A Taste of What Can Make the Soul Sing

Edgar Allen Poe's room; attribution to Futurilla; Flickr creative commons

Edgar Allen Poe’s room; attribution to Futurilla; Flickr creative commons

There are many reasons, known and unknown, why we choose what to pursue in life. Much of my focus has arisen from necessity and responsibility; there were limitations as to what was available to me and other people have had a tremendous influence as well.

Some things are so familiar, like water for a fish; now I’m talking about things that make one’s soul sing. For me that has been my love of old architecture. No one ever talked about architecture when I was growing up in an area where everything looked ugly to me. The first time I went to an art museum on a school trip, I loved the building as well as the Monets and other art. In school I wasn’t good at math, logic and whatever sort of things one needs to be good at to become an architect. The idea never crossed my mind for decades.

I’ve always been tuned in to a sort of hierarchy of what society considers most important; lovely buildings didn’t seem to be it. I recall the emotional impact of watching ugly housing projects implode on television and I enjoyed daydreaming about rehabilitating interiors. When I realized my love and looked into schooling, I became aware that much of building now is about boring stuff like codes and laws which ruins it all for me, even if the study were to be within my reach. I tend to think I built bridges and buildings in ancient times–that is the feeling I get.

Anyway, it was on my radar that people were fixing up houses and most of it seemed to be too much about business. It just made me feel kind of sad as I went about caring for the things in my life that made practical sense. So it was with delight that I noticed something on Pinterest about the Bronson Pinchot Project. He’s fixing up old homes in Pennsylvania and it’s being filmed for television. I honestly had never heard of him as an actor, although he’s famous, and I don’t have access to HGTV or the diy network. I very much enjoyed watching some Youtube videos and then looked through the confusing websites until I found this page where some of the episodes are available as of now.

I have different taste in decor than Mr Pinchot but if I could be an astronaut or a rock star or such, I’d likely do something similar to what he’s doing. Recently had an epiphany about all this. (I might have had it before and simply denied it.) I love to draw but I love real flowers and animals so much better than drawing them. Drawing fantasy architecture or simply utilizing classical details in drawings would be something I could really enjoy and satisfy my love. It’s given me lots to think about regarding people who need more passion in their lives but aren’t hopeful or have clarity about how to fit it in. Even a little taste could go a long way.

One of the things I enjoy about blogging here is searching through Flickr creative commons for a photo for my posts. In searching this time, I found this gem of a photo of Edgar Allen Poe’s room at the University of Virginia.

Some Things Never Seem to Change

I’ve been working on a creative project the last few days. You know that mythical creature, the crazed artist, who blocks out the rest of the world for periods of time and whose living quarters are a jumble of tools of the trade and discarded work and evidence of intense activity?



Oh, and recently I got an e-reader. Not being a technically inclined person, I’m proud to say that I managed to get it up and running and have downloaded a book onto it.

And I’m still eating healthy and home-cooked and have the trashed kitchen to prove it.

So, this weekend I’ll be doing a bit more housecleaning than I intended.

Observations About Giving Up

There are a lot of things I don’t know. Sometimes I’m amazed that I got to be this age without learning some basic things–things that seem like trivia to me–that other people take for granted as fact.

Today I’m writing about something I do know and I don’t really care anymore who believes it or not.

I am very empathetic, which is I can feel what it’s like to be something or someone. People who are not wired this way don’t have a clue. Also I’m very observant and very interested in the creative expression of others. In the particular genius of others.

So, I notice amazing, amazing people with talent and they are seemingly not recognized and supported. Brilliant blog posts. Moving pieces of art. Singers on the street corners of my city. You know what I’m talking about. They are reaching for the stars, putting their hearts out there and they have drive, passion and the willingness to work hard.

Often what comes back is apathy….like they are creating in a world full of zombies.

Anyway, then I feel their bewilderment and bitterness. Cliches come to mind. “Leap and the net will appear.” “Do what you love and the money will follow.” “Build it and they will come.”

But this is the part that I know and I’m not going to attempt to convince anyone. Everyone else is responsible for their own journey.

Our world is changing rapidly into a new one. It really matters what choices we make and how we travel in attitude and energy and all that. Things are not as they appear and everyone needs to navigate according to what they feel is best.

