Amidst the Blizzard

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Here we are, about 22 hours into a blizzard, with warnings of more to come tomorrow. I am shocked by the amount of snow outside and also dismayed that my epic shoveling attempts have now been completely covered over by more and more snow. After a walk in 40 mph gusts, staring at the snow flurries blowing over my desolate stretch of highway, it is natural that my heart and mind start….wandering.

I spent this evening making artwork for a restaurant in Bar Harbor, a place I truly love and for which I have been given carte blanche this season. During this process, I began researching hobo poems.

This was my favorite:

I’m wondering son with the nervous feet,
That never were meant for a steady beat,
I’ve had many a job for a little while,
I’ve been on the bum and I’ve lived in style;
And there was the road, stretchin’ mile after mile,
And nothing to do but go.

Good words to think about: ideas to ponder whilst one is stuck inside, listening to the whistling wind and wondering what is in store for us tomorrow…

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A Long Weekend

It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.”

– Rumi

harbor sunset

Taking time to go away is a hugely important facet of my life; I have long been a lover of travel and of the new experiences that come with it. I truly believe that without all the traveling that I have done, I would not be the person I am today. New places and new ideas, new people and new adventures all contribute to the labourious mosaic of who we are and what we are at any given time.

Tomorrow I am off to the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for a weekend of art-making with fellow Maine artists: jewelers, blacksmiths, wood carvers, fiber artists, and ceramicists. I have never had an experience like this before, and am almost bouncing with excitement. My excitement stems from the traveling aspect of going away from home for four days, meeting new people, learning new skills, but the most important source of excitement is that I really don’t know what will happen, how the next few days will pan out, and how I will feel by the end. This is the joy and beauty of taking a bag or two, or in my case a trunk full of tools, and heading off into the distance for a little while.

I have been ruminating on change a lot lately, being that I feel some fundamental changes have happened within myself, and within many people who are close to me. I have felt these changes incrementally, but didn’t necessarily notice them until confronted with the behaviors and thoughts of those who I haven’t been around in a little while. It is hard, in a place as tiny as this, to notice changes in oneself, because so much time is spent alone, or with a very small group of friends. I find that this metamorphosis, this process that is just in its beginning stages, will catapult me and whoever else is going through the same process, forward into a more present life: a life of trying to accept the past, let it go and move forward. It is hard not to blame your own feelings on the decisions or feelings or behaviors of others.

Today, during a very foggy, almost non-existent sunset, I spent some time drawing out on my deck, at my green picnic table. I haven’t drawn with pastels in years and years. In fact, I haven’t been drawing in so long I cannot remember the last time I sat down and spent time with a large piece of paper and many colors in a small box.

harbor sunset 2

Time to go away, and then experience the joy and beauty that is coming back.

Turning Around

Loser by Shel Silverstein

This post is dedicated to everyone who has lost someone, whether through death or divorce.

In other words, it is dedicated to you.

I left Maine almost a month ago, and so much has happened that it feels like much longer, and yet, like yesterday. I remember the stillness of late summer there, the warmth of the sun and the bite of the first autumn chill in the evenings. I remember long walks and quiet rides in cars, looking at mountains while racing down a small highway. When I return next week, I return to a new-to-me house in a new-to-me town, in much colder temperatures and earlier sunsets.

But. For now. For this moment.

Last year, when I felt very alone one evening while walking to the bank in South Philadelphia, I realized that I had created a life for myself so out of balance that I was now living in a city that scared me at a job that was not fulfilling, and that job was all that I really had. I have never felt more alone than at that moment, and that inspired to change the course of my life to make it better. It was in that moment that I realized that all I had in my life was love for others and for myself, and that love was really all that mattered. It sounds simplistic, but I think it is true. I remember one of the reasons that I became divorced was because we had lost each other in all the stuff of life: the house, the car, the jobs, the junk. I realized that if I was to throw everything we owned onto a pile and burn it, would we have anything left? And the answer was no. Last year, I realized that my life was still not balanced, and I have been working on that balance ever since.  All we have is time, and sometimes we have so much less than we would think.

