On The Practice of Space and Connection

This morning, I woke to find an e-mail from the wife of one of my cousins – one of my favorite people.  This gal is known throughout the family as warm, sunny, loving, caring, funny.  We all look forward to seeing her.  A devoted and generous daughter, wife, and mother, and now a beautifully graced grandmother.  She manages to do all this without any grey hair or wrinkles, mind you.  She remembers dates and connections and keeps the family together through her gestures and thoughts – everyone adores her, as do I, though I hardly tell her enough.  We are lucky to have her and the deliciousness she is to our family.

Her note was a forward about two art-making projects:  the Solstice to Equinox:  Out of the Darkness into the Light and the 2019 100DayProject.  You can read about both, here.  We had spoken about the 100Day Project last year.  But while very inspired to participate in the project, my motivation was nowhere to be found.  This is nothing new.  Inktober 2017 – I managed to draw/create for a total of three days before daily home life got in the way and I “forgot” I was supposed to be drawing every day for the month.  Earlier this year, when the 100DayProject came around, I went out to my art space (aka The Shed) and drooled over my favorite mark-making supplies and tools and daydreamed about arting for a luxurious 100 days;  I’d be transformed, feel accomplishment, be in touch with my creativity and experience a sense of deep inner peace I’ve not felt in a while.  Plus, a project commitment might result in the bones of a show or a series of new work.

Instead, none of this happened…except for those three sketches/drawings back in Inktober 2017 and in May of this year I did Avenue Q (which was a hoot and nourished a portion of my creative bones).  That’s it.  Performing art is a different creative process than visual art, at least for me.  In June, the fresh tenacity and confidence high from the show easing, I received a promotion at work.  As much gratitude as I have for the betterment and support of my position, I started smack in the middle of the crazybusy season (which only ended about three weeks ago) and jumped into a roiling, disorganized mess left by my predecessor.  My first month was no less than 70-hour weeks, if not more, and there was little-to-no training.  Baptism by total engulfment.  No time for art – or writing, or carrying a camera or getting involved in another show. 

The weekly promise of days-off looms large; in my head my art intentions are strong, ideas rampant.  Motivation and follow-through are uncomfortably stalled at a big fat meh

meh

a big fat meh personified

We have a sizable shed.  It came with the house.  It’s not heated nor insulated and the mowers are in there with yard tools, patio furniture, and the tubs of Halloween/Christmas stuff.  The shed is not dedicated to art.  But, when we moved here I was VERY – super, over the top, elated- enthusiastic about the space and gleefully set-up my art space in a large corner of the corrugated tin garage with thick plywood flooring.  It felt good.  Cleared cobwebs, played music, lit candles, began painting the door.  Up went shelves, unpacked books and paints, glue, tools, ephemera, found a new work table – all the special magic stuff – arranged to my liking, inviting me to come play.  It felt really nice! and right and exciting to have a creative home, again.  In two years I’ve been in that space four times of any length, maybe.  That’s it.  This morning’s e-mail makes me want to art – daily, for three months or a season – and yet, the next thought is, “Why bother? I don’t have the time. Other things are more important and more practical. ”  Surely this is not uncommon self-defeating innerspeak.

While I understand a creative pause maybe be a necessary aspect of learning a new job and adjusting accordingly, part of my self is regularly neglected or denied and the more I realize that, the more it bothers me.

A lot.

So, on my last day off, I decided to see if how I’ve been feeling could be fixed.

