What is Essential

How the concept of “necessary” tools changes! I can hardly remember how I managed to survive a full day without my laptop, despite the fact that when I was young, personal computers were strictly the stuff of fantasy, and most computers were, in fact, whole rooms full of refrigerated, card-punching machinery. And no, whatever anyone may tell you, I am not a million years old.

Yet here I am, forgetting how to send letters via snail mail when I can email them; wondering how I can Get a Signal in some remote place so I can wirelessly post my daily blog missive off to readers from India to Ireland, from Kansas to Katmandu. All of this, I expect to happen in the blink of an eye—and mostly, it does.

Strange that things so recently thought utter luxuries become so quickly apparent necessities for survival. So quickly we think the newly acquired stuff can no longer be done without. How do we get so spoiled by our wealth that it seems as important as life itself?

It’s not that I lack appropriate appreciation for my many privileges. It’s not even that I don’t think I could keep living a happy and healthy and contented life if I had to give them all up suddenly, let alone that I’d think myself suffering upon losing my high-powered towns and tools for a short while. I will recover, and probably even rediscover some good things about myself and my world if I am smart enough to pay attention.

In the meantime, I am ever so happy to have a clothes washing machine and dryer, running water, a houseful of LED light, flush toilets, central heating, and yes, all of the little electronic goodies that make it possible for me to blog and email, not to mention talk to family and friends overseas, make artworks in space that are able to be brought into the real world as physical entities, and keep other parts of my life in a semblance of order. I do enjoy the privileges of my office!

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The original desktop.

Steaming along Toward the Holidays

I’m sure anyone can easily analyze me to bits for it, but my message today is simple. I made a wreath and I hung it up on the front door to send the message to you, one and all. It’s a holiday message that I think is worth decorating for, regardless of which is your own particular holiday or what the specific date on which it falls.photoThe medium for my message may be a little offbeat. Not everybody puts up a holiday wreath made under a hint of Steampunk influence, but that was my angle at the moment, mostly because I really like all the typical mad-scientist found-object quirky-mechanical fantasy junk that fills the Steampunk world. And I made a wreath because it was fun to do.photo montageAnd I did it all to say, in my own funny-yet-utterly-serious little way, that holidays of a great multitude of kinds please me. More than that, I wanted to say that I wish such sweet happiness to all of you who more properly ‘own’ these holidays. And today, what with the 25th of December being the biggest holiday I grew up knowing in my modest corner of the universe, I think it’s exactly the right time to wish all of you as much joy, contentment, hope and peace as you can possibly contain. Well, more–so there will be plenty to spill out onto all the others around you.

It’s Still Life

Little is as desirable in day-to-day life as peace and quiet. Rest, respite, calm–I crave them. There’s so much invitation and welcome in the sweet marvels of time off, time out and down time that I never feel I have too much of, well, not-too-much.

But busyness is ever so much more common in our everyday existence in this century, certainly in this household. It’s no still life, to be sure; any silence found in this way of living is more of the deafening sort. But yes, it’s still life.

So I have to manufacture or steal my moments of rest and relaxation. Isn’t that how most of us end up finding our tiny increments of space and time and sanity anyway? I have to learn how to tune out the white noise, hide from the constant demands and burrow into hidden corners when and wherever I can, to choose deliberately to decompress and unwind. If I don’t make room for my own peace of mind, who’s going to give it to me? The world may rattle on around me at a furious and eardrum-shattering rate and all I know may change in the ten minutes I’ve stolen to renew myself, but I will return to those realities soon enough, and hadn’t I better do so in a fortified state than otherwise?

Better to sit down and tell myself soothing tales undergirded with lullabies, to draw myself a little old-fashioned still life arrangement in the calm unruffled grey of graphite, and breathe deeply without regard for the bustle and bash of the universe, if only for a moment or two.graphite drawing

To Find Balance: Open the Book to a New Page and Begin Again

digitally edited photoI’m never quite satisfied that I’m getting as much done as I want to do, doing it as well as I wish, improving at the rate I think I ought to manage. I’m hardly a perfectionist, nor am I particularly obsessive (at least about things that I think truly matter)–I’d guess I’m just a fairly typical person who thinks I’m always running just a bit behind the pace and always crossing things too slowly off the To Do lists. But I don’t think that’s grounds for quitting or even for not trying at all.

It just requires that I take a step back and regroup–reassess my priorities–once in a while. Hence my recurrent list-making and all of those times spent sitting and, to all outward appearances, staring off into space, when what I’m really doing is having a long hard look at what’s in front of me that I’d forgotten how to see, or what’s inside that’s not quite getting its message heard clearly enough anymore.

photoFor one thing, my time-management method, if any, is often the old familiar one of doing what appears right in front of me, often leading to that state I’ve mentioned many a time wherein I set out to do one task, get diverted from it partway through by something else that catches my attention, veer off from that toward another thing that drew my eye, and so on ad infinitum but rarely ad finitum. That’s hardly the end of the world, because of course the short and simple tasks that pop up midway do get taken to completion and crossed off the list, and eventually the original plan will recapture my attention. It’s just wonderfully inefficient and sometimes I prefer to reevaluate whether those bigger tasks aren’t better broken down into groups of manageable smaller ones, ones that might perhaps get finished if stumbled upon tangentially in this habitual way.

All of this is a rather sidelong way itself of saying that I haven’t reestablished my drawing habit as firmly and regularly as I’d like, so I’m revisiting my intention to create a specific schedule or plan that encourages me to focus better on drawing, even a little bit, more often again. I know that I will do this; I can do it and have done so before. But I must choose to do it, and how, and that’s the agenda of the day. Other things (like, oh, blogging, f’rinstance) have stolen my attention and intentions away from drawing, and I would like to rebalance my doings a bit.

Needless to say, this has led to a fairly large overhaul of my household Fix-it lists, because I always prefer that there be at least the possibility of my getting those things done that will keep a solid roof over our heads and a comfortable living environment in which to do things like drawing and blogging surrounding us. That list is as big as always, full of everything from essential repairs to the rearrangement of rooms to better reflect and accommodate how we actually use them, to long-range and perhaps highly fantastical proposals for things I might attempt to build, create or accomplish sometime down my long and wayward path of homemaking.

photo of graphite drawing in progressBut there is also this quick-fix remembrance that what I always advocated to my students had better be usable advice for me: To begin drawing again, make a mark. Waiting around for the Inspiration Fairy to appear and bonk me with a magic wand of fully fledged ideas and a baptism of heartwarming motivation makes for delightful internal pictorials, but not an iota of drawing to show for it. The best cure for a staring, empty piece of paper is A Mark. Directionless and indecipherable as any random thing, it may well be, but it’s amazing how very brief the time usually is between seeing a dark scratch on an otherwise pristine piece of paper and my hyperactive editorial mind kicking into gear and critiquing that mark as something that ought to have purpose and attempting to decipher what that purpose is, steering my hand to further scribbling or erasure, and either way, toward something specific and concrete, even if entirely abstract and nonobjective. That’s what’s going to happen, for starters. Where it goes from there, I’ll have to report back to you when it begins.graphite drawing