Don't forget, in case you ever wanted to read them again, my archived posts are all here.
Don't forget, in case you ever wanted to read them again, my archived posts are all here.
I've suddenly had an attack of the nerves writing this down for real. I counted how many years I have been blogging this morning, something like 8. I can't remember exactly. And if I think about it, it has kind of been like a voluntary part-time job for all that time, and my goodness, it has been good to me. I have loved it, and I love it still.
And yet. Lately I have been wondering if I want change in my life, how will that happen if nothing changes, and if something has to change, what will that thing be? A secret whisper in the back of my head that I have been trying to ignore, trying to drown out, says it is this place. At least temporarily. And why? I am not bored with it, I get as much out of it as I always have, which is a lot, and my plans to launch into a less introverted and more colourful blogging year were true and earnest plans.
It's because I have been wondering, what would I make, or paint, or write, if I wasn't thinking about it through the lens of a blog? I am sure it mostly works on a subconscious level, but I can't help after all these years to see my creative self as tied closely to my blog, and I think, I wonder, if that changes what I choose to do a little. Where would that same energy go if I wasn't thinking that someone was looking (even when they are not, even when they could care less)? What would I put it into?
Maybe nothing. Maybe it will dissipate and I will do even less things and become even more isolated. But maybe not. Either way, it's a question I find myself very much wanting to know the answer to.
My favourite thing about blogging is you, and I can't bring myself to say goodbye. So let's call it a sabbatical, let's imagine I am off on a big journey for a little while, a year say, and I will be back after that with lots of tales of where I went, and what I got up to. Also, I don't feel the same way about Instagram or Pinterest, for whatever reason, so I will still be floating about there. You didn't think I could entirely give up posting words and pictures to the interwebs, did you? Bahaha.
I'll meet you back here, if you like, 1 February 2015. Until then, be well. Things won't be the same without you.
I've written three different posts and deleted three different posts and I have no idea what the heck I am going on about. Maybe five or six posts. There was macaroni, and some pesto, a bit about keeping the wolf from the door, something to do with an entropic universe, and one big fat soup of messy nothing.
Did you used to play on those roundabout toys in the playground when you were little? You'd hop on the flat bit and hold on for all you were worth while an adult or elder child would spin you round and round, faster and faster, until you got too dizzy and had to stop. It's a bit like that inside my head right now. I think I have to sit things out for a little while before I fall down and puke all over somebody's shoes.
That was charming.
The thing about gardens is that everyone thinks they go on growing, that in winter they sleep and in spring they rise. But it's more that they die and return, die and return. They lose themselves. They haunt themselves.
Every story is a story about death. But perhaps, if we are lucky, our story about death is also a story about love.
And this is what I have remembered of love.
~ Helen Humphreys, The Lost Garden
I don't have a very nice kitchen, or much of a garden, so can't really claim a kitchen garden, but it's not important. There is very little I can claim; maybe nothing. Enjoying what I grow and eating some of it, that's what matters.
Lots of times lately I have been asked what I am doing this year, and I don't have a good answer. I say, maybe this, maybe that, I don't know. Sometimes I say I am a bit lost, but that's not true either. It feels like limbo, but not purgatory, not an ineffable floating about on a metaphorical wind, but more like a necessary waiting. A shedding of an old and worn out skin. I think that if I move about too much, or try too hard, I will miss the thing I am waiting for, suffocate it, stamp it out, and it will be a small thing, a quiet one, something that has been lying dormant for a very long time until the right conditions came along for it to grow. I'm talking nonsense, of course, but it's nonsense I believe. So I am waiting as quietly and patiently as I can, which isn't very, spending my days cleaning and cooking and drawing and gardening.
The best life advice I have read lately has to do with cultivating instinct. How when we see people with great skill, incredible instincts in their art or craft or profession, it can seem like they were born knowing what to do. But they never are. The author says this (the insert is mine):
If we were taught to cook (or dance or paint or write spreadsheets) as we were taught to walk, encouraged first to feel for pebbles with our toes, then to wobble forward and fall, and then had our hands firmly tugged on so we would try again, we would learn that being good at it relies on something deeply rooted, akin to walking, to get good at which we need only guidance, senses, and a little faith.
Instinct ... is not a destination but a path. The word instinct comes from a combination of in meaning "toward", and stinguere meaning "to prick". It doesn't mean knowing anything, but pricking your way toward the answer.
~ Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal
It's my garden that's been teaching me this more than anything at the moment. What I need to do and how I need to do it has come very slowly and with great difficulty. A green thumb I am not. But as I stop trying to replicate the thousand expert voices that only confuse and overload, and try a thing myself, and then another thing, gradually I do prick my way toward an answer. I replant a dying nasturtium into a shady corner, try capscium in a crowded pot, shove lettuce into odd spaces away from the heat, build large climbing frames for my supposed runner beans that are actually dwarf, notice the net over the grapes is big enough to let the grapes out and the birds in, that is too big, that they are sour anyway and maybe try an espaliered fruit tree instead, that I should mulch, and pick the tops out of the basil before they bolt away on me, notice that herbs bring me great pleasure but stunted beetroot does not, that I could try refrigerating my too small garlic bulbs next year to mimic a frost, that I hate to weed, but love my husband even more when he weeds for me, that growing my own food, even just a tiny little miniscule portion of it, helps me feel good about being alive.
These plants will die, yes. Maybe I will keep their seed and reproduce them, maybe I will replace them entirely. The garden will carry on, if not this one, then another, and I will carry on inching my way toward ways I can help it, be with it, enjoy it.