I went out to the shed.
Just be in the space because I miss it.  Because when I’m not there for a while then return, it’s much like seeing an old flame after years pass.  Awkward, unsure where you stand, maybe a cool welcome and, with any luck, things eventually feel comfortable, warm, safe.  Looking around, refamiliarizing myself, looking at projects-in-progress it started to feel good being in there; why do I stay away from art or the space I made for myself?  Mid-overthinking, I turned and found mouse droppings, albeit dried and old, on some of the shelves and work table…to add insult, my books and sketchbooks have begun to lightly mold. This made me sad…sadder as the evening went on, much to my surprise, because the bright side usually pops up and I’m fine.  But not yet, even a couple days later.   
Not sure why, but I know enough that resentment could be around the corner and that’s not good.  When my partner arrived home from work, he immediately asked what was wrong, so I told him.  This is tricky to do without making him feel he should fix or repair what’s wrong.  I said that I would figure it out.  He suggested making the guest room the art space (but it’s already a guest room, and the size wouldn’t work).  The shed is probably original to the house, 1973 or so, and it’s in good shape for a shed.  It feels impractical to insulate or heat it when its primary and original function is to house tools and machinery – which it does nicely.  So, in the meantime, I will move the ‘perishable’ items – books, papers, paints and glues that will freeze (they did last winter, requiring much shaking and re-mixing in spring) – into a doored bookshelf in the den that can hide them until a solution manifests.
It’s stupid, really…what bugged me the most was how much the mouse droppings and mold made my happy sink.  The next day, still feeling tarred and gooey with disappointment, an epiphany:  the period of time I made the most art, experienced the most satisfying production and visually creative period of my adultness was when Wasband was ill.  That was almost 20 years ago.
We were still fairly newly-wedded, DD (darling daughter) was between one and two.  After days of being on-call for my family and working part-time, baby to bed, man comfortable enough to sleep, I would leave the house, drive three minutes to the basement space of a small retail boutique and lose myself in art.  Eventually, I started refinishing furniture which led commissioned refinishing work.  It was art therapy in every way.  I sold all but one piece and took orders for work for a year.  I MADE it work for me by going to that basement because I had to:  I was being paid and had deadlines – and it was spiritually and mentally necessary for me to do so.  It got me through his cancer and treatments and setbacks and single-parenting-while-married and fending off my mother-in-law (who, well-intentioned, at one point, blamed me for not cooking enough hot meals and that is what caused cancer in her son…).  It was epic, my drive to create, to fix, to repair, to mend.  To heal.  Some nights I would be in that little basement space until 4 AM, and make it home in time to shower, put on the kettle for my husband then begin the baby’s day.  Fueled by so much crumbling and uncontrolled around us, I was compelled to make something new.
The bottom line is that I ran away from home and hid in that basement until I had to go back.  Every night for over a year.   I had an affair in that basement; an affair where the partners were my pain and expressing it; the heartbreaking sadness of a spouse fighting for his life and the awful fear of the unknown.
Since I am not running away from anything I am having a hard time finding a valid reason to leave home and run to my creative home, be it internal or out in the shed or another space where I can mark-make and put things together to create something new.  Now, I need permission to be apart from the house, the people in it, the coupled partnership, the bed, the space held for me so lovingly here.  I don’t want to leave but staying all the time is not balanced, at least not creatively.
That said, I will endeavor to engage in either the 100DayProject or the Solstice Project.
If you’re going to do so as well, please let me know and we can run away to art for a little while, every day.
DJD
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27 January 2018. It’s You.

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If you asked me five years ago, on a regular Saturday morning such as this, anything having to do with dating or coupling (outside of business or creatively contributing to something) or, God forbid, Love and such, I would have quickly changed the subject to you, your life and goings–on; or my daughter or our home or my employment (or my employer) or a movie we should see at the Cinema Arts Center (because likely, I had already seen it, alone, and will always tell someone when something is really worth the price of the ticket.)

What we would *not* have talked about was “r e l a t i o n s h i p.”

Strung out letter-by-letter because after divorce – those of us once-married (remove the ‘i’ and you’re “marred”, if you didn’t already notice) are somewhat loathe to jump back into the dating pool, let alone broach the subject at all. So, we literally d r a g it out (or avoid the word and idea altogether.)

Five years ago, single-mothering my then-14-and three-quarters-year old offspring, in a too-big (and cold) old house with indoor/outdoor cats and a puppy with the worst case of PTSD – ever – we would NOT have talked about Match.com or Plentyoffish or speed-dating or blind dates or group dinners or meetup.com or meeting someone in church or taking a class or doing another show or volunteering (I was already doing that) or how involving myself with yet another oddball-people-project adult male who needed more help and more ego-massage than anyone in their right mind would ever take on would be really stupid (but oh so familiar. And easy.) I would have to be NUTS to get involved with anyone again – be they near or hundreds of miles away. I was done and comfortable knowing I would be my nephew’s ‘crazy Ant Jaye’ until the title aged-out as he aged-up.

And, yet…here we are.

We do not use the word “r e l a t i o n s h i p”.  We use “partnership”.

We do not talk about getting married, though people who don’t know us refer to the other partner as “your wife” and “your husband”.  It’s funny.

We do not cling to each other the way we might have, earlier, younger, when one might believe the more time you have together the better things get and nothing could possibly go wrong if you lost yourself in another person losing themselves, too.

