A Process….

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“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

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Si Tu Me Olvidas

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Si Tu Me Olvidas

Quiero que sepas
una cosa.

Tú sabes cómo es esto:
si miro
la luna de cristal, la rama roja
del lento otoño en mi ventana,
si toco
junto al fuego
la impalpable ceniza
o el arrugado cuerpo de la leña,
todo me lleva a ti,
como si todo lo que existe:
aromas, luz, metales,
fueran pequeños barcos que navegan
hacia las islas tuyas que me aguardan.

Ahora bien,
si poco a poco dejas de quererme
dejaré de quererte poco a poco.

Si de pronto
me olvidas
no me busques,
que ya te habré olvidado.

Si consideras largo y loco
el viento de banderas
que pasa por mi vida
y te decides
a dejarme a la orilla
del corazón en que tengo raíces,
piensa
que en esa día,
a esa hora
levantaré los brazos
y saldrán mis raíces
a buscar otra tierra.

Pero
si cada día,
cada hora,
sientes que a mí estás destinada
con dulzura implacable,
si cada día sube
una flor a tus labios a buscarme,
ay amor mío, ay mía,
en mí todo ese fuego se repite,
en mí nada se apaga ni se olvida,
mi amor se nutre de tu amor, amada,
y mientras vivas estará en tus brazos
sin salir de los míos.

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If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loveing me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Pablo Neruda

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The Devil Made Me Do It

Leonard Cohen was once interviewed on the radio about the meaning of his song, “Chelsea Hotel #2”. In that interview, he was asked who the song was about, and he answered, “Janis Joplin”. Later, he said he had no idea why he had said that, and that “the Devil made me do it”.

A Very Weathered Stop Sign

Sorry for the long absence: I traveled across the country again and now am sitting in oh so sunny Southern California, recovering from a nasty case of sunstroke. Turns out that I no longer have the magical heat tolerance that becomes an inherent part of life in central Texas. Turns out that a year and a bit of life in the Northeast makes you into a delicate, cool weather flower.

Red Flowers on the Highway

I have been mulling over the idea of Risky Business for the last few days: how we handle risk assessment in our lives and what we do about it. How do we know how to manage risk, especially in affairs of the heart and the guiding decisions that effect what we do with our time. I had breakfast the other day with an old friend and we got to talking about the dark spots inside your heart and how navigating them can be oh so difficult. Sometimes you fall in love with a person who seems like your ideal on the Earth only to find out flaws within them that make continuing the relationship a high-risk situation where your heart is most definitely on the line. Making the decision to say: this risk is too high is one that is immeasurably difficult when one is already in love. In other ways, managing risk in your life can lead to beautiful things like friends being supportive of your decisions and strangers coming out of the woodwork to surprise you by helping. New friends can drive around new towns in their truck and tell people what a great person you are, while old friends may completely cut you off because they cannot deal with the darkness of your heart, or your inherent vulnerability.

There are so many planes here that the sky is striped

Sabotage, that pesky action when you see what you should do, what you can do, and instead do the thing that will intentionally bring about a negative result, or at least an ending, is a funny aspect of our emotional life. You may ask yourself: why would anyone assess the risks of a given situation and choose to destroy it on purpose? But yet, people do all the time. I am never sure, in cases of emotional sabotage, whether it is an unfair test or simply a way to guarantee a result in a world where paths ahead are inherently unclear. In my life, I take risks and put my feet upon the path, but for others, the risk of happiness or sadness, of fulfillment or disappointment, is too high and therefore, they create a way to know what will happen by destroying the possibilities. Fear is such a foul emotional state; so difficult to keep at bay, but yet, the opposite of love, the opposite of what I would hope the purpose to life truly is.

I went to one of my favorite people the other day for some Cranial Sacral Therapy and I told him that, lately, I have been very afraid of people and their capacity to hurt one another. He told me, “But Patience! The only thing to fear is fear itself!” And he is right, of course.

A Golden Afternoon

This decision of mine to not return to teaching, to forge ahead and become a jeweler, artist and writer instead of what I have created for myself as a sure path of security and stability in this uncertain world, was a huge risk. I can calculate the obvious risks to situations very well: I consider myself to be self-reliant and analytical in many respects. These skills have contributed to my successes but also to my failures: to the sadnesses and disappointments that have coloured some of the time over the last four years. I know now that I will always be ok, but I also know now that just because I can see the path ahead and have a plan on how to do something, that unless I really think it will lead to  happiness or at least contentment, that I don’t need to take those risks to prove something to myself or others. The place where I consistently fail, or at least mis-judge, are the more secreted risks, the skeletons in the closet. I consistently look for the best in people, and ignore or potentialize their best qualities to a point of blissful ignorance that results in my pain or disappointment.

Feet Crawling Around on Big Rocks

So how do we manage risk in our lives in order to keep growing and changing while managing the fear of failure, the fear of others’ capacities to affect us?

One of the greatest thing about traveling for long distances over quite a bit of time is the moments of moving from place to place when you are forced to, usually, sit in one place or another for quite a bit of time and either read a book, knit a shawl, or write page after page, noting as much that has happened as possible in the gridded pages of a Decomposition Book. During these times, I keep finding that ideas bubble up from deep inside my mind to the surface and are understandable. I find that I am intensely creatively inspired by this time, and actually have the mental space and physical time to write things down, to take notes, sort out ideas and concepts.

Maybe the risk of time off is that you spend a lot of time inside your mind, especially if you are lucky enough to travel from place to place alone. But the opportunity afforded to create artwork, take photographs, write, simply just look around while walking, is a priceless benefit of taking the risk of being true to yourself.

Oh Desert…Vazquez Rocks

I sometimes, a lot of times, take huge risks. My family always jokes that I don’t know the meaning to the word no, and I personally believe that if you want to do something, you just should go out and do it and see what happens. For the most part, the risks that I have taken have been hugely beneficial to making me the person I am today. I believe in risk-taking, following your heart or being true to yourself, or however you want to phrase it: the idea is still the same. Calculate your risk, make your choice, live with the results hoping that they are good. Some people look at me and see a woman in a whirlwind, one that has been spinning now for four years, and is just now slowing down.

Southern California Sky

Some of us, all of us at one point or another, get stuck in gilded prisons of our own making. We let the fear of the risks associated with a decision overwhelm the realities of it. Some people stop in their tracks and don’t make dangerous decisions. Some of us create a test of failure. Some of us abandon, and some of us destroy intentionally. Whatever type of wall we put up serves a certain, individual purpose. However, these walls are dangerous when they keep good people out, or bad people coming back through the same gate. The problem is that at a certain age, these cages are easy to disguise and only appear from time to time, betraying the fears, the insecurities and the stubbornness that comes with a sizeable chunk of time on the planet.

Sunstroke

Lately, I am very confused by many decisions that people make, especially in terms of daily happiness and love. We all make mistakes, we all learn every day, at least I hope we do. We all repeat our mistakes over and over again, until we actually can see them like other people do. We deny our role in the breaking apart of people or life path. We beat ourselves up for mistakes made instead of saying: that mistake happened and now it is time to learn from it and move on. We sometimes choose to surround ourselves with people who can hurt or spread their disappointment to others, and then think that we can fix them with our love, when we know clearly that the only person who can change you is you, yourself.

Desert Canyon

Risk is taking leaps out into the world, knowing all we do and more importantly, all we don’t.