Oh may it be so: “The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work.” St Thomas Aquinas
We stood there for an hour talking art and creativity and purpose and pain and burnout and big cities and rural childhoods and it was the kind of convo you don't realize you're having until it's over and all that's left to say is this: Surround yourself with people who bring out the YES in you.
Adjustments rattle multiple souls in this family, and this shift from spring break to school days is still sending shockwaves.
On the way to the studio, I lean on Gregorian Chants to still myself after the morning’s reverberations. Listen and breathe, listen and breathe. A solitary sanctuary opens up on my drive: “It is all as it should be.”
A plan comes—scaffolding to hold us up until the shaking stops. I adjust the evening for this support.
In the studio, today’s dreamy rainy day hides the light I need. I adjust my goals and prep another workspace. And for the first time in my history as an artist, I swipe my water pail. In a breath it pours out and over my
I freeze. This isn’t happening.
But the dripdripdripping pulls me into a reality of water streaming off the table and onto new canvases.
I am shaken out of the residual calm of the commute, and adjust again—wipe away what I wish wasn’t, what I don’t want to be, but what is.
And I breathe.
“We cannot expect things to be any more than what they are.” This rolls through my mind somewhere between soaked towels. I repeat and repeat and breathe again.
And I paint.
(Less expecting. More accepting. There is no other way to live.)
Aside from working on a series of feminine paintings (that's more than I was planning on saying, but I'm warming up to the idea of sharing them with y'all) parenting is 100% where I'm at right now.
And looking at both of these efforts, I see that I'm shaping women on the canvas while doing some deep shaping of these two precious little women who call me Mommy. My life and art layered over one another with real similarities—but it gets clouded by the feeling that while I can see the potential in all of these women I'm just not sure if I have what it takes to help any of them fully achieve theirs.
So I edit, erase, study, learn, and try again. It's slow work right now, y'a'll, both in the studio and at home. But this is art at the life-level...no, at the soul-level. There's something beautiful about living these layers. Something honest and real and raw.
Something artfully integrated.
When we stop and actually look at it, life is not as disjointed as it seems. Ask for integration and watch how life pulls the layers together, sliding one on top of the other until you see it all as one beautiful picture—all the questions you carry, all the random tasks and conversations, all the hopes and dreams. It all fits. Hold it up to the light to let the layers show through. There's a synchronicity there waiting to reveal what your current days are all about.
There’s something happening at the studio.
No, let me say it like this: Yesterday the question came — did I paint for others or paint for myself. The short answer is that each piece comes with you in mind…as a conversation, an exchange.
But not this time. Not this week. This week is solitary.
We have to go back to the start — something is happening at the studio.
No, there’s too much noise and urgency involved and this is so quiet.
It’s the gentle tap on the shoulder past midnight, the one meant to rouse but not alarm. The one that’s been waiting for hours to say what needs to be said and finally comes and finds you and whispers the confession. Waiting since October, since walks in the woods where words came. Yes, words.
So now these word-pieces are whispering, claiming their moment on my calendar. They requested my audience, without any other audience in mind. It’s the hardest way to paint—free of dialogue, free of feedback, fueled by gut reaction and unfiltered expression.
They won’t let any one else in. They won’t even let the colors in, y’all. I have to insist on the lightest touch of hue. So odd, these patient pieces.
And I do not know whose eyes they intend to reach.
So for now I share this process through words, and mainly to say: I didn’t mean to leave you outside, but the studio shut the door and declared itself a sanctuary of sorts. Maybe there is something sacred about all that whispering silence. These patient pieces do sound less like conversations and more like prayers.
And really, for us all.
I was sitting at a stop light, asking myself where Growth and Grace are in my life right now. Then that thing that happened minutes before—something that would usually send me flailing in resistance—flashed through my mind and I realized the inner dramatics weren’t there. Only peace, curiosity, hope.
I spent too much of 2017 resisting circumstances I couldn’t believe were happening and could do very little to stop. But a few months ago I started cultivating a “yes” towards life, letting the Idealist in me sit down in surrender to Reality. She still doesn’t take a seat easily, but she’s beginning to see the benefits.
