Tag: work

i ask again

poem: writing’s work

Months ago,
something terrifying happened:
writing became hard.

Having word follow word
no longer felt effortless.
The flow of story
would wash over me,
not with the glorious
outpouring
of a waterfall,
but like rapids –
filled with bumps and turns
and inconsistent quality
and speed.

Letters smashed artlessly
across the page.
i think they knew
i had lost faith in them.

My words must have known
that my fear
had left too many works
utterly forsaken –
story and novel
stillborn
in boxes and harddrives.

So, they moved back,
away from my greedy hands.

They became coy,
hard to follow,
even harder to press down
onto the page.

They refused to cooperate
until i promised
to do better
by them.

Tonight, line follows line,
a marvelous orgy of poem
that might be a monument
to horrible, self-absorbed drivel.

i cannot judge,
because everything i do
feels woefully inadequate –
but, my heart
has begun to beat again
just because
of this glorious
outpouring.

During a pause
in this miracle,
i open up my hands,
palms heavenward,
and sing thanksgivings
that the river
has begun flowing
again.

22 november 2015

cooperative season

We have entered the busiest season of the year – and yet one that is in many ways the most fun.  June, July, August & September pass by while i am traveling across the state doing gallery days at various artist cooperatives (and here.)

looktolight_11x14i love these places, in part because i adore working with other artists. In the normal world, saying that i’m an artist can lead to raised eyebrows and slowly shaking heads. People question my priorities; they regard my insanity with compassion. However, within these cooperatives i am surrounded by people who also pursue their art with dogged determination.  i am in the company of people who are making their choices based on bliss and joy as much as necessity and propriety.

Mostly, though, i adore this time to meet people.  i watch how they react to my art and those of my fellow cooperatives. i get to talk to people who are on trips, who live locally, who have been drug in by their spouse or parents. While i am here, i make art – my art box and pen and ink paper travel well. Last year, while at Boothbay Harbor, i had a semi-circle of preteens surrounding me, absolutely enraptured by the dragon i was inking. i am certain that the book/office supply/art store down the street made some sales immediately after.

However, this also means that my studio isn’t open 7 days a week – indeed, this year, i will be reliably open only Saturday and Sunday. Every other day of the week will be by chance or appointment. And, even Saturdays and Sundays will have their problems! For instance, next Saturday (the 20th) i will be back in Boothbay Harbor, with my pen and inks. Regular hours for my gallery and studio (11 am to 6 pm) will resume the next day.

Often i think that being a sole proprietor of a small business, not to mention being an artist on its own, requires my primary skill to be managing chaos.

a day of nothing

I wanted a day of nothing today – even though I know it is almost a sin to take time off when my to-do list is taller than Everest.  But, when I awoke my guts were in knots, my foot still throbbed, my head ached hideously, rick-rack filled my vision, my breathing was off and more clearly than I have known anything in a long time, I knew I needed some rest.IMG_3173

And I managed to get a couple of hours of indolence squeezed in, between typing in handwritten manuscripts, working with web clients, cleaning up more mouse corpses and writing new poems.  The dog even cuddled with me for awhile, although I think he found it embarrassing.  Now, at 11:42 at night, still typing in poems written over the past month, I realized that there is something broken in my psyche.  I cannot just be still and quiet and idle, unless I am actually unconscious or meditating.

Even a day of nothing isn’t a day without work.  It just means that I’m toiling away on the couch, with the television on, rather than going to the studio for the heavy lifting of pottery or glazing.  Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to take a day off – or a vacation.  I wonder what one of those would be like….

 

skills

I have been woefully far behind on my writing – blogging and poetry and novel writing.  Neglecting the written word puts me on edge, even when I know other things have to take priority.  More than any other form of creativity, I use writing to keep me sane and balanced.  Despite this, necessity demanded going forward with other work.  Monday and Tuesday I tore apart the studio and moved a lot of it to the house (Thank God for friends that helped!) – I can’t afford to heat two buildings this winter, so painting, clay and glaze have to move – and the non-art-oriented work that I have done in the days since gobbled up a lot of my time and all my energy.  I fell asleep eating dinner two nights ago, surrounded by chaos and upheaval.

