Being Guided

Clouds may block the moon
Covering your reflection
Still I see your face

I experienced a lot of wending and winding in the month of October, and as we slip into November, it seems much the same. With October came the loss of my jewelry studio of 10 years: a wonderful place that I shared with like-minded spirits and its beautiful owner and wrangler of souls: Bob. I miss that place, and hope we find a new venue soon. I am experiencing a lot of friction at school with teachers whose ethos don’t match mine, and my great, ever-expanding heart is more than a bit bewildered at what seems like powering the Shame Train in the direction of 7th grade little girls rather than thinking about them as the delicate little fledglings that they are. 7th graders…so special. Then, an agreement and a plan to take over a friend’s farm, a process that has involved a huge amount of time and energy over the last year fell through at the last minute, due to differences in expectations.

I am endlessly fascinated by humans, and by our ability to change our lives so fundamentally, so quickly. The friend who owns the farm is about to have her own baby, but can’t seem to see that the reality that we have a 13 year-old would make us want to live on the farm, as originally agreed, by ourselves. It is strange to be a step-parent who is now fully-oriented in the direction of this kid’s success. I have all these little girls who I work with every day, and while I think of him slightly differently because he lives in my house, I care about each of them just the same: I think about the power of their self-determination, and my own determination to give them access to knowledge without limit, with laughter and love.

Nevertheless, I am disappointed, a bit worried, and a bit sad. But, the clock of time and life keeps turning, and I found myself on Saturday afternoon touring the UT Austin Art Building as part of the MFA Open House. I learned that the program is fully-funded, that all grad students teach, and that, as a grad student, I would have access to all the studios, all day- and night- long. It seems like an amazing opportunity. As I was walking back to my car along San Jacinto street, I was reminded of being a student there over ten years ago: wandering around under tree branches and in the shadow of buildings. There are many new buildings now, and I am older. I think that if I am afforded this chance, I will spend every day, in the morning, drinking coffee under this one very crinkled Live Oak that grows between the Art Building and the Texas Memorial Museum, just thanking my lucky stars that led me to this.

So, I digress. But, all is not lost, or bad. The theme for this month is, indeed, “Turning the Soil”, and it would seem that is what is happening. Stirring the pot a bit, turning over new and old leaves, exploring ideas and options, focusing on the fact that the right thing will happen, even if I can’t see it right now. We went and looked at a property in Elgin yesterday: an old house that needs work and sits on 5 acres. I immediately thought of learning how to use a chainsaw and hacking down some trees to create a campground back in the property somewhere. I thought of creating spaces for birds to eat yummy birdseed and live in the old trees. I thought of the old building on the property that we think is an abandoned brick house with trees growing out of it: very Secret Garden. Neither of us ever thought of living in Elgin til we drove out there yesterday and saw all the old Victorian houses, the horses in paddocks, the Cottonseed Oil Mill, the old depot, the downtown of Southwest-style brick buildings and tiny shops: a place for a farmer’s market, a co-op, and a thrift shop. I thought: good enough for me! Life is full of surprises: if you don’t watch it, it will change on you in a blink, as my grandma would say.

I think it’s time to wait this out, finish the art projects that need to be added to the portfolio, stand tall, and look inward.

Maintain an open heart in your stillness;
This cycle of obstruction shall pass
Walk with peace in every step.
#12
Above      Qian/Gan        Heaven, energy, spirit power
Below       Kun        Center of the Earth, responsiveness
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Be Thou The Rainbow In The Storms of Life

rainbowRainbows are created through the refraction and reflection of sunlight in small raindrops; the sun must be behind you, and the raindrops must be in front of you. Rainbows are often helped by beautiful surroundings, especially by those happy accident moments one finds oneself in whilst driving quietly back through the countryside, in Maine, in late September.

Slightly more than a year ago, I began this written journey with you. Now, as I sit, feeling the creeping edge of autumn’s chill come through the cracks in the door, cracks that must be fixed of course, I think about all that has changed, and all that has stayed the same.

“And as he spoke of understanding, I looked up and saw the rainbow leap with flames of many colors over me.”

Black Elk

P at Sam ShawsDrink Me! – On Islesford

Please take a listen to this mix – L’Autre – by my friend Angel. It is perfect for this time of year…

Six Houses in One Year

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”

– Anais Nin

Gypsy Caravan Simple Sue 2The tiny, less than 350 square foot-ness of my new house is making me think of the interiors of caravans. When I was a little girl, we would drive through the countryside in England and sometimes, I would be lucky enough to catch sight of these in fields. I have always dreamed of making one of my own…

I have lived a vagabond lifestyle over the past year; leaving my row house in South Philly last April started a path of moving every month or two, from house to house.When I move into the new house next week, it will be my sixth home in one year. A year ago, I lived on Rosewood Street, in between Broad Street and Mifflin Street in the Newbold neighborhood of South Philly. About one year ago, my house was broken into and everything I owned was thrown into piles of disarray in the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. I remember walking through the door that day, into the darkness of the living room, darkness created by heavy velvet curtains on the front windows, and noticed the cushions of the couch, books, decorations were all jumbled on the floor, tumbled into a giant mess. When I walked upstairs into my room, my mattress was tossed in one direction, and everything in my bedroom was torn asunder, cabinets opened, shelves ripped apart, everything on the floor as if a tornado had ripped it all apart.

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I remember that night vividly, despite the tequila haze that clouded my vision. I spent the whole night on my leather couch, after putting it back together, calling everyone I knew and trying to figure out how this all happened. I kept walking upstairs to try to deal with my bedroom, only to see it again, and walk back downstairs. It took me 24 hours to be able to even go into that room.

