Tag: pen and ink

love and compassion

Survival. 

It is a sign of strength to survive hardship, without a doubt, and the last three years have thrown enough hardship in my way that I am proud to have moved through it all and found myself at this moment of promise and change.

However, I am exhausted. Every day, I struggle with pain and fatigue to the point that it has made following my passions – particularly as an artist and writer – feel beyond my reach.  While I make art, releasing it into the wild has demanded more than I had to give.  Add on to that the chaos that we all face, living in this time of change and turmoil, and it has been everything I could do to survive.

Lately, my roommates have been talking about how we all need to stop surviving and start thriving, which is a marvelous ideal and one I enthusiastically endorse. Only, I have quietly wondered how.  How can I be in the position I am financially, spiritually, physically, and yet shift my weight away from survival and into transcendence?

Finally, it occurred to me as I was driving home this evening how to accomplish such a thing for myself, even though I am still treading water, struggling to stay afloat.  

There have been a few times over the past few weeks, in the middle of massive change, heartache and new beginnings, that I could feel this inner core of steel – like a tempered sword – deep within my being. Each time it appeared, I was able to act with compassion and kindness because I knew that I could flex and bend but would not break. At first, I thought they were random miracles, but this is part of something deeply significant.  Today, after meeting another friend for dinner and running into another at the grocery store, I was awash in love, both mine for them and theirs for me.  As I drove, I felt taller, straighter, stronger and could sense that flexible, shining, unbreakable steel. 

That was the epiphany: love was the way to shift from feeling overwhelmed and unprepared to feeling like I am already thriving.  It might be as simple as throwing compassion out, whether or not it is returned.  Harder, but still vital, will be turning the same inward, especially if I am in a terrible place emotionally.

For years, my art has an act of love.  Love for creating, love for the poems and stories and images that flow out of me, a very real sensation of using them as vehicles for sending love into the world.  As my art and I have grown, I have also realized the role of kindness within the creation of anything.  All art goes through an ugly stage – maybe all personal development too? – and patience and kindness are required to get to the final point, whether it be a mess or a masterpiece. 

So, here I am, again.  All of the sputtering false starts from this time of struggle have left me with an opportunity for a new beginning.

For three years, arguably much more, I have been surviving.  Like a turtle, I hid under my shell, for protection from a world that can feel so terrifying and capricious.  The world has not changed, but I have reached my personal rubicon.  I have stood up, taller than I ever thought I could be.

I need to turn to love, to kindness and to compassion – both with myself and others.  I will keep offering up this art that I make, in open hands, because that is the first step in moving forward.  This is the unfolding of beginnings, the first step in a journey of change.

 

Howling at the moon

Right now, i feel like Godzilla.  i am stomping through-out my house, absolutely graceless, quivering with agony.

The dog must have eaten something particularly appalling, because he has been sick all day, taking out every blanket, towel, sheet and quilt covering every soft surface in the building. He even nailed one of the cats. If he weren’t still begging for food and acting ridiculously cheerful for one so gastrically challenged, i would be more worried.

Thankfully, i think he will make it through this prodigious mess.  For the past two hours, he has been content to sleep on yoga blankets on the floor.

As i watched him suffer today, i realized, i don’t think i am doing much better.  Most of the time, i force myself into this state of magical denial. All is well, my body loves me, i can do anything – and then, on the odd night, all the illusions are stripped away. No matter the power of distractions, i start to feel it. pileoartMy mind starts to list all the things that i have to do, projects on which i have fallen behind, all the price paid for my current situation. Between the physical discomfort and the psychological torment, i am reduced. What remains is the most brutal fundamental: i am suffering and right now, there is no miraculous solution.  i am stuck with this pain, with this frustration, with the sheets being slowly cleaned of various disgusting things, so i can’t even lay down and take what comfort that could bring.

Thwarted, i did what i do – i made art.  Now that my brain is coming back to itself, realigning after stopping the antidepressants, two qualities have returned to me: the need to create and the hatred for being idle.  No slack is given for feeling this desperately bad, other than to shift what work i would do.  Since i could not throw as i had planned – i started working on pen and ink drawings.  The stack above includes most of the poems and drawings of the past three days.

dieoflonelinessPoem after poem poured out of me.  Drawing after drawing.  i lost myself in the world of art, and delighted in it as long as my focus lasted.  For the past hour – between one and two am – the pain finally reached the stage where i could do nothing. i howled at the moon, absolutely impotent against this misery. But in the silence between breaths, i kept staring the pile o’ art i had made.  Tears of rage streaming down my face, i looked over some of my favorite poems from today. i was comforted.  One soothing thing in the middle of the boiling cauldron has been this recognition: i have finally become a champion of my art.  i love these poems.  The images are smooth and i find them lovely.

Even on a night like tonight, when i am shouting at the laundry for taking too long, when i am wild with distress, when i ranted at the moon about the injustice of these ridiculous burdens, i have made some beautiful things.

