It is time for me to sit down and write when I feel overwhelmed with things. Returned home last night and have barely had a minute to breathe and sink back into my skin. After a week of chaos and excitement I find myself craving time alone, I need to be able to let ideas come in again, go back to my own “work”. I am not the girl who likes to go to parties and make connections.
Our last night was spent in Joshua Tree, the perfect quiet and surreal ending to an otherwise magical week. On first glance a common reaction to this place might be, “this is different”. Huge rock formations that look like something out of the Flinstones lay scattered in massive piles all throughout. To be immersed in a desert landscape full of wildlife and foliage so foreign to me, it was not unlike being thrown into a Doctor Seuss book. Strangely bent trees with ‘pom poms’ on the tops, a bush we dubbed ‘the fall apart bush’, (when you picked it, it would disintegrate in your hands), tiny lizards scurried beneath our feet, large eared bunnies munching on leaves by the dozens, a black furry tarantula walking casually five feet in front of us while we ate (me yelling “oh my god!”), a lone coyote slithers by us in the darkness. It all felt like a dream, yet none of it scary, quite peaceful in fact. When I got up to pee in the night I gasped out loud at the view, millions of stars with the Joshua Trees silouetted against the bright sky. I wanted to stay up all night, to take it all in. That feeling of not wanting to close your eyes for fear that you will miss something beautiful. Words do not do it justice, trust me when I say it is spectacular.
The places we visit change us forever. Joshua Tree is a part of me now.
I come home to a comfy bed and a shower, to my desk, to a kitchen that likes to be used, the things that bring me back to myself. I come home also to overwhelming things, the financial struggles (bills), rejection letters, pressures & obligations, the things that shake our confidence. And somewhere in between I must find a balance. It amazes me that after many years of being an artist there is still the wild swinging of confidence, one week you are powerful and charged, on top of the world and your craft, the next you feel plagued with feelings of hopelessness and despair, is my work of value? will anyone recognize my talents? Not surprisingly these latter feelings usually follow some kind of rejection, I start to worry that I may not survive, wonder how is it that other artists seem to do it so effortlessly, (which is actually funny since I seem to others to be one of those artists who appears to be doing this much of the time). Ebb and flow m’dears. That fly on the wall will tell you the truth.
The creative life is one of great contrast.
It requires great stillness and listening. When i become overwhelmed i am too impatient to sit and listen, or i don’t wish to hear what is being said. Instead I cling to the thing that I want so badly, not open to the alternate path that the universe is trying to show me. Sometimes our ego impedes our forward movement. A fact that I don’t like to admit. I am afraid of not being able to survive if I don’t sell my stuff, of falling into financial ruin, of becoming homeless, of not being a sucessful artist. This does not make for good work, or honest work.
Give me my paint box and journal, that is where the REAL work begins. The stuff that no one sees.
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work.
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
-Wendel Berry (collected poems)
and so yesterday our dancing on the streetcorner brought the cops out. don’t worry, we were not arrested. but what transpired was a brief explanation followed by a philosophical debate. the conversation went something like this (keep in mind there were three or four cars called to the scene)…
cop: So what’s going on here?
me: We are dancing. My husband and his friend made a film about dancing in public which is showing at the festival this week. The film addresses the concept that when we dance in certain contexts (at a club, or a wedding) it is perfectly acceptable and viable but when we are moved to dance in public (on the streetcorner for example) we are then labled as crazy, drunk or on drugs.
cop: (with a disapproving look, stern tone, eyebrows raised) Yes, everyone does think that. That’s why I was called.
me: Is it illegal to dance in public?
cop: No. But you cannot go against the lights, or infringe on the rights of others.
me: We just enjoy dancing. We don’t wish to cause any harm. In fact quite the opposite. I think people enjoy watching us.
cop: (eyebrows raised) Well someone was upset by it, that’s why I was called.
me: I’m sorry about that.
cop: (still not happy) Well, I can’t stop you. Just obey the law.
me: Yes, we will.
this process is fascinating. the response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. we almost can’t believe it. actually we can’t believe it. all because of the dance. after the screening last night we were swarmed with people. this film was shot on a regular, tiny digital camera (canon digital elph) in film clip mode. when we show other filmakers the camera they audibly gasp and stare in disbelief. Most of the films in this festival were done with large crews, good budgets, big actors, studio backing. it is amazing that we are here.
it just goes to show that if you are passionate about what you are doing, tell your story as directly as you can, the world will respond to it.
it also brings up my favorite saying, “Use what you got.” don’t wait until your situation is perfect (until you have the right space, the right equipment, enough money.) Begin now.
don’t worry if people tell you you are crazy.
“We are fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” -Japanese proverb
added note: the woman who called the cops (we believe) has approached us every day single day and made a point to tell us that we are ‘making fools of ourselves in Palm Springs’. we think she really wants to join us deep down.
this morning we dance our butts off on a streetcorner. it was fantastic. better than fantastic. only the first two minutes were intimidating, after that…
a two year old boy started dancing with me and stole my heart. we jumped and spun together.
