the house is quiet tonight. only the sounds of my dog sleeping and making occasional mouth noises and the hot waterbottle behind my head slooshing around.
returning to myself after the holidays is always an interesting transition. after days of being immersed in the world of others, there is always a strange period of adjusting back into my known interior world. The place where I create and exist largely in my head and hands.
This year is so different too as I am existing more in my body, the being in my belly seems to grow every day now, my middle is shifting and morphing as I write this. A constant reminder that I am no longer alone, or should I say ‘a lone’ being no longer. How excited I am to at some point be able to see those little feet that push so adamantly against the insides of my abdomen. I have never before experienced a feeling of being cumbersome, or had difficulty moving in any way that I wished with the greatest of ease. Such a strange place to exist in. Putting on socks leaves me winded. My breathing is labored, I have difficulty turning over in bed at night. Instead of shifting, I feel like I am hauling a large load, much like I pictured my grandfather doing, being a cod fisherman off the shores of newfoundland. the slap my belly makes as it meets the bed not unlike the slap of wet fish onto the deck of a small dory. (ok a bit of an exaggeration yes, but you must admit the image is rather colorful). I will spare you any mention of whale alegories.
I have also never experienced another human being interacting with my ribs on a regular basis. My whole life my ribs have always been something that I took for granted, aware of their existence only on a limited basis. I certainly have never have considered sharing them with anyone before in such an intimate way. I am now made aware of them on an hourly basis when somehow a foot becomes tangled in them, or kicks them to the point of pain, or how it feels like they are being crushed by my growing womb. I am amazed at how I find myself talking about them in daily conversation, as if they are just a normal inclusion much like weather or local news items.
I suppose I could go on at length about the increasing challenges of pregnancy, the heartburn, the achy hips, or the sleepless nights, but I admit that I don’t really want to do much complaining right now, (I save that for my husband who likes to help soothe my aches and pains any way he can as a way of experiencing it with me). I think part of me feels that to complain about it would be like complaining about being human. Certainly there are things that are challenging about it, and it’s important to honor those things, but man, isn’t it great to get to experience it all? Holy crap, i’m growing a human in my body, how did that happen?
Some days don’t you want to shout out loud, “Wow, this is an amazing incredible trip! I can’t belive that I get to wake up everyday and get to do it all over again.” fuck yes. Let me experience all of it.
“The world is an astonishing place.” ~Milton Glaser
I had to turn down a speaking engagement this week with one of my heros, Chipp Kidd. I shed a few tears about it at first, thinking that these things don’t happen to me all the time, but it was a sacrifice that had to be made due to the pregnancy. It would have been too hectic for me and I am trying to keep the stress level at a minimum. I know it’s silly, one thing I have learned is that these things do not make or break your career, but sometimes the ego wants you to think they do, it tries to trick you into thinking you’re making a big irreperable mistake. When in fact it’s just another speaking thing, there will be many more in my lifetime, other chances to meet people I admire. And the real truth is that bringing a child into the world is a huge gift, one that I am very grateful for (one that I wasn’t sure I was going to get to experience at all). And once I thought about it in this way I let it go completely and happily.
I think another issue at hand is that it seems that my career is changing. I’m not sure if I can put it into words really, it’s just a sense I am getting. I have always operated on a slow moving path, my level of success could be described as moderate and steady, but nothing in the way of big seller or becoming a household name. And let me be clear about it, this is exactly how I like it. I am perfectly happy being able to bring my ideas out into the world in the form of books, and I don’t think I will ever stop. I can’t actually, they come out of me without me knowing exactly why or how. In the beginning I think I was trying to emulate the lives of other people, by doing what others did, just for a time, while I got my footing. But in the last few years the more I have followed my own path and process the more I am getting to my own voice. My god, it’s an amazing feeling.
To be honest with you, one of the ways that this is happened is by me cutting myself off from what others are doing. I have become isolated in many ways from the culture at large (mass media) and focused on reading works by others who only followed their own path. This transformation into uncovering my own work has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever experienced. I don’t share it here with the intent of getting on a soapbox about it, but instead just to let you know how making a couple of changes have helped me.
There are two major factors at play here,
1. a few years ago I turned off the tv for good, not because I think tv is necessarily evil, but because I wanted to take back control of my time and what I put into my head. I wanted to treat my mind as a sacred space, and begin to fill it with things that would help formulate new ideas, my imagination, and things that benefitted my life instead of taking away from it.
2. I did at some point learn that all of the things that I had done to try and “make it” were actually bullshit (ego driven) and had nothing to do with being an artist or living in a way that made the world a better place. These things included (for me), goal setting, networking, promoting, marketing, and also wanting to “get ahead”.
So I left them all behind. I made a pact to work from the heart and not the ego. And I thought at first I would crash and burn. But that did not happen. I continued to do some illustration work (which allowed me to have time to work on my personal projects). And those projects turned into books. Removing myself from the mass culture has given my mind the space to work without the constant comparing or competing (because I am most defintely a competitive soul, which I was not proud of at first but I will write more about that at a later date because it was a wonderfully freeing revelation when I finally admitted it to myself. All of the things that I didn’t like in others where often spurred by some kind of jealousy in me and had nothing to do at all with them. I am actually going to be speaking this year at Icon 5 on this very topic.)
