I've been experiencing those immensely lately. And although it is not something to focus on too much, I still can't help but laugh a little at my fascination for trying to control the totally unpredictable.
I played a little game yesterday. I had gotten some bad news about a sale of a painting, one of those "it' s in the bag" situations, only to realize those situations DON'T HAPPEN IN ART. I was frustrated, confused, went into my whole "I suck as an artist" and the ever-wonderful "go f* yourself, people-who-buy-art" story line. Now I don't actually believe either of these things, mind you. It's just my programming from years of struggle to go there in my head. I'm not really struggling (I've been on line for food stamps, so having a little less in my account is pie comparatively). And I'm definitely not struggling compared to the HUGE percentage of the world that suffers from things such as, oh I don't know, HUNGER to start.
So I played a game with this little "story line" I have with myself. See, in my story, in the past, I am often the victim. I am the damsel, the dark artist who nobody understands, the painter's painter who will never be acknowledged. It's me against the world, in these moments, folks. You've had them too, surely. Your family just doesn't get you. Your boss oversees you. Your government doesn't hear you. Your husband/wife is judging you secretly. WHATEVER it is, when I'm in that place, I go to my ever-loyal story line of the tortured artist to help me wallow a bit. In the video store, you would find me, as a movie, under the tragedy section, or perhaps foreign drama on a particularly weird day.
But what if I change that? What if I become, oh say, a comedy:
Mia spends hours and hours painting, sometimes tripping over her own feet because she is so focused. She is not sure about what she is doing, but that's just part of the fun. She rides down the street on her bicycle, not knowing she has paint on her upper lip, making her resemble a cartoon version of Hitler for her local neighbors. She delivers painting, and pictures herself on Oprah with gobs of money falling from the sky, screaming " I want to thank my family and friends for being so supportive..." sniff sniff. She goes back to her studio, sure that she is on her way to buying her ever-wanted plane ticket to Cambodia for a mind-blowing life experience. She can just smell the check coming in the mail. She gets a call from the organization saying her painting did not sell. Damon Wayans dressed as Homey The Clown enters her studio with a big red foam bat and swings it at her head, telling her, "Homey, don't play that game..!". She rolls her eyes and laughs at herself. She will not be on Oprah today.
You would rent that one, right? It is so much better than the story of Mia sitting in her studio in total silence questioning her skills as an artist and if she should just drop it all to work as a Walmart greeter.
Weirdly, me telling myself this WORKED. I found myself laughing! Don't get me wrong... I was PISSED off that the painting I had so planned on for months did not sell. But that's not really a problem about me or my painting. Just like when you get dumped. Once the initial hurt and fear goes away, you can't help but just say "Their loss". What other people think about you is none of your damn business, really.
I just want to be on Oprah.
In closing, here are some images of inspiration. Enjoy. Wow that was a vulnerable post. Oh well... maybe Damon Wayans will commission me.
Above is a painting I started today. It is part of the motion paintings I've been exploring on and off for the past year. It is VERY sketchy, and has a lot of work to go.
I think I'm going to title it "Impulse".
Well, looking at it, I couldn't decide if she is falling or forcing or being pushed. You really could look at it in all ways, as far as I can see. On one hand, she looks like she may be falling, even ducking, in order to avoid something. In another sense she looks like she could be forcing a somewhat violent action, almost like a motion of rebellion. And of course, she looks like she could be being pushed downward, perhaps to her surprise.
So I thought about these three actions, and how they are tied. Two are reactive, but in totally different ways. One is completely against the will, in some regards.
I will be somewhat candid, but I can see all of these gestures as also pains of the heart. I have a good friend who is going through an awful divorce right now. He leaves out a lot of info, but my gist on the situation is that he has a lot of all three of these reactions going on right now. He seems to have that insane feeling of falling, when you don't know where the ground is and you have those knee-jerk reactions. He also seems to be forcing a lot... forcing himself to be strong, forcing himself to be open, forcing himself to deal and forget. And he is definitely being pushed into a place that is horribly uncomfortable for him.. this is obvious.
All of these reactions could also be called impulses. The term means as follows:
1. The influence of a particular feeling, mental state, etc..
2. sudden, involuntary inclination prompting to action
3. an instance of this
4. a psychic drive or instinctual urge
5.an impelling action or force, driving onward or inducing motion.
Well, in light of these definitions, I think this is an interesting word to pair with this painting. There's always a new way to tell the same old thing, right??
I find it interesting that the first definition, and the one agreed upon most apparently, is one that I would think claims for the subject to have a certain amount of say or reasoning. It does not seem to have quite as much force and lack of choice attached to its meaning. The second, just as the others, seems to abide to the term "involuntary" a little closer.
