To Thine Own Self Be True – Happy New Year 2017

Musings on a new year are forthcoming. It has been almost six months since I have written here: a place that used to be an almost daily practice. But things shift, and change, and priorities, too. Change, as I said to the man in Home Depot about how to heat houses in Texas, is the only constant that we can count on.

So let’s dive in to a new year. It is 2017, which makes it my lucky (to me) 37th year on planet Earth. For as long as I can remember, 37 has been my lucky number. I can’t tell you why or where it came from, just, that as a small girl, I noticed the number 37 all over the place and began to associate it, and foxes, with luck or, perhaps, an awareness of the magical influences in my life.

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Being that it is 2017, it means that I graduated from high school 18 years ago, and college 13 years ago. That seems like an awfully long period of time, and one could, I suppose, wax and whine poetic about the passage of time, but here’s a thought: my life since those two major life events has involved travel and art and love and friends and being a grown up, all of which add up to the ineffable truth of my life: that life post education is the richness, the soup, the delicious Caesar salad with anchovies of existence. Adulthood is beautiful and fractured, delicate and stressful, colorful, moving, changing, solid, long, and, for me, quite happy. My tune has changed quite a bit since I started this project about four years ago.

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South Philly’s Magic Gardens by Isaiah Zagar 

 

I have a couple of themes for 2017. Last year I focused on having a Year of Patience, and worked on what felt right for me. For the most part, it worked out very well. I established some boundaries, I was very creative, I was inspired by and inspired many young people, I lost a great friend, gained some new ones, and reconnected with some old ones, I moved out of the city, and I thought, a lot. The themes for 2017, so far, are clarity and staying the course: in other words, to thine own self be true BUT also, check in with that self regularly because, as adults, life moves very fast and it is very easy to get in the habit of moving and working and doing so that you don’t actually know if the path you are on is the right one for you.

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Image of neurons in the brain under activity from the Franklin Institute’s exhibit “Self Reflected”

 

There are some things that I am doing this year that, I hope, will help with flying along the migrational path of these themes. I have recently become reinvigorated in the jewelry department after a couple of craft shows around the holidays, and have decided to up my game a bit and try to get some pieces in galleries that I would like to see them in. I gifted myself 10 opals to help in this process! They are beautiful, and will become two bracelets that are inspired by internal structure, structural integrity, and the warrior’s spirit.

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Some of the opals are here displayed by the stone cutter who cut them especially for me!!! Everyone should check out Mountain Song Jewelers

 

Also, I am gifting myself a plane ticket to England. I decided it was time to put up or shut up about going to England, as I have said every year since 2009 that *this* is the year that I am going to go, and then I don’t do it. This year is the year. I am flying out around the 20th of July, and will come back around the 20th of August, to start another school year with flying colors and, hopefully, much inspiration. I will see family, tour gardens, watch the ocean, go to museums, drink tea, go mudlarking, and get in touch with my roots. I will see what happens after that, but I became so excited about this the other day that I became teary-eyed and that was what cemented the decision. I was daydreaming about landing at Gatwick, getting in a black taxi-cab, and traveling through the streets of London to my aunt’s house. I was looking up and around out of the windows, watching the comings and goings of the city. My heart swelled, and I decided I would just make it work.

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Kynance Cove on The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, England…just looooooook! 

 

That is really it in terms of plans: jewelry-making and traveling. I want to travel as much as I can, get out there into the world and take some chances. Also, I am becoming deputized to register people to vote, and will have my Deputy Patience face on every day at school to help teachers and parents and students understand how to register and how to vote. I think it is something that I can actually do in these strange times in which we find ourselves. One question that keeps coming back to me is: what do I do? I think I have an idea, which is to wait. Wait and listen. Listen and wait. Think about the goals, and work toward them. Allow everything else to be nebulous. Stay the course, but remain flexible. Someone told me that the mark of a successful person is, when confronted with something not exactly as you would like, you make do anyway. I think she is right. She was commenting on my disappointment in a lack of plain milk chocolate bars in her store, and so I took a risk and bought one with pretzel bits in it. It was her observation that I was a successful person. I took the compliment, and the chocolate, with delight. It was delicious, by the way.