Thankfully, at  gallery yesterday I was able dancingbymyselfto make the best of no internet service by drawing eight different pieces, paired with eight new haiku.  It was marvelous to lose myself in the flow of art for the first time in ages.  After a couple of weeks in business attire and wearing a consistent facade of professionalism, being an artist for a few hours felt like coming home.  Art and word will always be my sanctuary – maybe that’s why my drawings have been so wildly joyous, because while I am making them the chaos and instability of life, as well as the things I must do to keep making the art, all seem irrelevant.

At any rate, that was not the point I intended to make!  What I wanted to write about was one of the epiphanies (I had two) during my recent business trip.  I have said over and over again, for years, that I am only good for art.  There is some basis for this assertion: I have this engine driving me to create that cannot be denied, this work gives my life meaning in a way nothing else ever has, and my health stubbornly demands a flexible schedule. (Case in point, I was days recovering from my trip – not because of any fault on the part of my employer or the work load, but because my body seemed angry about being “on” for days on end.)

However, during those days away, I discovered that I actually have skills.  Marketable ones, even.  I knew it, but the realization fell upon me like a sack of bricks – each explanation, each moment I was doing the work that I had been hired to do because my employer did not know how, I thought, “Well, five years in business has taught me some things. I have learned some skills.”

I felt wildly grateful for that knowledge.  Art still feels like it’s all I’m really good for – it is where my bliss lies, after all. bowingratitude But, maybe, just maybe, the things learned during these years of thrashing toil and wildly uneven success trying to make a living on my own have been useful too.  I kept thanking God for this epiphany, for teaching me that there are other ways up the mountain.  These might seem like detours, pulling me off the path I thought I should be hiking, but all this experience and adaption is useful.

changes

IMG_3617I am awake, willingly, and ready to go at 7:15 am.  My computer is on, I am dressed in business attire, complete with makeup and the boots of power.

The only poems I wrote yesterday were haiku and I failed in my goal of making a piece of art a day – having brought my pen and inks for just that purpose – even as I work on these other projects.  Still, I met wonderful people, spent some time with a dear friend and started to get some work done for which I will be paid.

If I weren’t inside this skin, I wouldn’t recognize myself this morning!  Although, keeping me down to earth is the strong and powerful desire to strip off the suit, put back on my normal uniform (clay-stained yoga pants and a sweater) and start getting muddy or covered with clay and ink.  I was dreaming my novel, the characters harassing me about their fate.  So I am still here, underneath the different attire and habits.

And, I know, that time will come again.  This job is very good for many more reasons other than just financial – most importantly, because it’s making me hungry for art.

The first good day in so long…

studio1_8162014I woke up today at 7:30 am and emerged from bed without massive pain or weakness.  Darwin was willing to go for a walk with me – his normal reticence to have me go long distances had subsided. (The dog has watched me fall one too many times.)

I was able to move through some other issues – advertised the rooms I have for DSCN5425rent, got flyers printed for Lessons for Luddites, and generally started creeping forward a bit.  Movement was such a blessing after this time of suffering.

By 9:30, I opened up the studio.  Instead of launching into throwing immediately, I started a project that was suggested to me in the spring: I moved some shelves around in the studio to create more room. 10559691_285107358340983_3120328998300752607_n Thankfully, they were all on wheels, so the job wasn’t too onerous.  Still, dusty job and a lot of effort for me right now.

The whole time I worked, I felt like life was more possible, as though this might work out.  There is something very satisfying about getting space in order.  I started daydreaming:  maybe I will be able to pay my bills, perhaps I will be able to heat my house this winter after all.

Before I left for the day, I threw six lovely bowls – at least four of which are for the Blue Heron in Bangor, Maine.  And I kept feeling happy and joyous, right up until I stopped creating.  Suddenly the pain caught up with me, like I was tackled down to the ground.  As I brought in the signs, I realized some checks I was expecting haven’t yet arrived – and won’t be for nearly what I had hoped – and suddenly, anxiety and loneliness began to howl through me again.

Something happens to me when the art ends – I more vulnerable to any form of distress.  Left to myself, I have a huge amount of free floating anxiety and depression rattling around in my brain.  Loneliness – as a friend told me the other day – can become quite an existential problem.  I have to agree.

Still, I am trying to hold the demons at bay by remembering: this was such a good day.  The first good day in so long.

stop working so hard!

In the past two days, I have had no fewer than five people tell me that I really need to stop working so hard.  As I listened to what they were saying, I grew disquieted because I didn’t know how to respond.  On one level, a lot of the work I do brings me great joy. Every once in awhile, it feeds me, which is another source of happiness. Sometimes, it even pays the bills. At best, balancing my health and my work load is a difficult dance, but one that I must undertake.  On the other hand, part of the reason I am so exhausted and stressed has come from trying to get the house ready for market, and if we focus on that chore in isolation, I would really like to stop working so hard.