I find this unique. When I use the term impulse, I immediately think of an impulse buy. Like those damn gummy bears they put next to the check out at Ace hardware. There is a moment of tension every time I have to buy sandpaper. " I want the gummy bears, they are just what I need right now.... but seriously? Do I NEED gummies?? But they are only 99 cents..... but that is 99 cents closer to diabetes..." and so on. C'mon... don't tell me you don't do this in some form. And that is a small example. What about when it comes to life choices? What about love? what about professions? Do we got through this whole painful back and forth of involuntary reasoning?? Is that an oxymoron or what!
So there's a lot of tension, and in turn, a lot to be learned from those impulsive moments. I like trying to paint something that is so hard to talk about.
Ok, so I apologize for the last blog...I was in a silly mood.
A funny thing happened to me last week, and has continued to happen since. Last week was an up and down week. Between being on the road, going to a beautiful wedding, having my sis in town, and being sad for my dad going through family stuff, I found myself struggling with being in the moment. So I did three things; I went for multiple trail runs, I sought help from friends(and strangers) and I went for an acupuncture session. The last is the event I want to talk about. My acupuncturist Wayne is a pretty amazing guy. As he was putting needles in me, we were discussing yin and yang (I am fascinated with this). Apparently, Wayne says "yong" for yang, but whatever. Anyway, he was describing his way of massaging someone, and how there was a lot of yin and yang involved. On one hand, when he is massaging, he must be sure to care for himself. He must not hurt himself, must not strain, and needs to be intuitive of what HIS body needs to do the massage. On the flip side, he is also paying attention to what his patient needs, and how to listen to each persons physical reactions. So within himself, there is both yin (inward listening and storing), and yang(outward release). And if you think about it, a good patient is doing the same...allowing Wayne to care for them, while still listening to their own needs. Pretty cool little symbiosis going on....
So I kept thinking about this flow of needs (and booked a massage pronto) and how beautiful it seemed to me. To take care of yourself while taking care of others is one of the hardest balances to reach, it would seem.
This post is dedicated to an artist whom I truly admire, and have been wanting to write about for years. Literally. I once wrote a post about "Ugly" versus "Pretty" art. It's a dilemma that not only artists go through in their choices for subject matter. Personally, it's something I struggle with on a daily basis....do I see the beauty in things, in people, in myself? Or do I see the grit? The reality, as some might say. Which is real? Well, from reading past blogs, you know what I think...both, of course. But what happens when the two are opposed? What if the beauty you are trying to find in something is an ideal? And what if the depth and rawness you are searching for just really isn't there? It's slippery. But back to Ann. I bring up all of this because I think this woman holds a very uncomfortably accurate frequency between archetypal and boring. Apparently, she spends countless hours with her models. She paints them for months at times, a fact that unnerves me a bit. Having painted models myself for months at a time, this process is a psychological battleground. As much focus as an artist puts on her sitter, like going into a sort of hyper-fixation cloud, retreating out of this brume can be jolting. There is an intimacy with the sitter that can be gruesome. I'm not idealistic about this process. I say this from experience only; I have had more sitters break down in front of me than not, a fact that is a bit too real. But something else happens, to me anyway. When the sitter leaves, they step away with an experience. I, the painter, have not only the experience, but also an oeuvre from our encounter. Staring right back at me. I painted it... I partook fully in this thing. And yet, many times, I am meeting this painting, and in turn a part of myself, for the first time. Its often shocking. Sometimes it is underwhelming. What to believe? The thing that has been made, or the experience? Sometimes they are opposed...one protoypical, the other painfully barren. And that's what I see in Ann's work. I read the words "skeptical of visual reality" with her paintings. And I would agree....I'm skeptical too, but willing to try. Unsure. But being unsure is a sweet spot sometimes. It is synonymous with listening. And that is what I love so dearly about this womans work....a heeding to what she doesn't know. She's been said to repaint and repaint and destroy and repaint each portrait several cycles over. I admire this. I admire the willingness to listen, destroy, be wrong, be in love with something. For all of its flaws and beauty. Thanks Miss Gale. You remind me of what I think is important.
It's been a while, My lovelies! I tried to write about a week ago, upon my return from New York City, but was so bogged up with emotions and excitement, it was like a huge taxi traffic jam from my brain to my fingertips.
And it still kind of is.
I'm still processing everything that went on during my 8 day stay, which is why you will have to be patient with me, since I don't know if I can even go there yet.
I'm not terribly good at beating around the bush, so I WILL talk about one event that changed me in New York.
The Alexander McQueen retrospective show at the Met was flooring. This show is nothing like what I expected. It has almost nothing to do with fashion, in conventional speak, most of the time. The pieces in this show ride that gorgeous line that only visual art can do in a certain way, a way true to its unique form. What I saw in McQueen is an embracing, visually speaking, of clashes. There is a quote in the show by him where he says "I oscillate between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil". I guess it was the word "oscillate" that stuck out to me, since I picture a consistent returning to and from that which he mentioned. This is a fine line to translate into work. To convey this message, a message which is anything but new (c'mon... we ALL know opposites exist in human nature..) in a way that was so surprising, so creatively tragic, so delicately said, was beyond moving for me. There is a twistedness to his work, a severe sense of reflection. There is armor bound by lace, metal cast into seashells, horns made as crowns. All of these, to me, symbols of so many human emotions and paradoxes. Like worn poetry. To think this work is just clothing is somewhat perverse.