And, i am grateful, even in this agony.

beautiful, joyous women

imageFor the first time in quite awhile, i was able to sit down and draw. As i wrote in my last post, i have been having a hard time working up enough focus or heart to make any kind of visual art.  Only a handful of pen and inks and two half finished paintings had come, along with a very small amount of pottery.

imageSo, tonight, after the errands were done and the snow started to fall, i let myself be romanced by the beautiful incorrupt smoothness of good drawing paper.  Once more, as it has so many times the past eighteen months, i was struck by how much joy the fluid ink manifested, particularly given the aching pain still echoing in my emptiness.  Yesterday and today, i have felt a bit like i am coming back to myself, but the process is strange and surreal. Half the time, i feel like i am still completely lost.  The other half, i feel like a mason, laying brick after brick, rebuilding.  “The reconstruction goes slowly, ma’am, but the foundation will be more stable in the end.”

imageAt any rate, as i drew, my spirit lifted.  i realized that there is something for which i need to be more thankful: the gift of joy.  Even when traveling through perilous darkness, i have been able to steal moments of joy, beauty, fleeting seconds of grace. i have held them all in my hands, glowing shards of memory, to light my way in dark places.  Tonight, i got a chance to let my fingertips be a conduit for love and happiness i did not see within my heart at the time.  If such a blessing doesn’t remove the darkness, it will at least warm me through this frozen night.

 

poem: what drawings teach

They always have open arms.

i am the one
who has resisted –
keeping myself
from welcoming
every moment
with pure joy
or patient acceptance.

i have learned my lesson.

Come to me,
and i will embrace you.
i will find some purpose
to this dance
in which you lead me.

My heart
has survived
so much –
surely
that means
i can be
as open,
as willing,
and as generous
with bliss
and gratitude
as these figures i draw.

i render myself
within their curves
and smiles.

My eyes learn
fearlessness
from their gaze.

Art becomes reality
in small, hesitant steps,
a little more shading and nuance
added to the bare bones
every day.

If i can create beauty
and strength
on the page,
then what will i be able to do
with the plastic material of life.

18 november 2015

poem: the artist’s prayer

Please.
Help me.

i reach out,
my hands grasping
for something
to change
all this stress
and fear
and crushing anxiety
into a solution,
something actionable,
a clear path
toward
temporal salvation.

But all that comes,
filling my hands
to overflowing
like a tap
turned full force,
is art.

So much so,
i could work
every waking moment,
rushing
from pen
to easel
to wheel
to computer
and still not bring it all
into being.

Forget cleaning the house.

All deviations
from this purpose,
from my bliss,
bring on vague pain.
The more i labor
at cross-purposes
to my calling,
the worse it hurts.
Discomfort grows
like mold
until it takes over
everything,
becoming
howling,
dangerous
despair.

So, on my knees,
i pray.
Tears in my eyes,
i beg.
With all the blood
in my veins,
i beat out
supplication:

Help me.
Guide me.
Save me,
for i am so mad
with passion and dream
that i will keep walking,
moving forward,
undeterred
by this glorious
catastrophe.

22 november 2015

singing prayers

IMG_0018 IMG_0022Last night, flooding had overcome my path.  Roads had closed in Belfast and Searsport, blocking my way home.  Instead of fighting against it, i stayed in Rockland for a while, got myself a decent meal, and then started heading north fairly late.

After all that rain, with my tiny car being buffeted by winds, it felt magical and surreal. The trees were already dancing like headbangers; music was electric in the air. i began to sing.

Song is an important thing to me – i adore music even though i have no real talents in that area.  IMG_0020This time, though, i was able to weave lyric after lyric, a seamless fabric of rhyme and rhythm, for nearly the whole hour home. Thanksgiving, fear, joy, loneliness, hope, stress, it all poured forth from my lips.

When my song finally stopped, i started thinking about the art i made yesterday, many versions of spirit and love.  In the only watercolor, the top right image, this woman holds her heart out to you, spirit flowing from her, dancing joy in her other palm.  As i painted, it made me wonder where the deeper currents of my mood might be going.  Last week, i lost my friend Fawn, next week i get surgery, night before last i had heard about another death that startled me, yet her face didn’t seem to be anguish to me. Much more the pain of change.

The dragonflies were for Fawn and her daughter.  i am gearing up for more dragonfly work.IMG_0019

The woman to the right cradles Spirit, letting it rest its broken wing.

And above to the left i included the last image i made: what a third eye she has!  The sun itself.

This is a terrifying time for me.  I have said this for months: everything is on the cusp of change.  This perpetual standing on the razor’s edge has taken a toll on my feet.  In six days, they will fix my left arm. i am facing a long rehab period while my shoulder heals itself. All of my bearings have been lost: financially, career-wise, emotionally, physically.  At this moment, i have no clue what tomorrow will bring. Indeed, i can dream and work to manifest what i need with the best of them, but none of truly know what the future brings. All i have to do is look at grief pouring over facebook to learn that lesson again.