We do not lose any part of our Self from being part of something together. And that is the very biggest treasure: I get to be me, He gets to be He, and we get to be we, how ever we see fit.

Oh, hello, it’s you. It’s going to be you.

And how delighted I was to have that realization strike, just about five years ago, dead center in my chest, when meeting you for the first time, as adults, in the middle of Penn Station in the middle of New York City in the middle of our lives. It was very different than when we met, briefly, at 13 and 15; fish in the pond.

Hello, it’s you.
Happy Five, this Friday.
ox

Loose Ends, Tied.

This final week of 2017 I have unplugged from Facebook to the extent that I am, in three day’s time, remarkably happier and more unburdened than I have been in five years.  Maybe more.  The planet continues to have hope and disaster hand-in-hand, but I don’t have to read or know about every single detail worldwide, nor do I feel the overwhelm of responsibility and obligation that “social” media, literally, feeds.  I am fed up with “social” media, which becomes more and more anti-social and numbing every day.  I am better, more useful, in real life with real people and immediate, local problems to salve and solve.  Not that I am any great heroine, but I do my best work right here:  at home.

The Messenger still pings but now I take comfortable time responding, not jumping to reply as though every message were on fire and my life depended upon immediacy.  It’s nice.  It’s at MY pace and convenience.  And, it’s real.

Running through the months, April stands out as when we purchased our Together home after almost four years of long-distance partnering and challenges inherent in such an endeavor.  I must have been crazy, frankly.  So must have he.  And yet, our crazy (and weird) seems to get along with the other’s and that doesn’t happen every day.  In August, the book cover became a reality and in October, the finished product was in-hand.  I am still beaming and high on gratitude.  More projects are in the pipeline.  I can feel them approaching and am very excited for the opportunities to grow and show my work.

 

Two years ago this evening, I penned the following and am grateful for a brain that thought to save the words.  Now seems a good time to share.

Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours.  Thanks for reading along. ox

31 December 2015

Long silver hair streaked with the last moonlight
she gently steps from her celestial footwear
Barefoot she exhales and lets her heavy
calendared gown 364 days
ago as light as gossamer
fall around strong tired feet

Quietly peaceful soul and countenance wise
she walks waters
rhythm to the turning of the ancient wheel

A shooting star, one hundred million simultaneous wishes
she dips beneath the surface one final time
Can you hear – off in the distance? Small but mighty
bold uninhibited wail the wordless arrival of baby New Year

Pick her up, nurture her well
Love her wide full and without reservation
Go big this year…and leave your own dressing at the shore in a year.

DJDawson 2015

 

 

Harumph.

Home Alone, adult style.  All menfolk out of the house for the night.  My evening plan to attend the roller derby nixed, though I could have attended had I gone in my own vehicle.  (An option left unsuggested.)  But, I shall sit outside in the cricketsong and honey-pinking sky against the mountains, with a favorite pen, drawing paper and adult tonic, and ask myself why I allow others to decide what is right for me. (I do this more than I care to, and more than I should.)  

Stern, well-shaped brow bent in moderate resentment (well, I did ask, didn’t I? And this is what you get.  Duh.)  Just lettin’ it gooooooo.

Dar Dawson 2016

Barley September.

These last few mornings, before dawn, I have walked the dog.  Because my head is thrown back mouth hanging open dazed by all the stars, I have no idea whether or not she has relieved herself of her night holdings.  Let’s presume “yes”, as she has not soiled the carpet (recently).

On our walk this morning, cows lowing and uncensored roosters on the farm through the wood tuned up for their field day.  Again, the sky invited gazing.  Orion, clear as ever, sparkling belt and all, beginning to dive out of sight into the gathering equinox. Tonight, we will be blessed by the pull and push of September’s full Corn moon or Barley moon; the true Harvest moon this year does not rise until October.

Orion, whose body so powerful, his ego so big, believed no creature would or could ever slay him, stung by a lowly scorpion and up into the stars he went.  The scorpion, receiving similar celestial treatment, was placed on the opposite heavenly hemisphere so the two might never meet again.  Orion’s story, far more detailed and varied than what I share here – versions that include seduction, death by arrow, sobbing goddesses and angry gods, mothers and daughters, and other narrative rhinestones – a familiar and ancient myth.

