least, a continually expanding toy box of fun things to play with, people to be inspired by, words to thrill me and the quiet ecstasy of art for art’s sake.

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Lists

unnamed Day 4: List of goals.

One of my favorite Frog and Toad stories is called The List. Toad wakes up and a makes a wonderful list that includes Wake up, Get dressed, Eat breakfast, Take walk with Frog. As he goes through his day, he crosses off each item. Frog and Toad are on a walk when a gust of wind blows the list out of Toad’s hand. Toad is bereft and frustrated – he doesn’t know what to do! Frog says “Run after it!”  “That wasn’t on my list!” Toad replies. They sit in silence for a long time, Frog occasionally interjecting advice or suggestions to which Toad always replies “That wasn’t on my list!” I think Frog ultimately gets up to go home and Toad remains sitting, just sitting. Finally, Toad figures out a solution: he takes a stick and writes “Go home and go to sleep” in the dirt. He draws a line through it and goes home and goes to sleep.

The end.

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Faves

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My current favorite work – mixed media paper and tulle.

I was hoping to capture the perspective of someone watching someone leave and it worked.

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My last favorite work done last year when I first started playing more seriously with collage. Mixed media paper and yarn.

It’s faded now; the colors not as vibrant because it’s been in my window but I still like it.

I managed to capture the texture of the skirt in the application of the tissue paper and the serenity of the moment in her body and face.

 

 

Five Years

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We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
We’ve got five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got

David Bowie

I’ve always hated the question “What will you be doing in 5 years?”  I know that theoretically it’s a good idea to set intention and plan etc etc but I hate being asked to “envision myself 5 years from now.” It’s not that I don’t plan, I do! I really do! But I always come back to the idea that “Humans plan and G*d laughs!”

Perhaps because I work with refugees. They had plans too and I don’t think their plans involved being uprooted and cast adrift into the universe due to war, brutality, oppression and general stupidity of other humans.

Perhaps because I have a dear friend whose husband died too young. She said to me “I can’t make plans anymore. Mark and I had plans and they didn’t involve him dying and now I can’t make plans.”

Perhaps because I have ultimately always believed in the general unfolding of time and the way that one thing leads to another fairly effortlessly and organically. Which I think also explains my checkered career path.

I have always taken the risk to accept the next adventure presented. I drove through Wyoming on my way out West after college and met a volunteer wilderness ranger. “Sounds cool, ” I says to myself. “Maybe I can do that.” The next summer found me there and there I stayed until the next adventure happened.

I met a traditional birth attendant in Kenya who taught very wise women who could neither read or write how to deliver babies safely. Through her I learned what a midwife was. “Sounds cool,” I says to myself. “Maybe I can do that.” I found my way to Texas after Wyoming and became a lay midwife. And there I stayed until twists of fate brought me the next adventure.

But these musings are looking backward. Let me look forward a moment. What is the next adventure in store for me?

We are undergoing a strategic planning process at work and the friend guiding us through it asked me to present “Statements of Observed Reality” as a starting point. So here, in my own 5 year strategic plan are the statements of observed reality:

The concrete reality:

  • I have a tween and a teenager who have deep roots and deep relationships and for whom I have a deep need of providing life’s basic necessities as determined by living in modern-day America.
  • I am pushing 50 and my beloved is in his  mid-50’s.
  • I have a house which needs work.
  • My beloved is self-employed in a physically-demanding, creative profession.
  • My mother is getting older ( a fact for which I am grateful as it sure beats the alternative!)

The abstract yearnings:

  • I am beginning to feel the call of moving on from my current work.
  • I would like to travel overseas more.
  • I am curious about the process of “change management” and the work of community building.
  • I would like to explore to see if there is a viable way to make a living in working with refugee (and American-born and immigrant etc) artists in a cooperative and fair trade model in the US (or elsewhere) and connecting people to arts opportunities.
  • I would love to re-create a John C Campbell-type of school in Clarkston drawing on the skills and talents of the local creative folk.
  • I am fascinated by place-based development but am not sure I want to stay in one place long enough to invest the necessary time!
  • I love to write.
  • I love to teach.
  • I love to tell stories.

And here I stop. Vague stirrings of change on the horizon but also deep contentment for the shape and structure of my life. I know how good I’ve got it. I am present in my life. Do I want more time in nature? Sure. Do I want more travel? Sure. Do I want to completely disrupt my life and pick up and go off on some new adventure… Not sure! Am I focusing on creative expression? Most definitely!

Peace…

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Let the Blogathon…Begin!

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Thus begins the 15 day Blogathon! Daily prompts, inner searching, shared community, and a daily blog. Today looks at the big question of “Why?” From the larger question of “why do I exist” to the slightly more prosaic questions of why write, why create, why spend hours staring at a screen trying to put words together?

For me, life is a creative action and creativity is our human birthright. Creativity, curiosity, innovation, exploration – these are the traits that got us down from the trees and into the world we have today – the good, the bad and the ugly. In the jumble of souls crowding up this big blue planet, everyone is creating something. Whether it is art, tools, words, technology, processes, food or even children, the act of being alive is a creative process. Not everyone approaches it as such, of course. Some create mindlessly and miserably, eking out the daily existence in a soul-draining, mind-numbing monotony of struggle, their only contribution the shape of their life; others gloriously and publicly, splashing their creativity across the universe to great effect. These select many fling their work into the public for all to admire, or use or consume, or (hopefully) appreciate.

Most of us are somewhere in between I would suspect. My creativity is small scale: very personal and very local. And, though often squeezed in to the small spaces in-between, I feel I bring my creativity into nearly everything I do. I approach problems creatively, dress creatively, write, make jewelry, felt, knit, collage, sing, and look to the world for inspiration and with appreciation. I look at the world with an artist’s eye,  appreciating the bends and whorls on a gnarled tree, the glitter and arrangement of pebbles on a path, visualizing the tapestry of street life as a weave of colorful threads, crossing and re-crossing.

But in the great folly that is comparison, I do not call myself an artist, I did not choose to focus on the arts as a career, I do not create a multitude of works for the public, I am not as creative as him or her or them…

And thus comes the voices that detract, judge and limit. The great bane of creativity.

And the real reason why I started a blog just a wee while ago. To silence those voices and fling my creativity into the blogosphere to whatever end. Primarily just the act of creating. Just the act of writing, of delving, of exploring to see where it will go. Without comparison.

And that is the interesting thing about creativity as a human birth right and how the act of being alive and creating and leveling stops people from creating. There is always someone more talented, more driven, more creative. There is always someone who gets first place and always someone who gets last. And those rankings track people in and out of options. Many people say “I used to [create something] when I was young or in college or earlier but I stopped.” When others didn’t value it, perhaps they stopped valuing it as well. Yet to live a creative life is itself a satisfaction. To surround oneself with beauty, share poems with friends, exchange photos on Instagram, write funny or provocative Facebook posts, sing songs in a circle, that can be enough.

We are taught that to create has to be for a purpose and an end, often fame and fortune. We are taught that the business of art is brutal and very few make it. (Too true – the struggling artist stereotype exists for a reason – it’s hard to make a living as an artist!) We are taught that you either “make it or you don’t.” And yet, what does it mean to “make it?” Let’s just say that “making it” is the act of creating and if you make it, you made it! Forget the whole fame and fortune, ranking and judgement and just create! Everyone is an artist! Release your inner artist! Fling your life into the slipstream of all that is and claim your birthright!

And that is the “why” of why I create. To hold space for the daily practice of living life creatively, creating for the sake of creating. Living an artful life. And if I had to sum it all up on a tee shirt, it would be Live Artfully!

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