It is totally worth it not to give up now. Well, perhaps one needs to quit doing something and begin something else. But keeping calm and carrying on? Nurturing our dreams and talents? Expressing our gifts? Having some faith?

It is so worth it. It sucks sometimes, things look unfair and I have really crappy days. No way do I want to give up. I don’t want to look back on this time and feel that I wasted it in whining and pouting.

And that’s why I keep rocking whatever I’ve got in the moment. And I’m thrilled when my fellow humans keep putting it out there even if it appears no one is paying attention. There is more attention on what we’re doing than we realize.

Three Realizations

fabric art

fabric art

Dare I call them epiphanies? I’m still feeling like things are going to be all right even with needing to take two naps today. Simply couldn’t keep my eyes open and had a fever. In a healing way, not a getting sick kind of way.

First I became very much aware that I’ve been pressuring myself and limiting my enjoyment of life because I need to make changes in how I do things, faster and more often than I used to. Well, so does every one else. Faster and more often. And I’m doing it. I know what and why I need to change and day by day I know the “how”, most of the time, in the moment. I just don’t have a plan for the long-term “how”. But whenever I’ve done that before, I’ve always had to change the plan. It doesn’t mean that I have to postpone enjoyment of life until I figure everything out.

This usually happens more often after I speak with a healthy, employed, successful acquaintance who has family and friends and who is envious that I have more free time. Maybe I should feel guilty? Uptight? They’d never change places with me.

The second realization is that there’s nothing wrong with me for not liking the selfish, abusive, greedy, lazy, mean, snarky, manipulative, lying, ill-mannered, ignorant people in my past. Of course, I wouldn’t like them. As a caring person who understands that we’re all one and that there is a beautiful soul underneath icky personalities, I tended to make it mostly my responsibility to ensure that every relationship went smoothly. Well, it’s a two way street and there’s no need to relate to disagreeable people if I don’t have any real business with them.

The third realization is that as challenging as my life is, it’s better than it was a year ago. Five years ago. Ten years ago. Twenty. And so on. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I have regrets. It does me no good to condemn myself now that I have hindsight. I’d do a lot of things differently. But really, my life is better. I’m generally optimistic about the future even though I have dark moments and sometimes feel that at age 56, it’s too late for me. There’s no evidence why I should feel optimistic, but I do.

Happy Valentines Day

Without pushing myself, I’ve greatly improved my cooking skills. It’s been an organic process and I’m finding it enjoyable. The results are good health-wise as I continue to adjust my diet. Now I have the experience of how it can be.

The art and writing goals are different. Even though–they’ve been life-long interests, I have to push and there are more doubts and fears. I wonder if it’s all a waste of time and energy.

The experts and coaches would say to practice, practice, practice. Most of them do not have serious health problems. When I read the creativity tips from others, I have to be careful not to feel shame and other worse feelings because of my condition.

I recently finished reading the War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. There are some very helpful ideas in the book, but he has been blessed with good health and is rather harsh about equating poor health with resistance and laziness. I give myself credit for not wishing anything disruptive to his health and choose to take what is helpful to me from the book and leave the rest.

People often take things for granted and and seem to assume that what comes natural and easy to them–well, it should be the same for everyone.

It’s still early days at the blog here. I sense that I’m on the right path even though I don’t have evidence to prove it yet.

Lovely Day

This was the first day comfortable enough weather-wise for going out without a coat. The heat was turned off all day and the windows open a crack.

I was out for four hours, either standing or walking which is way longer than I’m used to. Now, I’m not unreasonably pained–lots of water, some magnesium, rest and a heating pad is what I’m prescribing myself.

Three of the basil seedlings are now in larger pots. They are rather small to be moved but were getting cramped in the shallow container they were germinated in.

My diet will be changed in a month or two and I prepared for that by looking at recipes and also at cookware while I was at the co-op shopping. The healthy skillets online are over $100 if you can buy one separately from a set. I found a $30 one and will wait until I can use a 10% off coupon next week. I simply haven’t been using one except for a cast iron skillet which I dislike cleaning. I’m afraid to use the non-stick, inexpensive ones. I’m pleased with the progress I’m making but am also cautious.

Then I went to the public library for the first time since last autumn and they’d moved the dvd’s around. (I have plenty of unread books at home.) I found four so that will give me a break from hulu. While I’m resting, my mind wants diversions.

