Saturday, April 25, 2020

Keep on. Keeping on.

When will this all end? It seems no one from government officials to health leaders want to even venture a guess. My husband and I are fortunate. We are well and walking and working. Even the weather has graced us with sunshine, unusual for this time of year. 

Unusual. That just seems to be a fitting word for me right now. Add to it, sad, crazy, scary, confusing and maddening. While so many suffer around the world, the world keeps turning. Night to day. Winter to Spring or Spring to Winter. Trees bud and leaf, flowers bloom and the birds sing on. 

Dirt is a good thing. 

With all the hand washing and sterilizing and face masking all around me, I feel the need to get dirty. Like a kid who got scolded for playing ball in her Easter dress, maybe I just have to rebel. I don’t know. 

What I do know is dirt makes me feel better. So this week, my husband and I planted our yearly garden a little early. Although the trip to get plants was not the happy experience it usually is, planting was wonderful. There’s nothing like digging a row in good dirt and putting new little spinach, lettuce, zucchini and cucumber plants in a row. The bright tomato cages over the new little plants give me hope. 

Even though it’s way to early here to set up the patio, I couldn’t help buying a some new flowers. Planting dahlias in pots and a jasmine inside my Winter screening sculpture puts a smile on my face. 

Fire on. 

I had a few minor accidents this week injuring my fingers which kept me from my normal clay work routine. By week’s end, I was able to do a bit of painting and hand building, thank goodness. And luckily I had a bisque load ready to fire in the kiln. 

Just a few days without my hands in clay really showed me how important this ‘work’ is for my body and mind and spirit. Once again, I see what works for me. 

But what works for you? I hope through all of this difficulty and stress and mess and pain, you can do something that works for you. Something that lightens your spirit, strengthens your mind and eases your body. So we can all keep on keeping on. Together. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Working through the Downtime

Yes, I’m still working from home but as I joked with a friend who does the same, not much has really changed except now I have another work at home buddy, my husband. And we are lucky we are both doing jobs we love and making a living as well as a life. Together. 

Now we walk. We work. We walk some more. And we work some more. He has his office/studio upstairs and mine is downstairs and out in the garage. I wear ear buds or turn down my studio music because he might be recording upstairs. It’s all working out. 

Throwing and rearranging. 

I had a great time at the wheel this week. I just threw a few new vases and a bowl. Yup, just 3 pieces because right now, I don’t have to worry about inventory. I’ve had finished work stacked on a shelf with nowhere to go for months now. 

Though my motivation to produce isn’t there, the emotional need to make is even stronger now. With three shelves filling up with greenware and bisque, I needed to move the finished pieces to make more room. So I spent a whole day, cleaning shelves, pricing new work and re-staging my studio sale shelves. I’m lucky to have the support of local art lovers who buy my work.

Good thoughts for the week from another writer. 

This poem popped into my inbox this week from writer and coach, Tara Mohr. I loved it. I felt uplifted and calmed and grounded. I want to share it with the hope that it helps you as much as it helped me. 

Downtime Poem

In any creative feat
(by which I mean your work, your art, your life)
there will be downtimes.

Or so it seems.
Just as the earth is busy before the harvest
and a baby grows before its birth,
there is no silence in you.
There is no time of nothingness.

What if,
during the quiet times, when the idea flow is hushed and hard to find
you trusted (and yes I mean trusted)
that the well was filling, the waters moving?

What if you trusted
that for the rest of eternity,
without prodding, without self-discipline,
without getting over being yourself,
you would be gifted every ounce of productivity you need?
What would leave you? What would open?

And what if during the quiet times you ate great meals
and leaned back to smile at the stars,
and saw them there, as they always are,
nourishing you?

There are seasons and harvest is only a fraction of one of them.
We forget this.

There is the rhythm that made everything.
The next time you stand in the kitchen, leaning,
the next time a moment of silence catches you there,
hear it, that rhythm, and let it place a stone in your spine.
Let it bring you some place beautiful.
By Tara Mohr

My hope as I throw and paint and dust is that we can all find a way to work through the downtime right now. And remember in Tara Mohr’s wise words, “during the quiet times you ate great meals and leaned back to smile at the stars.”

