August 23rd, 2005

If you’ve ever made a huge change in your life you might relate to the feeling of spinning, the whirling excitement, the nervousness, the not knowing, feet not touching the earth, the temporary lack of grounding, the building tension that exists right before you leap. I am down to my last few days here, the time before making the leap. My walk in the woods today was completely breathtaking, the changing light bringing the feeling of fall, the air a bit cooler than it has been. I cling to the safety of it as I sit on the soft bank, looking out over the water at the tall pines. I notice the water reflected on an overhanging branch.
And as I sit I have a kind of revelation, a simple thought that breaks through the tension. It is the understanding that if I cling to these woods, to this experience, (to my comfort) then I am not opening myself up to new experiences. different forests. different people. new ideas. growth. Even Thoreau spent a limited time cut off from the rest of the world on Walden pond. I smile as I think of myself a year from now having had many adventures, able to look back at things and know that everything was o.k. That all the fretting and fear of change was unnecessary.
How I wish I could have a conversation with that future self. That person would take me by the hand and say, “everything is as it should be. you can breathe, and be kind to yourself, and know that you are safe everywhere. no person or path can take from you the things that are important. your love of life, your creativity, your courage, your strength are with you always. even when you doubt them.”
I wrote to a friend recently… “the alternative is that we sit on the couch from here on in with the remote, eating chips, brushing the crumbs out of our cleavage, not giving ourselves new experiences, letting other’s tell us which products will give us meaning and what we need live a fulfilled life.”
there is no choice here. either we change, or we wither.

August 20th, 2005
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In the 5th century B.C. graffiti poems were scratched onto the rock face of Sigiriya (Sri Lanka) –the rock fortress of a despot king. Short verses to the painted women in the frescoes which spoke of love in all its confusions and brokeness. Poems to mythological women who consumed and overcame mundane lives. The phrases saw breasts as perfect swans; eyes were long and clean as horizons. The anonymous poets returned again and again to the same metaphors.
When the government rounded up thousands of suspects during the insurgency of 1971, the Vidyalankara campus of the University of Ceylon was turned into a prison camp. The police weeded out the guilty, trying to break their spirit. When the university opened again the returning students found hundreds of poems written on walls, ceilings, and in hidden corners of the campus. quatrains and free verse about the struggle, tortures, the unbroken spirit, love of friends who had died for the cause. The students went around for days transcribing them into their notebooks before they were covered with whitewash and lye.

excerpted from “Running in the Family” by Michael Ondaatje (pg 84-85)

August 17th, 2005
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Drawing city people at the local cafe. You can always tell they are “from away”, they seem a bit out of their element unsure of the rural protocol. I spose that was me a few short years ago.
Found deer tracks in the woods yesterday, (much harder to do in the summer than the winter when they are sprawled randomly in every direction.) The deer must be gorging on apples that have dropped from the trees. I cracked at least 50 of them with the ball of my shoe. The blackberries are out and every day on my walk now I stop and feast for a while.
I found another half dead/half alive tree, one with a red circle painted on it. I felt much like Virginia Woold walking and talking to myself about a new book idea. A bird sitting in the long grass flew up flapping its wings hysterically and startled me.
These days I seem to be flipping back and forth between extreme excitement and joy about the impending move, and actual panic at the idea of leaving my home of the last eight years. Today is a good day, I am getting stuff done, mailing the last personal items, talking to the phone company, finishing illustration work. Yesterday I was teary and terrified, asking the universe (and whoever else is up there rooting for me) for help because I felt weak and lacking in courage. Sometimes I feel silly, it’s not like i’m moving to a third world country, there will be very little in the way of culture shock. I so admire people who go off to Africa for a year doing field work or foreign aid, and I would like to do that some day. But I am reminded that any change takes courage no matter what the degree, and there is always that initial fear of jumping into the abyss, (the unknown), as Wendell Barry put it,
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” -Wendell Barry, naturalist