I haven’t been doing more than thinking about art lately, so I went to an open workshop to check the work of four young artists. Three of them were there and I got to watch them work for a bit. Most of the paintings were not my style and that’s O.K. I’m middle-aged. They seemed pleased that someone bothered to look at their stuff since it was a Saturday afternoon and most people were doing other things.

Midlife And Our Best Years Are Ahead Of Us

It’s possible. It matters whether we believe it or whether we believe it’s all downhill from here, that we’ve had too many losses and the world has become too weird. Yes, there will be inner fears and pain and outer gloom and evidence of decay and destruction. We can acknowledge how we feel and then refuse to dwell there.

Some of us have had quite a tragic and difficult life and it’s tempting to feel like there’s something inherently wrong with us. We might just not have what it takes to be fulfilled. If we are intelligent and worthy, wouldn’t we have figured out more about how to get what we want by now? Self-help books and blogs about success give ideas about what worked for others and we might notice that there are some things those folks take for granted, things that we believe are lacking in ourselves that will make the whole thing we might want to change or try, fail dismally. Maybe we feel too old, that life has passed us by and what’s left is the quiet desperation. Especially if we don’t have the temperament or personality or energy of the people with the how-to’s.

That’s a place I don’t want to stay in for long and I don’t really want to hang out with people who dwell in those places, although I wish them well. Maybe we simply don’t have all the information yet. Maybe we haven’t been reminded lately about how wonderful we are and that we have more choices than we think when it comes to creating a better life. Even if we’re no longer twenty. Or thirty. Or forty. Or fifty.

There can be lots of obstacles and problems we’re facing, but there’s also some areas where we are succeeding and learning amazing things on our own. For me, some insights and order to my health challenges became clear for me today. I’m on the right path. I’m doing it!

After my checking out and relaxing yesterday, I worked towards my goals today and stayed on track until……. Sometimes a sparkling delicious diversion shows up and we get to choose whether or not to explore it. Of course, we are responsible and want to keep our commitments. I mean like when today, I could read in the how-to novel writing book that I’d planned to study or play with the google art project that I just discovered online. Choosing the art site, I could have spent eight hours there. What would you have done?

Not all of the art is sparkling for me but there were Van Goghs I’d never seen that are exquisite. And Turner’s paintings. And Cezanne. There are paintings by an artist that I’d never heard of and now I’m going to do more research. It’s amusing that when I was younger, I didn’t know what kind of art I “should” like. And now I know it’s fine that I like the Impressionists better than modern art.

What’s really amazing is I just looked out my window and the city view I always see looks beautiful, like art, after having looked at the paintings online a little while ago. When we have experiences like that, it surely has a positive effect on our health and our future. It draws life through us.

We can choose to have an outlook that our life can continue to be enhanced, although different, rather than just being diminished. Does it really work for us to be cynical, jaded and bitter?

Observation and Fatigue

My acrylic painting has just been stored and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I do much better. It’s scary starting with art again after plus thirty years. This week I’m trying to schedule an hour daily to focus on it, even if it means just showing up.

This morning I hid the painting after calling it finished, stored my paints, etc. in an easy-to-get-to place but off my computer desk and recognized that I might best learn to draw again in some sort of structured way. I got down my 1985 copy of Bert Dodson’s “Keys To Drawing”.

When I lived in Boulder County Colorado, I liked to go up to Nederland and spend the day. I liked the altitude and being by the big reservoir. Having spent the first 17 years of my life with the Mississippi River nearby, it felt unnatural to be so far from big water in Colorado.

Once when I was wandering back to town and near the shelter area I saw a small group of people drawing. It was a class and usually I’m very shy and reserved but not this time. After chatting with the art teacher a bit, she told me that she was self-taught and had learned from Dodson’s book. So I bought one and put it on my shelf where it sat and was moved to three different apartments in two states.

As scary as it is, I don’t learn when I don’t even try–hence the scheduled hour daily now. (Honestly I couldn’t think of another word besides hence).

I began looking through the book after clearing up the disappointing painting project and was drawn to a little section about observation and fatigue. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m interested in rejuvenating from burn-out and fatigue.

Drawing is more about observing the object being drawn than the medium on which it’s drawn. Dodson says fatigue is inevitable and often comes on before we realize it. One sign is a sudden awareness of time. Another sign is awareness of distractions. He says at these times it’s best to stop. Wow. I have never seen this information before and it easily translates into a tool for the rest of my life.

