Tag: prose

change

screaming_squarei am learning so much about myself during these past few months.

In a pinch, i can wake up early in the morning, consistently, although apparently never with joy.  i much prefer waking up in the very late morning after a night of work.

Despite having massive anxiety issues, i can put on a mask of confidence that, miraculously, people seem to accept as reality.  If i can keep the nightmares in check and manage to get some restful sleep every night, then i’ll keep getting better and maybe, someday, that mask will truly be real.

i am at peace with not knowing things… much more than i ever expected i could be.

After so long struggling, it looks like i might be able to get my house refinanced, avoiding foreclosure and a traumatic move.  However, even with that boon, it will be a long slog for me to dig myself out of the hole i am in financially.  Still, i have a slightly bigger shovel to use than i did four weeks ago.

Poetry and drawing will make their way through me, even if they have to ambush me during still moments. Stories, too, queue up and wait patiently for their time.

thesun_squareThe most profound lesson is that i am stronger than i expected, particularly when it comes to interacting with others.  Looking back, i don’t know when this shifted, but it is lovely to no longer care about those who hurt me like i once did.  Gone are the endless second guessings and guilt, well, unless it involves those i love – i care so much more then. Unfortunately, i remain quite wary of people after they have wronged me – but at least, now, i have the chance to work on it.

For these lessons, i am so grateful.  For the trial that i had to go through to get to this place, well, i suppose i’m grateful for that too. And, i know, this is just a beginning. In so many ways, i am still a hot mess. i will keep writing, keep drawing, keep working to maintain a balance between other responsibilities and the overwhelming drive to make art… and, maybe, i’ll be able to start blogging here again – for a month, all my effort has gone into my other blog.  Still, there is no rush.  All things will come in their own time.  In this moment, all is well.  For that, how can i be anything other than thankful?

 

Take Life by the hand…

take life by the hand - lead it in a dance of Love - open-hearted joy
take life by the hand – lead it in a dance of Love – open-hearted joy

So much has happened this past year, that i can barely process it all.  A lot of things i took for granted were stripped away.  Those last shreds of stability (or the delusion of same) disappeared.  Going through my poetry and blogs from the last twelve months, what i see is a clarifying fire – a lot of what i thought was important and what i assumed would be my path’s easy choices became either irrelevant or unreachable.  i have been humbled by my own failures and limitations.  i had to adapt – i am still in the process of adapting, in fact – and this has been neither smooth nor free of whining.  (And here is my first gratitude: for friends that held my hand and let me break down in anger, frustration and fear.  You rock!)

join us in this dance - wild joy of word and line - melody of dreams
join us in this dance – wild joy of word and line – melody of dreams

What shocks me the most, though, is how much my art changed while i was going through this intense time.  If i am honest, this transformation began a long time ago. Even during my divorce there were pieces of strength and determination amid some of the most sorrowful paintings and grief-drenched poems i have ever created.  For years, i languished right on the edge of the pit, never very far from falling in even when i danced with happiness.  And when i fell, oh, how i fell. i could stay down there for ridiculous amounts of time, thrashing about powerlessly.

Very slowly, over months and years, meditation and the retraining of my brain started to work.  In a way, i don’t think this will ever be fully finished, although i hope i am wrong. So far, though, each time i get over one hurdle or come to terms with one weakness, i find another.  Somehow, i developed a seemingly endless series of habits and assumptions that need to be questioned, shaken up or eradicated.  Still, i began to be more content for longer and longer periods – even when the same difficulties kept flooding my life.  Loneliness did not disappear, the financial instability did not resolve itself, the troubles with anxiety did not simply dissolve, vanquished by sudden bravery.  However, this year, i found a way to enjoy the moment even when the big picture crumbled to pieces.  When i read my words or look at my drawings – particularly these pen and inks – i do not see the sorrow or suffering.  i see the hope, the bliss, the determination that might be madness.

i do not exist - except in these words and lines - where i come to life
i do not exist – except in these words and lines – where i come to life

Maybe i overdosed on stress this past summer.  Perhaps i finally surrendered my last illusions of control. Maybe after 1,000 hours of meditation even the dimmest bulb can get some light. Either way, i have found myself more peaceful and more shockingly joyous in the middle of crises than i used to be when things were going well.  First, my art became joy, even when i felt nothing like that at the time.  Then i started checking in with myself and discovered the joy and peace were really just there, hiding underneath the wild fear and habits of doom.