After that day, I never felt safe in the house, and ceased to sleep well. It has taken until the last few weeks to be able to sleep well again. About a month after that, my roommate and I got rid of all but our most important possessions, and moved out: she to her brother’s house, and me to my friend’s. That was house #2, in Germantown. It was a beautiful house filled with a beautiful family and their many pets: I shared a room with a canary who sang. House #3 came about a month or so later, when I drove to Maine and landed in my parent’s basement. I took every sheet I could find and made the basement into a giant tent, in which I lived until August. In August, I moved into House #4 in Seal Harbor, Maine; a house with no cell phone reception. I had to walk one mile to the beach to use my phone, and spent many nights there sitting at the dining room table, facing my demons, writing about them, meeting them halfway. I spent nights sitting on the Seal Harbor beach sketching, and drank tea on the rocks in the waning summer sunlight.  In late September, I traveled across the country, and then returned to Maine in late October, moving into house #5, on Lookout Lane in Northeast Harbor. Here I have been, in the house that floats above the street, in this beautiful garage apartment, until now. Next week, I shall gather together the few possessions that I have in bins and boxes, and trundle across town to the new house. The house that I don’t have to leave, because, although I am still a renter, it is mine.

The little house that sleeps on the harbor, up on a hill, next to a day parking lot, and a tree-lined path down to the ocean. Across the street from a few houses, an art studio, a restaurant, and a jewelry gallery, behind a museum and a demolition company with a fleet of red trucks.

A Process….

schoolhouse ledge 10

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Anais Nin

I have a hard time with words, sometimes; sometimes they get stuck just at the back of my throat, or the tip of my tongue, and the thoughts are so clear in my head, they run over and over in perfect rhythm and phrasing, but won’t come out.

This is probably why I draw so many pictures, take so many photographs, write out so many poems and passages by hand, make so many things to give to people. It’s like if someone can look at something that was crafted by my hands, even if it is the words of someone else, and understand, well, then my own lost words don’t mean as much.

gold ingot 1

One of the aspects of living in my new, smaller than small town, the town without a restaurant with regular hours, where the grocery store closes at 6 p.m., where the gas station may or may not be open, where the post-woman takes a two-hour lunch, where most of the houses and shops are now empty until early summer, is that I spend much of my time alone, thinking, writing here on my laptop, darning sweaters or hemming trousers or sewing dresses for people, and making jewelry. I count this time as one of the most productive of my life; this quiet time is so powerfully important to me and I can feel elements of myself change with the days as they pass, so quickly.

I am experimental here, and silent. I notice things that used to pass me by: deer in the road, the rustle of the last leaves on the trees, all pale copper against a grey background of tree trunks, blue jays taunting me from ground to branch, the fact that one of my crows (there is a family of 5 that visits me in the mornings) is missing a wing feather or two. I have since learned that this means that she stole food from a smaller, faster bird who pulled out her feathers to stop her from stealing food again. I notice the crunch of gravel under my feet, and the sounds that the boys’ skateboards make as they coast down the streets. Today, at 4 p.m. I noticed a bright sunset descending over Somes Sound: bright orange and pink in stripes against blue clouds, the background. The sun sinks so fast, so early, at this time of year.

Yesterday, I melted down gold for the first time. I prepared my crucible with heat and Borax, added the gold scavenged from my jewelry box, and poured a tiny 14 karat gold ingot.

gold ingot 2

The process of melting down gold is not complicated, especially if you have melted down silver before and know how it changes from bits and pieces into slumpy, bumpy, almost pocked, shapes before it blobs together into a giant circle of mercury-looking molten metal that sloshes around the crucible as you toss in borax to pull the impurities out, continuously heating the porcelain, before you pour it into the ingot mold, or in this case, the tiny mold carved out of charcoal with an Exacto knife.

gold ingot 3

The process of living here, of accepting changes, of getting to know people, of understanding a role in such a small place, where outsiders are wondered about, stared at, talked over, is a different one. With jewelry, you can learn a method and follow its steps over and over again. When it comes to people, each of us so individual, you must follow a different path with each new person who crosses the path.

A friend of mine said to me the other day that in a small town, you really learn a lot about what it is to be human, what it is to be a person. This is, I think, because you see each other so often, at multiple times each day, every day, and there are so few of you that you see how people change from morning to afternoon to night. You learn to decipher people’s facial expressions based on what you know about them from days’ past. You learn to forgive people’s indiscretions or flaws because you are dependent on them, because there are so few of you around. You learn to love everyone in their own way for their specialness, for their quirkiness. You learn to play your cards close, to be a smidge mysterious, to be more introverted than perhaps you would be in a larger place. This is, of course, because everyone talks about everyone anyway: it is important to keep most of the information to yourself, to keep them guessing, anyway.

I have learned a lot about people, being here for almost two months. I have learned that I love quirky people, and happen to have landed in the town that is populated with eccentric, kooky, strange, nutty people. A woman I met the other day told me that our town is the “island of misfit toys”, and I think she is almost certainly correct. I have learned that it is all right to be quiet and watch, to seriously commit to listening more and talking less.

I am beginning to learn forgiveness here: forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of others. I am beginning to understand that we all are truly different from one another, and it is a miracle to find even a handful of people who can attempt to understand each other long enough to bond, to care, to spend time together and then be friends. I thought, upon moving here, that I would instantly have a group of friends, and have found that to not exactly not be the case, but that the process is a bit more involved. I am beginning to see relationships as a process of give and take, of letting go and holding on, depending on the moment, of smiling and listening, trusting and reaching out, of risking yourself just…enough.

There were always in me, two women at least,
one woman desperate and bewildered,
who felt she was drowning and another who
would leap into a scene, as upon a stage,
conceal her true emotions because they
were weaknesses, helplessness, despair,
and present to the world only a smile,
an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”

Anais Nin