Tag: love

poem: feathers

Close my eyes
and the world
opens up
into a riot
of color and music.

A few slow breaths
and the wings
of my Spirit
extend
until i can brush
the corners
of Creation
with my feathers.

In the stillness,
quiet becomes music
filling every empty space
with absolute loving joy.

It is so tempting,
to hide within
this glorious refuge
of communion and dream –
but eventually
the eyes must open
and the sounds of life
register upon the ears.

But even awakened,
the experience remains.

i smile with joy
as i remember
those wings
and the infinite bliss
of that sublime
sacred
ecstatic
dance.

16 december 2015

the year of friendship

This is the time for reflection, i suppose, a cultural urge to look back on the past year and mull over the good and bad as we try to discipline ourselves into smaller sizes and better behavior.

For once, i have no inclination to do any of that nostalgic reminiscing or self improvement. The past year was what it was, things happened both good and bad, and i am oddly at peace with it all – every moment my heart was broken and all the times hope returned. As for right now, i am keenly aware that i am doing all i can to make my situation better – no resolutions needed.

There was one remarkable aspect about the past twelve months, though, that is worth commenting on. This was the year of friendship. All illusions i harbored about being alone, about being isolated, about being someone who could just disappear from this world without anyone noticing were vanquished in a flood of help and love. i do not think i would have survived without this outpouring. Truly, though, it did more than just get me through one day and into the next, this experience transformed me.

And, i could not be more grateful.

poem: The Big Girl Pants

Not only were
the Big Girl Pants
chafing
obviously,
they were not effective.

So, i burned them –

along with every deluded thought
that i can get through
this awful crisis
alone.

In twenty hours
it will have been eight years
since he broke my life apart.

In the intervening time
i have ridden a wild roller-coaster
between loss and survival,
crumbling over and over
in anxiety and fear,
only to recover somehow
and find a way to move again.

My scars were visible
no matter how i smiled,
showing through all my clothes,
turning up
unbidden
in my art.

Today, the duality,
the paradox,
between the two beings
sharing the shell of my skin –
the artist who laughs,
jokes,
feels so blissfully alive
in the flow,
and the one who
is so distracted
broken,
afraid,
disjointed
and impractical –
shouts at me so loudly
it causes physical pain.

If i act as though i loathe myself,
i am lying;
if i act as if i love myself,
i am lying.
Neither extreme is truth.

The first testifies
to the worst parts of me,
the shaking shadow of a person
who cannot help but believe
the most loathsome things
that has ever been said
about me.
The second
gives voice
to a joy
that seems indestructible.

In various moments,
both have validity.
Neither aspect of me
can survive on is own.

One would blindly go on,
making art,
ignoring all the world
for such passion;
the other would destroy
my soul
rather than
accept
i am worth
supporting or loving.

Without your help
i will fall into utter ruin,
weakness or art
slamming me hard
against the rocks
until i break into pieces
too small to reconstruct.

The Big Girl Pants
did not work,
nor the education,
nor the ambition,
nor the self-hatred,
nor the vicious punishment

It leaves me exhausted.

Since being an adult
is a failed experiment,
all that is open to me
right now
is to think
of the little child
who was so lost,
marooned in this life
and and the things
that always saved her –
faith that help would come;
complete, awesome gratitude
for even the smallest acts of mercy;
unwavering dreams that gave her rope
when she was falling
so she even when she hit the ground
she was never totally destroyed;
and the foolish, unconquerable
ability to love,
even those who were cruelest,
opening her arms
at the first breath of kindness.

She made no plans,
she suffered but she always
found in her dreams
what she needed
to heal from the injuries
of temporary surrender.
Her love for life was enough
to keep her going,
waiting
for that next moment to pray,
that next small miracle
that would save her
for another few hours.

Screw being a grownup.
Let me have the faith
of that suffering child.
this belief in limitless possibility.
i can really do worse tonight.

8 december 2015

poem: dance with the moon

The moon
sings to me me
as she begins
her slow
turning away.
Already, she refuses
to share everything;
she knows
these small slivers
of secrecy
excite my mind.
She forgives me
for trying so hard
to protect
my heart –
although she laughs at me
for my foolishness.
i want forgiveness,
deep and abiding,
i yearn for love
despite my sins.
i want nothing more
than the wholeness
i feel
when the moon and i
dance together.

