Month: June 2015

on the market

IMG_0175  The house is on the market – at least, i have signed papers with the realtor and we have started the process of taking pictures. IMG_0174 It will probably take at least a week to get the sign in the ground and all the photos up on the internet.  These are some shots I took after she left, mainly to prove to myself what 24 hours of concentrated cleaning can accomplish.  Sadly, i still have a ton of work to do – particularly cleaning the studio and moving the bits of glaze and boxes of clay still in the house over. i have not even begun what will be an impressive saga of purging: selling older art, furniture, books and other things.  i see many yard-sales in my future, as well as sales both on my online store and in my studio/gallery.  Lists of the things i can cast off and those i cannot live without fill my journal.

This was a intensely melancholy thing yesterday; i felt like i was hemorrhaging pain again afterward.  Indeed, my main goal after Kathy left was to be kind to myself  – and i was deeply grateful for both her compassion and efficiency during what is a difficult time for me.

During a class earlier this year, we were given a list of stressors.  Buying and selling homes, as well as changing living arrangements, moving homes and transplanting businesses all sat among the most highly rated causes for stress. IMG_0178

IMG_0176Obviously, i can’t be alone in being upset by such things – and, that said, i still feel like i am taking this particularly badly.  My woe refuses to be dignified.  This is a massive transition for a misfit like me: i root to spaces, i suffer tremendous anxiety that is barely kept in check by meditation, and i worry unreasonably about my beloved animals’ responses to this time of trial.  Like me, they seem to be suffering.  Both Roxi and Martin are hiding more than usual, chased under the bed by the sounds of transformation.  Roxi, in particular, has been so upset (she is so much like me) that even cuddling takes an openness and comfort that is in short supply right now.  Instead of sleeping beside me like she usually does, her paw in my hand all night long, she curls up on the couch, forsaking dreams to keep one eye open.  Unless he is the sleeping old man of the house, Darwin follows me everywhere. He is determined to keep me grounded and cheer me up simultaneously, hence all the photo-bombs of dog in these pictures.

IMG_3441So, i worry, and i stress, and i can feel it effecting my body. My blood sugar skyrockets irrelevant of food, my vision gets blurry, my heart slams around in my chest.IMG_3440 In response, i meditate more – for at least two hours last night, phone and computer off to avoid all distraction – and if i keep that up, it helps tremendously.  Still, no amount of quiet stillness has as yet turned me into a flawless person.  My memory and my work are suffering from the overload.  Even when i regain my inner peace for a time, i am still not supernaturally endowed with awe-inspiring strength or confidence. With my whole heart, i redirect myself whenever i start blaming another for my problems.  Instead, i take deep breaths, hope everything happens for a reason, and knead acceptance into my tight muscles.  Every time people ask me about my long term plans, i wince slightly – unable to articulate what i need to do. IMG_0179 Indeed, i truly don’t know what the absolutely ‘right’ course is at this stage. IMG_0177 To know that, i would have to be a precog and that – along with teleportation, telekinesis, telepathy and transmuting base metals to gold – is not a skill i have developed. Most of the time, i have no idea what to do, and no other viable options, than to keep putting one foot in front of another with as open a heart as possible.

Thankfully, i feel secure that the decisions i am making take me down the wisest path given who i am, what i have and what i know right now.  Of course, there is an element of choosing the lesser of evils, but that is what this moment entails.  So, i must move forward and accept the consequences. i have been actively holding my hands open to accept what the universe gives right now with as little resentment and fear as possible (and eventually, i feel confident, the cosmic diarrhea running through my fingers has to stop.)

