Getting in the Way of Focus

Digital illo: Getting in My Own Way

As always, the calendar teems with To-Dos and the brain busies itself with what-ifs and irksome things done and not done. End of summer, beginning of the school year, change of work seasons, all push against the calm of normalcy and pester for attention. I get too subdivided and distracted and forget that merely doing what I’m doing is, in fact, Enough.

Good to be reminded that if I let go of yesterday and let tomorrow come when it’s good and ready, I can see a clearer view of where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am meant to be in the midst of it all. Note to self. Yes, that’s Enough.Digital illo: Coming into Focus

So Much Good Reading, So Little Time

Photo montage: So Much Reading, So Little TimeOne of the keenest problems in a comfortable life, that. So much great stuff that I would love to read, and such a short life. So many beautiful pages of literary jewels and deliriously fun junk, paper and zine, novel and blog, that I would happily devour, if only there weren’t so much other Stuff to be done in the finite hours of the day.

In my case, of course, there is the additional complication of being an interminably slow reader. I will have to live to be 627 years old, at least, to read all that I’d like to read. Add to that the extra time (about half again as long) to comprehend what I read and I will have outlasted Methuselah and any number of other supernal beings. And the problem remains, on top of this literary one, that I will have a wide assortment of other highly irksome and undignified complications to overcome and survive in order to achieve such an advanced age. So I have to pick and choose what I am willing and able to devote my actual reading time to perusing, and accept my limitations with as good a grace as I can manage.

This summer, though many of you whose blogs I am fond of visiting for both reading and commenting might be surprised to hear it, I have been reducing rather than increasing my holiday reading. Since much of what I do read is online, and on an erratic schedule with less frequent long periods of sit-down-and-read time, let alone with reliable wi-fi access, I must think about what little I can squeeze in between other summer activities and parcel out my energies and devotion accordingly. I assure you that this is in no way a reflection on the quality and desirability of your work and its pull on my imagination, but it’s rather the reverse: that I want to return to it when I can give it more of its due and proper attention and appreciation. I will return to you, rest assured. Meanwhile, I hope you are lying back on a comfortable chaise in the summer shade, sipping a cool drink, and reading whatever stirs your soul while the season lasts.

Beings without Substance

The measure of a human is not in her wealth, or success, or any of those worldly attainments to which we so happily ascribe great value in the popular realm, but in her simplicity. So much can be accomplished by the reduction of focus on unimportant things, the removal of distractions, and reverence for the smaller and more ephemeral stuff. This, this is how we shine.Photo: How We Shine Best

Shiny Objects & Flying Illusions

Beetling Brow

Inside my skull’s a fizzing insectarium

of mystic, magic, merry little things

so wildly pretty that my brain can’t carry ’em

without the power of all their tiny wings,

Abuzz with sparkling brilliance and their fleeting,

so speedy that they’ve utterly forgot

regard for gravity or need for beating,

become instead bright vestiges of thought.

Now, you may think I’m just a bugged-out entity

with not a thought for anything of sense,

but every person has his own bugs, hasn’t he,

and with their glittering gleam, the joy’s immense;

I never really cared that much for images

or what all others thought my problem was,

but just embraced my inner insects’ scrimmages,

and love the shiny ways they make me collage

Janus, for Good or Ill

digital artwork

In every one of us there may be a little reflection of the god Janus . . .

Humans are not the only animals that can look both forward and back. But we’re the ones that choose to recognize this trait with a certain reverence and, particularly, to think we ought to make some use of it. We’re undoubtedly the only ones that impute a moral value to one or the other, depending not only on whichever we personally prefer but on what we think can benefit us or others.

We can spend our time and energies on studying, learning from, or even dwelling in the past. We can devote our hopes and plans to the ideation of what lies ahead as scientists, fortune tellers, scam artists or futurists of any sort from literary to application development. And there are certainly those among us who for whatever their religious, philosophical or preferential reasons are dedicated to keeping attention focused on the present time.

All of these approaches have their uses, to be sure. But I like to think that there’s room for a balanced use of this knowledge, these skills. In any time, there is much for us to learn. The successes and failures of the past inform present action, but keeping eyes on present action demands enough concentration that the revisiting of historical notes had best be done while not in the very act of the performance. Likewise, learning to predict, extrapolate and imagine possible improvements and variant outcomes is often the richest trove of possible new successes, but again, dreaming of these accomplishments-yet-to-come is only useful if we aren’t so immersed in them that we can’t complete the steps of today necessary to position us for the future.

We may not be the only beasts able to remember or to aspire, and are clearly not the only ones able to be completely present in the moment. But if we’re the only ones that truly care about such capabilities, why then, let us expend what effort and wisdom we’re able and see how well we can integrate the three. Only then, I suspect, will any of us ever live the fullest lives for which our many possible directions can set our artwork

Fishing Expeditions

digitally painted monotype

I *know* I came in here for something . . .

Even those not in my Age Group (i.e., old) have had that irritating experience of going into a room and having no clue on arrival what they intended to do once there. I just have it more often than most. I’ve had it more often than most since (ironically) before I can remember. Thank you, short attention span and daydreaming obsession. But I’m kind of used to it, even if it’s still a little frustrating in the moment. I just have to go on lengthy mental fishing expeditions to try to recapture those slippery thoughts that had swum on through, not stopping quite long enough to satisfy the need of the occasion.

Surely I have mentioned here more than once that I have made many an artwork with fish as topic or, often, as random interjection. The piece above followed my work on a series of icon-like works, so it started out as yet another saint-with-a-halo sort of thing, but then these fish came jumping into the frame and suddenly the whole storyline veered off in a completely different direction. So I guess it could be said to be a perfect self-portrait in that way. Then again, maybe it’s still a good metaphor for a so-called Saint, since from what I’ve read and heard and been told, very few of them ended up doing ‘what they came into the room to do’ in life, but rather got knocked off course and went on other tangents.

That’s reassuring in its way, but it doesn’t fix my problem of forgetfulness or lack of focus, now, does it. There’s certainly no surprise in our forgetting a thing or two over the course of a lifetime. The batik-like little image below (with fish as its subject, in another shocking development) is not only a picture of a sort of trademark type of tale but also has my characteristic style of line, textures, and composition. But darned if I can recollect when, where or for what purpose I made the piece. I would not have known I had made it if it weren’t for finding the photo of it when it was hanging on the office wall of a company for whom I made a salmon-centric exhibition because they had a facilities grand-opening celebration in which they wanted to emphasize their commitment to saving the native Washington salmon runs not protected by similar companies’ practices. Oh, yeah–that was why and when I made the work. What happened to it later is another question, though the company did end up buying a handful of the shown works to keep in their buildings after the exhibition, so maybe it still lives there. But clearly, I’m not the one to ask. I just don’t remember stuff like that. I get a thought; it shoots off into deeper waters.

Hmmm, what was it I was talking to you about? Oh, well, maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe . . .

digital painting

I'll be thinking of you . . .