31 august 2015

cleaned out

IMG_3946Not quite three weeks ago, i went through surgery to get my left arm working again. My entire shoulder had to be cleaned out. The pain since June had been increasingly crippling, leaving a path of destruction through my attention span, my memory, my strength, my mood and my endurance. A large number of blogs charted this descent, long before i realized how much the disability was effecting me. It had been months since i could throw without tears. Sculpting proved to be too much. The novels i’d been writing (a series, going forward in an odd way but still moving at a delightful and brisk pace) suddenly stalled, my mind unable to hold their complexity.  The characters continued to swim in my imagination, but their movement was languid and impotent; i could not fix them to the page without some focus.

Already, those problems have begun to shift.  Almost immediately after surgery, the pain was already less than it had been before the repair.  Today, i was able to drive and function like i have not been able to contemplate for months. As i made my way home from several errands in Bangor, i was singing with joy.

Of course, i still have a lot of healing left to do.  My attention span still wanders more than normal.  The fatigue can be overwhelming, even after gentle activity.  My other health issues have not been solved.  Also, a lot of tasks are still quite difficult, but i am getting better at them all the time. (Case in point: tying shoes.IMG_3979 Who would have thought the shoulder was involved in that? i figured a back-clasped bra would be next to impossible, but extending down or reaching out if i’ve raised my foot to a chair, turned out to be unexpected pain.) Every sign of improvement leaves me overjoyed. Indeed, my personal hygiene after using the bathroom has already reached my pre-surgery standards, for which there is endless rejoicing.

It is the simple pleasures, really.

My friends have come through for me with such shocking kindness that i have been unable to articulate my full gratitude even in prayer.  i have spent so much time writing about loneliness and isolation and feeling like the other; this experience provided testimony to the miracle of friendship.  People sat with me the first day after surgery; a steady stream of food and gifts made their way to my doorstep; calls, messages and email came in a small flood to check to see if i was ok.

There were nights alone, when i held a small pity parties for myself because i was alone, partially immobilized and in blistering pain, but then i realized, even if i were married or living with someone, the impulse to whine would remain.  Pain itself was the cause of the wallowing.

Last week, i pushed myself too far.  This past weekend, i did very little but sleep and draw.

A large stack of drawings became evidence of that first great swelling of creativity. This is the art of recuperation.  i drew each on mat board, heavy enough to stay in place.  My left arm rested while my right hand moved the pen.  Until yesterday, i had not the strength to word.  But, three poems, a few cover letters, a further revamped resume and this blog have encouraged me.  The writing has started to creep back.  i have had the image of a character walking through my imagination all day today, asking me to finish their story.  He’d just met someone, after all, i think he wants to know where that relationship is going.  With every bit of art, i feel like i am coming  back to life.

It is the simple pleasures, the patient kindness of friends, the sense of hope that comes over me when i make art – even when it’s small and frivolous.  Love has been pouring through my life, for a lot longer than i realized.  Like the insidious effect of pain, love has been there, too, on the edges, moving through me, changing everything without my conscious mind realizing it.  My life is rich with friends, with fellow artists, with innumerable blessings. The outpouring of kindness had left me unsettled.  Honestly, i knew i would get help but had no idea how much would flow my way.

After nearly three weeks of addled introspection, i realized with shock that too many awesome things had been dismissed or missed because i was too stuck in my old stories.

First there was the story of the lonely, frightened child. Then the awkward teen who had no idea what to do with people and no confidence in herself. Then, the woman who had weathered first debilitating illness and then the rejection and pain of a divorce.  After that, the long loneliness.  All of it is laid bare in this blog. i have written post after post about feeling like the other, feeling alone, feeling isolated.

Well, when i was in need, people came.  Those stories, while potent, were not the absolute truth of my life.

So what replaces otherness?  What stands up in the space where loss once loomed?

i looked at myself through another’s eyes and saw someone wildly blessed with creativity and stubbornness. This spell of injury and recovery happened when i was at my lowest, when i felt like everything had completely fallen apart, and yet, here i was sitting in a pile of my own drool, just a day and a half after surgery, drawing.  i drew because letter could not follow letter in that stupor. Nearly every day, i drew another few pieces. Then this weekend, the engine of art started roaring back to life, filling all my senses. It happened without force or effort, proving again that art is a quiet compulsion leaking from my fingertips.