So what have I learned? The more I just trust myself and go out on a limb with my ideas the more I am rewarded with the outside stuff. Only now am I starting to have things happen that I had wanted so badly in the beginning, speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, new projects. Except now I realize that these things are nice but don’t define me at all.
In fact nothing defines me, not even this amazing career that I have created. It feels really good to know that. I would in fact survive just fine without any of it. More important to me are the bigger things, my family, my health, my love of the world.
it’s good to tell yourself that every once in a while.
(maybe this is what happened to the calvino book.)
a most enjoyable radio interview I did with Mark Lynch on the show ‘Inquiry’, WICN 90.5 FM radio in Boston. I so love speaking to someone who totally gets what i am doing, and who is really knowledgable about the history. I pretty much unload on a variety of subjects such as contemporary art, the situationist movement, John Cage, the challenges of being an artist, doing the opposite, and yes, PMS.
links & corrections from the interview:
the wreck this journal flickr site
the group show that I mentioned in the interview was by Crown Point Press and entitled “Magical Secrets about Thinking Creatively” of which there is also a companion book. The jumping piece I am referring to is actually by Tom Marioni (not John Cage), called flying with friends, and it was one of the highlights of the show for me.
I also really enjoyed the “Eninka” series by John Cage.
By now you must certainly be thinking that I am making this up, but I have had yet again another encounter with “he who cannot be named” (though I did just name him in the title of this excerpt.) the newest addition goes something like this.
My husband has lunch with a writer/musician he admires and during an excited conversation about literature he mentions my fondness for all things calvino these days. The said writer then mentions his favorite calvino book and states adamantly that it is the one book he wishes he had written, (the highest form of compliment one writer can give another, though often iterated with a sigh of defeat and a hint of jealousy.)
Upon hearing this bit of information I immediately know that this is one of those literary “signs” that I don’t take lightly and decide that I must not hesitate to find this volume, that in fact it should be the next book I read. Not to mention the fact that the book sounds to be completely appropriate and of a similar theme to the book I am currently working on. These “signs” happen to me often, the universe never fails to tells me what book I should read next. And so a plan is made.
1. Look up the book on the library database and see if they have it in stock. Title search: Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino. Done. Check. One copy on hand. Catologue number PQ4809 .A45 (a number which is now committed to memory). I suppose that last piece of information counts as a bit of foreshadowing.
2. While making a trip to the farmers market, check in at the used bookstore on the off chance that they have a previously read edition of the book as those are the ones I prefer the most. (Previously read books have more life to them than new copies.) Done. Negative. The “c” section is devoid of any Calvino’s, but full of Cather’s and Coelho’s . It was worth a shot.
3. On the way home from the market stop in at the library to pick up the book.
Sounds strait forward enough. On a day when the wind chill is enough to shatter bones, my husband and I make our way through the frozen wilderness of the RPI campus (where there is not a soul in sight). Haul my pregnant (read:heavy) body up to the third floor, to the section that holds PQ, (I know it well by now as it holds both Calvino and Queneau). Find the calvino shelf, number 4809. scan the titles. Difficult Loves, Hermit in Paris, The Baron in the Trees, and a few others.
But no Mr. Palomar. I look again. I look on the shelf above, and the shelf below. I scan all the numbers on all the surrounding shelves. No sign. I check behind all the books on the shelf to see if it got pushed to the back, or in the case that it fell down the crack in between the stacks. Nothing.
I decide to go down to the desk and look it up again to see if someone had checked it out while I was at the market. I explain my plight to the woman at the desk and she informs me of three possible scenarios, either a) it has been shelved incorrectly, b) it is on the “reshelve” cart by the elevator, or c) it has been lost.
I make my way to the “re shelve” cart on the third floor by the elevator. I scan the PQ’s. Nothing. I go back to the shelf in desperation and look again in case I just missed it. Defeated, I pick up “Hermit in Paris” , a book of interviews (which I don’t really want to read right now because I am fixated on Mr. Palomar), and wander back to the front desk where my husband is talking to a friend he has run into. The librarian shrugs her shoulders and offers me no consolation.
For the rest of the day my brain is contemplating the conundrum. Most likely the book has been shelved incorrectly. But there is no way to actually go about finding it. You cannot look for it on purpose, but instead, it must be happened upon. By accident. Randomly. Pure happenstance. The irony makes my insides twist in frustration, and yet…
What a fascinating situation. A book that you know exists, but you cannot look for. Almost like a book that you find that you cannot read.
I am also fascinated by the prospect of a book whose narrative continues through your experience with/of it. Kind of a never ending story. But unique to each person who reads it.
So Mr.Calvino what are you trying to tell me now? Am I to give up the search for the elusive Mr.Palomar?
something tells me it is only just beginning. maybe the message is to be found in the mystery itself.