August 16th, 2005
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I really enjoyed making these mini collages out of the tiny offcuts, and wearing them as necklaces (with a black suede lace), changing the colors with my moods. These ones are pieced onto a thick cardboard and laquered many times for durability, and I’ve found them to be suprisingly sturdy thus far. I am considering selling some on the site, (after a little more tweaking and if there is interest). They are approximately 1 1/2″ in height. More details to follow.
the idiosyncracy tag (which I’ve taken a while to do)
1. Footprints – I like to see my own in the snow and I always turn around after I walk through a puddle. (my husband does this too and it may appear strange to onlookers.) The goal is to get shoes with a great pattern on the sole.
2. Pickles – any kind (except garlic), I could live on them. Favourites include pepperocini’s, yum yums, artichokes, beets, eggplant, sauerkraut. This may be a newfie thing.
3. Found Faces – I see them everywhere, in bathroom hardware (apparently other’s have this too), sidewalk cracks, doodles, food, shadows, plumbing fixtures, stones.
4. I have a strong aversion to yellow foam. no idea why.
5. Jumping – I like to bounce up and down as high as I can when i am in a good mood, seeing if I can reach the ceiling.
…there are MANY more.
this is the most brilliant guerilla art ever…rubbish drawings. (link via Camilla)

August 12th, 2005
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I had to laugh when I was asked about my collage techniques and materials. Two weeks ago I realized that I had put all of my paints into the car (along with all of my other precious items, books, clothes, journals, quilts), and sent them off with my husband to California. I noticed when I sat down to do a painting that i only had what was left on my pallete, (goache), a some old watercolor tubes (windsor newton), and a few cans of house paint (Home Hardware). It amazes me how inventive I have been with the mixing of colors, (watercolor blended with the house paint).
I prefer not to buy paper for my work, but rather to find it in the world, (though I have bought some at times, exercise books, japanese paper, vintage magagzines). I like the idea of aquiring it “in the midst of living” because it becomes more about my daily life process, (going to the mail and finding a yellow envelope, eating chinese food and saving the chopstick wrapper, being drawn to a texture in a magazine). The piece above has some dried pink flower leaves that I collected while walking through a greenhouse. The ‘spririt lamp’ box was my dad’s when he was in college, (it was an old alcohol lamp used for a chemistry class). They all have associations for me.
But the thing I am most draw to lately is the ‘offcuts’, (the pieces laying on the floor after I have cut up other things). Right now I look down and find many beautiful little pieces to use. Something about them is more random, uncalculated, natural. But it might also be that they are the pieces one might throw away, the garbage. That is where the good stuff lies, digging in the dirt. The further I progress with the series the more of them you will see.

August 11th, 2005
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I awake tossing in bed, my mind unable to fully rest sits disturbed and tangled like the bunched up sheets between my legs. My cat utters a grumpy, “mroump” from the back of his throat, apparently my restless mind is keeping him up too. I run through all of the things still left to do before I leave, many of them feel big and overwhelming, it feels like a long list and the time only gets shorter. It all brings me to a kind of panic. This thinking. These thoughts that get repeated over and over, like a train whistle that screams “you’re not o.k., you’re not o.k.” This is what I have trained myself to do.
I have started a new mantra for myself in this situation, something to do everyday when I wake up. I want to start my day on a different note. I take a long deep breath and say, “Today I’m going to do the best that I can do.” That’s it.
What is implied by that is I may not do it perfectly, it may not be ‘right’, I may not get everything resolved, maybe I don’t even get close, but it will be my best and that is enough. That is all I can do. Sort of takes the pressure off to get it all done. I used to percieve myself as some kind of superhuman, able to conquer every task with great speed, skill and efficiency. The pressure to ‘get it all done now’ was/is overwhelming. And at the root of it is control, the need to make sure that my life functions perfectly. I laugh now as I write that last line. No life functions perfectly. And in the imperfections is the good stuff, the stuff that is worth writing about. The messiness of everyday life. Color. Who wants to write about a life that runs like clockwork?
With this understanding I am learning to be more gentle with myself. Don’t try to do it all, just do what you can and feel good about that. Allow space for mystery and serendipity to come in. Allow for accidents and mistakes, for time spent doing nothing, for experience. (collage is wonderful training for this, you cannot control it too much.) When I am in a panic I am not really experiencing life, but forcing it into a little box. For the first time in my life I am starting to understand what it means to embrace my imperfections. Part of that is allowing myself to experience that vulnerability, (such a theme lately), and trust in my ability to deal with situations as they arise. Maybe I should make myself a tshirt that reads, “Imperfectionist in training.”
So today I will go for lunch at the cafe, I will write a bit, make a few phone calls, do a collage, attempt one thing on my big list, go for a swim. Or maybe none of that will happen. But it will be enough.