Jeff and Mike have done two interviews for radio and tv, we seem to be causing a bit of a stir here, (it is quite small so causing a stir is not that difficult, people are coming up to us on the street and asking if we are the dancing people).
such a simple thing this is. to go out and dance. an old man gives us the thumbs up, another tells Mike it’s the best thing he’s seen in years. people in offices on the second floor stand watching in a line, I bekon for them to join me. I think they want to.
all this is welcome as we slept in a parking lot last night (in tents) during a fierce thunderstorm, (the only one in palm springs at this time of year in years). today a very sweet man working for the festival offered us his condo.
I am really looking forward to a bed and a shower. yessir.
more to come…
Some days it feels as though there is too little to write about, other days too much. Today is more of the latter and time is dwindling down. and so I start…
…my beloved cat Doobie passed away, a ripe old age of 17 years. He was healthy and happy right up until the very end and went as peacefully as one can. I will miss his loud purring, kissing and rubbing my face on the top of his fuzzy head, the smell of his fur (it was sweet and cuddly), napping with him.
…almost a year ago now my husband and his friend Mike started dancing on street corners. What started out as a joke, quickly became a life changing and inspiring exercise in ‘letting go’ and being in the moment. They filmed the entire process which resulted in Mike putting together a short film entitled, “the winter of the dance”. a few short weeks ago we were notified that it was accepted into the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. In a mad rush we have had to assemble promotional materials, postcards, website and posters for the event (which starts on Tuesday). The most interesting part of the story perhaps is that we have no idea what we are doing never having done this before. We are unaware of any of the rules, protocol, concepts relating to a film festival of this size and so we fly by the seat of our pants. You can read an article published in the Sacremento News and Review about the project here.
…a few days ago I had my first experience dancing in public (though admittedly it was after dinner so there were few bystanders to my relief) and found it to be amazingly freeing and life affirming. The process is simple, cd/mp3 player, great music & some headphones, move your body intuitively to the sound. As a life long dancer I find this method of dancing (free form) to be the one that gets us closest to experiencing the ‘joy of existence’ directly. I found myself laughing and jumping and running. Something that must be experienced to be understood (otherwise it just sounds like the dancer is insane, which is actually the point of the film, why is it that when one dances in public they are considered ‘strange’ or unbalanced?). I think my husband and Mike have caught on to something that has the potential to change the world. A revolution of dance. We will be dancing in public for the festival. Stay tuned.
I have not been doing much drawing, or writing, or painting. Little bits here and there. But instead giving myself time to ease into this new life. Though I have a couple of illustration deadlines to keep me slightly in the world, I am enjoying giving myself time to just be in a new place, observe it, notice the nuances.
I will admit to not wanting to write here because of recent occurences, I felt a bit weighted by it all. But I do not wish people’s opinions of me to influence my art. I have always like the saying, “what you think of me is none of my business”. And so I will carry on writing what is in my heart and sharing the bits and pieces of my life here when I am moved to do so.
I am not used to having access to things. I still find it strange that i can go to a grocery store whenever I want, (something most people take for granted I suppose.) But in Flesherton one has to drive quite a distance for anything, (at least ten miles for the closest not-so-good market and forty minutes to a good store). Here I can ride my bike anywhere, to anything it seems. So very different. Great for my love of cooking and books, not so great from a monetary perspective. Thousands of books at my fingertips anytime I want, (luckily there are a couple of great used and discounted book stores). I have treated myself to a few new things…a work desk (the kind with work horses so you can tilt the top if you need to), new red shoes (perfect for riding around town), a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, and four earthy green plates. Many of the furnishings have been found on the roadside, a retro wooden coffee table, an art and crafts dresser, a beautiful orange metal office chair from the fifties, a metal lamp, and yesterday a rusted metal plant holder for the garden. I also bought some chalkboard paint and have been painting found pieces of wood with it (I like artwork that changes). My greatest idea thus far was hanging my journals on the wall with clothespins and tacks, I can change the pages when I get tired of them.
other things i am not used to…
…being able to plant seeds and flowers now, (arugula, collard greens, cilantro).
…the drastic change in temperatures (i find myself changing clothes several times a day. right now my nose is running it is so chilly but later I will be in tshirt and skirt.)
…the different kinds of plants in the garden. (the roses are still blooming)
…at the food co-op the other day they whole store sang happy birthday to one of the employees, (it made me cry, i have never had that experience in a store).
…mexican food, taqueria’s are as popular here as donut shops are in the east. (I had my first chicken burrito the other day.) I am learning bits of spanish here and there and enjoying it quite a bit.
…olive trees, what a strange new smell.
…the perfume of bay laurel and eucalyptus in the air.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” ~May Oliver
“every day, passion speaks to us through our feelings. that’s why when you allow yourself to become anesthetized by what others think, you literally block yourself from living the life you were called to live.
i promise you that if you make a choice that doesn’t please your mate, your friends, your mother, or whoever, the world will not fall apart — the people who truly love you want you to love yourself. and as you become clearer about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you — the first time around.” ~Oprah Winfrey
(found on Jen’s site)
i am not upset, i openly welcome this dialogue.
i am growing, becoming more of myself. my “stuff” floats to the surface where I can look at it and own it and see where there is work to be done. love to be given.
i remember the guilt years ago of leaving the hospital and feeling that I should not experience any joy when ‘she’ could not walk or speak or move. i did not allow myself to live because she was dying. i see that now.
there are no coincidences here. I am meant to look at all of this.