When i challenged myself for a new story the one that presented itself was a deep truth: i am an artist, who can’t seem to surrender her art. Perhaps i am too mad.  Maybe i am simply too obstinate.  Either way, i keep melting into image and story.  Despite other jobs, and injury, and illness, and discouragement, and poverty, and failure – i have continued making art. Thin lines of ink have woven themselves through my healing.

i am so ridiculously grateful.

changing the story

Today, i am participating in two events – Maine Craft Weekend and my own estate sale, trying to purge myself of unwanted belongings.  Despite how i feel – and two days of fairly heavy labor on a bad arm mean i am not feeling well – i opened up right at 8:55 am, convinced that i would make enough money to whittle down my bills.  Alas, that is not the case as yet.  As i write, at 3:08 pm, no one has shown up for either event.  Not one car has even slowed down.  My confidence falters.

Yesterday, i had six people show up, of which four were motivated buyers.  That may have saved me for the time of recouperation ahead of me (see yesterday’s blog) and, again, i take a moment to give thanks.  But, despite the advertising, today has been nearly absolute silence – broken only by a few messages on facebook from people who could not come. Each beep evoked a great wave of gratitude because it minimized the invisibility that something like this evokes.

The child who felt so lost and alone inside her family, the kid picked last for every sport, the little girl who would have done anything not to go home but tried so hard to hide her distress and act normal, the college student that felt hopelessly out of step with her peers, these iterations of self remain within me. They keenly remember the ease with which superficial social interaction could occur while a vast, seemingly impassable distance stretched out between the rest of creation and this one soul.  They see this lack of response, this searing quiet, like a failure or a judgment.

i have to change that story, but often i am at a loss of how to go about that when so much of the world reinforces it.  i am not rich, i am not healthy, i am not married, i have no children, i stubbornly persist at work that a lot of people view as superfluous. In this society, those truths alone can cause ostracism.

Internally, divorce and the long loneliness created a cauldron for this invisibility to simmer.  i long ago lost count of how many business events and classes i hosted, for which people had registered in advance, to which no one showed up. Several learned individuals have told me it is because of my location, just far enough for the scale between the bother of going and the desire to go to tip in an unfavorable direction. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just apply to business, i have had one set of guests cancel dinner parties at my house, absolutely certain that without their presence i would have nothing to offer my other friends, but forgetting to inform me, leaving me stood up with piles of food. i still cannot eat spaghetti sauce without feeling totally irrelevant to the universe. i have been told with blessed bluntness, that even though i am great friend material, i am not worth the investment of time required for the woman i had laughing a few seconds ago to make me a friend.

This has been an ongoing struggle.  For whatever reason, i must have one of those faces, or a particular energy, or a gentle enough nature that good people have no problem telling me that the trouble of getting to me or keeping in contact with me is enough to keep them from doing it, as though there will be no hurt in that statement, as though i will always understand.

And often i do. Lord knows, i understand demands on a person’s time. This broken unit is a sole proprietor.  Even though my health and the business are not going well, it does not mean that the obligations have ceased. In fact, this past year, i shamefully let down one of my own friends, because i lacked the energy and ability to help as i would have liked.  By the time i was done with my working day, i had nothing left to give to anyone.  As i drowned in the demands placed upon me, i could not take on anything else.  So, i cannot look at the absence of others without compassion. At last i am old enough to realize that the vast majority of this story isn’t actually about me at all, but about those who are not here.  They are weaving other tales built on duty and desire, right now, as i type, and how can i blame them? After all, this silent isolation did not break me.

i work very hard on my art – especially during days like today when no one shows up.  Even though i was physically miserable, i still wrote and poemed my way through the morning before settling down for an hour and a half of meditation.  Also, i accept my spirit needs quiet, even at inconvenient times.  Without some silence and isolation, i would not be still enough to get half the art done, nor would i be practiced enough at entering the flow to be able to do it when i gallery sit or wait in a restaurant.

conversation5
at Art Space Gallery in Rockland, Maine

Moreover, it has helped me realize what an a amazing gift love and affection and help are.  Perhaps because i do often feel unmoored and isolated, when a rope is thrown to me, i grab it with all my might.  Because i have such a hard time believing people when they say they care, but act in ways that make no sense to me, i cling to the moments – the proofs – that relationships actually do have salvational power.  i remember the times when i was at the end of my rope and i got a phone call, or a hug, or really any of a wide array of gifts that might have seemed utterly insignificant to the person giving them, but that kept me going into another day.

