Tuesday was a day of tender hearts and tears here in this too Big Apple. I am sitting at the window of a Starbucks on Canal right now trying to put my thoughts in a straight line once again. I am here with honesty and today, which is going to be difficult because I have to peel back a layer, I have to reveal a bit more. I spent time at the Met yesterday, I was there with little expectation and a quest to cry, to be moved. Elizabeth gave me precise instructions and assurance that I could “do this”. I did. I made it Uptown with a Metro card and a bit of anxiety. I got off of the train on 82nd Street, a street lined with black Mercedes and Range Rovers and a small sprinkle of Teslas, manifestations of the “good life” from Park Ave to 5th. I watched as people funneled down to an elite sort of ultra-wealthy New Yorkers and I appreciated them. There were very old men dressed well as they did decades ago with stooped shoulders and small well groomed dogs on leaches. Coiffured wives on their arms and tots in tow were no longer apparent. I also saw plenty of babies being carted along the avenues by nannies equipped with cell phones and bottles and some sense of purpose, I suppose. Then there were tulips. The tulips on Park Avenue were different than the other tulips planted in small batches along the mere “streets”, these were bountiful and embedded in rich soil that gave them the best start.
Past the tulips and the baby carriages was the Metropolitan Museum, the Met. There were the steps I walked up 4 decades ago and there to the left was the Egyptian Art I quickly walked through in my youth, only to say I did it. I knew I would head straight to the European section…up the stairs to the2nd floor; if any emotion would stir, it would be there, amongst the lives lived in Montmartre in the late 1800s when artist began painting with light and met at Gertrude Stein’s to talk about it over absinthe and ale.
There it was on the left, a still life of apples and pears painted by Cezanne while in Aix en Provence; “With and apple I want to astonish Paris”. He obviously did.
Anyway, it made me cry. I suppose it was my memory of Nice and my friend Kathy. She was drawn to his work and I to van Gogh during those days of youth, I saw what she loved just then, I saw the light. I continued to the van Gogh room and saw his self-portrait encased and center stage and knew he painted it because he could not afford a model, he could not afford his life. I lingered and thought of mine.
The day continued in an introspective way, mostly walking through the streets of New York and thinking about things using the backdrop of this enormous city to compare. The size and population density helped me to put life in perspective, to understand how fleeting it all is and wondering why I worry so much. But I do. Mothers worry about their children. We start with counting fingers and toes and continue by counting minutes until they come home during long nights in Manhattan…
In another conversation, there was talk about inspiration in the context of art. As an art student, long ago, I learned about many great artists (in books and in galleries) and digested unusual and sometimes amazing thoughts and opinions from my teachers, some I even remember! We had assignments to copy the old masters, to understand their techniques better, to even be inspired but there needed to be some conversation about semantics here also, the difference between copying and being inspired within the framework of art. Art, in all forms, begins with an inspiration, at least to do meaningful art, art that has a source has a heart and that, for me, makes it good art. Many artist find their muse or inspiration in nature and in the characteristics of interesting people and many artist learn more about technique through copying and writers through reading other works, etc. Unfortunately, that edge of creative inspiration sometimes bleeds into that bitter, unattractive edge of “lifting” or an even tougher more descriptive word “copying”. The age of the internet has brought with it the opportunity to lift someone’s ideas and take them for your own, which, in my opinion, is the opposite of what an artist is, unoriginal. My words are harsh but for those of you who have had this personal experience, these words are perhaps soothing. I cannot quite understand how people cross over, how do you create art if it is not something that moves your soul and releases itself in the form of paint or words or dance or music, etc.?
So, those two words, inspiration and lifting, create a flurry of conflict for me, as do belief and faith, a flow of semantic confusion on a Monday morning. I hope that it is inspiration and faith that moves us forward.
Life is very different for me now. I wake up on a Saturday morning and I am not scrambling a dozen eggs and juicing OJ; I am making coffee and writing. They are gone, far away gone, from Colorado to the Cresent City. Elizabeth is still here, finishing up the last hoorah but on this Saturday morning she is in Lafayette taking SAT – something she needs to move her on. “On”, will be far away too, it seems. Next year, they really will be all gone. Hmmmm. It is a strange, but good, feeling, kind of mellow.
The first thing I ask myself on this morning of semi isolation is “How did I do that?” I cannot conceive of waking up to five kids every morning and getting this house in motion. It seems my instinct of survival has blocked that from my memory – too much to absorb, too much to think about? Funny about life, we go through passages almost blindly, doing what we need to do without question and then later, look back and say just what I have said, “ How did I get through that?’ I am not making this declaration in a negative light, it was great, it was magical, it was fulfilling; I just don’t know how I managed to see about all of those people.I’m really not a multi tasker kind of person – I am very, very laid back. I do remember cooking – alot. I also remember the seemingly endless pile of clothes in the laundry room.Honestly, I thought I would live my entire life in that room – forever! And I do remember the conscious decision to put away my paintbox for those years. I realized early on that that would cause me frustration – to begin a piece and have to go deep into the night to finish it – not worth it. Instead, I think those years and my children gave me inspiration and I think they will manifest themselves in my art – it was the right decision for me.