I will not shy away from any of it. I believe it is the role of the artist to stand in their truth, and question our perceptions of the world.
Sometimes it is not recieved well, that is o.k.
thank you Jonis, Jennifer, et al. we all learn from each other.
Not having internet at home yet, imagine my shock when I logged on this morning to find the dialogue that has ensued over the last 24 hours. I went through a variety of responses from anger, to sadness, and once again gratitude. My heart tells me that I should not try to defend myself here, but instead express my overall feelings about things. But this is difficult for I am indeed human after all, prone to the wide range of emotions, (and become defensive when I feel my character has been attacked, though I would like to be the buddha in this respect it is easier said than done.) My process of the last two years has been to open up more to my truth, to see things that I have not wanted to see (in myself and others), and to get closer to who I really am. That means going to the ugly places, and this is no exception.
I am grateful for this dialogue (it gives us all a chance to figure out how we feel about certain things), and I will not shy away from it.
The great question here becomes “How far do we each choose to cast our own net of empathy?” Does it reach to the other side of the world? To my own country? To my family? Or only to the dying bird in my backyard? When I look at the planet and all of the people and creatures on it, I say, “your pain is my pain”. That is what it means to have compassion, I understand your pain because I have it too, I know what it means to feel hurt and sadness. As someone who often feels too much, I must make decisions about how much weight I put onto my own heart. If I take on all of the problems of the world the weight is too great to bear, and I will not be able to function.
I have always been a believer in the Buddhist notion that “Life is suffering.” (And this is where the controversy might occur), who is to say that one suffering is greater than another? Is is not for us to do, but it IS important that we say to each other, I feel your pain. So if we cannot take on the world’s pain we must make choices about where to put our energy.
My choices have always been (and this is where a slight defensiveness comes in), to align myself with those who have found themselves “voiceless”, to act on a political and social level for those who go unnoticed or unacknowledged in our greater culture. The aids crisis in africa where 1000 people die every single day, to children in Africa who cannot get enough food on a daily basis, to orphans in Guatemala who do not have parents to provide for them, millions of people have no water every day. My own mother was unable to speak and was paralized for the last five years of her life (needing others to act as her voice), this is the experience that shaped MY choices. We all speak and act from our own experience.
I must admit to feeling slightly disgusted at the rampant American ethnocentricity when it comes to tragedy on home soil. As someone who is not American you must understand that at times it appears that “some” of you are saying, “My pain is greater that your pain?” (I DO NOT discredit the current suffering of people in New Orleans, it is tragic and devastating and my heart goes out to all of the people who have lost their homes, families, and friends.)
To my critics…I would agree that as someone who has a “voice” in the greater culture that I have a responsibility to speak out for things that I feel strongly about. I would ask you as the reader, “Is it your responsibilty to force your own feelings onto me?” Why do you feel the need to make me accountable for all of the pains of this world? Why is a blog percieved differently than a book or a painting, or a piece of music, (often labeled “narcissistic”, self absorbed). Yes it is. I am using my voice. It is MY voice, I speak from my perspective.
What I can say for sure…
Life is suffering.
You are indeed getting only a small part of who I am in these writings.
I have my own contradictions.
My heart cannot contain all of the sufferings of the world. (though at times i have tried, to my detriment.)
We are all connected by our suffering.
It is not wrong to experience joy in the midst of suffering. (the writings of Anne Frank greatly influenced my life.)
Altruism is a personal thing, we must make our own choices about where to put our money/energy/love. No one can tell us what is “right”.
Media greatly affects our perception of things.
I cannot please everyone with my writings.
Crisis brings out intense emotions.
Anger is often fear in disguise.
Maybe some of the energy used critiquing me would be better spent doing something productive for the people in need (if that is what your heart wishes to do.)
I continue to be grateful for all of your words, even the challenging ones. as they force me to look closely at my own beliefs.
…and I want to take some time to write about all the little details, my first day was perfect, (the 29th of august, celebrating our first wedding anniversary) riding around on bikes through the redwood trees, driking great wine, eating the most incredible tomato I have ever had in my life (as sweet as a raspberry), the gratitude and happiness for being with my husband again after a month and a half, the farmer’s market, the food, the food, the food, the heat, the laughing, the much needed sleep, fresh figs, tea from Peet’s (Lion mountain keemun), our little hummingbird friend “James” who greets us every morning, the magic house hidden in the trees (i must meet the owner and get inside), new books, some sadness while listening to NPR (New Orleans), a new (old) green bike with a wicker basket on the front, and love. My senses are being used to their full capacity.
for now this little snippet will have to do. it is my first day on my own and I want to do some exploring. I brought a picnic lunch and some money for something sweet. the sun hits the pavement with great intensity, and I am grateful for the slight breeze. I am grateful for a lot of things.