Monday, April 25, 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016
I am participating in a writing group and as part of our weekly session we work with writing prompts. This past session we read a piece on advice to the author's 22 year old self and we were then asked to write our advice to who we were at that age.
It is an interesting exercise. Many advised their youthful self to appreciate the package of youth that they took for granted. Others cautioned about upcoming bad relationships. I thought what I wrote was interesting in what I left out as much as what I put in and I began to consider what I omitted and why. For some reason I didn't pick up on the appearance aspect although I have often been surprised as I look at photos of that pretty girl I barely recognize. And it is not that I didn't have my share of bad relationships in which I stayed too long. I am a bit older than many in the group and I think that might color my perspective. I've had more time to come to terms with my history and the changes we go through as we age.
I am someone who needs to find things out for herself and I think I needed those relationships to learn lessons I needed to know. To wish them away might leave a lesson unfinished, me unfinished. I also have found getting older freeing. There is a certain sass that one has when you are young and look good and know it. You have a sense of power, but you find that it doesn't stand up well under pressure. The problem is you still care too much about what other people think, especially men. Your power is predicated on their approval of something over which you have little control. There is so much more power in no longer caring what people think and that comes with age.
A little background...When I was 22 I was newly married in what proved to be a starter marriage. I had kept my own name at a time when people didn't and I chaffed at the idea of restrictions on my independence. Balancing independence with marriage was a tough balancing act. I was in my first real job and reveling in it, discovering talents I didn't know I possessed. And yes, I was a little full of myself.
So this is what I wrote.
I think back to you, that twenty-two year old, newly married, struggling to preserve your independence, delighting in the discovery of your own power and creativity. What I would tell you has much to do with preserving who you are today. Surprisingly, it is easy to forget when the world begins to impinge. Right now you have nothing to lose so you can take risks. You don't know the things you can't do so you do them anyway. Those are enormous gifts. Soon you will worry about looking foolish, about whether you know enough. You will become fearful and constrained.
Don't let those fears gain a foothold. Take risks, don't impose limits, trust your gut. Don't let anyone else control you and your choices. Believe that all is possible if you put one foot in front of the other. An amazing amount will be. Remember that work should be entertaining. When you look in the mirror in the morning and wonder if you will always delight in your work as you do in this moment, know that it is possible. Maybe not with the pure joy that comes with newness, but with the deep pleasure of using your talents and making a difference in your piece of the world. Take that piece of the world and make it shine.
There are some things you don't yet know. The world is not black and white. Your father will tell you one day when you fail that "It was about time you landed on your ass, you were entirely too smug". He will be right.You will succeed and you will fail and out of loss will come insight and understanding and compassion. The world will become much more gray. You will become kinder and less judgmental.
Get out of your own way. Don't be afraid of failing, don't be afraid of the world. Just move forward and say yes to the unknown. It will open up opportunities you could never imagine. Don't tell yourself you are too busy as an excuse for not welcoming something new. Use your time wisely, but leave space for surprises. Don't plan so much order into your life that you don't leave a doorway for the unknown.
Love your mother and let her know it. She won't always be there. You are very fortunate to have such a wise woman as a guide in life. Pay attention. Live your life so that you have no regrets. You will find a capacity for love in giving to another, something you don't yet know. It will bring a richness into your life.
Use your creative talents and imagination throughout your life, read, write, paint. Those talents will be your old friends when others are wondering what to do in the next phase of life. Be grateful. You have so much: talents, choices, time. Be grateful.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
And so we borrow, incorporate ideas from others and integrate disparate concepts finding the synergies and points of connect. We find objects and ideas wherever we go and draw on them for inspiration, repurposing them to find new meaning. And we carry ideas into new realms like those Bauhaus architects.
Monday, April 4, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live without sight? How about without sight and hearing? One of the most unusual experiences that we have had in our visit to Israel was at the Nalaga'at Center. Nalaga'at means "Please Touch", a request that makes perfect sense when you learn about its history. The center was started by people with an unusual disease, Usher Syndrome. People with this disease are born deaf, but in their first decade typically lose their sight as well. When young they learn sign language and by touching the communicator as they sign they learn to read it even without the visual cues.
Today the center offers plays, education and a restaurant in which we are blinded by darkness. The waiters and actors are either deaf or visually impaired or some combination. We began our visit with a workshop led by two deaf people who taught us how to sign basic words, lip read and pantomime specific words. We ascribed names through gestures which expanded on some descriptor, either physical or perhaps based on personal likes. We learned that sign language reflects the culture out of which it comes. For example the sign for "food" in the United States is holding a hamburger, in Chinese sign language it is manipulating chopsticks.
Following our workshop we moved to the dinner portion of our evening. We selected our dinner before entering the dining room. I was careful not to select the fettuccine as I end up wearing it even with advantage of sight. We were also asked to put cellphones and other belongings in a locker prior to entering, lest we or the waiters trip over them. We entered the dining room in train fashion, our hands resting on the shoulders of one of our table mates. As we entered we joined a world of darkness that our waiters were far more adept at navigating. This was not a blackness to which one's eyes adjust, it was a velvety darkness that allowed no light to gain a foothold. I felt my stomach lurch as we entered and thought of those yoga balance poses that become infinitely more difficult if one closes one's eyes. I felt off balance.
We were guided to our table by our waiter. He then taught us how to pour water into our glass with our finger in the glass so we didn't overflow. I missed the glass anyway dampening the table, but I discovered an advantage in this world of darkness, no one could see it. We heard the jingle of bells approaching, signaling our waiter Mohammed nearby with our meals. There was no waiting until everyone was served as there was no way to determine that. My husband and I reached across the table identifying each other's location. That coveted taste of my husband's meal was going to be difficult. I'd be lucky if I found my own plate. The inability of others to see quickly eliminated any table manners. After a few empty forkfuls, I quickly developed a stabbing strategy with the objective of navigating food to mouth. It wasn't pretty, but then no one saw me. The food was actually quite flavorful, perhaps enhanced by a focusing of our senses. My special treat at the end was when my husband had the waiter bring some of my husband's leftover meal to me to taste. We left in train style, grateful for the anchor of the person in front, blinking as we moved back into light as we adjusted to the world of the sighted.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Saturday, March 19, 2016
My memory takes place on an old farm in rural Minnesota. My grandmother was plowing one summer day and clipped a fawn's leg. She mended her leg and Toosie became a family member. One early summer morning I was playing with Toosie on the front yard. I was about 3 years old and I had an aqua blue oversized toy camera. I pretended to be a photographer capturing the moment with my curious playmate. My grandma sat wearing her cat eye glasses and white sleeveless blouse with pure amusement spread across her face.
For those just joining this thread, the story was provided by a young woman visiting my studio and represents a memory she shared with a loved one who lost memory. I am painting two paintings for each memory, one that is representational of the story as told, the second that plays with the vantage point. In this case it is from the perspective of the fawn.
Above you can see the scene as I first imagined it. Grandma with her cat eye glasses sitting on the porch watching her granddaughter and the fawn occupying the foreground of the canvas. I made her a little older than in her memory.
I often will use a drawing program on my Ipad to do a quick sketch with my finger of an idea and while doodling came up with a totem pole image, all three aligned with the grandmother's arms around her granddaughter and the fawn facing them both. I decided to add the wicker chair as well, embracing the three of them in shared memory. This may not be done yet, but I like the image. I like the darkness of the sunglasses, the camera's lens and the dark nose of the fawn. Once more the second image is a more playful take by looking at it from another perspective.