Monday, March 21, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

This week is all about a love story. Yes, I know that terrible things are happening in the world, there is sadness and fear and people are hurting. But even so, side by side with this reality are the wonders of life, ongoing. I say, if you are fortunate to have the good things happening, then you best show your gratitude and enjoy every blessing. We never know what tomorrow will bring.

Spring Cycle--a story in weaving and embroidery
 of the earth coming alive in Spring.
The embroidery is done, and currently being sewn to my favorite jean jacket.

The newest member of the hippo clan wanted to say "Hello."

I found my first love in the early days of finding myself, when all was new and intense, we (the country) were at war (as always), society was in an uproar of competing ideologies (as always), the economy was difficult (as always), but young people had love, and hope that peace and prosperity could become a reality. Well, that first love came and went. We know what happens with the cycles of social change (they come and they go). Once again I found love, only this time his vows were for the long haul, and two weeks ago we celebrated our 20th anniversary. 

Two loves: My Man and the energy of the city

Of course I'm smiling at him (and maybe the view from
 the Corner Bakery at Michigan and

What is it to be in love at the dawning of...what to call it...the second act? The time in life when you realize that you still have one more chance to reinvent yourself, make good on the promises you gave that young hopeful you, to do something special, to live up to a dream. Well having that person to make those plans with and look forward to every day yet to come, that makes the next act ever more satisfying than going it alone.

One of the most breathtaking, fabulous, ornate, old time theaters anywhere.  (Not that I've been everywhere, but I'm just sayin'.)

Too bad it had such a short visit.

The weather had not been kind this winter (finally officially past!), and we were not able to spend our usual romantic overnighter in Chicago for Valentine's Day. Now that we are planning for a spring vacation, it seemed best to put that on hold. By the strangest of coincidence, we were able to celebrate instead by attending the 40th anniversary Broadway revival of the play "Hair", which has begun it's national tour with a very brief stop in Chicago. In my hippie days, (and oh, yes, I was there for it all) I certainly couldn't have afforded these tickets, although I got to see it as a Penn State student (on March 13, 1971) almost exactly forty years ago. One factor which makes our romance so unlikely and so wonderful is that in those days I was that hippie girl searching for utopia, while my husband-to-be was a U.S Marine, trying to survive in the jungles of Vietnam. Had we met at that time, it is certain we would not have ended up together. But  we both survived those years of craziness, found each other somewhere in the middle, and hopefully will continue to write our story for a long time to come.

Hair Joy

I just recently acquired this fabulous book from 1974,
Jacopetti and Wainwright. Original cost $7.50. I paid $50 on Amazon. 

The production was very enjoyable. "The Tribe," as the cast of friends is called, was performed by extremely talented and enthusiastic young artists. The usual fourth wall is broken throughout the play as the actors interact with the audience, speak directly to us, come down off the stage and crawl over and around us, and during one entire song, the main male and female characters, Berger and Sheila, sat next to us, with actor Steel Burkhardt's arm around my David! At the end of that surreal moment he ruffled David's (ahem) hair, and during the course of the play so did two other female characters. (He loved it!)

A man who loves his home and cares for it entirely on his own
 (note the torn, muddy knees.)

You may recall a watercolor sketch not so long ago
 of a certain snow-covered bench.

But something bothered both of us even in the midst of our good time: the tone of the action. Where was the mellow, where was the true belief in the causes? The message of the show, something I lived and understood, was terribly garbled in a sort of showoff style of performance, and a staging that had the actors all acting all the time, (and often in crude sexual role play) rather than bearing witness to the message of the moment. For all its pop culture hit songs and fun antics, the play has the potential to tell a very serious story. Moment somewhat missed.