Anyway, it is early November and I have the day to do as I please – this is a very new deal for me. I am going to enjoy this little piece of freedom for sure but I will always miss my busy home when they all were here and my day was filled with the most important activity of all, being “mom”.
I think of a quote by Jackie Kennedy and hope that I somewhat hit the target, but more than that, I hope they all know I tried my best on that one chance I got , just as all of you are…
” If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”
|just a favorite pic taken on the 100 year old carousel at City Park in New Orleans – a month before Elizabeth lost her grandmother, my wonderful mom. She was there on the little bench watching Elizabeth go around and around, each time waving as though the first time – this was a very difficult passage for me as “mom”…still is
So, whatever your stage in life is, I hope you are trying your best – no one is perfect, but everyone can be the best “them” (most of the time :)).
The room, my studio, is quiet now, the radio turned to classic country is silent, the caps are on the tubes of paint, the memories are doused and the lights are off, it’s only the early morning rays that move about giving some illumination and hint to the night before – Saturday night is over. Isn’t there something about how everything looks different in the morning light? Well, it does. Last night, like nearly every Saturday night I listened to old country from 6 to midnight and I painted. It is when I allow myself to go back in time to drench myself in melancholia and think of the people I have lost (I know I committed to making this only a positive blog but just wait – it will be). It’s a ritual, my muse; it’s the way I create, I have to tap on something way beneath the surface and nothing works like old memories. I had four paintings going on last night – one of a serious nature and 3 small ones that are impulsive and fun.
I wake up on Sunday mornings and walk in my quiet studio and there on the easels are tangibles from the night before – it is glorious for me. It’s the music, the solitude, and the distance from obligation (and sometimes a few tears) that gets me there. It’s an interaction of art – I wish everyone could understand the importance of the arts – sadly, however so many do not and so many of those people are in control of our laws. (Sorry, I know that was a rant but I had to speak up).
Sometimes my mom would listen to music and she would cry. I was young then and my past was short and unblemished; I didn’t understand those tears that would just show up. I do now, I understand those thoughts of yesterday that well up your eyes and take possession of your heart, those times and people in your life that are gone, at least gone from this world. Those thoughts are pulled from you by songs and visuals and even fragrances and every now and then I need to visit those places. When I do, I learn something, I reflect and I think of things someone like my mother said or did and it fits into my life now and I get it – it’s as though her life remains a part of mine – she is still my teacher, my role model. My mother in law once gave me some very valuable advice – she told me to keep talking to my kids, no matter if it didn’t seem as though they were listening – just keep filling their heads with the right stuff and someday, somewhere they will draw from my words – just put it in there no matter what. I have found this to be some of the best parenting advice ever – I continue to listen to my mother as I shove things I think are valuable into the heads of my “kids” and hopefully, they will be able to say the same about me and yours about you.
Anyway, it is Sunday morning now and the muse is gone with the rising sun. I hope somewhere in this entry you can find something to relate to and to encourage you to set aside time to reflect and to cry and to feel all of those things that living provides you with. For me, it’s important to have those moments that take me back to those days and those people that helped to bring me to this point in my life – how can they be denied or forgotten? It takes quiet time to “go there” – it takes music or a book or a sky full of stars or a blank canvas – it takes art.
I will end with this very bold step and post my three quirky paintings from last night’s “session” – the “serious” one is not nearly finished – I might post later. I have proclaimed this my “Recycle, Reuse and Hang” series – it is just fun and hopefully I will continue to add to it.
|till next time
I have nagging things in my head this Saturday morning,- little bits of “housekeeping” I need to do but so do not want to – these things extinguish the muse – they put me in a place that is so concrete and practical, so 21st century. I will do these things though because, just as I have to clean the kitchen before I cook, I have to take care of business before I create – it’s just that tiny fragment of left brain functioning that I have that directs me.
I have an art show tonight and I am so grateful about that – I hope I sell so I can paint more! The show is sandwiched between two Mardi Gras parades so I have hung a lot of small pieces – perfect sizes to fit in tourists’suitcases! And during this time, Elizabeth will be part of a flash mob in the lobby of the art center – showcasing a dance from a musical she is in! It will be cold but it will be a night filled with art. And…the twins are in Colorado during all of this, creating works of art in a kitchen – I’m happy! More than that, more than “happy”, I am grateful. This entry is my primer for what I hope my day will eventually become – a day filled with creative words, small paintings, food and dance…
What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.
The rain is making me stay inside and I’m happy about that. I am forced to read and piddle and be quiet. I probably have 4 books started, all non-fiction, never fiction. One of them contains a quote by William Blake that I just read and felt I had to post:
“I myself do nothing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes all through me.”
This, as they say, “speaks volumes to me”. I wish people that were arrogant and conceited and smug would read this. I suppose it is a pet peeve of mine the way some people feel they are so credible – like they are responsible for things that they have had absolutely no control over. I suppose all of this rancor I speak with comes from my knowing children that are somewhat “disadvantaged”. I put that in quotes because I personally don’t believe they are “disadvantaged”, the people who think so are the ones that are truly disadvantaged because they are ignorant, prejudice, and certainly closed minded.