The Seer by Andy Moerlein, 2012 – sculpture of bent branches at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn

 

I was back in Maine in November for Thanksgiving, but I ended up spending about half the time in Portland with friends. We went to restaurants and bars and drove around a lot. Meg and I met a really funny Maine Guide in a gas station somewhere between Brunswick and Bar Harbor who told us he was writing a book that was a cross between Hustler, 50 Shades of Grey, and Downeast Magazine. I went to a bar called the Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box that had a magical mural painted behind the bar, and all the menus were framed in old brass thrift-store frames. I ate dumplings a-go-go and drank delicious special cocktails with things like Cymar and Frenet and egg-whites and lavender in them. I went walking with my friend Tony to Two Lights Park on a very cold and sunny day and we looked at rocks and the ocean. We were talking about relationships and people and life and memory, mostly, and we met some people who were walking their long-haired whippets along the same path as us. They remarked on the beauty of the day, and I too, was struck by the blue of the water, and the shiny brown undulating forms of the rocks at its edge.

Oh Maine, you beautiful place, you. Two Lights State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

 

Maine water is the deepest blue, so clear but yet so cold and deep: like a sapphire that stretches and moves out to the horizon, dotted by boats, glinting in the sun. I miss Maine, and decided at that moment, that I’d like to be there, again. As my friend Carolyn has said, it looks good on me. I miss the people, the ocean, the trees, the seasons, the natural beauty, the enveloping environment, the quiet, the peace of it. I know now that nowhere is perfect, and I know now that I love Texas at its heart and soul, and I love Maine, too. Over the last few weeks, I have realized that I could work with and teach refugee and immigrant children up in Maine, in Portland or Lewiston-Auburn, and keep working on the mission that I started eleven years ago, as a baby teacher, at the young age of 25. Little did I know then that I would end up, 11 years later, an art teacher at a girls’ school, aiming to inspire a sense of art, of criticism, of laughter, of bewilderment, of creativity, of capacity, and of resilience in a band of young girls, embarking into their own adult world. Their world seems different than mine was at the age of 18, but perhaps it truly isn’t. I suppose I will have to ask them in almost 20 years.

I could write about my critiques of our current political situation, of the current political situation in Texas, but I won’t today. Perhaps later. For today, this is simply a forecast and a casting of wishes like dandelion seeds out into the ethers for a new year. Here we are. Hope *is* a verb, as I have learned, and clarity is my mission. Stay true to myself, and remember to have a lot of fun. Human connections, art-making (which this semester includes puppets!), and food with friends are what stave off the cynicism and the despair that creeps in at our society’s edges. Hold it at bay with sword in hand!!! Whatever your sword is, wield it with love not malice. To win, we stay peaceful and present and we bring light into dark places, understand that each day is new, that nothing is permanent, and that our friends are what help us mark the passage of time, not things, or money, or calendars. These are my wishes for our new year. Happy happy to you. May all your wishes come true, allowing for the almost certainty that what you wish for will change.

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Stranger in a Strange Land

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In life come moments of clarity. This vision is only offered, not commanded. Your choice is to live in a state of grace or continue in normality. No blame. Fear can be an awesome obstacle when a time like this is presented. You will make great advancement and find your truth if you discharge fear and deconstruct your doubts. – the I Ching

The first tincture was of redwood and honey, I think, and the second was a spritz to the face that smelled like roasted poblano and brought me back to San Miguel de Allende’s dusty, windswept streets. In an instant it was changed to a murky, chocolate-flavored stuff that reminded me in some ways of coffee grounds. The last was a smear to the face of something golden from a large jug. This all happened during a story-circle for this month’s Pisces Full Moon: a circle of story-tellers and singers.

Moments of clarity and feelings of grounding have been hard to come by since my return to Austin; I feel like the place that I once called home is physically here, but everything is so different, including myself. Last night I saw old friends who didn’t even know I was back, and it made me realize that I haven’t truly been “living” here but continuing my attitude and behaviors of passing through, of being a drifter in one place or another. This is amplified now by still being separated from many of my belongings who still lie quietly in Maine, waiting for me to bring them here.

Last night’s theme was one of homecoming, and the first storyteller told a tale of being from Austin and just coming back after being a long time away in a very different place. Hers was the desert and mine was a northern island, but the feelings were the same. She said that a place becomes you, and I think she is right: I think I have even written here how I felt that life in Maine made you feel as if you were the environment that surrounded you: everything so interconnected, changeable, beautiful, mysteriously dark. Perhaps she felt the same away about her desert far away.

