Changing Directions

Digital illustration: Changing Directions

Do I move at the whim of the slightest breeze? Often enough, I suppose. But what really changes my direction in life? Chance? Passion? Accident? Will?

I’d say it’s been one or another of all of those at various times, and perhaps occasionally a combination of elements. What I would say most definitely and commonly is that I have rarely known very far in advance what direction my life would be taking, let alone exactly when. Living with uncertainty is at the heart of the human condition. We can’t know (nor would I wish to know) much of what lies ahead for us. Being an artist, and married to an artist, I have made some choices that guaranteed perhaps an even deeper and more frequent susceptibility to wondering what comes next. While both of us have taught at times, an occupation that has a degree of predictability and dependability absent in most other employment that involves our artistic skills and training, it never prevented the question from arising in other ways.

For me, as a longtime adjunct at the university, it meant that though I’d been there for nearly seventeen years (most of those, full-time) before I stopped teaching, I never had a contract in hand for more than a year at a time, nor was my class load or schedule in any way predestined; I taught what I was asked to teach, when I was asked to teach it. For my spouse, a tenured full professor and director of his division, he still had questions about how he might change and grow as a teacher, never mind whether to apply for or take any of the other positions on offer at other places from time to time.

We are, I think, pretty much the ordinary pair when it comes to that sort of thing. Even now, after many years of doing particular kinds of work at specific places and getting plenty of satisfaction from those various tasks, it doesn’t in any way stop us from asking, What next? Will we continue on the present path exactly as we are just now? Do we opt to  make any kinds of transitions, either changing the way we do what we do or the venue for doing it, or does something entirely new entice and draw our interest? If it does, is it attainable? Is there some utterly unimagined thing lurking just around an unsuspected corner, waiting to draw us in?

At times, it can make me feel as though I can never quite catch my breath or my balance. I tire of asking myself all of these whys, hows and what-ifs, yet I can’t resist scratching at the questions the minute I thought I’d put them to rest for a while. Even when I’m most happy and fulfilled and contented, I always wonder what lies ahead.

And that, of course, is the very heart of that human condition. We know that change is inevitable. We know that some of it will be by our choice, and much of it will be thrust upon us or sneak up subtly and surprise us all the same. And we know that, in some ways, the only guarantee we have is that we will all die wondering. It’s what we do, and it’s who we are.

Electricity

Strung more tightly than violin strings, the two sweeping the darkened, smoky room in a feral arc know a dance that defies all others. Piazzolla provides the backdrop of sound, but the pulse is found far deeper inside–somewhere near the center of two souls, perhaps. Will the world implode in this, their passionate spin? Love, darkness and brilliance compel their moves; time will race or freeze and stars may blaze or die, but as long as the dance goes on, the night will be filled with mystery and animal joy that only these hearts could possibly make. Let the music stalk on, and learn to live and die of love: here in the night, the tango burning in these two will keep a world of beauty pulsing long beyond their lives.

digital artwork

Happy to Defy Stereotypes

photoMarry Go-Round

Here we go round the daily ration

Of crashing through the underbrush

Hoping to hit a note of passion

In our enigmatic rush

Wishing for luck to strike the attempt

And so imbue the chase with meaning

As we run about unkempt

To catch a star in our careening

Here we go around and over

Under through against away

Wishing always we could hover

Hidden for another day

Off we ramble on our mission

Just as though we had a clue

How to go from fact to fission

I don’t know it though

Do you?photoTo be perfectly fair and honest, yes I do know. In my case, the How To was found perfectly simply in locating, partnering with and marrying exactly the right guy for me. Fission accomplished! Not to worry, though–I only mean the explosive quality of the energy found in splendiferous joy.

Housekeeping with a Flamethrower

Why should I do anything on too small a scale, with too little passion? If I’m going to go to any trouble at all for any sort of reason, why shouldn’t I just take it to the greatest extreme I can manage? Anything worth doing, as my father has assured his children all of our lives, is worth overdoing. This, of course, is the same man who told us that ‘they put low dosages on these’ before taking double or triple the prescribed quantity of medication, and who when sent out to prune the trees left something that to his loving spouse resembled less a suburban backyard than a moonscape. Still, he’s managed to live a pretty healthy life and hold down very respectable jobs and raise happy daughters and all of that sort of thing, so he can’t have been all that far off the mark.graphite drawing with digital highlightsAnd, truth to tell, I think that engaging our full strength and will and enthusiasm whenever we can is a pretty good strategy for living altogether. Even though I’m an admitted loafer and a lollygagging lout at heart, I do believe that if I’m going to go to any effort, it might as well be to do something to the best of my ability and, if I’m dedicated and lucky enough in the process, something of value. And I can either thank or blame Dad for my belief in that. (I guess it means that you can, too.) Why, when I got old enough and lucky enough to attach a second Dad, my father in law, to the family, I quickly learned that he has a similar attitude about doing things with complete dedication and raising kids who show that same kind of committed involvement, so I can say that in my experience of fathers in general, they have a remarkable aptitude for living life to the fullest. And really, isn’t it that fine idea after all? I know it inspires me!

Happy Father’s Day to two standouts in the field!

Little Dragon with a Big Appetite

Ever feel tiny? Like everyone and everything else in the world is, by comparison, huge and powerful and towering and you can’t begin to compare, let alone compete? Have you let yourself be measured in comparison with anyone or anything else? Yeah, me too.graphite drawingBut isn’t it worthwhile to break out of that miniscule self-containment somehow? Isn’t the most valid measure of my worth found more truly in what I do as my best self, in what I become over time by growing into a finer and grander version of me? What you see is what you get–for now. And then I plan on continuing my progress as well as I can manage, for as long as I live. That’s all I can promise. With one little [ahem] caveat: I know that the best defense against seeing myself as inadequate to any task is the blessed ignorance of my true inadequacy. So I promise as a small [ahem] part of the larger issue that I will do my best to forget that there is such a thing as the improbable, let alone the impossible, and just get on with living my life, however insignificant it may seem likely to be. [Come on along.]

Aria

graphite drawingLa Chanteuse

This melody that lilts, lifts us to light

Like incense rising, or like hope aloft,

Like spring’s sweet perfume and like down-soft

New blooms, the lovely song eclipses night–

Brings sun and starlight and a shining flame

To paint the darkness into blazing day,

To chase all sorrow and all gloom away

Or give them luster as the marks of Fame–

The singing sinuous and smooth as glass,

As stillest water or a spotless sky,

And yet the singer never stops to sigh

Except when breathing lets a moment pass–

Because the music brings such passion, clear

Expressive, infinite and full of grace,

Poured out in rivulets and with a trace

Of magic only those with love can hear–

One aria can change the flow of time

And raise us all from simple to sublimegraphite drawing