Once I stop flailing and settle into surrender and acceptance I’m met with a surprising freedom—a freedom to use energy that would otherwise be spent in resistance, the mental space to pay deep attention to the Growth and Grace of right now, and a new sense of gratitude for what is.
There’s so much to discover if we keep our eyes on reality. And for those of us who are looking for the work of the Divine in our lives, I can assure you that you won’t find it in your ideals and expectations, but only in what is. Reality is THE place of Growth and Grace in our lives. Say “yes” to it, and then pay attention to what happens next. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Walking the circle of my neighborhood, I'm telling myself that no one promised that my micro and macro world would make any sense. ...that I shouldn't expect calm over chaos, predictability over absurdity, cooperation over conflict. ...that existence itself is no guarantee of food and shelter, much less a guarantee of a reasonable reality. So stop expecting it all to make sense, right? Just stop...and that will fix this feeling?
Two circles in, I take my attention by the hand and turn it to all that is, even without promise: air, health, love, sustenance, safety, community. So much is there yet nothing guaranteed; all is Gift, to be received with a "thank You" of Serenity Prayer on my tongue. There it is—the thing that will break the cycle of circles and get me back on track.
So be it.
I just can't commit to one particular flesh tone... How do you even pick??
so I quietly sent these little mail-arts out into the world last week, filled with honesty about this past summer's storms, and they've already boomeranged back:
1) A story about a daughter in Florida who's doing an art report on me, and some of her classmates already knew who I was. (???) (I have questions!)
2) An invitation to be interviewed by a creative podcast, as I seem like just a normal person. (Hmmmm we'll see what they say after we chat.)
Most of what we create has a subconscious tone of truth to it. And we never know who might need to hear the depths of our creations.
Share. It'll do the world a world of good.
In the past few years, I've leaned into the rhythms of the year. It's been a sort of hybrid of holidays, school calendar, and actual seasons -- a personal calendar of sorts. And here I am building artomats again, not realizing I was doing the same this time last year.
I was talking with a friend recently about how to find our center amidst the everyday micro and macro chaos. We talked about my "rituals" of morning, the soothing predictability of my after-school time with the girls, and our family dinner-time which is a "no phone zone" and (ideally) a chance for us all to connect at the end of our day. Some of you know that over the summer we also added "no-tech nights" of piano jazz and books and magazines and no digital distractions, giving our brains and chance to slow down and take a minute of peace.
Sounds amazing, right? We all need a bit more of those "no-tech nights" these days. Build your version, add that ritual to the end of one of your days, and see if you might sleep better afterwards.
Ironically, up early thinking about the-opposite-of-hustle:
"Downshifting is a social behavior or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from what critics call the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce the “stress, overtime, and psychological expense that may accompany it”. It emphasizes finding an improved balance between leisure and work and focusing life goals on personal fulfilment and building relationships instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success."
When we evacuated, we stayed at a lodge on the side of a mountain in western North Carolina. It was at the end of a long steep gravel road. We had to drop the Element into 2nd, then 1st gear, to have enough pull instead of getting stuck spinning our wheels. A car downshifted to a lower gear is not in a hurry, but lemme tell you: it's got the patience and power get to the top of a mountain.
-- We can learn as much about a person from what they don't say, as what they do say. People talk about what they care about. So, now I'm seeing the clues to puzzling personalities in those frequent blanks, those predictable silences, the things they continually fail to say. Listen for patterns of what's not important to others and you will learn a lot.
-- Learning the disempowerment that comes with unnecessary helping, and ways to budget empath-energies. My empathy transports me into others' experiences, but that doesn't mean that 1) they need my help and 2) their problems are mine to solve. I am learning to ask myself objective questions to clarify my responsibilities for how I can best serve others. (& yes, "not my circus, not my monkeys" fits nicely into all this.)
-- Up next: What slows us down more, the cough medicine or the cough?