Time for writing overdue letters to friends and family back home. I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding it, but I have. I think it might be that I feel myself evolving and I worry that others want to old me, (the one that was more passive, the one who didn’t stick up for herself, or the one who smiled and nodded and made everything feel o.k. all of the time). I feel as though I am emerging into a completely different model of myself, and there are a small handful of powerful women in my life who are walking this path with me at the same time. For this I am grateful. (I will some of you soon, in a few short weeks).
So on to the wrapping, finishing up the last of the projects, pushing away the flood of ideas that beg to be written down on a constant basis.
I received a manuscript back from my agent this week and looking at it again I feel it’s potential. The pile of rejections have done nothing to dilute the fact that I think it is good, much to my surprise. It is just a matter finding the right place for it.
Creatively I am exploding at the seams. There is a giddyness that wells up in the middle of my chest, it feels much like just a happiness at being alive. I heard an interview (podcast) last night between Miranda July and author George Saunders (put out by the Hammer Museum) in which he descibes the feeling that preceeds his writing, when he knows something is about to pour out. He too relates it to feeling joyful, or grateful for everything. While this may not be true for all artists, it is certainly true for me. Wanting to explode.
I wish I could articulate it better, but I am distracted hung lights and colors, and christmas music, and food and shiny presents that arrive in the mail.
How I love shaking the packages.
Sometimes christmas is better unopened.
Most often, little packages hold better surprises than the big ones.
1. Decorate a tree in public. In a park, on a street, outside your workplace, places you would least expect it.
2. Leave tiny anonymous gifts with notes that say “something for you”.
3. Put fortunes written on paper into people’s pockets when you go to parties.
4. Write letters telling people you admire them and that you’re greatful for their existence.
5. Buy a tree for someone else.
6. Write peaceful quotes in public places with chalk.
7. Guerilla carolling…Sing x-mas carols on people answering machines.
8. Plant some bulbs in pots, place them in locations that could use some life.
9. If you live in a snowy climate write large notes in the snow on people’s front lawns (when they are out). If you live in a warm climate you can hang greetings in the trees.
10. Make a treasure map of the best x-mas lights in your town. Hand it out so people can do a tour.
got some more? share them here…
My experience of this time of year (and family tradition) is defined by a variety of projects. I was raised by women with an innate ability to create anything, from almost nothing. Historically, in our family gifts were made, not bought. This is normal being from Newfoundland where people did not have a lot of money or resources, you had to make due with what was around you. Often that would include raw materials such as old clothing (fabric), wood, wool. Every year we were guaranteed to receive knitted slippers (which resulted in me receiving stitches one year after sliding out of control on a hardwood floor, a fact which my poor Aunt Violet could not have possibly have anticipated), a sewn doll of some kind, quilts, ornaments, mitts, hats, scarves, socks, handmade toys. Now at the time, these did not seem to be the greatest of gifts. How excited can a eight year old get upon opening yet another pair of heavy brown (not to mention) wretchedly itchy slippers made out of some strange thick industrial wool that aunt thelma seemed to have an unlimited stock of, when a mere five houses down the road your best friend Patty Barnes was most certainly beaming as she untwisted the little tiny ties that held firmly the head of her new wonderfully smelling strawberry shortcake doll to the shiny pink box? (We, my sister and I did actually receive strawberry shortcake dolls at some point.)
But if we could have the ability to forsee the future, (which we most decidely do not), my eight year old mind might have difficulty understanding what would come to pass with the future of these presents. The strawberry shortcake dolls (whose wonderfull smells have long since faded) were years ago packed away and given to the goodwill (and possibly sold for a quarter to some modern eight year old who has probably never heard of strawberry shortcake and whose baby brother will inevitably drawn circles in blue pen on her soft plastic cheeks, never to be erased, dolls bought at discount seldom recieve the stature of ones bought at full price.)
But what of the slippers? the socks? the quilt?
The last of the wool socks knitted by my grandmother had to be put to rest (five years after she was) due to the large irreperable holes that had developed after I wore them almost every day in the winter for years. I tried in vain to repair them myself and finally said a tearful farewell. Then took up the needles myself to start a new pair. The same is true of the slippers. Over the years, that rough scratchy wool had softened to the most wonderfully soft, warm and comfy slippers that have ever graced my feet. When the holes got big enough I started a quest to find a pattern that would match my Aunt Violet’s. To no avail. Most of my newfie relatives are no longer living. Many of these patterns were passed down orally, different families having there own special nuances and styles.
The quilt…it lays folded on the couch behind me, my most valued possession. It is sewn with squares that were once my Nana’s dresses. My favourite a blue grid pattern with small sailboats floating over top, it was the dress she wore around the house (sewn by her of course). Some of the squares are torn now from daily use. Everytime I fold it up I think of her, and I wonder if she could have known this as she was sewing it. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, I feel like there are parts of her sewn into the fibres and they soothe me everytime I wrap it around my shoulders. There is a life to the objects made by hand, that a mand made object could not possibly reproduce.