However, i keep remembering something that occurred to me years ago: there is a certain nobility to endings.  They demand a sense of presence and honor that can disappear when things are stable and appear unchanging.  How we leave situations, whether it is a relationship, a home, a job, a life – that speaks at least as much about who we are as how we enter them.  As much as it hurts, i have been greatly blessed and honored to have lived here for ten years, to have created this marvelous network of friends, to have worked as an artist so wholeheartedly.  Now, to remember that gift, and maintain this sense of gratitude and grace, when the cosmos starts to have gastric distress in my general direction again.

which is more true

imageThe worse i feel, the happier my art seems to get.  It is perverse.  Today, i was quiet, prayerful, melancholy, fasting until 9 pm.

i grieve over my home and dreams like one would a death, yet all the art i made while gallery sitting was almost oppressively cheerful.  Strong images of courageous women, lines imagining love, the Holy Spirit photobombing over and over.

i have been breaking but my poetry and drawings tell a different story.  i wonder which bears more truth in it?

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soft velvet color

Today, i gave myself two tremendous gifts:  time and kindness.

For weeks, i have been stuck inside turmoil.  My mind and heart have been agitated, spinning like laundry on a particularly violent spin cycle, even with huge swaths of meditation. Non-art work has seemed like an incessant presence, demanding more time than my flesh can comfortably give. For now, though, none of this toil digs me out of the hole in which i find myself – or if it does, i am trying to shift a mountain with a teaspoon.

So today, i meditated for hours, interspersed with seven poems.  i didn’t use tonglen, or any other of my standard meditations, i just fell backward into stillness and silence until my spirit stopped screaming, until the urge to tear my clothes and cover myself in ash over losing my home and studio passed, until the words began to weave through my arm again, coming out fingertips still holding the pen.

Once i had come back to myself a bit, i gathered up my pastels from the house and brought them to the studio.  Truthfully, i should have thrown or glazed.  But i am exhausted. When i am in a state like this and i push myself, i make more of a mess than art.  Loading the kiln took all i had, so i let myself paint with pastel.

It has been years since i used them, probably since i was still married.  As i think about this move, i have been prioritizing the things to keep and the things to let go.  i was wondering where pastels fell on that continuum, and now i know.

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from long ago… maybe ten years old

The soft, velvet color moving across the hardboard seduced me.  i will be keeping these ridiculously fragile shards of brilliance.  May my painting be more joyousness and coy love, like today’s effort, than the sorrow of the self portrait done so many years ago.

Art, poetry and meditation nourished me today.  i find myself grateful beyond words.

on issues of common sense and bravery

She told me this yesterday.

You have to understand your role in this.  You are too nice.  You let people get away with too much; even a nice person is trained to treat you badly because you let them get away with everything.

Sadly, she is not wrong, although there are a few good friends – herself included – who have managed to avoid being consumed by the dark side.

Still, her words keep echoing in my mind, keeping me up until much too late last night and randomly charging through my mind today.  Historically, i have had a problem with this.  Very few things in my life are worth fighting over: my friends, my animals, the welfare of a child, my ability to make art.  Otherwise, someone else’s urgent need often overcomes my lukewarm desires.  Moreover, i like being helpful to people when it doesn’t cause me undo pain and suffering.

chaoswithin_11x14When i do gently set limits, it often works.  However, when i am forced to emphatically put my foot down, or most often, just walk away from someone who has proved themselves to be a chronic asshole, they are shocked.  They see my stubbornness, anger or rejection as something unreasonable, because they might not have known that it existed until they broke my give-a-damn.  But, even people as mushy as me can feel their give-a-damn snap, like thin, fragile a bone, right in front of their heart.  Once this occurs, i will be cordial and polite, which some people do mistake for niceness, but by then it is too late.  The damage has been done, the transgression has gone far enough to make that person no longer worth time or energy spent figuring them out, and, invariably, the individual has done something to hurt me.

So there can be a limit.  i am not completely spineless, i am simply missing a few vertebrae which makes me unnaturally bendy.