A reinvention of something already said many times is one of the hardest parts of creativity, but it is the bed from which it must be born. There is something so wonderful about people knowing that tragedy and beauty coexist, and that this relationship is constantly being revisited, reinvented, re-fabricated, re-listened, re-enlisted. It is a binding force that is constantly transformed. I could not help but walk through the exhibit with my friend Erica in tears due to the knowledge that this creative soul has since passed.
Another thing I was opened up to in seeing this show was the joy that New Yorkers took in going to experience it. What do I mean? Well, one could easily walk through this show and say it had an S&M quality to it. Or that it wasn't very PRETTY. Or a roll of eyes that you "could never actually WEAR any of this stuff...sheesh!". Or that it didn't make sense, which would be the most understandable of all these conditions. But New York LOVES this show!! The Met had to extend its duration for 3 extra months! They had to open on Mondays just to accommodate the crowds of interested viewers !! I LOVE THIS!!!! I love that people want to put themselves through this, that they are in touch with what McQueen is trying to get at!!!! They want the ugly, the pretty, the sad, the triumphant! What a wonderful thing!! To forget about oneself by being completely enraptured in someones vision, only to make you see your own again! People WANT this! Victory for expression!!!
Ok, that was WAY too many exclamation marks. phew.... sorry. I'm not big on emoticon smiley faces, but man do I make it up with exclamation marks sometimes. Rein it in, Mia.
:) :) :) :0
so. Why the title Home? There is a stupid old phrase, "home is where the heart is." Just as many clichés that I hear most of my life, I never really stop to think about what they mean. With this one, I think to myself, "yeah, like your home is wherever you love people... blah blah, and wherever the people closest to you are, blah blah, oh and maybe some sort of spiritual home in there somewhere, like where you feel good, blah blah...." and then I move on.
BUT! But! AHA.. this is when I realize that these dumb old over-used clichés actually MEAN something.
So, Home. Hmm. Well, in light of the fact that I revisited the place where I was born last week, it got me thinking. Maybe that is my home.? But it's not, since I don't live there anymore, right? Or maybe home is wherever I reside today... the airport area of Atlanta?? Really? Home? hmm. Maybe not either. And I'm moving out (again), so it was never really home in the first place. Maybe home is where my parents are? But one lives in Miami, one here, and I love them equally, but I don't think I can have TWO homes, so nope. Maybe home is where I am most comfortable? Well, it's been quite a while since I've been actually comfortable, really, so I don't think it's that either. wait wait... home is where the man I love is. Well, that love isn't right here right now, so I guess that's not it either. I don't have a place seeped in tradition like some people, so that's an obvious out.
So where the hell is home??
Ok, you are probably reading this and rolling your eyes, "dummy... you shouldn't have started the paragraph with the answer..". Ok, so I'm not bright most of the time. I've been moving so much lately. I hop from one place to another. I'm in an apartment in Chattanooga, in my mom's house, in a loft, in another house, maybe in another state in the near future. This is a lot to process. I'm in a transient time, physically, in my life. I'm house sitting, I'm constantly on the road. It's enough to make me a little dizzy, actually. But just when I am about to loose it all and get totally crazy by all the movement, all the tasks, all the decisions, all the things I need to do, a little voice in my head has finally started to kick in. A little voice that has been there for, well, forever, but has been kind of shy in speaking up.
"You are your home"
And this makes the knots go away. It makes all the dizziness, all the disgruntled drives away from what I want to be doing otherwise settle down. I am my home. Mia The Snail, if you will. See, my dear friend Erica, in all of her wisdom, told me something when I moved in to my latest apartment. I was scared. I have this weird fear of being alone sometimes. I guess it's not weird at all. I always wish I could be alone when I'm being pulled by everyone, but when I actually have to face more than a week of being alone, I'm terrified. And now I live and work alone??? Holy crap. That's a lot of, well, ME time. Yikes.
But Erica said it best. "You can choose to make your place your own hell or your own sanctuary". And she's right. When I look at all the places I live, they are mostly sanctuaries, a fact that I never realized. I was sad to leave Italy because I loved it. I was sad to leave Chattanooga because I loved it. I'm sad to leave my little lonely loft by the airport because I love it. So wow. I make little temples all over the place for myself. So why can't I believe that I am one of those too?? Sure, sh#&*t hits the fan sometimes. It's inevitable. We react the way we do because it's all we can do. But that moment, you know that moment... when you come home from work, and you plop down in some comfy place and veg out for a little bit and just relax.... why can't that little room, that little couch just be inside of you? Then you ALWAYS have a place to crash, a place to land, a safe spot. It never moves on you. The lease never lets out. The contract never expires. Ok sure, it's messy sometimes. You forgot to take out the trash. The dog barfed on your shoes (you are your own dog TOO you know..). You hate the color of your couch. BUT it's there. It's all there waiting for you. In your head, in your heart.