The house-mess has been going at a glacial pace, too.  By the time I am done in the studio or with the errands related to my art (May being a particularly work-heavy month, getting work ready for the rush of summer) I have very little energy and strength left over.  Taking trips through the past, which is really what I’m doing as I sort through things, can be emotionally taxing, not to mention physically so.  The reordering and purging of the house cannot be done fast enough, to be perfectly honest.  It makes me both impatient and grumpy.  Soon, with luck, my attitude will change.  The kitchen is nearly done, and if it’s not a deluge of rain next Saturday I’ll have a yard sale to get rid of lot of stuff.

But, for now, the only way I could respond to the request this morning that I slow down and not work so hard was to take a couple of hours this afternoon to quietly write.  As I scribbled the words down and then even more when I opened up the computer to start typing them in, I felt unbelievably grateful.  This gets to be part of my work – something I enjoy so much that it’s indecent.  The joy in these keys renders my frustration over the rest impotent.

And i will stay that way until i get off work tonight and have to resume the struggle with the kitchen.

poems that heal me (episode 1)

From what I hope will be a collection released in the near future.  Whenever I read this poem I am reminded by how deep connections go, even when we are at our most lonely.  All moods and situations pass.

Originally written during the spring of 2012.

false isolation

Poems about loneliness
poured fourth from me
like diarrhea
all winter long.
It was a repetitive orgy
of lament.
Looking back i see
how i moved mountains
in the solitude.
i hunkered down
over my wheel,
my desk,
my easel,
and lost myself
within focus
and heart-warming labor.
Indeed, without this work
i would have perished
from my longing.
Time has moved on,
changing my circumstances.
New obligations have overtaken me,
and i struggle to change gears.
Now i am frustrated
by my inability to create.
i could vent
line after line
whining piteously
about how conversation,
questions, markets and events
and endless appointments
keep me from my true calling.
Yet, even as i sit, pen in hand,
a poem derailed
by another intrusion,
i remember the isolation
that nearly broke me.
Like the memories of snow, ice and cold
that keeps this summer heat
firmly within the realm
of blessings,
no matter how badly i sweat,
these humans
who have re-entered my life
can only make me scowl
for a few moments,
no matter the transgression.
Even when i am overloaded,
frustrated,
or confronted
by my own oddities,
i am still so grateful
that i am not alone.

how hard is too hard

Tonight I was supposed to go out and break bread with other artists, but when the meeting was canceled, I continued on the path I had followed all morning and afternoon – taking it easy, editing photos, coding one website, helping another web client, adding products to Houzz, and simply taking time to rest.

Sometimes an unexpected blessing like this forces me to realize how much I need down-time and quiet. A large chunk of this evening passed me by while I napped, my cheek pressed against the pages of the book I had intended to read. When the phone rang, I was so far gone that I could not move a single muscle to answer; almost instantly upon interruption’s cessation, my thoughts wove their way back to dreams.

I know I’ve written about how shocking it is to me that I need quiet stillness beyond daily meditation before, but apparently, I am a remedial student on this subject.  When I was married, living in the city, there were enough natural distractions to keep me from going overboard.  Indeed, watching my energy get pulled in too many directions could make me agitated. That has changed.  My solitude and the business woman in me, who puts the whip to the artist’s back, conspire against fantasies like weekends.

Although, I should not blame the business. The drive to create goes very deep.  The need to work is all but irrepressible and would gladly sacrifice anything on its altar. Obviously, I cannot allow it to drive me to the point of illness and burnout.  However, I am not always intelligent about my limits.

Desperate for some balance between this compulsion and the rest of life, I have been reaching out to others like a fool – hoping that I can be given what I cannot easily provide for myself. Relationships are the one thing that will pull me away from what I ‘ought’ to be doing.  As odd as it sounds, I really enjoy being around other people even if they are not actively socializing with me.  Their noise, watching how they interact with each other, it all soothes me. Only recently, this tactic has not worked either.

Left to my own devices, I keep going until at some point, like the past two days (which are actually supposed to be ‘days off’), I collapse.  Moving the mouse has felt labor intensive.