For this, i am more grateful than i can say.  i know i am not  anywhere near done.  i keep practicing kindness, practicing gratitude.  When i forget, or get too busy, i feel myself sliding back into places i want to go.  This practice has become what poetry and prose have always been – a foundation on which my sanity rests.

On this New Year’s Eve, i could give you a hundred things i wish would change, ten stormandsunthousand that i want to do, i could wax on and on about how i don’t know what to do about my business or where the future will lead me.  My imagination can conjure the most desperate, terrible futures as well as ways everything could change, if i want to invest in fantasies.  i could do all those things – but i don’t want to.

What i want to do is make more joy through pen and ink, through clay, through oils and acrylics.  i want to throw myself into the sanctuary of words not because i have to hide myself there lest i crumble into despair, but because it is wonderful, exciting, hard work.  i want to find that speck of unexpected kindness in the middle of uncertainty.  i want to laugh with friends and hug my dog and pester my cats with love.  i want to enjoy this improbable happiness when so much has gone wrong.  i want to keep growing as i have this year.

And for those desires, i also give thanks.

Have a lovely New Year – and if troubles find you, if they find me, may we all find the sparks of loveliness inside them.

pieces of loneliness: failure

His dog stared up at me with deep kindness, her golden eyes filled with patience and acceptance.  Her human had stopped my car, asking about places that would house dogs.  He had heaped all his worldly possessions behind him in a shopping cart. Holding out his pale, thin left arm, he started to describe how he had gone to the hospital to get it fixed, waving wildly at defects invisible to my eyes, urgently confessing that the doctors had said he had a mental health issue. “They insisted,” he shook his arm, “that there is nothing wrong!  But anyone can see it!”  Yet, he cried, he needed help.  He knew he could not go on as he was.  He called his one friend in town, to find out she had committed suicide years ago.  Intently leaning in, he said he faced a psyche hold, but the doctors would not take his dog with him.  While he burbled and gestured, she stood calmly beside him, something eternally kind in her expression, her patience and stillness surreal next to her human’s wild energy.

The animal control officer, he told me excitedly, was trying to help him.  Did I know of any place that would take a dog?  He didn’t know how long the arm problem would take be fixed, he waved it again, but obviously this was urgent.  It seemed like he could not stop talking, moving closer to the car, he gestured to my dog sitting beside me, staring out at the man and his dog through the open window.  This stranger must have been listening to me talking to my pup about being a good boy when I had lumbered into the seat, realizing I was someone who might have information he needed.

As soon as he was forced to breathe, I gave him the name of a kennel where I had housed my dog twice.  It’s not the Ritz, I said, but maybe they will be willing to work with you.  Maybe they do pro bono work for dogs in desperate need.  He heard my words, incorporating them into his story, which he proceeded to blurt out to me at least three more times.  I wondered if this was his way of fixing my advice in his mind.

Eventually he let me go.  Even as I drove away, feeling like the dog’s gaze became disembodied, following me down the road, I realized I would be haunted by the exchange for awhile.

I had been afraid.  The last dog of size at my house bit mine and nearly killed him.  I could not avoid how much the madness of the man had unsettled me, even though I could see he meant no harm.  But, the people who have hurt me, tried to scam me and made me doubt my reality because their insanity seemed more real to them than anything has ever been to me, rose up in my head – a long line of screaming warnings.

If I were braver, perhaps I would have taken the dog.  It was a failure of compassion that I justified with practicalities – how could I afford to feed another animal, even temporarily?  What if the placid kindness was not her permanent state?  It appeared she had been living with her human on the streets for quite some time – what veterinary complications could be expected? Mostly, I could not put my dog through another attack – or endanger my cats.

And yet, I feel this failure deeply, no matter how I justify it.  Thoughts of my own safety and that of my animals overrode compassion.  I could not be brave enough to risk.

Although, even now, I want to make myself seem less cold and uncaring.  I babble forth with my own confession: I wanted to be free to do something more than what I could.  I wanted to be brave and throw all caution to the wind. I hold onto my guilt as though it could be proof that I have a heart.  I let those golden eyes haunt me, because I feel that I deserve it.  At what point did my fears of being hurt overtake my desire to do good?

the hows and whys

i have spent the past couple of days thinking about creativity – writing in particular – and how they work in my life.  Two people have asked, because i am doing a Kickstarter Campaign on poetry, if i am going to stop throwing pottery and sculpting and painting.  The question surprised me, because i have been doing all of these all along.  As they looked at me baffled, i realized that the writing had always been somewhat invisible.  i talked about it, but i they never really witnessed it. Writing is done in private, in quiet.  However, everyone can see a set of dishes.  My pottery being in galleries lends a certain amount of legitimacy to those efforts.  Paintings and prints sell, so that i can say, do you remember that landscape of Rockland Harbor? Or the painting of two people kissing so long they’ve turned into trees? Yeah? Gone!