However, her words keep echoing, in part because they are augmented by voices from the past.  When the evil dog came the house when i was four and bit everyone: “If the dog bites you, you have to kick him.  Otherwise, he’ll just keep biting you and it’s your fault.”  When i was being pounded on by another kid at school: “If you just kick him in the balls, he’ll lay off – otherwise it’s your fault that he’s still bullying you.”

Perhaps it is part of living in this world with a vagina, but i often feel like i am responsible for everything as it is (although John Callahan seemed to share the affliction.) One meditation i was given not too long ago and now frequently use is to watch the spiraling thoughts that try to convince me that i am the cause of all troubles, and see the lie in them.  It is a form of pride. i am taking on a massive influence in the cosmos that i don’t actually have – a lot of the reasons human beings act as we do are hidden, tucked inside our psyches, and have very little to do with what people do to us. We can react to someone from long ago, not the one sitting before us. I can remember being befuddled at a doctor who was yelling at me for being promiscuous (in the middle of a long, painful stretch of celibacy) before the nurse stopped him to remind him i wasn’t his sister, even if i looked like her.  You have red hair, i know loose women who have had red hair, therefore I WILL YELL AT YOU, YOU SHAMELESS HUSSY.

So were do we draw the line? How authoritarian do i have to be?  Kindness feels better within my heart; compassion comes easier from my hands.  Becoming angry comes at a high price for me, in energy and spirit, and i don’t want to pay it on a daily basis.  Therefore, how do i move forward wisely?   What does common sense tell me about people, both in specific and generally?  Certainly sometimes it is my fault, because i can be an asshole, just like everyone else on the planet.  So, when do i have to be brave and admit my fault, and when do i have to be strong and stand up to the bully, even though he is just bullying me?  How do i learn how to be courageous and also accept that i cannot utterly re-arrange the wiring of my brain to become some fierce hard-ass?

If i figure this balance out, i’ll let you know.  Until then, even if i’m being nice to you, remember i do have a give-a-damn, and it can break.  Moreover, so does everyone else you know.

 

 

 

hard decisions

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

i am selling my house.1523100_10205442122563997_4889260902811902224_o

There, i said it.  The words tumbled out of my fingertips, and hopefully the honesty of my hands can make my mind stop protesting and my heart stop aching.

For two years i have known that i needed to say those words, and mean them, but i have not had the will.  The thought wounds me.  i love this house, the studio that comes with it, the community in which i live, the friends that fill my life here in Maine.

11156367_10205457395985823_7308591026478660484_nThe first time i ever walked into this building, i felt like i had come home.

studio1It was a profound feeling – washing over me with sublime intensity. The house was by no means mine at that point.  The previous owners still lived there, their things covered all the surfaces, their music filled the air.

However, i was home.  This would be my home.  i knew it deep in my soul.

Most glorious of all for me was that it came with a studio, an extra building with two stories, where i could make my art.  In the beginning, it did not look much.  There were no walls, no floor upstairs, the stairs themselves were not really bolted down so they shimmied terrifyingly as you ascended.  It took nearly five years to get the space to where it was a truly functional studio and gallery space.  But, even during those years of transition, i made so much art.

The glory of that, i cannot begin to describe. All i have to do is walk through the front door of the studio, and a smile comes over my face.  In the mornings, i thank it for being there; in the evenings, i lovingly say goodnight and tell the echoing space when i will return. Over and over, people have walked into my gallery – random strangers from all across the country – and they have said the energy of the space is delightful.  It is the energy of the art that has poured out of me like a waterfall.

My animals have found their home here, too.  Darwin, in particular, seems asIMG_1223 comfortably rooted in the space as i am. IMG_0729 copy Both of my marvelous, timid cats have discovered all the best hiding places.  Not to mention, their Very Important Job is to hold down the bed.  Who knows if they will have such tremendous job satisfaction in a new space?  For them, this entire house is familiar and wondrous.

Even though all of us have gone through terrible times within those four walls, sorrow and divorce and struggle, it has done nothing to dent our affection for this environment.