Was that just TOO new-agey???
Who knows. It's just what I feel. And I'm totally grateful for it, whatever (wherever) happens.
Tuesday. 1:51 pm. Starbucks by the Atlanta airport.
Why am I by the airport?? Because I LIVE by the airport. Now if this isn't a little trick the universe has in for me, I don't know what is. I'm always talking about traveling, about wanting to be neither here nor there. Well, that's what I get. Be careful what you wish for... you may find yourself in some sort of personal little poem with yourself.
Life does give you what you ask, sometimes. It just doesn't always listen to WHEN you want it. I'm watching this in myself right now. I've been hooting and hollering that I want to work with myself, "date myself" so to speak, and well, here it is. I live alone in a nice loft outside of Atlanta. I work there as well. So, I'm alone. A lot. Ironically, if you look by my bed, these are the books I have to read, am reading, have read: "Reveries of a Solitary Walker", "Start Where You Are", "Traveling Mercies", ""100 Years of Solitude", "The Journey of One Buddhist Nun", "Tao Te Ching", "Travels with Charlie".
Ok, wow. So the Universe is watching and listening, at the very least. It's funny how ideals don't always turn out to be the same in reality. I had this whole idea of being this little enlightened being in my little cave, where I meditate, practice Yoga, and paint all damn day long. I read books about being in the present. I become a vegetarian. Hell, I take care of my plants. Maybe I even adopt a little animal...you know, some cross-eyed one with a leg missing that nobody else wants. I volunteer at the soup kitchen. I paint the souls of people. I never get mad at anyone or myself. I am a calm being full of love. My paintings bring us closer to world peace.
I'm a sorry sight, right now. I'm painting a very large painting, ever so quietly in my new place, trying not to get paint on ANYTHING. This in turn annoys me. It is also a very, very difficult painting, emotionally. And massive. So I go to the store at the end of the day, buy myself a big ol' bag of potato chips (I have a weakness for these since being away from them in Italy for too long), buy a bottle of cheap white wine, and debate on becoming a smoker. Head home. I have no internet at home, so I'm left to basically sit with myself. I rent a movie, which I don't watch. After two glasses of wine, the entire bag of chips , maybe a hundred jelly beans, I walk outside to see the night sky. A train chugs by. A couple thugs across the street make me not step out too far from my place. I'm watching myself. I'm watching my reaction to me. At least right then I was. A few minutes earlier I was just focused on chips and how I don't always make good decisions in my life. Maybe I should start eating WISE potato chips and pray for some sort of culinary osmosis.
And then I get a big old slap in the face from the universe. "My dad is in the hospital" a friend texts me.
Wow. Where was I? I lost sight of the scope. And that's ok.. I'm allowed to lose it. I'll never really be a vegetarian. Or most of those things. But my family is healthy, I'm safe, and things aren't too bad. But this comment from this friend made me see the landscape again. Life is precious, is delicate. It can go at any point, really. So spending too much time poo pooing what I've got hasn't proven to get me anywhere so far. It's not warrior stuff... it's the soft spot. Like the insides of a sea urchin.
And it's normal life. The day in, day out. How I feel about it doesn't actually change what's going on, really. So what I'm having a harder time adjusting? So what the timing in my life seems off? It's ok. I can't fight it. I'm way too small, and am just being asked to be a part of it. So today is a new day. I can only live for today, it would seem. Today is the only thing that is even remotely understandable. And today I'm a softy who lives by the airport. I'm a young woman trying to get to know herself, trying to reach her goals, trying to pay her rent, trying to talk to God every day, trying to watch herself be mean, trying to stay put. That's all I've got. I'm good with that, though.
It has been, shall we say, a week that has ruffled me in multiple ways.
I say ruffled because it brings to mind many very precise ideas for me right now.
As a verb, ruffle means:
1. to destroy the smoothness or evenness of: The wind ruffled the sand.
2. To erect (the feathers), as a bird in anger.
3. To disturb, vex, or irritate.
4. To turn (the pages of a book) rapidly.
5. to pass (cards) through the fingers rapidly in shuffling.
6. To draw up (into a ruffle) by gathering along one edge.
This is a word I was less familiar with, but am now slightly enchanted by. I've already spoken about the pluses of moving.... the hindsight, the slowing of place and space to see visible what was perhaps once camouflaged. There is a thankfulness, an embracing of the unknown.