Lately, I have been thinking about my divorce, and the divorces of others. I am divorced and it seems to mean more to me than it does to others. I can’t really explain this, except that I have spoken to other people who are also divorced and we share the same sense of failure or shame or whatever you want to call it. Some people are able to move through it fast, make a clean break, wash their hands they’re done! But others, like me, even though we may look as if we are over it, take a little bit of time. Almost 4 years to be exact. I feel like, at this moment, I am finally becoming over with the divorce, as if it has passed through me and my time with it is finished.

I got married when I was 23 to a lovely person and we thought we should get married and that we would just work out everything else. And we did, for a short time, until life got in the way. We owned a house together, and once we bought it, we stopped being together. We would physically be in the same house but rarely had substantive conversations. We stopped being a team, we drifted apart, and eventually split apart permanently. Resentment had bred early and festered over a few years. Looking back now, I can see where it was born and how it expressed itself in the eerie quiet that were our discussions.

I remember learning the importance that you come from similar backgrounds during this experience: my ex came from two parents who had been married and divorced three times each, and my parents are still married. Unlike my family, where things get, well I am not going to say worked out but at least tolerated, in his family, divorce was rapid, rip off that BandAid, wash your hands you’re done. One day, after volunteering at the garden in my neighborhood, I came home to find a house almost empty of furniture with divorce papers on the counter. Within weeks, the house was sold and that was that.

Or so I thought. Turns out that I felt a lot of pain and shame and failure about that divorce, even though I know it was best for me and I think, for both of us. Turns out that it is not just like breaking up, although a huge part of it is that pain and that loss and frustration and panic. Turns out that I felt a ton of external pressures looming over me that I had failed my family and my community by not “sticking it out” and by getting divorced. I felt that my family judged me (they didn’t), that some of my friends judged me (but only a few), but more importantly, that my ever-present conscience, or committee in my mind,  disapproved of what I had done. I felt like I had let someone down (I had) and broken a vow (yup, did that one, too). I felt like maybe I would never be good enough to prove that it was the right decision, even though I knew that it was.

I think the problem with divorce is that it is so painful you can be downright terrified to ever risk having it happen again.  It hasn’t been til this week, this transition between Southern California and New Orleans, that I feel like this breath that I have been holding inside my body for three years has been breathed out. For some reason, I held on to that divorce, that pain and that shame and disappointment, for so long. For years! No one held on to it that long, not even the other person involved.

When I get home, I will be part of a small but strong community, and that is a hefty responsibility if you think about it. In Austin, I could get away with being anonymous sometimes, sometimes not wanting to be a part of my community because I was feeling somehow antisocial. In my new town, this will not exactly be possible. Everyone will notice me walking to the post office. Everyone will know I bought milk and cocoa at the store.

Making the choice to live in this magical place, my new-old-summer-now-all-year home is a huge one. It is a commitment to changing the pace of my life, and changing the priorities. I have spent so much of the last 3-4 years (we separated in early 2009) just spinning, confused, and trying to process something that happened that I think just had to have some time pass before it was going to feel better. At some point last week, I realized that only I can stop myself from spinning, can change my perception of myself as rootless and lacking direction. Now I can say, here is where I will be and put down some rootlets into new, rockier, colder soil.

The lurch of divorce is that your whole life was spread out before you and all the people who knew you knew that your life was spread out before you and there was a sense of calm and security when it was good, like, you knew that things were basically going to stay the same and there was someone to support you if things went bad. And you see, when you get divorced, all that flies out the window. All of a sudden you realize that the life you thought you were going to have is either gone or never existed anyway. You realize that the calm and security you felt was inextricably linked to another person who was as flawed as you. You realize that security is gone once that person is also gone. You realize that the person who was supposed to support you really wasn’t able to and now is gone when they were always supposed to stay. So, divorce is disappointing and also earth-shattering and painful and then you have to always say, from now on, that you are divorced. No matter what the reasons or root causes, or how much of a good thing divorce can be after time has passed,  it shakes your world at the core and that shaking is a painful process that can send you spinning off to new schools, new cities, new relationships, and new discoveries about yourself.