I think of this as I sit surrounded by wool, and bits of fabric and needles.
I’ve just returned from a quick tour of several schools on the east coast, (Jeff is applying to grad schools and I am looking into potential teaching opportunities.) It seems the academic world is not as intimidating as I once thought, and I become excited at the possiblities. How wonderful it was to wander into classrooms filled with experimentation and ideas again. To sit in on critiques and participate in thoughtful discussions on art and it’s relationship with daily life. I feel fueled. ignited.
More importantly it is amazing to go back into this world after being away from it for many years and feel your ideas solidified somehow. I know so much more about how I respond to things, what moves me, how to articulate my ideas and formulate thoughts about what I am viewing. All this just from doing some living, lots of reading, experimenting, and exploring my surroundings in detail. I am much more equipped at ‘telling my own story’. I will add that this is in large part to the journal. The daily work. my research.
“Our strategy should be not only to confront the empire but to lay seige to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness–our abilities to tell our own stories.” ~Arundhati Roy
“I look at things as if they have a life and language of their own.” ~Jurgen Bey
everyday life has all the answers
some things of note
…i put up a new shop with some of my collages for sale.
…added a few more items to ‘fun with stickers’ page on flickr.
…a wonderful site for fellow gleaners.
…the definition of portentous is “of ominious significance”. which is not what I was expecting. Try using it in a sentence.
…I’m in love with these posters.
…so I’m going to make my own using this cheap screen printing tutorial.
…need a quick gift for someone? the pocket mod, is a free printable personal organizer you can customize, using the same folding technique as the magic book.
It’s a toy,
it’s a gift,
it’s an artpiece!
(click the banner to play)
I had fun making this, in an attempt to get me into the holiday spirit. Being in a completely different climate everything feels a bit disjointed. None of my regular x-mas cues are here, (snow, hauling firewood, mennonites). And so I am doing what I can to feel festive. Today I am going to the co-op to get some cider.
also for fun…for those of you who find yourself in a mild climate this holiday…
I’m having one of those days where there are so many things I want to get out onto the page, so many ideas, so many words, yet nothing flows. One of those days where there are a million things you want to do, yet none of them get started. Instead I had a long, detailed conversation with the man who came to fix the dishwasher, about the nature of consumerism and the pitfalls of living in a world where everything has become disposable. Even dishwashers.
I was feeling discouraged again about the challenge of getting my current manuscript accepted, repeated rejection launches an author into the throes of feeling like a hack. Yet I know it is meant to live somewhere out there in the world.
Oh, do I talk about this stuff here? Yes, I need to be frank for a minute.
So many people have asked me for the follow up book to Living Out Loud, and I know that I could write one. And it would probably be o.k. and sell pretty well, and I could just go about my life, make some money and continue on this path being the creativity guru for years (even though I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about sometimes). But here’s the thing. I want to grow as an artist, as an author. I don’t want to be one who writes the same book over and over. I want to push myself to new places, experiment, jump up and down, do things that feel a little uncomfortable, and question things. I do not wish to be an “expert”. And so I came up with something new. Except it seems that many want me to just do “that other thing that you did the last time”, we like that best. And truthfully, “we know it will sell”. The new thing is not so sellable. Which is probably good because nothing should ever be created “to sell”.
Someone sent me a link to this article by Margaret Wheatley. The line that rang in my ears was,
“When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” -Rudold Bahro. Then the question is posed, Could insecurity, self-doubt, be a good trait? God, I hope so, because lately I must be on the cutting edge. The author goes on to say that “feeling insecure, even groundless, might actually increase my ability to stay in the work.” She quotes Valclav Havel,
“Hope, is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”
read that again.
As I take a slow, lung filling inhalation followed by an equally slow exhalation, I must tell you that deep down I feel more resolved in my ideas than ever before. That amidst the questioning, the rejection, the groundlessness, I feel a great strength stirring and it’s presence has seemed a little contradictory. But in that quote lies the answer, at some level I have accepted that there is a reason that I haven’t found a publisher yet. I feel resolved in my process, that somehow it is teaching me something.
Maybe that is why I am drawn to the print test patterns on the bottom of boxes lately. That behind everything in our contemporary world there is a tiny secret code, that only makes sense to those who created it.
today is a day for curling up on the couch with a book, being immersed in someone elses life for a change.
for making dinner for friends, (roast vegetable linguine with basil).
for doodling strange characters on the chalkboard.
for getting some exercise after consuming large amounts of food over the last two days.
for letting my fears and worries sit quietly in the corner, for allowing myself to breathe deeply for a time.
for feeling grateful for a life, short though it may have been.
for being grateful for time spent with family.
for singing harmonies.
for sinking into a hug from husband.
for sending out love to friends you’ve never met in person when they are going through a rough time.
for putting on your new favourite hat that you made yourself.
for slowing your mind and feeling more in your body.
for allowing yourself to feel good about a project, (even though you are slightly disappointed about a couple of things with it).
for turning the computer off and going outside to feel the sun.