Monthly Archives: March 2013

What I Do

tree

The work I do requires me to live in the moment, be present, and take care with the materials, tools, and myself. Recently, I’ve found myself living in the past, being distracted, and struggling to take care. Today was especially difficult.

I spent most of today trying to make progress on a piece of jewelry, but I just couldn’t focus. It’s not good and it hurts. After wasting my time trying to wire wrap, I picked up the piece of jewelry and took a photo of it. Next to it, I noticed a picture that I took over the weekend while on a hike. I’d taken a picture of a dead, twisted tree. That distorted, broken tree spoke to me. It was a cloudy day, windy with a little precipitation, gray. The weather and tree matched what I was feeling.

I’ve been struggling with something that happened recently. I’d felt the brunt of it. I got too close to someone’s emotional vortex and got pulled in.  It was stronger than me. I’ve experienced this before and the hurt lingers still. It’s something that comes suddenly, wreaks havoc on me, and then slowly dissipates. After it leaves, I feel gnarled, fuzzy, and heavy. I had gotten used to it before. I don’t think it’s OK, not anymore.

Now, I look at the handmade chain I created out of the tiny beads and ever-so-careful wire wraps. I also see that twisted, dead tree against the backdrop of the mountain. I realize that I can straighten this out for myself. I can gain perspective on it. And allow it to flow through me. It’s not me, not mine. It’s different, now.

My work is to live in the moment, be present, and take care with the materials, tools, and myself. That’s what I do.

wire wraps

Uncomfortably Authentic

Uncomfortably authentic. It’s how I find myself each day. I set out rubbing up against the thorns, vines, and overgrown brush on the path that is my life, trying to reach deep, to get home, to my authentic self.

As I venture out each day, I find my center and try to stay in the moment. It seems easy. At the start, I can remember the way, while appreciating the tiny purple flowers, nature’s jewelry, that line my path. I effortlessly move along.

But then, sometimes, I lose my compass in the thick, traumatic kudzu as it works to choke out life. I spend too much time tangled up there, forgetting that I can rely on the sun, moon, and wind to get where I need to go. Remembering that navigation need not come from anything more, I free myself. Then, back on my path, I move on.

I find my balance walking on that narrow beam over the rushing river that flows between my past and present. I could easily fall into that river of what could have been and get carried away. More than once, it pulled me so far downstream that I spent a good long while trying to find my way back. Frail and on the brink of giving up, I barely recognized my path. But then, something about it felt natural and good. I trusted my instincts and continued moving forward. Knowing that it will all work out if I just keep trying. I move on.

I get near the dark, covered place that once was my home, the home I feared. I find it desperately compelling and nervously look over. It seems to tug on me. Days when I’m strong, I’ll walk up to it and look in. I never can quite see what’s inside. Whatever it is, I scares me. I tell myself that, over time, I’ve become less drawn to shadowy places. I get back on my path. I move on.

It can be a lonely journey, but, invariably, the clouds give way to bright sunshine. I welcome those moments of clarity. Today, as the sun peeks out, I see a red fox in the distance. Is she looking back at me? She’s beautiful. Proud. She’s fully aware of what I don’t yet know. Unafraid of her, I keep walking on my path. I move on.

The forest closes behind me. All things known and unknown, that entangled me, I leave behind. I can just stay on this path, this sure one, and move forward, move on.

I’ve made it home just as the sun starts to go down. The screen door closes behind me, I stand here looking out. I breathe in the sweet, sticky air. Do I reflect on the day? No. I’m just thankful to be here, now, to feel tired, worn, while knowing I’ve made it home. In my bed, uncomfortably authentic, I’ll sleep well tonight.

Above, Awake

Above

I dream of hovering above, then flying,

while comfortable with the fear.

Steady up here,

it’s all in and of me.

The world looks so beautiful.

Only a faded blue hue between us.

I breathe it in then soar.

Higher, faster, and then slowly,

just barely still in the air, holding here above it all.

Before I touch the earth and awake.

Frozen Cage to Triflesphere

Looking out from my first dorm room in Anchorage, AK

Looking out from my first dorm room in Anchorage, AK

Anchorage in the winter is cold, a cold that makes me come undone.  That frozenness and the extended Alaskan darkness, intensified my isolation. It removed me from myself and the rest of the world.

Enduring the Alaskan winter, I felt immediate empathy for Minnie, the main character in Trifles. This early feminist, one act play by Susan Glaspell was assigned reading in my Women Dramatists class. In Minnie’s world, it’s below zero, winter, late 19th century. The play opens in her oppressively cold farmhouse kitchen. Her physical environment wasn’t the only cause of cold isolation. Minnie also had an abusive husband, a man who did not know warmth and was not sensitive to his wife or her joy.

Like Minnie, I had been in a relationship where my joy was subjugated. I was trying to take care of his needs instead of my own. I would get up in the middle of the night to give him a ride, buy him things that I couldn’t afford, spend time with him while neglecting relationships with true friends. I was drawn to him for many reasons, some known and some forgotten. My relationship insulated against any warmth that I could have experienced from a true relationship with myself or the few real friends I had. The pressure exerted by that coldness left me shattered like Minnie and her jars of preserves. I was a splintered mess. From the outside in and the inside out, I didn’t know what I was about, and I didn’t feel that I was worthy of anything more. It was painful knowing that, in a matter of months, I was going to be graduating from college and moving into the harshness of the real word. It’s just that my world up to that point had been harder than anything I could have imagined. In that last year alone, I was working a few part time jobs, getting good grades while carrying a full load in school, doing volunteer work, participating in a student organization, suffering from depression, facing another dark, cold winter, while being in a relationship that was supremely unhealthy for me. I didn’t feel a true part of any of it. I didn’t know what it meant to love myself. I felt perpetually wounded. It was like walking barefoot on shards of broken glass each day. I understood the pain of cutting, if not the reality of being a cutter.

It wasn’t just the piercing coldness of Minnie’s world that I related to, I identified with her caged bird. That gentle spirit, Minnie’s little canary, was broken without regard for the joy it gave. To Minnie’s husband, Mr. Wright, it was a nuisance, that bird. Something he would endure no longer; he just couldn’t be bothered. It was his house, his domain, and his will was law. The bird was property, just like Minnie was to him. He had no care for who Minnie was or what she may have wanted for herself.  What did Minnie want for herself when she had been a young girl, singing in the choir? Did she dream? Was she told what she would be? What had she wanted?

It spoke to me. What had I wanted for myself? I was about to graduate from college and I had nothing that I felt was mine. Yes, I was going to get my B.A., but not in a subject I chose, not really. My major was a forced backup, not anything artistic or creative that I wanted. I had worked really hard in school for something that wasn’t me.

In my last semester of college, before and after my Women Dramatists class, I would walk past the art rooms. Glancing in, I would see the students painting, sketching, and sculpting. It was as if I was back in the halls of my high school. Miles away, enough years later, I was again looking in to see what my world could have been. I knew what making art was to me. It was joy. I knew, deep inside of me, that small bit of joy was really my whole world — it was my triflesphere. I just had not yet learned how to be with that warmth and let myself fly. It was still winter and I hadn’t yet left my own cage.