I believe I was much too young to get married at the age of 23. I believe now, that if I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would give one piece of advice and one only: take a deep breath and slowwww down. Had I done that, I might have saved myself some of the pain that I have felt over the last 3-4 years. But then again, if all things hadn’t happened the exact way they did, then maybe these realizations would never have happened, I wouldn’t be sitting in a living room in New Orleans really late at night, and wouldn’t be about to start living in Maine.

What have I learned on this trip about myself? I have learned that I am feel more experienced, or older than I thought I felt, and that I want a place to call home. I have learned that I really love cooking in my kitchen for friends or for myself. I have learned that I need to slow down this year and really think about everything that I am doing and how it impacts me and others. I have learned to forgive myself for my mistakes and try to move on. I have learned that I need to take deep breaths and brave steps from now on, looking forward and not desperately reviewing the past looking to change something that is already done. I have learned that I am an almost 32 year old woman who is stepping out onto a vast new plain of life with everything I know holding me up against the unknowns that, no doubt, are hurtling toward me during this new phase, and that I will be more careful with myself and with others, will be more true to my word and dedicated to myself and my friends and community.

I learned quite young that I had to depend on myself. There are lots of reasons for this, and they really don’t matter anymore. What I took from that discovery as a young girl was that I had to do everything myself, no matter what. During this trip, I have seen almost everyone that I really truly love in many different places all over our country. I have spent time with some amazing people and I have an incredibly diverse family of friends who make me happy and fulfilled and inspired. They helped me realize that I don’t just have to depend on myself and I don’t have to do everything myself. They have helped me realize that they love me for who I am just as I love them for who they are, unconditionally. They have helped me realize that new friends or old friends are just simply that: friends. People who are in your life. Who stretch out their arms to hug you or give you their ear to listen. People who will give advice or take it as needed. People who see you at your best and at your worst but most often think that you are at your best, and you them. It is a lovely thought to think that life is changing, that new friends will appear in this life, and that they will be this way, too. That no matter what changes life throws at us, there are a few amazing people that we wander into, and who change our lives by making them that much richer. Each of us as individuals fundamentally change those people we connect with, and all of those connections contribute to the richness of this life.  And no matter what bad things are happening, or how fast this life passes before us, the friendships and the people are the ones who are there to share this crazy trip with us. And that means that none of us are alone, but always surrounded by a beautiful, strong but silky web of people who love us.

I have a daydream quite frequently lately. The daydream takes place at dusk, and the sun is setting behind the bare trees. The light is golden near the sun itself but the rest of the air is crisp, winter blue. The blue you see and feel and know that snow or ice is coming. I am sitting at my front window and there are candles on the windowsill, adding a warm orange glow to the blue outside. Sitting in the window, looking down and out at my quiet little street. Sitting and looking, out and above at trees and fog and birds and clouds. Looking down to discover someone waiting for me to see them, standing there with their hands outstretched, saying hello.

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.

The Passage of Time in a Place

‘YOUR eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.’
And then She:
‘Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, passion, falls asleep.
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!’
Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,
While slowly he whose hand held hers replied:
‘Passion has often worn our wandering hearts.’
The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves
Fell like faint meteors in the gloom, and once
A rabbit old and lame limped down the path;
Autumn was over him: and now they stood
On the lone border of the lake once more:
Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves
Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes,
In bosom and hair.
‘Ah, do not mourn,’ he said,
‘That we are tired, for other loves await us;
Hate on and love through unrepining hours.
Before us lies eternity; our souls
Are love, and a continual farewell.’