Homecoming is this idea full of levels of complication that start with the reality that you can never come home again: that home is different and so are its people. In my case, this city has transformed and swelled so that it seems like it is bursting at the seams, liable to just pour outward in a great torrent of people, cars, and buildings. This town, to me, always seemed a little sleepy and slow, not like Bar Harbor of course, but it was a nice feeling to feel at ease in a place all the time. And now the pace seems so fast that it seems likely to get swept up in it and carried along, without knowing which way you want to choose to go.

Is life so full of chapters? Apparently so.

Racing and Hunting

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Early on a late September morning: foggy, damp, warm but a slight chill lingers. A very quiet town: also very dark. Slowly a few cars creep along the streets: coming, going, searching, watching. It is the time when everyone and everything is calming down and people don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Rushing here, running there, overexerting energies to fill now empty spaces.

TWELVE

The five colors blind the eye.

The five tones deafen the ear.

The five flavors dull the taste.

Racing and hunting madden the mind.

Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.

He lets go of that and chooses this.

Time

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Gone are my long, wistful days of winter-spring when all I had to do was work a little bit and play alot, traipsing through my tiny town in my black Bean boots, staring at the wind and the sun’s movements across the landscape.

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Now it is summer and there are flowers everywhere and the grass is green! The air is hot, sometimes, the sun shines bright, and the days fly by. Tomorrow is July 23rd? How is this true? It seems only yesterday it was the beginning of May.

A couple of hours ago, I walked out of the restaurant in which I work, into the darkness of almost-midnight, and felt a chill upon the air. Realizing, in that moment, that summer is halfway over, and that the chill is slowly returning,will be slowly returning as the light begins to leave us again, made me think of how strange it is to live in a place where the weather is so dynamic that as soon as you get used to one feeling in the air, it will change into something completely different.

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My days, at the moment, are spent working at one of three places. I feel so behind on making jewelry!! I feel like time is just slipping out of my hands: there is not enough of it! But oh well, such is the way of the summer. Yesterday I went to an amazing part at the 10 Spot Labs on Islesford and spent the afternoon with friends, sitting in the sunshine and under the shade of fir trees. I walked through a door that was floating in between two trees, I watched a girl skinny-dip in the ocean, I stared at strange fertility sculptures that decorated the hallway leading to a bathroom, I received a lovely compliment from the Compliment Booth, I laid down on a dock in the late evening and fell asleep, surrounded by friends.

Despite its pace, summer is a lovely time, isn’t it?

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Monday Mix Tape

***because we all need help on Mondays***

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Lisa Congdon Illustration

Gordon Lightfoot – Cold on the Shoulder

Karen Dalton – Something on Your Mind

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Robert Plant – Big Log

Stevie Nicks – Rooms on Fire

Foster the People – Warrant

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A.O.S. – History Repeats Itself

Atlas Sound – Te Amo

Fleetwood Mac – Need Your Love So Bad

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Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World

Neil Young – Tell Me Why

Kristin Hersh – Me and My Charms

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Allison Krauss & Gillian Welch – I’ll Fly Away

Gesi Bagari – Selda

Norah Jones – Not Too Late

Ani Difranco – Educated Guess

il_570xN.395361987_48vbHere’s hoping! Have a great Monday, y’all!

Craft-work

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Phew!

Christmas has been soooo busy, in a wonderful way. I am finishing up my last two custom projects: one a mermaid dress, and the other a Frida Kahlo-inspired necklace, and am just thrilled to be finishing them and be happy with how they have turned out, and to be able to see ahead a few days from now to a day or two of downtime, before preparing for new work and new motivation.

I love being a creative person, and to be making my living (just barely right now, but I have high hopes for lucky ’13) from my creative processes is enlivening and affirming. Today I received a new order and a surprise purchase. Things are moving in the right direction. Photos soon….I promise to be better organized in the documentation department from now on: it is one of my (many) resolutions.

For tonight, off to bed, after Lao Tsu gives us his wisdom for today:

TEN

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,

Can you avoid separation?

Attending fully and being supple,

Can you be as a newborn babe?

Washing and cleansing the primal vision,

Can you be without stain?