As with most things, there is another side to this. I would like to tell you I have stayed calm, have fallen right into a rhythm. I would like to say that this has been very easy, that it has been seamless.
But truth be told, I'm uncomfortable. And that is exactly where I should be right now. The first definition of ruffle is perhaps the most accurate. I even like the example. The sand, in all of it's smoothness and beauty, is constantly being moved around by the wind. It is what gives its form a formlessness. I am enthralled by this dance, when I am witness to it.
The second and third definitions are bit more quirky, but I can say that they have been the ones I have experienced most this week. For all of my wants of moving here, and the assuredness of what I was doing, I have been more frustrated with silly things than ever. LIKE ATLANTA TRAFFIC. Any curse words I had in me to describe art and the act of painting have been swallowed by my recent car rides. My feathers were quite ruffled, actually. A Mohawk would be a friendly way of describing the situation.
The fourth definition is one I am not necessarily proud that I do, but one that is inherent to my lack of patience. For all of my present-ness, I have more than once just wished to see the end of the book. Skip all the long paragraphs describing the beauty of the landscapes, the twinkle in their eyes.... did they fall in love OR NOT?? Did she learn her lesson, OR NOT??
The fifth definition is similar to the fourth. In shuffling rapidly, you miss the feel of the cards, how many have gone by, what part of the stack you were paying attention to, maybe even how you were going to scam your opponent.
Are you seeing a pattern here? hmm.
The sixth defintion, perhaps, is my favorite. It is one of poetry, if I may say. "to draw up into a ruffle by gathering along one edge". A ruffle, in tailor/seamstress-speak, is a long line of flat fabric, a cohesive story, if you will. The seamstress folds it, carefully, and pricks her needle through the overlapping parts. In and out the thread and needle go, carefully timed, perfectly placed so that the distances of this trip are all similar and even. When she comes to the end of the long line, she pulls the thread. Slowly, the flat sliver of fabric takes on a three dimensional quality, the folds undulating and repeating as they were fit. She continues to pull, to watch, to gather. At first she is unsure if she has ruined her beautiful ribbon by poking holes and thread throughout its calm texture. She wants to yank, to gather the ribbon into its final form. But she must pull slowly, delicately, carefully. And as the edges begin to make a renewed shape, some of the layers of this ribbon become unseen. They are only perceived, as a graceful and delicate brocade of story line.
This week I was making holes and pushing wire through my story. I was watching myself be gathered, sometimes painfully, by my own hand. Some of the slopes of my ribbon are steep, are disfigured for the time being. But like all that has happened to me before, I continue to gather, continue to pull, continue to try to steady my hand, continue to ruffle.
There is an owl that lives in the tree by my bedroom window. I picture him (or her) to have a ribbon, ever so delicate, tied to his mighty talon.
Above are images of and by Pat Steir. Pat Steir is one of those artists I can't seem to get enough of. Call it a bizarre fascination for Chinese brush painting in a past life, but I feel a connection to this woman's work.
The theme of the past month or so, for me, has been experience. Experiencing where you are, who you are, what you do, those around you. Ok, so it's been way over a month of me writing about this( this whole damn blog is about that..), but the past month it has grown from something I write about, to something I feel like I am actually doing. It's about damn time, too.
I feel like saying damn a lot tonight.
So I look at her work, and I can't help but think that she is in that wonderful in-between space of knowing precisely what she is doing, and trusting the experimental/ freeform/ impromptu experience of the paint. I imagine this is incredibly difficult at times.
Personally, there are many times when I know I can paint something, then paint it again and again (and again and again.......) until it looks right. I mess with it until I kill it. This is also how I learn, sometimes.
This is a big debate for many painters, I think. On one hand, the refined execution of a painting, the labor and toil of it, the "suffering for beauty" if you will, is one that many, including myself, have tried to learn. At some point, though, I think a painter gets good enough (or goes crazy) to have to do this toiling less and less. Funny, when you think about it. You start off with a simple love for, say, paint. You strive through so much work and agony over how to paint, just to try to get to a place where you do less of it, but with more meaning. Ok, not a new idea, "sharpening the saw" was coined by Stephen Covey I think. But still. I'm always amazed when an artist can say what they want in just a few strokes. I feel like the word "choice" is part of this conversation, but I'm not fully sure how yet.
So maybe Pat Steir never spent her time agonizing over details of paint, of how to get it "just so". But I have no doubt in my mind she DID agonize over how to experience it all. Being in the present aint easy. In fact, it takes a long, long time to get there.
BUT, I can say, from the moments when I'm totally with it, it's actually harder NOT to be in the present.
