Or, why haven’t I written on this blog since August?
While I was doing the Eat, Rest, Love thing in Provence in early August, I discovered it was tediously slow to upload photos to WordPress, so a post took forever. Not a good way to share travel experiences. After I left Aix, access to the internet was only when we drove into the village of Cuge le Pins and sat in the tech room of the library. Dans la cabine, il n’y avait pas d’électricité.
The other part of this not-writing was that, when I came home from France, I had already developed a different relationship with time. One part of that was no longer feeling driven to do the entire do list every day. There were a few more retirement parties to attend and catch up on driving Mom to doctor’s appointments. And writing project things to do and my yard was desperate for its gardener.
Then I got in prepping mode to paint my laundry room which was morphed into an art studio, thanks to the summer work of an excellent handyman. Preparing one-hundred year old wainscot, bead board, that is not only thick with layers of alkyd and newer latex paints, but also has had the spaces where the boards joined “sealed” with a layer of silicone, was major work. Many would have simply had a handyman tear the old wainscot out and install some new bead board, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I was in “restore” mode. I wanted the original quaintness of the room. When I began using chemical warfare on the silicone, which was gummy and disgusting with nicotine and dirt, (besides being an annoying thing previous owner had done), then, with the scraping, my brain maps for painting kicked in and I got obsessive. I wanted to take off all the paint, an entire century’s worth down to the wood. Fast forward to two friends coming in and head nodding appreciatively for the project, but negatively wagging no no to the stripping, not at all impressed with the patch of 9 boards I had stripped. I returned to get ‘er done mode, prepping the old paint for primer. In painting mode I didn’t care what time it was, but we were getting on into late September.
And for a scenic turn out, Mom and I took an 8-day road trip to Ashland, which time spent at my sister’s “hobby farm” further reinforced the Eat, Rest, Love theme of retirement. I came home to the feeling of being retired as a kind of floating…
Finally I got the painting done and a refinish-er redid the fir flooring that had been under plywood and bad vinyl for years.
And then my studio sat. I showed my project to admiring neighbors and friends. I made my atelier but I was not moved to make art.
It is November, almost Thanksgiving. Where did the time go? I have led Saturday classes, volunteered in second grade, taken my mom to doctor visits as her back pain has practically immobilized her, and yet all I’ve done in the art space is prep some posters for a Saturday Seminar.
So now it has become a thing.
I’m studying the pattern, just like that brickwork, those marvelous old stone cobbles from Le Castello. On one hand I see that my days fill so easily and that I have not mandated any protected time for sketching or playing with paints, even though I have daily schedules for yoga, meditation, volunteering, mom care, etc. What sort of inspiration am I waiting for, exactly? I’m going to give myself the gift of scheduling a daily appointment in the studio.
Writing and art are complementary for me like stones and mortar. They mean stepping into a creative space and doing something — but with this mental attachment I’ve created — putting so much significance on doing creative work — like, I retired so that I would have time to draw and paint, which are the truest expressions of who I am. Well, I have cast myself into doubt. Frozen myself with the idea that somehow now I must do something significant. Uh oh, a recipe for delusion.
And some days the truth seems to be that I retired at this time to be able to take care of my almost 90 year old mother who needs more assistance now. Or maybe it is that time thing and I was unprepared for how it would feel when my parachute came out and my full tilt work life slowed on the runway.
Other days, I’m mulling and hoping to be preparing for what I want to do. Noticing. Thinking about the project I launched a year ago to do info comics, in order to place poor, minority people in the same frame with the obscenely wealthy, insulated people — to show the effects on health, education, civic engagements, etc. that the ever widening wealth gap in our nation is causing. It was so engaging when I did one last year. I don’t know. Who’s my audience? What’s up now? Would it be just more yammering about problems?
I’ve been spending a couple days up at my daughter’s home in the Russian River resort area and doing nothing more noteworthy than making a magnificent soup from scratch for her coming home from work yesterday. Being. Yes and resting. And, this afternoon, magically, I took out my laptop, perched on her couch and began blogging. She’s home now making things fragrant from the kitchen.
Those cobblestones are like the brain maps in my head, and like the patterns of living built up over 70 years. I appreciate their order and movement the same way I am very grateful for my health and life. But, expecting this art thing to pop up out of nowhere has been truly naive. As I writing teacher I always see the good stuff grow. It is tessalations from lives. It never is tabla rasa, then boop, some art.
This post has the feel-good of soul confession. I have to start somewhere. I just hate that starting means not really knowing where it’ll go. Not as clear as booking a flight to France. Dang, it’s going to be like Anne Lamott always says, “Get to the desk (drawing table), butt in chair, write (sketch) badly…”
Tessalations. Connect and begin wherever I am. I will meet myself at 3 pm in the studio, most days, from now on.