As one of those good and true friends said to me the other day, she doesn’t worry about me so much because i am so damned stubborn.  That would help me get through, she smiled, and i don’t know that she’s wrong. i live by myself well.  The fiction and poetry that i write, the faces i draw, they fill up my life even when i am running low on real human contact.  Moreover, this perverse steadfastness to my art and my life gives me a strange, compassionate confidence when i am confronted by cruelty, intended or otherwise. The people who come to me, asserting that they know what i need to do, even when they are so deeply offended that i cannot or will not take their advice, become sources of gratitude because at least they somehow saw the invisible one.  They cared enough to form an opinion. Those who tell me that i have no reason to live, that i am a failure, that hurl judgment at me and expect me to die from it become characters in books.  The many who compliment me in the moment, talking about my work or my character in glowing ways, but then never reach out again, well i can take that praise at face value and then, in the silence their absence creates, i can throw myself into my art.

That is in fact what i have done today.  The story was changed subtly. In this precise instant, i cannot get rid of the financial insecurity, or improve my befuddled, awkward attempts to get my work seen by more people, or relieve the generalized anxiety about rehabbing from shoulder surgery alone in the house, but i can say that today’s solitude brought about good poems, more work on a novel, a long spell of time when i was quiet and still and filled with peace.

Most of all, i am changed by gratitude.  By the realization that none of us are guaranteed love or kindness or support.  Those gifts, when given freely and without obligation, are nothing short of a miracle, given from human hands.  Yesterday, i received such a gift from the friend who helped me get ready for this event.  i spent a lot of time this morning remembering her effort as well as the abundance of kindness that has showered down upon me during the last six months, while everything else went wrong.  i cannot have received such amazing blessings and be invisible; the two concepts are mutually exclusive.  Thus, the story alters even further.

True friends, and i have a gloriously high number of true friends that have found me in this life, have become cherished in ways i wonder if they ever comprehend.  So my story becomes one of thanksgivings, on my knees, for those who are not here but who love me nonetheless.

Another twenty minutes

the studio 1
a view of the gallery part of my studio

Really, by the time i finished getting the photographs together, i am down to fifteen minutes for a blog.  However, i really think it is important to write something down today and fling it into the ether.  My first drop in class for the season – not a regularly scheduled student – will begin at noon.  My kiln is filled with sculptures and tinypots and as soon as it has cooled enough to harvest the shelves, i will start another kiln firing, all pots in fire red and ocean blues.  Even though the house is in a terrible state, the price paid for doing so much work out here, i am halfway through a business plan, i have been able to keep the gallery open for customers, the gallery/studio itself looks really good despite being back into production.  Kind people have offered to help me through the last legs of this rough patch.  i am getting responses to my ads for the rooms for rent upstairs in the house – and even had one walk through already. Customers are coming to look at my art, and soon they will be coming back to buy.

Even though i am still so far behind and have been in the pit for too long, some sunlight is starting to make it to me from the surface.  Small, delicate fingers of sunbeam whose caress means the world to me.  A deep stirring in my spirit tells me that this is not just the blessed entrance of spring, but it has something to do with how i am moving through the world.  Even on the days i have had to force myself out of bed, i have.  When i felt bankrupt of all words and inspiration, i kept working.

the studio 2
that this table is clean makes me happy beyond words

i realized something over the past few months – even when i am despondent, and my thoughts circle defeatism’s drain, i actually cannot quite surrender.  Of course i can have a temper tantrum for a night or two, and i can bring out several people to testify to the whining, eventually something in me started going forward again. Even when i am not ruled by joy and hope, although i always wonder if i madness and faith are more accurate, i cannot actually manage the process of surrendering.  This is a lesson i have to keep learning: i do not really have the common sense to give up even when other people demand that i should.  Thankfully, i have enough other people in my life who are just as dedicated to the arts as i am, who have inexplicable faith in me, and they have spent a lot of energy this winter keeping me going.  i am grateful to them beyond words.  In fact, i find myself singing these thanksgivings as i putter about the organized studio/gallery.

And now, as i wait for today’s students, i feel like some of the flowers in the yard.  My roots grow strong again, and i have started to open up to the wind, the sun, and celebrate the possibility of change with every cell and all my heart.

Jesus and $10,000,000

movetomyheart  thisboldfiercemadness It started two days ago with a varmint. Something is in the wall upstairs and in order to make life easier on my tenant (for i am aware of how much sleep deprivation sucks,) i bought things to capture or smite said creature. Alas, yesterday i got home from the errand too late to do anything with the supplies.  However, i awoke with determination today.  Sadly, following the recommendation to put the trap in the basement (the most likely place the critter got in) meant i had to shovel a path to the basement door.

lovelostAnd that is when my back started to be unhappy. Three shifts between shoveling and then laying on a heating pad with one break to go to the bank and i was done. It took all my strength to get to the couch – going the extra four feet to the bed was out of the question. i realized i wasn’t going to be writing when i had left my pen on the table at the wrong end of the couch and could not get myself up to retrieve it. Back onto the heating pad i slumped, when almost immediately a neighbor called. The phone chasinglovewas just out of reach and my attempts at psychokinesis were still a disappointing fail. valentinesdancerMy cell phone (which cannot hold a call at home, but can text) was beside me, so i texted her – she said we could talk tomorrow – at which point the dogs went insane. Barking, growling, racing through the house, dancing.  “OHMYGOD!”  They kept barking “SOMEONEISHERE!”

i don’t care if someone is here, i texted to my neighbor and a friend with whom i was also messaging, it could be Jesus with $10,000,000 and i still can’t answer. i just can’t get up.