So my question is this: Is there something in your life with which you have not allowed yourself that ninja move? Is there something that, with a little thought and consciousness, you could do in a few steps (i.e. strokes) that would get the job done just as powerfully? No, I'm not going into the ever-present American hustle of efficiency. I'm just putting out a question. Maybe there is someone you love whom you could show that love in something very simple that takes a minute, but has taken you years to learn? I mean, something that you have REALLY learned. Not just chocolates and flowers, folks. Maybe that is taking care of yourself in order to be there for them? Maybe you keep saying something is too hard, but you know in the back of your mind one simple step would get the ball rolling?? Maybe, just maybe, you have some rule blocking you?? Maybe you need to bust your ninja move out. (Ninja Move, for those of you who don't use this term (which you should) is the move that is swift, planned, and perfect, yet seems effortless... the one perfect kick that will get your enemy in .5 seconds, but took 50 years to learn. Yup... THAT move).
Meg says, on a monthly basis, "Erase the line that holds you back". Damn. Right again. Meg is such a ninja.
Ok, so enough for Inspirational Hour With Mia. I'm still a crank, I still drink too much coffee, I still choose to make things complicated, I still leave my wallet in horrible places, I still drool at night (did I just write that..), and I still have days where I want to slash a hole through my canvas. SO THERE.
But, sometimes knowing that being present is actually easier than the mess we otherwise choose makes it a little nicer to get going. or drooling. or whatever.
and.... just so I make it even more apparent that I am utterly un-Zen sometimes.....
Baby animal pic yet again. Lord have mercy I'm lame.
It's friday night. I've been going back and forth between packing all week, doing taxes, being confused, being in the present moment, having moments of enlightenment, moments of sadness. I lost my wallet today, which was particularly annoying, given that I have to go back and forth from Atlanta all week. I could do without the extra work of standing in line at the dmv for a new drivers license and such. But it could be worse.
And tonight I had a wonderfully magical moment.
After a few hours of destroying my house in hopes of finding my wallet, I sat on my front steps and just kind of settled into the feelings I had been grappling with all day. It went like this: It's dark out and unusually warm. I'm in a sleeveless shirt and the breeze feels good on the hairs of my arms. I decide to stop sitting and start walking. I leave my house and walk up the block, one of my very favorite and frequent things to do. I walk up to Main street, then make a right at Market street. At this point, I can see the red lights up above of the ChooChoo sign.
For those of you who don't live in Chattanooga, the ChooChoo was once a central southeastern station for many trains. It was built in the time when we used good materials... brick, metal, the likes. The facade is a large, somewhat square shape with the worlds biggest free-standing brick arch as the entrance. It is my favorite building in Chattanooga. Once inside, it feels like you are walking into another time period (minus some rather awful 80's furnishings). The arches inside of the building are as spectacular as the one outside. They are made of metal that resembles the way the Eiffel Tower was constructed. In the corners of the building are fairly weird crests of some perhaps-imaginary donor. Today it is a thematic hotel. You can sleep in the train cars that are parked behind the station for a nominal fee of $150 per night.
So I walk through, taking in the slight mashed-potato smell of the kitchen. Behind the building is where the lines used to pull up. Here is where the infamous train cars live, now retired from their shift and made to be used as posh little hotel rooms. Between the rail lines are beautiful, manicured gardens, all done up like debutantes.
Tonight the ChooChoo gardens were particularly stunning. I don't know what event is passing through, but the hotel decided to light torches all along the paths. So you have these beautiful old metal train cars, then fire reflecting from every which way.... it was superb. The cherry blossoms are blooming here, and the trees have been decked out with little sparkling lights, so that you can still see the pink of the flowers at night. It was all very decadent.
In the middle of the garden is a little Coi pond. It has all sorts of strange stuff happening in it. There are lilly pads and irises growing, odd junk from the bottom coming up, and of course, plenty of orange, white, and black Coi fish bobbing their big mouths up at you.
But tonight there were frogs! As I walked up to the pond, I could barely hear myself think. They were so loud. As I tried to focus on the intricately leafy surface of the pond, I started to notice some of the plants moving. I sat on one of the benches, and just let my eyes relax at the water and mess of plants. One by one, I started seeing these little creatures, slimy skinned, bug-eyed, loud as can be. They were everywhere!! As I watched them, I could see they would take a big breath, then exhale into a flap of thin skin across their mouth and make a big bubble. The noise was somewhat annoying at first, but when I started to listen, I realized they were calling in groups. I'm pretty sure there was a certain amount of organization in their calling. Glossy bubbles everywhere, I started laughing out loud at the sight of it. Some of the frogs would jump on each others back (hmm..) and try to steal a ride into the water of their companion. They were so sloppy and funny to watch, and I have to admit, I saw a bit of myself in them. Sloppy at times, sometimes looking for shortcuts, calling out to the unknown in annoying ways, jumping out of the pond and getting lost. Unfortunately for yours truly, children don't seem to laugh at me the way they did these frogs.
