We wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading.
Take down the dulcimer.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundres of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
California was rain. At turns soft and steady and other times torrential, filling the concave places curbside with wide lakes the color of coffee, to be splashed at unsuspecting passer-by as cars churned passed.California was palm trees and bougainvilleas and trumpet flowers and a wild abundance of deciduous trees still with golden leaves even in early December, the sidewalks strewn with flecks of yellow like so many fallen stars. It was a trip on the tail-end of the stomach flu; it was dizziness at the airports and sleeping in uncomfortable positions on the plane, and all of it was worth it to see my dearest friends with new babies, and to do a reading in a beautiful loft, celebrating my book with the people who knew me when I was who I was then: a California girl, back in high school, with windy hair and a crooked-toothed smile.
I hadn’t seen some of them in 16 years, but seeing them again felt familiar in the way riding a bike is familiar after not riding for years. You just know. You remember. There is body memory to the hugs; and a timber and depth to the laughter. It was the first time, really, that I felt myself reveling, a little bit, in the accomplishment of writing a book. It was a lovely way to wind the season down: seeing my book in the hands of friends and loved ones.
And now I’m back, with rain here too at the end of this dirt road. The warmest winter we’ve had here in my memory; the ground still soft and the air sweet with decomposing leaves and ozone as the wind blows in and the clouds lift, revealing the cerulean bowl above. In the morning, the boys run down the hall to find what the Advent Fairy has brought. She slips into our house on fairy wings, bringing special notes and tiny gifts; and after dinner the boys write loving notes to her: Bean, with uneven printing and phonetically spelling and a zillion questions about her wings and adventures and magical names; and Sprout, who has just learned to write the letters of his name, practices them gleefully on snippets of colored construction paper that he carefully cuts.
There are just a handful of days really; two weeks exactly before we slip away again for a holiday adventure as a family. And between now and then a hundred things, the least of which is laundry–though it’s taking over our lives. I can’t remember the last time it was all folded and put away; still every night we have dinner together and over shrimp tacos with lime and mango, T and I laugh and listen and map our future–here, and then somewhere beyond here–and then the laundry doesn’t really matter at all. Instead what matters is going to bed early, the warm coffee-colored fur of the dog against my hand, silverware standing like soldiers in tidy rows in the dishwasher to be cleaned, and plotting creative collaborations with friends. Here’s a peak at some new work. Nothing makes me happier lately than having a brush in my hand.
How have you been? What does this time of year look like for you?
Working on illustrations for the book. Mixed media collage + digital + graphite sketches.
Also: A midsummer migrane; cicadas singing into late evening.; trying to remember to drink enough water + follow garment care instructions for washing; wishing for decompression; wrapping up projects for the summer semester; singing songs to Sprout until he falls asleep in my arms (a rare occasion for us both.)
It has been stormy the past few days: dark skies, fierce winds, rain at the slightest suggestion, then tempestuous blue skies all over again, and this, friends, is where I am at too.
Earlier this week I got news that financial aid for school may be a question and it’s such a complex situation, our lives, our finances, the lot of it…and so here I am again, in limbo, opening my heart up wide to the universe.
I want to trust, to believe that all will be as it should; that things will align and fall into place. But oh, must it be this intense, this tenuous, this thinly threaded? Must everything come like the rains, abrupt and last minute, tearing down dead branches, and leaving everything rinsed and and astounded and green? This seems the way now, that things unfold around here.
So. A little more wondering.
More fingers kept crossed.
More breath held.
It’s their busy time in the financial aid office, and so I don’t get my answers any faster than anyone else gets theirs. Seven to ten days, more or less. Damn.
Will you cross your fingers for me?
PS: I hardly have the words, for grinning, at how all your lovely offers for my art made me feel. THANK YOU. I’ll be shipping the pieces tomorrow–and enjoying more space in my studio to create new things.
It’s been twenty days since I launched A Field Guide To Now, and in those twenty days I have been more intensely creative than I’ve been in over a year.
I’ve been forced way outside my comfort zone. My word for the year was action, and this project has forced me to take action on behalf of my career as a writer and artist in ways I couldn’t have conceived of when I first took the plunge. I’ve had to learn how to query and research and push the limits of my ability to create at night after small boys go to sleep. I’m working on this book project, my novel, paintings, and a few other big projects that are under wraps with fingers crossed.
(I am also working part time, at a job that is pushing me to learn In Design and Photoshop, always under deadline. The child-free hours of my day are spent thusly: designing ads and view books and writing press releases. The rest of my day is spent juggling, with a single-minded focus pounding in my head like jungle drums.)
I am compelled, determined, wired, moody, thrilled, exhausted, inspired. When I sleep my mind is active in a way that is almost new to me. It’s frenetic and repetitive: gnawing away at the creative tasks I’ve left off from before bed. This past week I’ve begun dreaming of whales—and they’ve inspired some of the newest art for A Field Guide To Now. Here is a glimpse (in progress.)
Incidentally, when I looked up what it means to dream about whales, this is what I found: Whale reintroduces us to our creative and intuitive energies to show us a talent we’ve forgotten about or haven’t been aware existed. How spot-on is that?
I’ve had more coffee and less sleep; more wine, more sex, more dreams and less rhythm. I’m spending less time on laundry and dishes (and the house is in probable shambles because of it) and more time perched on the stool in my studio painting, with gauche on my fingers. Less time taking leisurely walks with my boys; more time trying to multi-task while they’re under foot.
It’s made me think about my identity, about who I am and how I define that. For a while, after Sprout was born, I slipped wholly into the identity of mother, and felt my world narrow to the small, domestic orbit of that life. It was restful, to be there. For a while. Sprout was such an easy baby that I enjoyed his babyhood in a way that I never fully did with Bean—who cried more and was more needy, just as I was newer and more anxious at the whole mommy thing.
But now, Sprout is walking. Bean is 5. The house is littered with legos (Sprout holds lego helmets in his mouth like a chipmunk. I’ve checked his diaper but he’s never actually swallowed one. Go ahead call me neglectful. YOU just try to keep legos off the floor with two boys in the house, four years apart.) There is a constant stampede of activity and peanut butter sandwiches and glasses of milk that get spilled. The vacuum is out all day long. Money is tight. Bean has outgrown all his pajamas. Sprout is starting to say words.
And in the midst of all this messy, simple, regular domesticity, I’ve begun to long fiercely for myself. For myself not as a mother, but as someone entirely separate from my children.
Truthfully, I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the definition of motherhood, and now, more than ever, I am enjoying my boys and wanting to be distinct from them, in my own right. A writer. An artist. Right now my mind is preoccupied with the craft of writing, with images, and also about self-doubt, and longing…
How do you define yourself? Where does your definition of motherhood (if you are, or want to be a mother) shape you? What are the words you use to tell yourself the story about your life as it is at this current moment?
I did it. Days of mapping out details and collecting information and editing video clips (whoa, no small thing!) and finally, here it is. A Field Guide To Now.
It kind of feels like giving birth. A lot like it in fact: the risk, the unknown, the realization that it’s all beyond my control even though I’m going to give it every single thing I’ve got.
It’s the first time I’ve ever taken a leap like this. Plunged with a fluttering heart towards a dream.
Please support this.*
And also: I have two birthday boys this week! Bean’s birthday is the 16th and Sprouts four days after. This is the week that has changed my life, twice, momentously. It felt so utterly right to launch this project today. (Still. I’m nervous.)
*Things are tenuous financially, and this would make a huge difference. Please Share this project with everyone you know.