Only, i have reached one of those junctures where being an adult really sucks.  i cannot pretend that everything is alright and that i’ll be able to keep stumbling forward, magically making just enough money to keep things going for another week. i cannot look to another to save me.  While it would be so nice for my default personality to change, so that having to deal with tenants and having to fiercely promote my art wouldn’t be so wildly difficult, i seem to be stuck with who i am. The time has come to accept it and try to work with my strengths rather than keep fumbling, trying to rewire my brain’s faults.  One of my neighbors, remarking on my obsession with art at the expense of important chores like yard maintenance, suggested that some people are not meant to be home owners – and that i was firmly in that group.  When i have the courage to look unflinchingly at myself, i do not think she was wrong.

studio1_8162014Also, there is a practical consideration: this space was designed for a family, for me and my then husband to finally start a family of our own.  To be the habitat of one woman, even though i can fill the walls of both buildings with art, is a waste of this glorious space.  And, as i dissolve the pottery side of the studio over the course of the next ten months, my art will become more portable.  Paintings, pen and inks, poems and fiction can come into being no matter where i end up or what i am doing.studio5

So, now, the big adventure will be finding out what happens next.  i have no clue where i am going or what i will be doing – other than i will be making art.  The more i became convinced over the past couple of months that i had to give up my art to other obligations, like a real job, the more suicidal and depressed i became.  Letters were written; plans made.  Then, Sunday before last, someone else’s anger kicked me out of my despondency like cold water to the face.  The axis of my world shifted until i began making plans on how to live, even without this home i love so much and the full, wonderful life that i have created in Maine.  It is possible… i just have to find a way.  For now, all i really know is that one of the steps, however heavy-hearted it makes me, is to find a new home.

studio_008_02232011This said, until the house sells and i have to face the massive transformations in my life that will cause, i will keep on as i have been.  Running my business, making art at this furious pace like each day at the wheel or easel is my last, looking for freelancing work to keep the utilities on, will continue to form the pattern of my life.  I will keep staggering from week to week, day to day, minute to minute, trying to tread water rather than drown.

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.

seventy-five pounds

IMG_1582On the 23rd of May, i hurt my left shoulder for the second time this year – an incident that left me screaming and clutching my arm to my chest.  For days, normal activity was severely compromised and making pottery out of the question.  Pain made me mostly useless.

Today, three weeks later, i threw seventy-five pounds of clay and transformed it into IMG_1579 eighteen lovely bowls.  For the first time in months, no piece failed; even as i got tired and sore, my coordination didn’t suffer.

i found myself singing with joy.  i kept murmuring thanksgivings.

This kind of blessing during a time of struggle gives the heart hope.  If i can throw seventy-five pounds of clay, i kept marveling as i finished the last, largest bowl, then maybe everything else is possible.  What a joyous notion!

Let’s see what i can get done tomorrow, and what art will come to me while i am at Artspace Gallery in Rockland on Monday.

addiction to art’s flow

IMG_1554Over the years, i have known too many people who struggled with addictions to things like cigarettes or shopping or sex or alcohol or drugs, or some combination of the above.  Watching their struggles, i felt this immense gratitude (along with waves of compassion) that i had not fallen down the same path.

Only, recently, i have realized that i did not escape the gene or the effects of environment that can foster addiction.  In a very real sense, i developed an one of my own – to getting lost in the flow of art.  When i make art, everything else disappears; my entire being seems to dissolve in the way the clay, paint, ink or story moves.  i crave this.  i demand it.  i seek it out, even if i am scribbling on a napkin.  Indeed, i will continue chasing after art even when every speck of evidence tells the sane rational people around me that this is a foolish, self-destructive path.

