Monday, January 1, 2018

SNAP–(SOMETHING JUST HAPPENED)

“Proceed with love, care and courage”
-Roshi Joan Halifax, founding abbot at Upaya Center, Santa Fe, NM


Me out walking during an early snowfall this season
Dearest Readers,
This is not polished yet, but I want to note that something just happened as I lay in bed listening first to an NPR radiointerview with Jesuit father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in LosAngeles, a gang intervention business for street kids,
and then after reading the Afterward by Michael Chabon to his little swashbuckling Jewish adventure tale, “Gentlemen of the Road”A tiny door opened inside my timid brain. A mouse finally had the courage to turn the knob and emerge into the bright-light with a daunting idea to use my impending house purchase as a vessel for creative adventures, not just as shelter and safe haven.

That’s right! This Friday I’m about to close on a little house in the center of Peacham, Vermont, my beloved adopted hometown. Here it is: Ta-Da! 
You can use the link directly below to see the rooms inside: 

Needs an outside paint job which will happen in late Spring, but it’s well built by hand, with mid-century modern touches, a linoleum floor in the kitchen/dining room just begging to be a studio, and no worries about splattered paint. It comes with an acre and a half of land, a barn and a lovely raftered empty space over the garage with possibilities.

It turns out I’m not a brave person. When I learned in October that my rental apartment along a forested dirt road in Peacham would not be available after May 1st, I pulled emotionally inward from fear of change and loneliness. I wanted my family to be nearby to pat my hand and give me advice.  I began an anxious search for other rentals in the area, weighing options nightly at 2am while staring at the stars from my bedroom window. 

Rentals are not abundant in a small town of 720 people. The thought of moving to another village scared me. I love this sharing, earthy community, and all my new friends.

To regain my equilibrium, and quell my anxiety, I had to down-regulate from my daily painting regimen and stop offering my volunteer services. During those 2 am episodes of wild insomniac mind, I re-discovered my Confirmation rosary and a book of contemplations, “Comfortable with Uncertainty”, by the American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodrun.  The meditation reflections, and my prayerful recitations on the rosary gave me some control. I can see why some folks call them "worry beads". It worked to soften my mental suffering! So does a sky full of stars.



I considered renting a “tiny house” still under construction on the outskirts of Peacham. It was new, aesthetically beautiful, and full of light upstairs. 


After days of agonizing, I knew I’d be too isolated and further away from friends and in-town life. The rental price was right, but I would be miserable.



One of my sanity strategies was not to decide, but just walk – walk, walk, walk – up and down the hilly woodland roads. I asked friends for advice. Many helped. I tried seeing the situation humorously (no luck there). I needed to take action. Logic kept telling me to rent the lonely house on the hill because it was a cool design and the rental price was right. An imaginary finger wagged in my head that I’m too old for home ownership and all the headaches.  

Then one morning another brain-snap cracked me open. I was reading an article in bed from  a recent Art in America magazine about an artist who creates installations in her studio. (Her name escapes me.) Something clicked. I realized I could make installations inside the little in-town Peacham house that was still for sale, or make a small apartment upstairs to rent out if my finances turn out to be inadequate. I could live like I want among friends and close neighbors. I called my realtor and made an offer that day. I followed my heart, and turned a scary situation into something fat, full of possibility and maybe transformation. I’m still not sure, and still worried, but that’s OK.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

WINNERS AND LOSERS

“What a fucking joke”
-Madam Pinky in Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel, The White Tiger, describing society and class 
Dearest Readers,

I return to my blog after a winter hiatus, and a spate of wild painting.  More on that in a later blog…

I’ll pick up where I left off in January…sitting and thinking at my frozen upstairs bedroom window, now moist and green below, waiting for something to happen.

The opening quote refers to me…silly me. Back in January, I proudly attended the opening reception of “ArtsConnect”, a juried show at Catamount Arts Center inSt. Johnsbury Vermont.

I had been picked by Andrea Rosen, the curator from the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont to be included in an exhibition of sixty-one local and New England artists. It felt good to “win”.  I showed two fabric sculptures created before I moved to Vermont. 
The Spinmeister_13in x 13in x 17in_acrylic on fabric_found objects and mixed media

The Fanatic_6.5in x 11in_fabric_acrylic_glass-beads and mixed media



Miss Perfect_8x20x3.5_fabric_wood_acrylic_ glass_papier mache_bricks_dynel and lightbulbs
Getting in the show stirred up the bones of another creature I’d made years earlier –“Miss Perfect”, a trickster masking the little Catholic schoolgirl in a blue jumper and white blouse who just wanted to please.
Academy of St. Aloysius Grammar School uniform made from memory, 2011
What did not feel good was “losing” during the awards ceremony mid-way through the art show. I would like to declare that it doesn’t matter, that I’m an artist just for the fun and fulfillment of creating, but I discover again and again that pride, PRIDE is laughing in a prominent corner of my brain. I try, but he (she?) will not relinquish my neural core. I can see her though. Some would say that everything is a game. We learn the unstated rules, then elbow or co-operate our way through life. Poets like Maya Angelou, I Know Why theCaged Bird Singsand Rumi remind us of the cages of power and social norms–

Take someone who doesn’t keep score,
Who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
Who has not the slightest interest even
In his own personality: He’s free
-Jalaluddin Rumi–Open Secret:Versions of Rumi

Don’t get me wrong. The winners’ artworks were good. I smiled and clapped, but I was not happy.

“There is no key. There is no key.”
I’m quoting here again from Aravind Adiga’s wonderfully disturbing novel, The White Tiger about the roles and the rules of survival between the haves and have-nots in contemporary Indian society. There is a deadly comedy to this game of winning and losing inside the metaphorical “Rooster Coop”–an unlocked cage stuffed with chickens waiting to be sold in the markets for dinner. The poor creatures do not see that the door is open!
Trapped_25in x38in_Ink and acrylic wash on paper_1994
This goes for America too of course, down to my nascent wishes and desires. I know a few people who seem outside of the cage. I admire them and sometimes see glimpses of light in myself. 
In all fairness to me, I’m inching along on that enlightened path.  Age, self-kindness and experience in the world tell me to go easy on the self-blame.

So, as Spring bursts from the starting gate, I’m at the window again contemplating the wish or need to be a perfect winner as the creatures and things in nature win and lose, live and die on a daily basis around me. What I see is a wild raucous balance. Some say it’s survival of the fittest, but to me there is a powerful balancing act between the parts and the whole of everything . There is no cage.