Writing is different. Performing a piece once doesn’t mean that it’s finished in my mind.  As i compile poetry collections for e-readers or to read before an audience, they  transform under my editing hand.  And, no matter how focused i am on other things, words normally rattle around inside of me.  A few blogs ago, i talked about waking up with a novel in my mind. My daydreams often serve to keep a story fresh in my mind when i cannot be writing.  Nearly every morning, i make up rhymes to my cats and dog, to jump start that part of my brain.  (Some people use coffee.) More than once, i have written poems giving thanks for the verses that creep into my mind during the night and at the break of dawn.

With that said, i feel like i have done nothing this past week because i have not written in the ways that i had planned.  Of course, i have blogged.  i have edited my heart out for two poetry collections that are ready to be published.  However, i spent a lot of my writing time updating my website, setting up the Kickstarter campaign and just generally feeling awful as i’m changing my relationship with food. Today i ache because i want to be wrapped up in a blanket, with fuzzy socks on, staying in my pajamas, while i write about David talking to his daughter Shan, artist to artist, about why art can matter even in the perilous circumstances that surround them.  Likewise, i have a queue of poetry, probably about ten lines intended to start poems that i could not write down the moment i thought of them, competing with prose for my attention.  As much as i love pottery – and Lord knows i need to get back to it, since i’m so far behind i can’t even see where i should be – it hurts to have to wait until tonight, when the pots are glazed and the kiln started, to get to the nuts and bolts of writing.  i know there is always a risk that i will be too tired or in too much pain at the end of the day to do what i want to do right now.  But i must put on my big girl pants and prioritize even if the pants can chafe.

There are days and maybe even weeks when i have been so overloaded with other tasks that writing hibernates.

If i allow this to go on too long, i’ll start feeling odd.  My mind compulsively churns fiction.  Already, i’m back to the stage where it’s leaking out of me, without putting pen to paper, i’m still hashing out dialogue and plots, asking the dog and cats for their opinion.  The cat’s eyes twitch at the amount of rhymes sent in her general direction.

The written word keeps me sane.  It ensures that it gets time around all the other artistic work.  If i were slightly less ADD, i could probably sit and write 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, but i need movement in my creating too.  i can need art to be something physical, three dimensional, dripping in colors. i have no real fear of any side of my artistic endeavors disappearing – although i consistently find one has to take a priority over another (or my health over all of them) for short spurts.

Yesterday, i felt amazingly alone and forlorn.  In the midst of my self-pity, i realized that i live better without people than i do without writing.  Feeling friendless (i say feeling, because i know such things are an illusion of melancholy) can strike me as less scary than feeling like poetry has abandoned me.

i write in nearly every moment when i cannot throw or sculpt or paint – and when the creative spirit within me allows me to do nothing else.  i write because it makes me whole and sane and gives me the greatest joy i have known (even, or rather especially, when it’s been the hardest work).

And tonight, i will write as a reward for doing the heavy lifting of pottery.

 

fascinating characters

Tonight, i spent a couple of hours doing chores around the house.  Nothing terribly exciting – weatherproofing windows, sweeping, gathering up dirty dishes that eventually i will wash.  The most challenging thing was not to fall down when climbing a step stool.  Even though they weren’t demanding, or rather because they weren’t demanding, these chores turned into lonely work for me.  i put on good music, sang along with it, and kept plugging away at these tasks.

However, i could not keep myself from feeling alone. The cats and dog were all sound asleep; solitude confronted me. The people singing were not truly with me, after all, despite the melodies floating through my rooms.  Before i knew it, the fascinating characters from my stories as well as other author’s fiction found their way into my mind.  They began to play in my imagination as i hung the plastic over the windows, they started to have conversations with each other, eventually they were kind enough to include the version of me that inhabits these fantasies.  The people within my writing learn from these fantastic interactions with the characters from my favorite stories.

Once this surreal crowd showed up, the day-dreaming grew more complex.  New stories wove themselves around me.  As my hands worked on window after window, i was lost within this magical realm of fantasy. i was wrapped in the familiar blanket of escapism.  This allowed me to survive the worst experiences of my life.  Daydreaming gave me what i needed to move through the most boring times, and the spells when i was the most incapacitated.  Indeed, this type of fantasy actually occupied my mind when it should have been focused on more important things too many times to count.

i will confess, these trips from reality have saved my sanity.  Moments when i double task, moving through reality while these daydreams occupy my mind, fill me with amazing hope.  i can create heroism, great adventures, wondrous love, deep and abiding kindness and friendship. In them, i can be important or trivial, whole, strong and maybe even magnificent. And, yet, i keep one foot in the actual, tangible world.  i remain tottering on a step-stool, after all. The double sided tape sticks to my hands. All of this while i am still dreaming, still watching these tales unfold on the screen of my mind.