First Happy Hour of 2011 on the front porch: celebrating spring

Fragile, wonderful, perfect

The second important story of my week will already be known to many of you: Spring has finally arrived! Sure it promises to take a road trip around here at the end of the week, but we are refusing to let winter back in. The flowers are popping, the lawn furniture and fountain have been uncovered, the first happy hour celebrated on the front porch. My relaxed shoulders tell the story, a permanent sly smile always on the lips. While I am able I must declare it: Life is Good.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Love the One You're With

A certain Stephen Stills song has been an anthem in my life lately. Maybe not in the original literal sense, but relating to the need to forget old worn connections that block my path to the life I need to live. Let go the old tired stories, it says to me, the unproductive ties to people and institutions. Truly love the life you have or find a new one.

In my youth (and I consider that period extended until about age 50),  I was an emotional thinker. I dealt with change in my life in a very personal way. I was living under the control of what Eckhardt Tolle calls the "Ego".  If you aren't familiar with his philosophy, this is the part of our personality that saves all the stories of our lives and retells them again and again. Mostly, Tolle believes, this is to our detriment, because the retelling of the past is the very thing that separates us from our true life, here and now. It feeds on the negative emotions and defines boundaries, and builds walls between your true self and others. Its main job is to justify its own existence.

At first it is a scary thought to contemplate not needing the past, but that is not to say we need to forget. What is imperative is learning the skill of living in the moment. Most people will say that of course, they live in the moment, where else could they be? But the reality is that very few actually do. Most people's conversations, if you listen closely, are centered on the past or the future; their bodies, even down to the act of proper deep breathing, are strangers to them. How many people do you know who actually eat and move with conscious awareness of the experience? Even participating in sports in not in the moment if your mind is set on the completion or the win.

 I am coming to believe, that for an artist, presence is really the only way to live. When you are truly in the now, you are in the work at hand. In fact, it is no longer work, just a conduit to something that you are. Sometimes your art will convey a story, sometimes emotion, other times just a quiet connection. This last is for me the state I am most often in these days. 

My first attempt at painting a moving object, my very active kid.  Even completing the portrait involved following him around the house for several sessions.

I have been practicing Tolle's lessons of being present for several years now, and the more time goes on, the more I am enjoying the release from the past.
At first I thought, how can I live without my stories? But the irony was, living in my stories kept me from enjoying the life at hand, the possibilities it held. It is only since I let go of so much that troubled me that I have come to find the mental space for art as a way of life.

The Hippo Journal: with good humor and joy

The Hippo Journal: and other select friends

A  close friend passed on this week. She had battled cancer for several years with grace and dignity and fully engaged in her life until the last few days. That is how I hope to continue with my journey, however long that may be, no regrets for what didn't happen, but always ready for more. My reaction to the news of my friend's passing, and then through the events of honoring and celebrating her life that followed, may have seemed a tad distant or cold to those who continue to live with regrets. I felt an utter calm and acceptance, in my head and in my body. 

Mourning has begun to enter a new sort of understanding for me: I honor the dead by continuing to live. It has become quite clear to me that change is the constant rule of nature, and all loss must be balanced by gain. My job, while I am here, is to be a conduit for life. If I take loss as a personal affront, I might as well be gone myself. I remember well a conversation with a famous quilt artist about her father's 100th birthday celebration to which 100 guests had been invited. I asked if this wondrous crowd were the generations of an especially large family. She assured me that, no, these were mostly his friends, because this was a man who had continued to celebrate his life by making new connections all the time. 

A spring story continues: basic quilting is done, time for embroidering the details

So I am learning not to mourn the broken connections in time and place, the body that by nature, must wear out before the spirit.  While my flame still burns, I'm wearing a smile. I'm seeking connections to other bright flames. I'm putting myself into the painting and the stitching. I'm talking to others to share as best I can my understanding of joy in the moment.

My new Facebook profile picture. A recent shot by my husband seemed to capture it just right (with a little tweaking on my part)

I hope my art, the physical manifestation of this presence with life, may pass on and be an inspiration. But if, (and surely it will be), it is lost to the ages, I won't mind. I did what I was supposed to do. I burned my lamp and lit the darkness for just a moment. I passed on the torch of the human race. I mattered.