(one of my favourite photos of my husband ever!)
I’ve also been waiting to tell you that my husband Jefferson Pitcher and two of his friends Christian Kiefer and Matthew Gerken have a new record out, Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies. I and 42 amazing artists (including Camilla Engman, Eun Ha Paek, Kevin Scalzo, Penelope Dullaghan, Brian Biggs, Jen Corace, Danny Gregory, Rama Hughes, Christine Castro Hughes, Peter Arkle, , Steve Lambert and many more) participated in doing the artwork for each of the presidents, the three disk set comes with a beautiful book. It’s a really wonderful project and I am very proud to have been a part of it! You can read more about it on the website here. (it has been selling so well that it sold out in the first week. so to the artists your copies are coming soon as we are awaiting the second printing!)
p.s. i just got the first email from someone who received ‘explorer’ from amazon. it’s out! these are exciting times in our household.
this entry was prompted by a woman who wrote me, a fellow artist who is considering having children, though currently on the proverbial fence. she wrote me asking if i could offer my experience thus far on how one’s creativity is impacted by having a child. more specifically, what sacrifices are involved. in many ways I feel like this in itself is a daunting task, how does one even begin to talk about an experience that they are just beginning? i still feel like a beginner, wading through this new place in my wellies, looking for some dry ground to sit on to reflect. yet, after receiving this note I have not been able to stop thinking about my response. what would I say? ideas float in and around my brain as i go about my day. and so i feel i must write. even if for myself.
I was never one of those people who always wanted to have children. but for years I found myself talking to other moms about what it was like to be a parent. Something in my being was fascinated with the whole process and wanted to know everything. I particularly wanted to hear from other creative mothers on whether it was possible to maintain a creative life while caring for a child. I know that the experience is very different for everyone, but I mined each person for as much information as i could get. I think often there were answers that I really wanted to hear, to know that it was doable or in some cases easy and carefree. Many answers I did not like hearing, (you will have no time for yourself, it requires MAJOR sacrifices). All answers are true, and sometimes not true. how’s that for cryptic?
from so many mothers i have sensed a push pull energy, a feeling of loving parenting but at the same time wanting to be somewhere else. i myself grew up with a mom who absolutely loved being a mom and was fulfilled by it in many ways but seemed always to be craving time for herself. i sensed that there was another life that she longed for, which she fulfilled by doing small theatre and teaching dancing part time. that place of “what could have been” loomed there just on the outskirts of our existence and my sister and I could feel its constant presence. creativity going to waste, or being brushed aside for trips to the dentist, and the day to day tasks that motherhood demands.
as an adult I decided I would never live in a way that I would have any regrets about what could have been, I would do whatever I was drawn to, whatever moved me, and try to experience everything as fully as possible. If parenting was to be a part of it, I would have to be 100% sure that that was the path for me. Of course, as I got older I learned that my life is not about the things i’ve planned, and it’s much better that way. I no longer find it necessary to be 100% sure of anything. Planning just gets in the way of living well, in my opinion, but I digress…
and so to Amanda, (and all you out there reading this who might be in the same boat) here are some things that I want to share with you. it worked best to write in snippets, writing thoughts down as they come in.
…i still don’t feel like a ‘mom’, in the strict parental sense. I kind of feel like a girl who is taking care of the most amazing person ever. I see other moms and think I am not like them.
…I was so worried that I would change as a person in a negative way (read:irrational fears about losing my creativity.) That has not occurred at all. I am the same me, only with a TON more meaning in my life. I’ll get to that more later.
…I thought I would feel more like I know what I am doing as a parent. it’s like every other creative endeavor I’ve ever done…I’m just winging it most days, in a “let try this and see what happens”. I always thought you would know exactly what to do.
…I have lost all sense of being (or attempting to be) graceful in this role. I never feel entirely put together physically. I’ve given up on getting somewhere on time.
…on some days my creative life has become a series of “doing whatever possible in the time allotted to get the job done”. you know that game where the gophers pop their little fuzzy heads up out of a hole and you have to hit them as fast as you can with a large mallet before they pop back down again? It’s like that.
…but then on other days there are moments of calm where a kind of routine sets in, and on those days i often feel like, “this is a piece of cake”. my life and work feel seamless and doable, (and this happens fairly often if I am to be truthful). I want to have five more children and live in a big wonky house full of happy children with dogs and a pond and chickens, and maybe even a horse or two. And I will invite all of my friends who have children to come and swim in the pond and we will cook and laugh and drink wine together and I will be a kind of supermom. a mom powerhouse who can change 10 diapers at once, and calm a crying baby in seconds, a kind of amazing “baby whisperer” and people in the neighborhood will talk about me like I am some kind of baby god. and then usually the baby wakes up. and sometimes if he is screaming for a while I have found myself thinking, “How does anyone ever manage two of them?”