Loving all men and ruling the country,

Can you be without cleverness?

Opening and closing the gates of heaven,

Can you play the role of woman?

Understanding, and being open to all things,

Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,

Bearing yet not possessing,

Working yet not taking credit,

Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Vision.

Thinking about the future……

A Clear Eye and a Full Purse

“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in the doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your one presence rather than the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.”

Alice Koller

I spent this evening relaxing and redecorating my bedroom. Earlier today, I took all the objets d’art from above the bed and installed them in a shop window as part of the installation for the holidays. When I came home tonight, my bedroom looked remarkably naked, so instead of passing out on the bed (which is what, for a moment or two,  I wanted to do), I dug into bags and boxes, pulled out all the mussels from a mussel-hunting day last week, and…

I made my bedroom new, again.

Using mussel shells, periwinkles, flickering candles, antique wooden boxes, a branch that fell into the garden of one of the summer mansions, sea urchin skeletons, and dried hydrangeas, I re-made the bedroom. As a friend of mine said a few days ago, “everything is artistic“…

After finishing the re-decoration, I read some more about Alice Koller. It always makes me laugh with wonder and a sense of bewilderment how sometimes things or ideas are thrust into your path to make you take a moment and reflect on what is happening. I stumbled across Alice Koller tonight when I was looking for thoughts about solitude. I found the quote above in my search, and then began looking for deeply for information about her.

Lately, I have spent a lot of my time on the phone with friends; this is because I spend the majority of my time here alone, and seek connection with my friend-family who are far away. This solitude is a first for me; I have always been a decidedly social person prior to my incarnation as the lady in cowboy boots who walks through Northeast Harbor, Maine.

It turns out that Alice Koller, at one point in her life, moved from the city to the country, to Nantucket. She moved with a puppy, while my animal companions are the crows, blue jays, and doves that fly outside my windows and in the garden below. Animal friends who I don’t have to own: the best kind of animals. Here is what Alice said, in 1983, about her short life in a small, small New England town, on her lonesome:

My urgent need was to find out what I believed and wanted and felt independently of what anyone else believed or felt or wanted me to believe or feel. Two factors were working for me. First, I knew how to think: I knew what should count as the statement of a problem; what evidence was persuasive and what inadequate; what a pointed question was and what was mere idleness; what fit well with matters whose outlines were already in hand and what conflicted outright with some other view of the facts so that one or the other had to be discarded (but which?). I subjected everything I had done that I could remember to that kind of thinking and I placed every conclusion I reached alongside one single question, “But is it true?”. I kept raising that question hour after hour, even though I had no criterion for what true would mark out until I was about halfway through my task.

The other factor was that I was at the same time learning what the shape and texture and focus of my daily life had to be. I was living in the country for the first time, and although Nantucket can scarcely be called a wilderness, Siasconset bestowed upon me great spreads of space and silence. To be outside I had only to open my door and take one step. With no people to have to thread my way around, my personal living space was without boundaries. I could go out into the low flat landscape and let the night display the patterns of the stars. At the edge of the moor no artificial lights illuminated the night, and I, a city girl, was astonished to discover that objects are cleanly visible under the light of the full moon. The beach, accessible to me on foot extended for two miles; there only Logos chased the gulls who dared to land, and only I walked. I acquired a taste for wildness and silence almost immediately.

By having removed all socially imposed regulations of my activities, I began to notice the natural rhythm of my day. I was changing almost imperceptibly each day, and I’d suddenly realize that the small increments had coalesced into something wholly new. Although I could not have given voice to it at the time, I was providing myself with the context in which I most naturally flourish…

I was then free to resolve that each moment of each day had to be lived in whatever way my then very weak understanding grasped as being right for me. I would not let it matter whether anyone else agreed with any of my decisions: I alone would judge the fittingness of everything I did. When any action I was considering or belief I was entertaining threatened to conflict with my most basic sense of what was right for me, I would do what I understood in the light of what I saw, no matter what the consequences were. It is a way to learn to consider consequences broadly and carefully so that you don’t unnecessarily visit harm upon yourself or others. But it’s also a way to teach yourself what you can and are willing to endure in the name of your sense of appropriateness.” [New York Times, 1983]

Fishermen here call sea urchins Whore’s Eggs – I have a few spines embedded in my thumb tonight