I'm reading Annie Dillard right now. I'm reading her essay "Teaching a Stone to Talk". The essay starts off with her telling of a young man who is trying to teach a stone to talk.. She describes the stone as a wishing stone. She goes on to describe the lessons between the man and the stone. He is not trying to get it to say the secrets of the universe, but more to say "cup" or "uncle". She also says "I assume that like any other meaningful effort, the ritual involves sacrifice, the suppression of self-consciousness, and a certain precise tilt of the will, so that the will becomes transparent and hollow, a channel for the work".
My take on this is that art, life, love, or prayer could take the place of the word "stone".
She goes on to talk about nature's one remark as its silence. It is always saying and crying out to us "precisely nothing".
We, as humans, try our damnedest to make it speak. Our work, our love, our prayers, they are all to something that only speaks through silence. This is so hard for me to wrap my brain around, and yet I believe it is true. I have felt it when I look for answers. I am constantly finishing the sentences for the universe.
Tonight I listened to those awkward sounds of the frogs. I saw myself in them, and yet, they didn't give two hoots about me. They carried on whether I was there or not. And I liked this. I liked that I could watch the show unfold. I could be part of it, even if my only role was as observer.
About two years ago my friend Erica asked me what role I thought I played in the world. I was confused by the question. She told me that she thought of herself as a healer. It wasn't a role she picked, and yet it was obvious in her make-up. As she said this, I could see it in her, even though it was still unsaid. And the only word that came to my mouth was "mirror". I mirror the things around me sometimes, without speaking. The things around me are my mirror often. Both are obvious, both are intangible. I live to see and be seen with great precision and perfection, absolutely nothing. The pain comes when I expect an answer, usually.
It's 6:41 am. I'm awake. No, I'm not one of those good-people-of-the-world who exercises early. Or to make breakfast for someone. I'm not up because of my insane urge to create. Nope.
Truth is, I can't get to sleep. I have slept poorly for three days now, but I'm strangely ok with it. It is probably all the changes I've been going through.
changes? me? naaaaaaaaw.
Ah, but yes, sweet dearies. Changes. Surprise.
Well, first off, I am moving to Atlanta. It's only an hour and a half away, but it is away from where I live now.
I would like to write about moving now. Moving is a funny luxury we humans have. (Well, I guess a lot of other animals have it too... you know, the whole migration thing.)
ANYWAY. Moving is annoying. Not the to and from, but just all the damn boxes and organizing and taping and labeling and the "I don't know what that is in my fridge, but I don't think it's edible and so I must deal with it" moments of cleaning your old place.
You deal with telling people, seeing their reactions. You have to call people. You have to, God forbid, answer your phone. You have to be responsible and ask for help moving heavy stuff.
A few weeks ago, when I decided to move, I made a HUGE mountain of it. HUGE. In my own head. I piled filing taxes and loss of relationship right on top of that HUGE mountain so that it was, well, the HUGEST BIGGEST DAMNED MOUNTAIN you ever saw.
And so I slept a lot. I would sleep in just so I didn't have to trek to the mountain that day.
You know someone once told me my middle name means small beautiful girl on a big mountain. No seriously. It is a japanese name of humility, apparently. So mountains are my thing, humility I'm still working on.
Did I mention I had bronchitis and a cracked rib when I decided to move? no? Yeah. So the mountain wasn't only high, but I couldn't actually breath the air around it also.
Tell me if the mountain thing is getting old.
But I digress. About two weeks or so ago, I woke up stronger. I decided that I needed to slow down. here I was worrying my pants off about all the little details of moving. But I was missing the moment, and I knew it.
I read a quote off of a french Canadian photographers website once. It said " wait for the thing that you are trying to understand to acknowledge your presence" .
My move, it can be said, was being bullied around by yours truly. So I stopped. I waited to see when it would acknowledge me. And it did. That day even.
Moving allows you to see a place and your experience in it with open eyes. Because you are leaving (if you are not running) you must unavoidably look at it. You are about to transition, and you have many choices of HOW to transition.
I choose to be grateful to this place, Chattanooga. It was my host when I needed one, it was my confidant, my jungle, my place of incubation. I birthed here in some ways. I made stupid decision, buried myself, dug myself out, laughed my bloody eyes out and found a sense of true irony here.
So my personal moving mountain was silenced and acknowledged by the real mountains here, around Chattanooga.
My friend Meg told me about a month ago that I will think the Universe is really funny when I decide to leave. I kind of looked at her awkwardly, loved her, then forgot about it.
I said it once, I'll say it again, that woman is always right.
The Universe is like some prankster or something. For no reason whatsoever, I decided to paint enormous flowers last week. Just to get lost in them, just to let go a bit. I had a ton to do, but I decided to trust that it would get done in some way or another, and so I just let myself paint something fairly foreign to me.