Eventually, i finished weatherproofing and all the gathered dishes wait in the sink.

All the while, i had a marvelous adventure with Luz, Zaba, Zavier and Einar, all from one of three projects which occupy my writing time.

It feels like i wrote a small novel while i worked. It leaves me delighted and grateful for the joys of unreality.  i wonder how much this chronic solitude – and my need to have time alone, even when i am in a relationship – has fueled my imagination.

leaking fiction

The gallery has been quiet today, just a few people glancing in the window and wandering inside to browse. i actually made the first purchase, hoping to start some momentum, buying a card from one of my fellow artists.  Usually i have a thousand things to do while i am here: poems to type in, essays to edit, drawing i want to get done, a stack of graphic design work and always some accounting to address.  Today, though, i had very few obligations. The clutter of things has dispersed. The overcast sky, the gratitude from yesterday, the lull in sales have all created this stillness within me. i have been doodling, blogging, but mostly losing myself inside stories.

Fiction burns like fire within my mind.  It demands my full attention.  The prose that i write consistently gets put on the back burner.  Poems manage to creep out in the spare moments between other responsibilities, but writing novels requires a massive amount of time, commitment and comfortable clothes.

For the past four years, i’ve been able to throw more of my energy into prose starting in the fall. Even though i continue to stay busy through Christmas, i convince myself that i have more spare time once the weather turns, even if reality doesn’t conform to the assumption.

My imagination has noticed that the leaves have begun to fall.  Characters keep popping into my head, shouting about their needs.  Every moment when my brain is not fully occupied, scenes race across the screen of my awareness and make my fingers tremble with anticipation of time spent with pen or keyboard.  Without quite realizing it, while i sat here in front of my computer today, making notes on what swirls through my mind, i lost my awareness that there was a universe around me – i grew so focused on the one within.  Hours have passed while i have been daydreaming stories and waiting for customers to arrive.  More than once, i surprised myself by mumbling streams of dialogue to see if the words fit together with grace.  i meant for that to stay within the confines of my skull.  Each time the sound startled me, i resolved to buy a bluetooth earpiece so i won’t look quite so crazy next time.

However, that leaves the basic reality unchanged. These stories are literally leaking out of me.

writing

i ask againi was asked a few days ago how i manage to keep writing when life goes crazy.  For a long time, i wasn’t sure what to say.  i write because i have to; it pulls its way out of me.  However, the fact that i don’t fight the words does count for something.  Also, as the person who asked the question knew quite well, these first few weeks since i turned forty-three have certainly borne more than their share of pain, chaos and change.

Prose has suffered.  Often, i am too distracted to dissolve into a story and its characters.  Poems, thankfully, flow no matter what i do.  They flood out of me at night, to the detriment of my sleep.  They wake me up in the morning, shaking me out of my dreams.  In the middle of an otherwise busy day, they seduce me – and if that doesn’t work, they tackle me and berate me – demanding to be born.Spirals of wind

Editing my writing can be difficult, in part because it is always harder editing my own work than someone else’s, but also because revising does not excite me as much as the first impulse of creation.  Still, i prefer it to nearly any other task.  Tell me to edit a short story or do the dishes and editing will always win.  That said, gathering enough confidence to release poems and stories into the wild can take some time.  i let them sit until i can read them with fresh eyes and prove to myself that they are ready.

Ultimately, i think the real answer is this: i write because i make it a priority, even when other things are arguably much more urgent.

no wordsThere is a madness to being an artist and a writer.  You have to root yourself in the delusion that what you are doing at that moment – scratching a pen across paper or tapping on a keyboard or drawing a brush over a canvas – is the most important thing in your life. Actually, as you work, creating becomes the universe entire. Otherwise distractions grab you by the ankles and drag you away.

As i write this, i realize some forms of writing have suffered of late.  Blogging has taken a huge hit.  When i posted yesterday, it staggered me how long it had been since my last entry.  So, today, i will give you the gift of poetry as an apology.   Above are three poem-posters and now, three recordings of poems.

my hands itch

words caress me

language (this is not the best recording, but a good poem nonetheless)