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Making it through: Rediscovery, Recreating and Relaxing.

It’s week 3 going on 4 and I can see changes happening all around me. Social distancing results in social isolation which brings out more fear and anger. There’s a sadness in the eyes above those  paper masks. I see the light fading in people’s eyes and I want to make it brighter. Better. 

And it is better than we think. There is a truth here we are too scared to see and that above all, frightens me because facts don’t always support this massive fear. Yes, there is a virus around us. Yes, it can cause some sickness and some deaths. But right now, right here, millions and billions are surviving. 

For my own health and sanity, I have to focus on living, breathing and relaxing. 

No yeast? Start your own. 

It’s been a week long science experiment at my house. Not being able to find yeast, my husband and I decided to make sourdough starter. For years, we used to make our own bread with our own starter. Why? 

We enjoyed it. We did it together. And when my daughter was born and seemed to have a wheat allergy, we could make special bread for her. There were no wheat alternatives on the market then but thankfully, we lived near the original Bob’s Red Mill where I could get other types of milled flour. We experimented. I wrote the recipes down in our own cookbook. 

This week, that old cookbook and another beloved Sunset Magazine cookbook were there to help us. Sourdough takes time, luckily this week we had plenty of that on hand. We picked some fresh rosemary from our garden and kneaded it into the bread dough. It turned out delicious. 

But the biggest success was the rediscovery of the joy of baking bread and eating it fresh. 

Letting my freak bird fly. 

Again and again, I come back to my studio. My clay. My paint. And my experiments. I know it seems obvious but I forget this all the time. As galleries and shows and sales stopped, I found myself in a dangerous downward spiral. WTF! Where did all these tea cups come from and why did I make them? Who is going to use them? Why are there birds on my shelves?

After my freak out, I knew. I needed the teacups and birds. Why? Because there is nothing more comforting for me than a hot cup of tea. A tea cup in my hand is comfort. It’s love. It reminds me of my Gram and Grandmother Gallacher who were big on the importance of having tea. 

The birds are freedom. They are out there flying all around me and you and us. They are not scared. They are not quarantined. They are not sick. They are drinking nectar and eating bugs and making nests and having babies. 

Recreating something I’ve done before in a new way, I find my way again. I needed my birds and my cups of comfort and love. Maybe someday, down the line, you will too. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Acting Up

Yup. That’s my goal for the last two, three, four, or more weeks. I’m trying to see the good things, the positive news, the helpful acts all around me. I want to focus and re-focus on health. I want to act in healthy ways for myself and hopefully model them for others who may be lost in the land of fear. 

While I love staying at home, none of us like being forced to do or not do anything. It makes me mad. And acknowledging the feelings, losses and fear is essential to staying healthy. 

Go ahead and throw something. 

One of my sane acts right now is to throw clay. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do right now without my precious wheel, wedging board and clay. 

Every week, I throw, trim and hand build. My normal routine is blocking out at least 2 to 3 days a week as studio days. I’ve learned that blocking days is necessary for me to get the concentrated time to really get things done. And clay needs periods of concentrated attention as well as time to sit and dry before the next steps. So, I’ve learned how to work with it and around it. 

Be creative. 

Now more than ever, creative acts can be life savers. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it’s safe and fun. 

Step away from your phone, pad, computer and move. Walk. Do yoga stretches. Dance while no one’s watching. Sing off key, Alexa doesn’t mind. Get out those old crayons, pencils, watercolors, paper and doodle. Or if you have a bigger space, throw a little paint at a canvas. 

If you don’t have clay or art supplies around, create some space in your home. Dust. File those papers on your desk. Do your laundry. Sew that button back on your pants. Make cookies for you or your dog. Weed. Mow. Re-pot your plants. Throw a ball for your dog. 

Acting up helps. 

I’m very grateful to have the space, supplies and creative practices right now. I’m also grateful to have someone close to me in the news business to bring me true facts to balance the fearful headlines. 

My studio routine is my life line right now. Especially with all the show and gallery closures, it takes stubborn determination to keep acting and creating. If I can do it, so can you. Don’t let this get you down, act up instead.