For the most part, we have certain attributes because we are “born that way”. I was born with blue eyes, a very desirable eye color, but can I take credit for that? No – I didn’t lift one feeble finger to get these blue eyes. I know the eye color analogy is a physical trait but I sincerely believe it applies to emotional, artistic, and mental traits also. It’s all about what you do with the blessings you have been given, “given” being the key word. I struggle with this while looking to find places to give.
|you can do it
I’m on a rant I suppose, but I can say what I feel here on the pages of “sketches” because it is my space. Anyway, I love this quote by Blake. I feel so fortunate, so blessed, if you will, that I am a painter. Art has been a part of my life for all of my memory and I cannot imagine life without it. It has gotten deeper and deeper for me – I have traveled beyond what I could have imagined as a young art student. I am not necessarily referring to the “skill” of it but to the metaphysical part of it – to the dimension it takes you. It is what I am supposed to do – I wish that each of us could discover our gifts – they are there, but sometimes the close mindedness of society tries to disallow you to celebrate them.
If you live the life you love, you will receive shelter and blessings. Sometimes the great famine of blessings in and around us derives from the fact that we are not living the life we love; rather, we are living the life that is expected of us. We have fallen out of rhythm with the secret signature and light of our own nature.
And still another day before me…it’s mine to do with whatever I choose. I had a terrifying experience yesterday so today seems all the more glorious. I am a bit of a hypochondriac – I’ll admit to this – especially when it comes to my kids – but I had noticed a suspicious mole on my back recently (I am the generation of baby oil and iodine tanning) and it had started to itch. Well, of course I “goggled” it and wouldn’t you know –an itchy mole can be a symptom of melanoma. Anyway, I had about buried myself by noon. My doctor worked me in at 2 and said not to worry (although I do now have recommendation to see a dermatologist for a checkup). Those few hours were so dark for me. I have no fear of death, at least I don’t think I do,( I am certain there is something wonderful on the otherside) but I have unbearable sadness when I think of leaving Elizabeth before she is grown, before she has her own life. I thought of my boys and how badly I want to know where their lives are taking them– they, the 5 of them, are what make my mortality so objectionable.
I know I am being overdramatic but that’s the nature of me – oversensitive and a bit too imaginative at times. So, I am here on this bright sunshiny day once again and I am even more aware of my life and pledge to take even better care of my health. My doctor recommended I read “the Paleo Diet” – I have it on order – a diet based on pre agricultural eating habits – hunting and gathering sort of stuff. I know I cannot be orthodox about it, but I will absorb and implement some of it.
Speaking of food, I have done a few things I wished I’d done differently with my children, as all mothers have, but I have done three things I am really happy about – they all have an awareness and appreciation of the arts, whole foods, and spirit. For me, that is so important – three essentials in life – art, food, and goodness. I am very thankful – the rest is lagniappe.
As I reread for grammar check, I hope I am not sounding like I am bragging about my children and my life – I hope I have the ability to project happiness and thankfulness, not arrogance and vanity, within the confines of this entry – for those qualities are distasteful to me. My life is “my life” made especially for me and I am thankful and I know it is not some random scattering from the universe – it is all in alignment, just as it should be. I am so thankful to have yet another day to explore and to celebrate this gift that expires in 24 hours.
I once read something by Joseph Campbell and I took the time to copy the following passage down on a piece of notebook paper that I discovered last night while cleaning out my studio – I suppose it “spoke to me”. “You must have a room, or a certain hour or a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, This is a place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
Just had an awkward and not so great “conversation” with a son. Nothing is “the matter”, just the same sentences don’t really work anymore – I need to keep more on the surface with these “big boys”. That’s really difficult for me because I am fed by human feelings and intrigued with the whole scheme of things – inspired really. There is nothing I care for on the surface – wasted time, that’s why I don’t socialize – its bs, wasted time for me – I like the underneath stuff – the earthy, realities that only light of day reveal. But, I need to become a skimmer – gliding on the surface like an android. This parenting thing is getting more difficult instead of easier – when the hell does life get easier? Does it? When they were little it was just a series of hugs and commands and all was well. Now, I am looking for the perimeters and why am I still thinking about you so much? Where is the definition of “parent of adult child” – where is that darn manual??? Deep breath, cup of hot coffee, and this laptop…feeling better.
“Art is a way to express yourself and through that you can escape a bad situation”.
My encounter wasn’t “bad”, just “bristly”. Sorry about the negative energy but hard as I try, life happens. The forces of the universe just grab me sometimes but when things settle down and I catch myself I always realize how they are not random forces but catalysts to move me forward in this place I live. If things were always smooth things would always stay the same – no movement, no change – ; like stagnate water looking okay on the surface but underneath everything is dying. Well, bring it on – passivity is anemic and doesn’t navigate my life, doesn’t make it happen. Okay enough of the riddles. I will conclude with, I am so thankful for my art and I know it has gingerly taken me where I need to go – I feel better (til next time).
Moved my writing desk for the summer, maybe forever – this is my view now.