Yet, in the middle of this, there was music.  The face to the right, just above these words, that gentleness looking at broken Spirit, made me nearly weep with joy.

There is a great parallel for my heart in this situation with my shoulder.  If i work at it, i can convince you that nothing is wrong, my fingers move even though i only sporadically feel them.  i enjoy full mobility and can keep you from seeing the searing pain; only a few movements are guaranteed to induce tears.  Indeed, i can make you laugh telling you stories about unintentionally flashing someone who was in my front yard or about the great lengths i am taking to make sure i can wipe my arse after surgery when my left arm will be all trussed up.

The jokes rarely end, but underneath them, in the quiet of the night, when i alone in my car singing, i realize that i am still completely raw from this summer’s great depression.  i continue to react with shocking intensity and vulnerability.  i am exhausted and raw.  But, then again, it is also i imagine how gently someone would hold the Spirit, catching it so it won’t fall, and then render it in ink.

Perhaps tonight i will sing as well.  Fear and hope, despair and joy all sound better in verse with a sweet melody.

 

quick and dirty

reachingout_qadFor two days, i have been utterly unable. Yesterday, it took all i had to put up the open flag and sit here in the studio.  Stuck in my comfy chair for hours, i drew with a cheap pen on cheaper paper – a fairly primal purging of image and idea.  Even at that level of semi-solid, i still managed to miss a friend visiting because i went to the bathroom. While i was able to chat with some wonderful people, there were no sales and simply staying awake had taken so much from me that my legs wobbled beneath my girth.

By the time five pm came around, i was ready for bed. i tried, very hard, to get some cleaning done, but could not move my limbs in a coordinated manner. Breaking three things in less than ten minutes, i surrendered.  Coordination and grace have become fantasies when i am in that much pain and that exhausted. So, instead of useful, tangible progress on the problems of my life, i created more of this quick and dirty drawing while i waited for the sheets, quilt and mattress pad to finish in the washer and dryer.

i keep hoping that things will get better. i repeat “All will be well”; i meditate for over an hour a day trying to keep the wolves at bay.  Maybe this weekend, i whisper to myself, i will make a big sale. If i advertise here, then i will maybe get a bump on my online sales. Perhaps that website or this commission will come through.  This job might be the one that i take, which will make the forsaking of art sit with greater comfort inside my heart. Most of the time, i am able to convince myself to keep going with these quiet reassurances.

Only, the past two days, i have been struggling so hard to move and breathe – i got stuck in my bra this morning, because i could not lift my left arm in or out – that all hope transformed into delusion.

praying_qadYesterday, i noticed the trees behind my house are turning autumn colors. They have always been particularly easy trees, ready to shed their greens at the first quick breath of cool air, but their eagerness feels even more like betrayal this year. Today, the wind and the rain smell of autumn, and i feel the urge to grab the clock off the wall and smite it against the cement floor.  i would hold off fall with a sword. Time, as always, shows no regard for my needs or wants and just keeps charging on like an angry, blind rhinoceros.

i wish i could explain it to myself, why i struggle with such desperate, perilous despair.  Even though i have been assured that this is incorrect, even irrational, i perceive myself as particularly week and unadaptable. Would someone else be crumbling like this?  Would their loved ones praise them for having such reasonable mental breakdowns or would they be praised for holding their head up and taking life’s blows on the chin?

i face major life changes, yes. i am falling apart physically, without doubt. That each of those feeds off the other, too, cannot be disputed although an engaging debate like the chicken and the egg could take place. i was already a broken unit before i decided to pursue art with all i had. Then, using all i had, which so clearly wasn’t enough, i wound up becoming more broken. However, i refuse to give myself permission to have myself days like today and yesterday.  i hate myself for falling apart, which does nothing to keep me active and healthy, but instead fills me with shame and graceless resentment.  i draw to stop thinking about my situation, or myself.  Only, even that desperate art reminds me of how futile this situation is: fall is coming, i cannot stop time, and i am dissolving.

As much as i hate to tell you this: i have nothing to give the world today. No strength, no inspiration. Indeed, i think with this blog, i will have used up my full allotment of words for the day.  Once more, i will use all that i have to make useless art – hoping beyond hope, this madness that drives my heartbeat, that somewhere in word or line, i will find that one thing that can save me.

feeling like an artist

IMG_2515When i make art, i do not necessarily feel like an artist.  i feel like a lucky fool who is getting another chance to do what delights her.  Indeed, during this year of relative hardship, i have had very few moments when i felt like an artist.  Lots where i felt like a mess, or a sales woman, or a failure.  But, few where i felt empowered by what i have created.

This past weekend, i received six of my pieces of art back, professionally framed, and that made my heart soar. Then i put 66 small pen and inks and 10 large ones in mats and bags, which elevated my spirit further.  Saturday, i participated in the Bucksport Art Festival and for the first time this year, got a chance to see a huge amount of people react to my artwork.

And that made me feel like an artist.  More, it made me feel like hope is something more than a delusion.

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?

image
imageimageimageimage

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.