 – Ephemera by W.B. Yeats, 1865-1939

For the last few days, I have been walking the two and a half miles from my friend’s house to the jewelry studio and realizing that the quiet time that walking gives me is what is giving structure to my day and to my thoughts. If I don’t walk a long distance, I feel like my day is incomplete.

The other day I went to one of my favorite coffee shops for lunch with a friend. We had amazing salads served by a super cute waitress who looked like Julianne Moore, and I was completely overwhelmed by the experience, simply because of the sheer amount of people who were so uniquely dressed, so funky, so cool.

The culture of Austin encourages uniqueness of spirit and clothing, and the young people here go all out. This is definitely where I get my own sense of style:  having grown up in a city where I was encouraged to be myself. One of the strengths of this city, I think, is its encouragement of people being themselves and not worrying what others think. This makes it a very young city, which is a good and a bad thing. The Peter Pan quality of Austin, or in other descriptive turns of phrase, the Velvet Coffin Effect, is one of the main reasons why I moved away from the city a year and a half ago. But, it sure is nice to visit and see  amazing people and realize how exciting it is to be in a place where there is so much to do.

That being said, however, I find myself overwhelmed by the intense action of this city. I used to find it very laid back, and on this trip I am actually finding it to be incredibly busy, colorful, loud and not the place that I remember it.  I know that, when I lived here, I had a home and a job and all the things that ground your life, but, I think that you gain a sense of perspective once you leave a place and return to it as a visitor. Returning to Austin with eyes wide open after a year of Philadelphia, New York and Maine, has shown me that while I truly love this city and the fact that it helped me cultivate and create my personality from a girl of eighteen to a woman of thirty, that I was right to have moved away.

Creativity has been the theme of my trip to Austin: I have spent much of my time here working on jewelry at my old studio off South Congress. There are few places in the world that I love more than this studio. The studio is in an old building above an antique shop called Uncommon Objects, and I have been working there for about five years.  I find the space itself inspiring and welcoming, and every time I go inside, my mind starts working on overdrive to make make make and to dream of one day having my own studio that is filled with a million inspiring objects.

Is clutter and collection a part of the creative process?

It definitely seems to be; all my friends, myself included, who are intensely creative are magpies of a sort. We collect, display and learn about many different things. Our houses are filled with tiny trinkets and artworks, seemingly random objects that hold an amazing beauty and inspire the process of making new things. I cannot tell you the joy I get from wandering through junk shops, looking through piles of old photographs, or installing a new treasure into a corner or shelf of my home simply for the joy of looking upon it.

For me, home is a place to decorate as if it were a living museum, dedicated to the beauty of strange objects. Home is an art work, one that is never completed.

About six months ago, after years of massive upheavals, I decided to fundamentally change my life and take this year off to reflect. Making that decision was a scary one, but just now I am beginning to feel that I am on the right course.

My Cross Country Tour has been very disruptive to me and makes me feel, sometimes,  like I am falling off track or something, but I am learning to just go with it and let it flow. Every moment I am thinking and learning about myself and what I want to be doing with my time. I am trying to pay attention to everything that I see, taking note of trees and flowers, rocks and houses, people, cars , animals, stores. I am trying to let go of controlling my thinking so that, especially as I walk, the thoughts that are important bubble up into my conscious brain and realizations are then made.

Today’s post rambles around a bit: I think this is the problem I am having here is that there is so much going on that everything is distracting. But perhaps this leg of the journey, these moments, are opportunities to be in the present and experience what is going on around me. To not over-think, just to be for a little while, watch and listen, create some beautiful objects, remember and think forward to two weeks from now, when I will have a home of my own again.

“Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.

To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.

To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.”

Shooting Script by Adrienne Rich

Wind & Sirens

Image

Wind on 84th Street

 

“Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”

Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes Were Watching God

 

Traveling is disruptive to the spirit, no matter how happy you are to see people you haven’t seen for a long while. Feeling disconnected, and detached, the noises of the city at night are disconcerting. Deep breaths with eyes closed, visualizing home…..good night.