August 10th, 2005

“I want to know a lot of things I don’t already know -especially as the things I do know, if written down, do not have the permanence I want in my mind.” ~Richard Tuttle (sculpture collage artist)
things i am excited about…
this show.
this film on dvd.
this book.
this artist. (link via tania.)
this illustrator.
this school.
this boy, (photo by andrea scher)
(*i was going to trash this collage last night but today i woke up and found that i quite like it. what a difference a few hours can make.)
you cannot walk on the floor in my studio without stepping on collage or glue. my feet are covered in it.

August 9th, 2005
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Reading in bed last night, (one of my favorite things), the window open and faint breeze coming in, clean white sheets and my old ratty quilts. Having finished my previous book I grabbed one randomly off the shelf, (I do this quite a bit in hopes of receiving some brilliant “message”, the thing that I most need to hear. From the pages of “Everywhere you go there you are”, a passage stood out,
“If you are truly strong, there is little need to emphasize it to yourself or to others. Best to take another tack entirely and direct your attention where you fear most to look. You can do this by allowing yourself to feel, even to cry, to not have to have opinions about everything, to not appear invincible or unfeeling to others, but instead to be in touch with and appropriately open about your feelings. What looks like weakness is actually where your strength lies. And what looks like strength is often weakness, an attempt to cover up fear; this is an act or facade, however convincing it might appear to others or even to yourself.” -John Kabat-Zinn
Quite appropriate given that in the last year I have become aware of that ‘facade’, the not wanting to show vulnerability, and the lack of intimacy that creates with others. Though I still have a habit of wanting to project that strength, I feel much more in touch with that vulnerability, able to see what is at the root of that facade, (insecurity, fear of the dark stuff, wanting people to “like” me, wanting be loved.) It has made me look at who I am without all of that other stuff, who am I without the facade (without all of the external embellishments, success, possessions, job, clothing, friends, home, position). THAT is who we truly are. Are we able to feel loveable when we stand in THAT truth? That is the most difficult thing of all.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

August 6th, 2005

(*inspired by a list from “Chairman, Rolf Fehlbaum” by Tibor Kalman)

August 5th, 2005
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I’ve noticed a pattern with myself when something comes up that I didn’t expect, or when I get a little overwhelmed with things I go into my large crab shell of avoidance (famous trait of the beloved cancerians). It is this avoidance that wreaks havoc on a life causing one to start a dark, perilous gypsy dance over red hot coals, (the tricky movement starts slowly at first and then speeds up into a skirt whirling frenzy). Your brain tells you that the thing you don’t want to deal with will go away if you don’t look at it or pay it any attention, treat it like a stray animal, don’t put any food out. Avoidance builds in the chest like agent orange threatening to suffocate the pinkest of lungs. Like the air in the brown balloon-like throat of an overweight bullfrog, (can you tell I’ve been reading Tom Robbins lately?) I notice that when the avoidance builds up overtime I start to feel slightly hopeless, insecure, needy, weak, fearful. I feel like I am five years old wearing my pyjamas with the feet in them, holding onto my security blanket for dear life.
It may seem obvious to say that I am learning that if I just grit my teeth and speak my truth in it’s simplest form, no matter what the context, (no excuse making, no elaborate embellishment, no coloring), then the universe responds with a hearty reward. The thing I fear most DOES NOT HAPPEN! But instead the opposite. Every time. Relief. Deep breathing. Peaceful feels. Invincibility shield. Powerful feels.
And yet still I forget this.
Today is a day for facing several of these things head on. When I get up the courage I attack them all at once with the subtlety of a samurai warrior.
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” -Helen Keller (this quote was written in a card from Christine.)

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