…i get into the most trouble when I am clinging to “needing” to get something done in the time frame that I want it to be done. It is a difficult shift to realize that you no longer call the shots. If I attempt to control how and when, I end up very frustrated. Even knowing this fact I still fight it constantly. It is strange to not be able to take a nap when I need one like I used to. You have no choice but to push through that fatigue. Most days i am lucky to get in two hours for my work, (and I am lucky to have a husband that works at home right now).
…something in my body feels more complete than I ever have before. complete in the sense that I feel a part of a family, there is a huge comfort in that for me. I feel connected to something very important. My life has a focal point now. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. this is the sense of having more meaning that I referred to earlier.
…as I walked around the farmer’s market this morning holding my child people would look at him and smile. I actually got teary over the sense of pride I felt about being this person’s mother, or even just being a mother in general. It was kind of a “look at what I am doing, isn’t it great”, in the way little kids feel when they show you a painting. no ego in it, just pure enjoyment.
…there are moments/days that are so very trying it unbelievable, (and I have the sense that there will be many more of these in the future.) on the whole I believe that this discomfort is not only valuable, but what makes life truly fulfilling. For me life is all about contrast and if you are looking for a smooth and easy, maintenence free life then maybe having a child is not for you. Some days in the beginning I thought, “I have to get up tomorrow and do this all over again? wow.” …
but the rewards are plentiful. what no one can explain to you before you have a child and what you can never understand, (even if someone tries to explain it to you) is how you will love this thing more than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. It’s like falling in love all over again, but on a new plain of existence. it feels a lot like getting the coolest present ever, something that you want to play with all day and show to everyone you know, (I know this sounds terrible but so what). you want to quit everything and give this little being the best life you can imagine.
and i believe one of the best gifts I can give to him is to allow my own creativity to flourish. Not necessarily in the all encompassing way that it did before. now I have to shrink things down a bit to fit it into the time I have. But it is still a huge part of me and I am excited to share it more with him as he grows. And there are definitely sacrifices that I am making for him, I can’t do all of the speaking engagements that I am offered, travel is MUCH harder with a baby (a fact that I did not want to believe before I had him), socializing with friends is NOT the same (conversation is scattered and haphazard and disjointed), it is MUCH better to socialize with other parents because they understand what it is like and don’t bat an eyelash when the baby pukes or screams for an hour during dinner, the house is often a disaster area (keeping it clean seems impossible, another fact i did not want to believe).
To be totally honest I feel like I could write a very long book about this and still not get out everything I want to say. So for now I will leave you with these things. I share them with you not as an attempt to persuade you in one direction or the other. I cannot tell you the thing that you want to hear, or give you the answer to the question you are seeking. for me it came down to a question. not “Will I have a child and still be able to create?”, but instead, “Can I live with not having had that experience in my life?” and for me the answer was “no”.
I’ll keep you posted on the rest.
i have been testing out a new plugin for firefox called adblock, created by my good friend steve and the good people at eyebeam labs. its wonderful! amazing! and it is about to evolve this week into something called ad-art, which replaces ads with art (curated by various people, even YOU). go get it now and cut out those unwanted corporate ads! absolutely free.
had to read more stegner after finishing ‘angle of repose’, started ‘crossing to safety’ this week. took me two months to finish ‘snow’ by orphan pamuk, it was so bleak and dreary, not the kind of book you can easily sink into while nursing your new infant.
our favorite bakery in the world was recently featured in food and wine. we know it as one-fifty-ate. they make the absolute best bagels i have ever eaten in my life! we stayed with the owners Sunny and Bob right before we got married and they treated us to the most decadent and unforgettable breakfasts. if you ever visit portland maine you must go there. I would give anything to be able to go there this afternoon (says she who is not consuming milk products right now due to breastfeeding).
got my first giggle today. i think it was the best thing in the world.
also got a hug in the mail. thank you cynthia (and steve)!
a note to all who write me:
I am so grateful for all the letters and requests I receive. unfortunately i am unable to respond to the bulk of mail that i receive. I hope that you can understand that I am literally flooded with requests every day and I am now having to make very direct choices about how I am spending my time. it is a bit of a struggle at times, but I am learning more about how to manage it slowly but surely.
if my sleep were an object it would be a worn piece of black paper torn into tiny pieces, rearranged, then sewn back together with fragments of thread that are unraveling before your eyes.
