I am very excited bundled up here in our house. It feels like a second New Year’s after six weeks of introspection, or navel-gazing, as Henry calls it. Lent is here. Chinese New Year is tomorrow. And I think there are a whole bunch of different moon things happening. In my world, we have been hunkered down at home with a stomach bug and multiple snow days. The curtains are finally up to keep the cold air out. I am putting the finishing touches on a series that is one piece away from being finished. And I am in the final stages of my Paris piece, which is the last piece of my Souvenir series. FINALLY.
I have been pleasantly surprised by how informative my vision board for 2015 has played into the year. Honestly, I just pulled a bunch of pictures that I liked and tried to make them look good on the page. But I even found myself googling the peacocks fighting from the Freer to help give myself a little more perspective on my starting point. The first section of that collage is mysterious and strange. And 2015 has been mysterious and strange. So I am very excited to find myself on the brink of moving into a lighter time.
The fighting peacocks represent the tension between the artist and the client, which I find to be a cyclical struggle of mine. Not a struggle with an actual client, but the new expectation that artists must be entrepreneurs. A lot of artists are now acting as life coaches. I listened to what they had to say and perhaps because of what they said, I found myself looking for answers elsewhere.
At the beginning of December, I heard Ellen Langer on Dianne Rhem. It was the first time I had turned on the radio at that time in a couple of years. I was excited to hear who the guest was. I read Langer’s work as part of my graduate work. She shared a study with cancer patients. They went away to the Southwest to live like it was 2003, ten years earlier before any of the patients knew they had cancer. This was an interesting idea. I thought 2003 seemed pretty non-descript. What even happened in 2003?
Before I knew it, January was a revisit of that year. A lot happened. After listening to Serial, we watched The Staircase, a documentary on YouTube about the Michael Peterson case set in 2003. I became obsessed with this case. And it was like watching MY evening news all over again. After living in Chapel Hill, this was like a ten-hour time capsule. I even recognized the views from the car. I found The Whale Rider on display at our used bookstore, which of course I snatched up. The Thrills CD happened to be at the very front of our stereo cabinet. Finally I started writing down all the things that stood out in 2003. After a month of contemplation, I pulled out my journals to see what I could find.
I only found one entry from 2003. It was in a journal I would scribble in when I couldn’t sleep at night. It was not my typical morning pages journal. They must be in mom’s attic. Instead it includes literal scribbles, dreams, a few prayers and whatever thoughts I had that were keeping me up at night. On March 11th, 2003, I wrote about a dream where I was complimented by different women on my writing. Apparently it was a reoccurring dream, because I included a similar dream from a few weeks before.
It just so happens that Jeanette pulled out all of her journals on the exact same day to find out when she started journaling, too. So I emailed to ask her what she learned. She shared her thoughts. And in responding, it dawned on me. I finished graduate school in 2003. I even had to check the date on my resume. But that also means I wrote two books in 2003. One of the books included Ellen Langer’s mindfulness research. And upon graduation, I packed all of my folders up and put my work away.
Later that week while doing some tapping, I realized that a chronic pain I have had in my left shoulder for over a decade was somehow related to my expectations and abandonment of this project. Ouch.
You think that I would have picked up on this need to return to Art and Play throughout my Souvenirs Series. I reread all of those journals to inform my art work. Throughout my travels I wrote so much that my hand ached. Plus I talked about how much I valued my graduate work and my final project Art and Play. But it never sunk in during the last fifteen months. This was the answer I was searching for when I started the Souvenir Series. I created the series based on the Camino and a personal seeking of what’s next? How is God directing me? I guess I am not a very good listener.
In an ideal world, I have always currently written about 70% of the time and create art 30% of the time. But during the last year, I did not make any room for my writing other than journaling. This blog proves that. As soon as I agreed to focus on writing, the creative ideas began to flow.
So I think that it is that simple. I am going to return my focus to Art and Play (and continue with the coal ash, of course), which gives me a nice framework to start small and ample room to expand. By putting it on a shelf the last twelve years, I now understand where I fit in the scope of this project as an artist, which I didn’t in 2003. Plus I am excited that this project is all about incorporating the kids. I need something that will include them in this stage of our lives. Finally it’s nice to settle into a new thing that is actually old and familiar.
A lot has changed in the last twelve years. But a lot remains the same. I am considering this name for my final piece from Paris:
“What you seek is already yours.”
– Maxine Clair, Imagine This