This afternoon, waves of guilt kept assaulting me, even though I challenged their judgment with the evidence of my unsettling fatigue. ‘Look at what’s going on,’ reason told the emotion washing over me, ‘my mind has grown restless and weary.’  Just after lunch, I realized with a shock that it has been nearly two weeks since I have written anything more substantial than a blog or a poem. Once I was able to stifle the fire to write the book in favor of other deadlines, I have not stepped back into its flames. For me, that is highly irregular and a little alarming. Important and trivial things have been slipping, more so than usual. The stark realization that I have not been doing well physically feels like an excuse, but even with tonight’s rest, I know, I am still in danger. My flesh continues to ache and complain.  I must be careful.

Yet that to-do list makes me tremble, intimidating me with its glowing eyes and fear of abandonment, if I even dare to glance in its direction.

I must be kind to myself.

So, I will do some dishes (the tears of pain will help exorcize those last shreds of guilt) and then tuck myself in bed. As for this blog, I will end with a poem from my collection, ‘a seed of wild kindness,’ that feels wondrously applicable to this particular moment:darwinandandre copy

Quiet has taken over the world,
muting it in tones of gray,
softening the ground
and rocking us to sleep.
The rain caresses,
it plays lullabies,
it delays work
and encourages huddling
under blankets.

This is not a day
to move mountains
or change society –
it is a time to rest,
reach within
until the soul is opened up
to the gentleness
of creation.

mornings

In some ways, this has been the perfect morning.  Instead of waking to an alarm, screaming or singing in my ear, i turned everything off last night with the express intention of myself sleep and dream until i no longer had need of either.

awakeningWednesday and Thursday  are supposed to be days off from the Studio + Showroom, and at long last, i’m starting to take that seriously.  My endless to-do list might suffer slightly from my taking time away from work, but work was suffering from not having time to myself.

i admit that i need down time.  My ex husband would probably be elated to hear this – if he remembers any of our arguments about my being work-obsessed – but i have finally learned something he tried to teach me.  My body and my mind, if not my ever-eager heart, find moments when i am still and quiet and allow myself to recharge absolutely necessary.

For years, my main down-time had been when i had quite literally crashed too far to work.  i have artistic endeavors that govern nearly all levels of ability.  If i am fit and hardy, then i can throw.  If i am feeling a little weaker, but am still mobile that is the time for sculpting or painting.  If standing feels like a burden, then i can code websites, do promotional work on social media, and of course, write. A notebook and a pen in bed have been the midwives for the birth of many words.

first movementsHowever, the push to do the absolute limit that i could every single waking moment rarely let up. It is as if working proved to myself that i had meaning. And these creative endeavors bring me such happiness. Time spent doing chores or even taking the dog to the beach felt stolen.

Until the last six months or so, that is how i perceived at down-time.  It wasn’t a time to relax, but instead it was time to focus on some form of creativity that was more intellectual than physical. When i was truly down – due to illness or injury – i comforted myself with the thought that i had done all i could as long as i could.  No solace could be taken in my immobility and inability, they had to be endured until i could work again.

However, the need for quite stillness is no longer something that i can deny.no words

Actually, i blame meditation for making me accept the lesson that my ex tried to teach.  i started meditating regularly a year ago.  i began a meditation group not quite two months ago and i still meditate on my own nearly every day.  Anyway, there is something about the stillness and quiet that comes when meditation actually works (as opposed to the other day when i wrote about how characters from my story had their way with me) that is delicious, nourishing and joyous.

And now, i crave that blissful calm.  This morning i sought it out actively. My body ached, my head still felt feverish. Every sense of my being wanted that quiet stillness.

For a good half hour, i laid in bed awake and able to move, but utterly still in both mind and body.  The comfort of the mattress below me, the warmth of the covers and the crisp morning air against my cheeks filled me with sensation.  Light from the window played across my face, delighting me with its gentle warmth.  i gave myself time to lie there and simply be, with the cat purring beside me, the dog moaning in his dreams at my knees, listening to the other cat fight imaginary dragons in the living room.  Thoughts barely existed, and those thawhile workingt came up floated through my mind like dandelion spores.

Now that i am up and moving, i continue to feel deliciously unburdened.  i am more centered than i have been in days.  Writing still has a firm grip on me but i do not suffer from any guilt or remorse over taking these hours to be kind to myself.  This is a huge transformation for which i am amazingly grateful.

But i’d better get back to writing the book before i start feeling lazy.