snow day. new year.
wet dog snoozing. running through the deep snow wore him out this morning.
work begins again. I become more motivated as the snow falls. being snowed in is best for me. i live to hunker down. to be buried under a blanket.
to break up my day with hot tea and the occasional treat. what kind of tea for today? green i think. the color suits my mood.
today I can’t decide where I would like to work most. which room suits my mood. i think the room influences how the work that comes out. things that are created in bed often feel more playful. but other times I like to spread all my books out around me on the floor.
if I choose the studio I will need to turn the heater on first. it’s really chilly because it is on the back of the house and has three outside walls, (days like this I miss my woodstove in canada.) I like to look out onto the backyard while I work and watch the snow and the squirrels. but it’s difficult to work on the floor right now with my big belly.
I know of a famous author who wrote all of his books while lying down, but I can’t think of who it is right now. maybe that would be best for today. I can spread some of my books out on the bed and watch the snow.
what books for today? some eva hesse, a touch of perec, munari is manditory, with a bit of buckminster fuller and alan fletcher thrown in. that should do it.
time to start. time to start.
maybe a treat and some tea first.
yes. that would do nicely.
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
and so…after an exhaustive and frustrating search…the book is recovered. it was found wedged between the couch and sidetable, in such a compromised position that I was unable to view it by looking under the couch, (which I did at least five times, maybe more.)
1. the dog, who likes to sit perched on top of the couch looking out the window, knocked it into the void between the couch and sidetable while maneuvering into position.
2. the ghost of italo put it there to mess with my head.
3. my husband, knowing a small amount of the premise of the story, (because I have difficulty not talking about a book when I am enjoying it), put it there to punish me for talking too much about the contents of a book he might like to read someday.
4. I knocked the book down there myself while eating my breakfast.
whatever the true story, it matters not because I have obtained the book again and finished it last night. i assure you it is a clever, clever ending. I did not expect anything less. One worth rushing out to find another copy in a library or bookstore for, which thankfully I did not have to do.
to add to the pre-existing irony, on the page where I left off, in which the top right hand corner of the page was folded down to mark my place, was this quote:
“Reader, you have found again the book you were seeking; now you can pick up the broken thread; the smile returns to your lips. But do you imagine it can go on in this way, this story? No, not that of the novel! Yours! How long are you going to let yourself be dragged passively by the plot? You had flung yourself into the action, filled with adventurous impulses: and then? Your function was quickly reduced to that of one who records situations decided by others, who submits to whims, finds himself involved in events that elude his control. The what use is your role as protagonist to you? If you continue lending yourself to this game, it means that you, too, are an accomplice of the general mystification.”
i kid you not.
the fall weather has thrown me into a period of hypercreativity. cool air causes me to almost explode with ideas. the daily walks in the woods end with me running to the journal to write. pregancy is probably adding to this too, i feel a part of nature like never before. I find myself feeling grateful and in awe of everything, (especially food). I wrote this to a friend yesterday:
I’m starting to feel the baby move and it’s the most incredible thing in the world, (though it also freaks me out sometimes). It’s a weird thing to know that you are two instead of one. I think not enough women talk about how bizarre being pregnant can feel at first, it really can mess with your head to grasp the concept in full. And it can overwhelm you with excitement at the same time. what a trip! I’m falling deeply in love with an alien creature who lives in my belly. and i have no idea what they look like yet.
a new book idea has literally leapt out of my head in the last few months. and I am in love with it too. the proposal sent off, and while normally I am sitting and waiting, this time I am still writing. still spewing out ideas every hour. the running to the journal is the best feeling in the world. at times I wonder how is it that I still continue to have ideas? where do they keep coming from? is this well limitless? it feels like it. as long as I continue to research everything that comes into my head i think they will always be growing and morphing into new things.
the above image is from a book by bruno munari entitled the tactile workshops. In 1977 munari worked on the first tactile workshop in Paris, a space filled with things that students where encouraged to touch, materials, models, city maps in relief, black boxes you could put your hand into. this is one of the concepts that my brain is inhabiting these days, this encouragement to experience things in a tactile way. i am one of those people who finds it impossible not to touch things when the urge hits, (making art galleries challenging). I am devising a world where this is encourged, not avoided. Munari writes, “The sense of touch is neglected, considered unimportant to adults who themselves have been conditioned by a limited education based only on sight and hearing…It is not that we adults have lost our sense of touch but that we use it very little. It is only when we go and buy clothing, for example, that we touch the material to see “how it feels”; usually though, touch is severely neglected.”