And this is what I remember of love. Love of life, love of people, love of being here at all. That it is an action, a movement, an often cack-handed stumbling toward. It can be slow and wobbly and travels back around on itself as often as not. That it means tripping, and falling, and always, always, finding some kind of a way to move forward again. Walking, crawling, bloodied hand over dragging elbow. That duty is not it, that rules are not it. In a necessary pinch they can substitute, but they will dry up and wear out, drying us up, and wearing us out. It is an adventure story, a finite, dangerous, never-to-be-repeated adventure story. We can refuse it, ignore it, bury it under the weight of fear and surety that in the end we will all, to some degree, fail. But the shadow of our longings will haunt us, feeding despair and hopelessness, which is just another way of love calling for our attention from inside its makeshift grave. We can numb ourselves into a kind of non-existence where we hardly notice it at all, but not totally, not always. A colour, a verse, a tragedy, will catch us off guard and knock our safe illusions back to the pit from which they came. Love is, at its core, life's great Yes and Amen. The best response, which is terrifying as hell, is to close our eyes, open our arms, and jump right into the middle of the thing.
I'm talking nonsense, of course. But it's nonsense I believe.
Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn't, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I'm given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one's own vision. ~ Kiki Smith
Well, I hope it's from Kiki Smith. I stole it off Pinterest and couldn't be bothered checking whether she said it or not. Either way, amen.
There's this too, and this time I know for sure Philippa Perry wrote it: You may find that you have been telling yourself that practicing optimism is a risk, as though, somehow, a positive attitude will invite disaster and so if you practice optimism it may increase your feelings of vulnerability. The trick is to increase your tolerance for vulnerable feelings, rather than avoid them altogether.
I've been hanging out with frogs. Just drawing and copying and drawing and not thinking. You know what happens? The more I draw, the more things I work out, not just in the picture itself, but in general. Don't know how that works, funny little funny neurons. I'm thinking I'll prescribe myself at least an hour of drawing a day, drawing anything, doesn't matter where or why or how, and see where that takes me.
I'm growing scallopini. Now I have to collect recipes for scallopini.
The Frog Princess is February's fairy tale, and I have been through some guided exercises to find my own stylised princess ready for the first real proper painting assignment. Despite the fact I can't draw I've been doing it anyway, which is kind of liberating. Drawing in pen, where you can't rub anything out, is liberating. I like the princess in the middle, but I can't replicate her hair. I've tried dozens of times. It doesn't matter. My job is just to keep going, to trust that I'm learning something, inching forward into knowledge.
The lavender were copied from Lisa Congdon's 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip. I have an impulse to draw gazillions of them on postcards and send them to gazillions of people.
Our hats weren't quite tiaras but they did have butterflies and flowers on them which was deemed close enough. It's not that she loves princesses, our Eilidh, it's that she enjoyed the fun of inflicting them on everyone else.
Less pain today, and less self-pity, praise all the celestial bodies. It's boring and destructive, a locking of the door and closing of the blinds, an okay place to visit sometimes, but no way to live. It's so easy to let our identities become caught up in the pain, any kind of pain, and so hard to separate them again. It's something I think about a lot, a way to acknowledge both the light and the shadow. In this material world we all live in, you can't have one without the other.
Here are some things I read today about other, very different, people trying to come to terms with the wholeness of a big wide life:
In completely unrelated news, I'm going to read 100 novels this year. I had better get started.
Eilidh is fifteen. The only things she requested were that her birthday be coloured pink, that she has waffles for breakfast, a banana chocolate chip cake for afternoon tea, and that we all wear tiaras with our dinner. And we all will.
Warren has taken her and her two siblings out to the movies for the afternoon. I am at home because a sudden and dramatic flare in joint pain has left me unable to sleep, to be comfortable sitting or lying or standing or walking. It hasn't been this bad for an entire year, since before my diagnosis, and I thought it never would be again.
Every now and then I will just stop and cry for a small second or two. I'll be okay, and Eilidh is having a happy birthday (have you seen those waffles?), but to be on all the medication I am on and still be in such pain, to have this rug pulled out from under my feet right when I had finally managed to stand up on those feet again, it's crushing me just a very great little bit.
If I was looking for a sign, that wasn't it.
This might be though. She really did have a happy day.
by Louise Gluck
You want to know how I spend my time?
I walk the front lawn, pretending
to be weeding. You ought to know
I'm never weeding, on my knees, pulling
clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact
I'm looking for courage, for some evidence
my life will change, though
it takes forever, checking
each clump for the symbolic
leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already
the leaves turning, always the sick trees
going first, the dying turning
brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform
their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?
As empty now as at the first note.
Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?
Nameless Plastic Doll is in time out for eating the last of the cake when I specifically said, no more cake, and also for saying mean things about my contour drawings. And the princess paper doll I drew from the first fairy tale lesson, which admittedly looks like a drunk child playing Wonder Woman, AND SHE HAS NO HANDS, but nevertheless. It is not okay to be mean.
Also, there are lots of folk tales where the princess has no hands. The Grimm Brothers wrote it down as the devil cutting them off, but the originals say it's her Dad or her brother for refusing their sexual advances, or some other equally awful reason. They are raw and wild, those tales.
Even that small amount of drawing work has made my knuckle joint start that stabby achy bloody painful thing it does whenever I try to do something. Well. Maybe I'll be a princess with no hands too.