Now many times, I have to slog my way through something just like we all do. It is useful to be conscious of the increase in tiredness though so I can make the good choices that are available to me. With drawing, as I walk the fine line of overcoming my fears and also taking care of my health this is a micro-detail that will serve me well.

This sudden lack of focus and anxiety about time also happens when I’m reading or on the computer. He didn’t mention hunger, but sometimes I feel suddenly very hungry. Dodson recommends when drawing, to select areas of interest in the subject and concentrate on them first to bunch up both energies and time. The rest of the drawing can then be treated with simplicity. Kind of like being wise in prioritizing my activities.

Craft Day

It worked out well to do bookkeeping and business on Monday in longer blocks of time so yesterday I planned to spend time with my art and a craft project I’ve been thinking about.

Working on the craft project made me happy and I forgot about all the problems I need to solve for awhile. Part of why it worked out was that my fingers were more dexterous than usual. I first noticed it when I put some post earrings in while waiting for the computer to get going. It usually requires patience and time but I inserted them easily for the first time in years. And without looking in a mirror.

Later when I threaded a needle several times to sew by hand, that went well also. Slow, but it wasn’t frustrating. I also had the stamina to handle the ironing board several times.

The painting didn’t go so well. It would make more sense to practice drawing for awhile but I want to paint too. I’ve been taking digital photos of the various stages and in hindsight, I see the best stage was three photos ago. Then they look progressively worse to me. The best thing to do, I guess, is set it aside and enjoy doing a painting of a person. Which is what I feel like doing.

The biscuits I made from a gluten-free mix taste good and I have the energy to bake like that, but it has aluminum phosphate in it and I’ll be looking for a healthier brand mix.

Today I intended to get a lot of housework done but the day is half gone and I’m not feeling well. I have a sore throat and less mobility than usual. I guess I could force myself but that hasn’t worked so well in the past. I know many people say you have to have structure, schedules and goals, but when I think back to my most productive times last year, it happened in bursts of spontaneity. Just like farmers and like occupations need the cooperation of the weather, if my body doesn’t want to go along with the plan and it can be reasonably postponed, it makes sense to do so. I have noticed that I do better as the day goes on and perhaps there will be some sort of compromise here.

It seems like when I get further along with my structural alignment exercises, it might relieve some nerve pressure to my hands and I could become more productive. I have hope.

Fabric/Mixed Media

Recently while going through things I found an old box of laminating sheets. They are slightly yellowed and close to 20 years old. When I got them years ago I obsessively laminated a lot of items for a little while and then moved on to something else.

A little over a year ago, I used some of it to laminate a cancelled stamp from 1904 and a note that was written at that time. The letter was mailed from St. Louis around the time of the World’s Fair to my grandmother before she was married. I have a small stack of letters to her and she seems to have been rather popular with the young gentleman, something I’d never heard about. She passed when I was six years old and I remember her as very reserved.

I sewed the laminated items onto a small quilted wall-hanging I made by hand. I enjoy doing that even though it’s very time-consuming and I am not at all a good quilter. I doubt if I’ll ever be and it isn’t really a goal of mine. Since it’s art, I don’t believe the hangings need to be sturdy–I just like the way they look.

The wall-hanging is pictured above. There’s a tiny mesh bag that jewelry or something came in and inside of it is a small plastic bag that has a curl of human hair. A young man had sent Grandma a lock of his blonde hair in 1904. The note paper had absorbed any oil and the writing was slightly smudged. The hair was understandably a little brittle. I typed up a little hello note back to the boy in a time-travel kind of way and attached it to the vintage looking fabric.

The letters are all written in pencil and the various handwritings are difficult to read. Grammar and punctuation are poor and the content is a mix of casual, mundane and formal. There are letters about social events, picnics and dances that people traveled to on horseback. Most other old letters I’ve seen in books and museums are from educated and sophisticated people and I was a little startled at the simplicity of these.

I haven’t read all of them–I have to be in a certain mood to read them, I guess because it’s family and they are gone now.

This afternoon I printed a copy of a painting I’d done and also a copy of a photo I’d taken on acid free paper, laminated them and got out my fabric stash. I’ve moved past the part where my lack of manual dexterity and quilting skills makes this a waste of time. I want to do it. I like making things out of found objects.

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