This morning, realizing the constellation was leaving our sky for a while, I felt an overwhelm’ment of gratitude for having those few moments of unlit quiet, alone and outside.  And, immediately after that peace, I felt as though the calendar would suddenly move more quickly than the last eight months.  When the grape harvest is over, our home life will return to ‘normal’.  No more insanely early wake-up times for him (which also mean for me because once he’s up, I basically am, too); no more going to bed directly after 5 o’clock supper (which means being in bed with a full stomach, tossing and turning and trying to screen read in the dark, and being awake long after he has crossed into deep sleep).  The return of morning and evening in-bed conversation and planning and mindwandering, and communion.  As much as I may become periodically flummoxed about these temporary changes to our household routine, Orion reminds me to never get so brazen and full of myself to believe I can get along without these things; to not take the small stuff for granted, lest they creep up and bite/sting/kill me.

Harvest isn’t going to kill me or us.  Neither is the changing sky…because there is always a reason to get up in the morning, and not just an anxious dog – whether or not the fruit is ripe and ready, and there is always something to look at in the sky, day or night, clear or foggy.

Just keep looking up.

Forest Through.

Empty nest – what empty nest?

Our nest has people.  Some are not-quite mine, some (when they visit) are very much mine.  Our nest is not empty.  There is a dog here, and a man and a teenboy.  And me.  Not empty.

 

But, it is not full, either.

There’s an essay going around social media by a parent, whose son is going off to college.  Toddler to young man in a blink – that sort of thing.  It’s a tearjerker (no, I am not going to read it; my spawn left for college last fall, 2016.  I’m a veteran empty nester compared to many of my friends.)  Don’t be fooled:  a year in and it still hurts.  I miss her like crazy, in between worrying about her health, safety and welfare.  We never stop doing that, the worrying, the parenting-feeling-stuff.  The willingness to be needed, and hope that they call us when they do need us (and to check-in when they don’t).

It’s a weird between-chapters place to be, made weirder by my own life upheaval just over one year ago.  Mid-August, Mr. Virginia and I passed the one-year mark of my move to be with him.  A year living together went quickly, and was a lot of fun.  Eight months after I moved here, we bought a house together.  Eight.  Months.  We are almost fully moved out of his house and in to this new, shared space… .  Our work keeps us busy, tired, and the last thing we wish to do with any free time is go back to ‘the other house’ and load the cars.  It needs to get done – we know this.

 

Scrounging-around somewhat-empty-nesting I am uncomfortably perched on the fence between being needed and being completely and utterly without purpose. I feel lost and a bit dissatisfied at work, which, normally, I adore (try as I might to feel worthy and belonging), and feigning interest in any hobby or creativity. (Crochet ain’t doing it, sorry; neither is looking at other people’s maker ideas on Pinterest. Nope.)  I need something and I have a feeling it’s not outside of me, like a child or a job or someone’s touch.

 

While I do believe opportunities are on the way, perhaps, I am simply not ready.  To be honest, Mr. Virginia asked me earlier this evening if I was happy.  (This, a sign of worry and caring, which I may never get used to.  He is an excellent partner.) I told him that I was not very interesting nor intriguing these days, and would he mind me as a boring partner for a while?  He said he would not mind.  I also told him that, yes, in general, I am quite happy.  (It’s just smothered by a steaming pile of angst, right now.)

What I am is frustrated with the whole reinvent yourself when you move thing.
Or maybe it’s not feeling like a useful person or the lack of creative brilliance, or that I am no longer someone’s long-distance desire but their in-the-next-room squeeze.  Nah, that latter is nothing to whine about. *smile*

Whatever is missing – rather, whatever the “blah” antidote is – is probably right in front of me, so big and tall and obvious that – whatever it is I need to see – I’m too close to see it properly.  What does one do, then? Take a step back.

And, then, a few steps more.

When the ‘aha!’ moment finally happens, I will let you know.  Until then, all I’m seeing is a lot of tree bark and no forest.

djdawson

2017

August 13, 2016.

Dump (last few wine bottles from garden project).
Break the fast.
Weird here without the dog.
Weird without WiFi…but, whatever.
Radio all day.
Bag hanging clothes. Box last few breakables, pack odds and ends.
Break down sofa.
Rapid and merciless assessment of garage (not much packing, mostly organizing).

Confirm start date of new job (Tuesday?)
Moving truck: Monday.

Too damn hot to cry.
Too damn tired not to.

Autumn: 40 days.

Hustle, hustle.