What happened next I still don't believe in some ways. After about 4 days of painting these, big, weird flowers, I sent a photo to the gallery in Charleston. I asked them if it was too weird for them. While I waited for a response, I showed it to a few painter friends here, including Meg. Usually when I show something to her, she loves it. But this painting turned her into a slight lunatic. She ordered me to stick it in her car, and up the mountain (the real one) we drove, to show her friend whom she knew would understand it. And then another friend. There is something about being in a group that understands exactly where you are and whats going on that is irreplaceable.
After an afternoon of the Meg and Mia Road Show, I was fully confident that this thing that I loved to do was legitimate. You see, that painting was me experiencing what I was painting. No photos. No having to prove anything. Just experience, pure, raw, wonderful. I have a rare capacity to focus, I think .
And then at the end of the day, I get an email from the gallery saying "love it. send it. we think we have a buyer". Folks, the thing is dripping wet at this point. If that's not a sign to paint from your heart, I don't know what is.
And that is probably my last painting I actually paint in Chattanooga. I think. Well maybe.
So the universe is sending me off in style.
But wait, there's more.
The universe has also allowed me to see people whom I have known here very, very different, and only now. People I have had many emotions about are being seen to me in a new light. People whom I never saw before are stepping into my light. It's all so ironic. I hate you for singing that song, Alanis.
Ok, so I sound wishy-washy a bit. Can't get TOO personal in the blogisphere ya know.
I guess just a word on moving. We are always moving. We move from one place to the next every day. And the Universe (or whatever you want to call it) is always presenting opportunities for us to see it, to experience it.
Dear, dear readers. How the last post was oh, so tranquil, and oh, so boring if you don't know Chattanooga. I apologize.
So, I spent today with my most favorite of human beings, my friend Meg. After 6 HOURS of trying to get her website up, we decided to give up, call it quits, and go to the bar for a cocktail... at 3:45 pm on a friday.
What? Like you have never done that......
So, as we were talking and thinking up of ways to take over the world, it occurred to me to have a "links" post. Yes, that's right dearies, a post dedicated to the links I look at the most right now.
It's a grey day in Chattanooga. Unusually warm; 73 degrees in February. The clouds are moving quickly over the mountains, and spots of sunshine make colors that are normally left for springtime appear early.
It's a descriptive day today. My sister once got a great piece of art from her friend Michael that said "Practice Description" all over it. Ideal for a gift to a writer.
So it's grey. The branches here have gotten mixed signals from the weather, and are now starting to bloom tiny buds early. I'm scared for them... usually we have another freeze in March, and all those poor blooms will be veiled with a thin coating of ice.
I could find a lot of symbolism in this, but I'm choosing to not go too deep today. My insides feel a little soft, a little scarred, a little tired, so I'm going to stick to what I see and let you all imagine what you would like.
I live near two chicken factories. I'm not at all glad about this fact, but they make for fabulous scapegoats when I get sick (as I am now) and I have a tendency to blame everything wrong with me on them. It's not fair, but its satisfying none the less.
My house faces west, so the sun sets through my living room windows. Today it comes in patches, like right now. Living in the south has a lot of perks, one of those being warm winters. It's pretty quiet today... I can hear the highway in the distance.
I'm practicing description for a few reasons today. I've had a lot of time alone the past few days, and when my inner monologue gets a bit too out of hand, I have a tendency to try and just speak the things I see. Or paint them.
My street is lovely. Sandy "the flower man" is cutting the grass across the street with a cigarette in his mouth. Someone has porch chimes and they are going right now. A young couple is leaving in their car all dressed up. The birds are fighting over little berries. One of them is watching me type while sitting on a wire. A little girl just kicked a bottle of juice like a soccer ball to a friend.
hmm. I looked up my yearly horoscope and it said I would not have a hugely crazy year, but would find much peace in the daily joys. That was the gist of it anyway. I guess today is a bit of that. I feel a lot better when I do this... just take notice of the things around me. I feel like I have a place, I feel like I'm in this too. I see poetry and symbolism all over the place, see colors and shapes that could make someone cry if they were painted as they were.
I'm off for a walk. It's too pretty to be at a computer. Sorry my lovelies:)
Above are just a few paintings by a young woman in New York named Robin Williams . I came across her work this past weekend, when the director of the Robert Lange Studio , Carri, showed me her website. I was kind of amazed by her work, in a way. I kept thinking about her bizarre imagery, and how it is so outside of the box that I seem to be within. That she has allowed herself to go there.
One very kind reader of this blog posted on her own blog (Thanks!) about my past writing on Jenny Saville versus Will Cotton. In some ways, I guess I kind of felt like Robin was a little in-between these two painters. There is something a bit poetic, a bit uncomfortable in her work, and I'm pretty drawn to it. I wouldn't paint this way myself, mind you, but I was also stricken with the idea of decoration and adornment in her work. This is something I have been wrestling with myself, and I like her usage of its triteness.
Carri said it really well on sunday "I like to be pushed".
Me too, Carri. Thanks for introducing me to this young painter!