For the past several weeks, I have been trying very hard to redirect a portion of my effort and energy into finding more freelancing jobs, exploring other options for employment that can coexist beside my current business and obligations. Indeed, i am even preparing myself for the very real possibility that art must be put on hold for awhile, so that i can keep a roof over my head and food in my animals’ bellies. In addition IMG_1545to seeking non-art solutions, i took an amazing small business class to see how to better move through the troubling arena of selling art.  i am doing all i can to put myself in a better position.

i acknowledge that all these chores are necessary things, and good places to put my energy.  After all, financially at the very least, something has to shift quickly.   However, there is a drawback. i do this knowing that the energy to which my body has access is limited. Therefore, devoting a large portion of my effort into these areas has meant that other responsibilities and joys suffered. My dog is shamefully lacking time at the beach to romp and roam.  Except for meditation, my self-care has flown out the window.  The stress is wearing on me; i am letting everyone down while i scramble for better paying jobs and new galleries to sell my art.

As i fill out applications and take tests on my competency in different subjects (discovering that i am happily quiet competent at many tasks), i have been doing the same thing i did during graduate school and undergraduate and nearly every traditional job i have ever held: i am leaking poems and art like blood dripping from my hands.

The more i try to focus on other things, the more the art surfaces. If i swear off art even for a short period, my entire being destabilizes IMG_1547and creativity bleeds into inappropriate places and spaces.  Dialogue for plays murmurs from my lips while i am in the shower. Poetry finds itself scribbled in the margins of notes i take, just like in college.  Drawings swim around in my mind until i have to draw them – not just once, but twice or three times – in order to expunge the image.  Stories that were put aside earlier due to lack of time haunt both my waking and dreaming mind; characters shake me and demand their due.

For six days, an intense, nauseating migraine has been wreaking havoc with my brain, eyes, thoughts and coordination.  My  memory is off; my attention span, worse.  Writing, like i am doing right now, actually hurts as much from the effort of putting one letter after another as from trying to focus through enough visual distortion to make the IMG_1556whole world brighter than a sparkly Twilight vampire.  The one thing that has soothed is art: the flow of ink, experimenting with watercolor, the comfort of line and form.

Even when i am at my worst, i bleed art. If i try to pretend i am a normal person, like the adult that i imagine everyone else to be, then the bleeding becomes a hemorrhage. The compulsion to make it grows irresistible.  It wails within me, disconsolate and brutal, until i give in.  So, i feed the addiction, no longer caring if i am forgetting other things, neglecting important obligations or crumbling into dissolution.  Inside the flow of creating, nothing matters but what pours through me.

And, for that, i thank the entirety of this super-sparkly Creation, every moment, including those dripping with pain.  There are worse fates than being a hopeless artist.  This strange little addiction feeds my soul; it helps to pull me back from despair; it fuels the rest of the struggle to move through this life.

the floor

All day, i have yearned for the clarity of a thin ribbon of ink – the desperate purity of art to come and wash away my doubts.  i wanted to work on a story, one that explores the depths of our human ability to survive when the rug has been pulled out from under us.  However, neither were in the cards for me today. This is the fourth day of a migraine.  Quickly, the rest of my life conspired against my artful urges. Instead of throwing or painting, i have taken tests and done busy work and had my heart broken.  Over the course of a few hours, i found myself accomplishing much, demonstrating my limits and failings again, and landing once more on something solid and firm within my depths.  This strength always shocks me.  Usually, i see my spirit as having no floor, that i could collapse down into the void, frictionless falling that would never cease.  Yet, every once in awhile, something happens so grievous to my soul that this miraculous floor appears.  It keeps me from falling into complete devastation.  It gives me a chance to rest, to catch my breath and to think about how to climb out of the pit. Yesterday, this strength was not there – or rather, i did not know it was here.  Today, it is keeping me aloft as beautifully as any drawing or painting or story or poem.

Hopefully, as i gallery sit tomorrow, i will find my way to more words and ink.  But, for now, i will be going taking this strange, solid stillness and letting it coax me into dreams, into sleep, and perhaps tomorrow, if i remain seated on this foundation, i can build myself a way out.