All this focus on interactivity using technology. The world is already INTERACTIVE!
there were a few other things I wanted to tell you but I can’t remember what they were now. just randomly…
…there are moments in the day where I simply cannot eat enough.
…I am really enjoying SMALL magazine, the toys from Wren are the best thing in the world.
…which led me to Linet, I am obsessed with linen in all forms.
…the smell of leaves makes me very happy.
…I have been working my way through all of the Ted talks, it’s quite addictive. the science ones are often the most interesting to me. my favourites so far, Wade Davis, Eve Ensler, William McDonough, and Janine Benyus.
…Wreck this Journal made a bestseller list for the bookstore chain Harry Schwartz. This is a first for me so we’re going out to celebrate tonight!
…a quote that I put on my chalkboard this week,
“the imagination needs moodling, –long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” ~Brenda Ueland
let yourself moodle a bit more will ya? it could really help you out in the long run. i love it when authors make up words. here is my definition for it,
moodle, verb., to allow procrastination to take over to the point where your imagination is fully engaged and does whatever it wants to.
i also love words that sound like what they are. moodle is definitely something you could do on a couch or in your parents basement.
I just got the new issue of CRAFT Magazine and was delighted to find this little write up on Wreck this Journal!
I’m off to Blogher. For those of you attending, I’ll be speaking at 4:30 on Friday, and doing a book signing on Saturday morning at 12:45. As an added bonus, the first 5 people who come to the signing (and mention that they read this post) will recieve a free copy of “the Guerilla Art Kit”, (courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press)! Yes it’s true.
In other exciting news, I just finished a book project with one of my favourite presses, Little Otsu! It’s called “the Non-Planner Datebook”. And I know it’s a little premature to announce it but I’m so excited to have worked with them, (and they mentioned it briefly already on their blog, so I figure it’s okay.)
the above image was inspired by a member of the “wreck this journal” group on flickr who shared the wonderful technique of blowing a drop of ink across a page using a tube or straw, (in this case it was a bic pen tube). what’s brilliant about it is you never know what it will do, you have little control over that ink.
the resulting image sort of sums up my state of mind.
loose ends, loose ends, paperwork, interviews, one last one today, mailings, emails and more emails, taxes, illustration work.
these are the things my days have been about for the last few weeks.
i am winded and in need of some down time. some filling up. i think i’ve even forgot how to write, my brain is so full of other things. unimportant things. things that have nothing to do with survival or the earth.
i got my first copies of ‘wreck this journal’ this week. i am loving it even more than before and destroying my own copy in little bits every few hours. it is strange that i will not be here when it is released in a couple of weeks. not be around to see how the world receives it. but it is for a good reason.
on sunday we are off to spain and morocco (after months and months of waiting). no agenda. none. just to wander and eat and sleep wherever we end up. a bag on my back and some new foods in my belly. a bit of spanish wine. a guidebook with pages folded down, a few important words underlined. words in a language different than my own, like pension, pescaderia, playa. i will have my journal. an old paperback novel by graham greene, with pages buckled from being left out in the rain. maybe the herman hesse, though I’m trying to travel light this time. i always seem to find myself loaded down with books, wanted to bring my favourites as if they are friends coming on the journey with me. how could i leave them behind?
i have no idea who I will be when I return. travel always changes you and the new places fuse themselves into your being somehow affecting the way you see your life. but you can’t know how before you begin. just like the ink.
this would probably be a good time to share more words of herman hesse on the subject of wandering.
“Over this brave small road, the wind blows. Tree and bush are left behind, only stone and moss grow here. Nobody has anthing to look for here, nobody here owns anything, up here the farmer has neighter hay nor wood. But the distance beckons, longing awakens, and through rocks and swamp, snow, they have provided this good little road, which leads to other valleys, other houses, to other languages and other men…..
But I smile, and not only with my mouth. I smile with my soul, with my eyes, with my whole skin, and I offer these countrysides, whose fragrances drift up to me, different senses than those I had before, more delicate, more silent, more finely honed, better practiced, and more grateful. Everything belongs to me more than ever before, it speaks to me more richly and with hundreds of nuances. My yearning no longer paints dreamy colors across the veiled distances, my eyes are satisfied with what exists, because they have learned to see. The world has become lovelier than before.
The world has become lovlier. I am alone, and I don’t suffer from my lonliness. I don’t want life to be anything other than what it is. I am ready to let myself be baked in the sun till i am done. I am eager to ripen. I am ready to die. ready to be born again.
The wold has become lovelier.”
excerpted from Wandering by Herman Hesse