Don’t worry, came the response, Jesus would just shove what he could under the door and come back tomorrow.angelandspirit

dancewithspiriti found myself grateful for friends, for having a sense of humor when i can’t quite manage standing, for the snow that was coming so i wouldn’t feel guilty about going nowhere tomorrow so i can be gentle to my still screaming back. About an hour ago, i had to push myself to get the dishes done in case we lose power in the blizzard they keep predicting to hit.

Yet, physical complaints could not dent my joy. Today was a lovely day. i wound up getting a tremendous blessing. In the middle of this irritation, while moving from heating pad to cool, from prone to sitting up, i made some lovely art. It is Valentine’s day and i thought to make images of love – not love of a person specifically, for that is not my situation, but love in general, love that was lost but still lingers, dancing with Spirit, or alone, but filled with the rhythm of love. Even in this cobbling situation, i could at least draw dance. And that made me happy.

Just a reminder about yesterday’s blessings, if you missed it on my twitter, facebook, linkedin or Google+ feeds.  Any purchase ($10 or more) on my online store is 20% off with the coupon code HUZZAH! to celebrate getting credit card processing set up independent of paypal!  Woo Hoo!  If i got too mopey when i couldn’t sit up and draw, all i had to do was think about that… and huzzah! If you want one of today’s pen and inks before i get a chance to put them on the store, just email me at asha@ashafenn.com

Now i think i have the strength to make it to bed.

poem: you wanted me alone

The first draft of this was written over a year ago, but how it still applies:

#

He said You wanted me alone.
Childless.
Miserable.

My love for him
flowed deeper than the ocean,
despite the pain of ending,
as he swore that it was impossible
for anyone to love me –
particularly You,
my Lord, my God.

Every single day,
those words float through my mind.
i cross the foot of the stairs
at the peak of which those statements
were first uttered,
and they float back down to me,
echoing ghosts of heartbreak.

No anger accompanies them,
no outrage,
just a quiet wretchedness.
It is hard to challenge
those damnations
while i have been trapped
in this long loneliness.

Every time i have allowed
my heart to rise up in the hope
that love might find me again,
the object of my desire has asked
for my bank account numbers
or hurt me.

Jesus, You have given me words,
You have given me art,
but in the depths of night
when i am alone,
i am aware that the products
of my hands
cannot hug me back.

When he said those things, Christ,
he believed them.
His attitude became proof
that i was utterly unloved.

How much of my begging,
Lord,
has been because of this grief?
Your love had gotten me through
so much trouble and trial
from the earliest days of childhood.

Losing that undid me.

In the years since,
how many times have i come
on bended knee,
begging for you to love me again?

When will this doubt
that i never harbored before
he said those things
ebb away?

When will they stop following me
through my days?

poem: what else can i give?

IMG_3269Beloved,
what do you want from me?
What else can I give
on a day such as this?

This morning, the sun rose
to find me
already drunk
on love and pain.

Wonder surrounds me,
the fabric of fiction
weaves itself around
my burning legs,
becoming a sweet balm.
Stories pile on top of me
like cool, blessed blankets.

Words flow like wine.

Even before i can pick up a pen,
they drift from my lips,
songs for spirits and solitude.

Images, too, fill me up.
i can see myself
at my easel,
pallet knife in hand,
color covering
the vast, virginal expanse
with such passionate enthusiasm
my fingers throb
with the desire for paint.

Fantasies of companionship
float around within my chest,
this drive to give my characters
what reality has denied me
makes my heart ache
with the idle questions:
Will his hands be warm?
Will his touch be gentle?

And like a spark
penetrating a mountain
of dry hay,
i am alive with the fire
of poem and dream.
It lifts me out of bed,
pushes me into my day.

i find myself
singing to my animals
about glory and love
as i lurch through the house
on graceless, stiff limbs –
my nakedness clothed
only by these lines.

23 august 2014