Presenting . . .

My life sometimes seems like a synopsis. Or maybe it’s one of those TV shows shot with a rapidly moving handheld camera, interrupted at frequent intervals by commercials so snipped into quick-cut bits as to become nearly stop-motion animation. Just when I think I know what’s happening, the scenery shifts and the action swerves in an entirely new and different direction. I can seldom sense what’s ten minutes ahead, let alone ten weeks or ten years.

This is no complaint, mind. I realize that such unpredictable chaos is likely closer to the norm than otherwise in this weird and wonderful world. And no one can have great adventures, joyful or otherwise, without a touch of that good old element of surprise–maybe even the slightest frisson of danger. The degree of risk often determines the possible breadth and depth of reward. Still, there are moments when I hunger for a sense of safety and stability, if not quite stasis. We all long for the familiar and comfortable from time to time.

But this is the tragicomedy we live, loaded with unnamed characters making entrances and exits that were never foreshadowed, doing unscripted deeds and introducing plot twists never imagined on this our stage. All we can do, each of us, is to find our own character, commit to it, and keep working on its subtleties and vagaries no matter what scene changes get sprung on us. I, for one, will always wonder what new or mysterious acts remain ahead for me, and hope I can make the required costume changes and keep up with the action as long as the story unfolds toward the final artwork

Places, Beginners

photoWhether it’s only on my mind as a continuation of its recent theatrical theme is debatable, but I do think a great deal about location. More likely, perhaps, because whatever minute remnant of my Viking heritage remains in me is expressed in waves of desire to go, to be at or in, other places. It needn’t be out of dissatisfaction with my present; I’m simply aware at one level or another of how much great magic is Out There everywhere, luring me.

In any case, one of those relatively few things that will often set my heart racing is the image of a setting for some new act on my part. It may be quite specific–the upper room, reached by improbable set of impractical stairs, in an old clapboard chapel where I used to sneak away to daydream in the dust-glittering beams of attic light, perhaps. Other times, it might be more general, like that vague yet insistent itch to be at some glorious outdoor place defined more by its unsullied native air, free of any human-made flaw and full instead of the intimate stirrings of the natural world. Sometimes my soul inclines toward places known, and others, to something that may not yet even exist.

Perhaps the latter is my cue to see that there are places I myself should be inventing and shaping. Mayhap there is a scene–is an entire tale–yet to be writ, precisely so that I can be the first actor on its stage. Do you suppose that this is how we must address Life to fully inhabit it?

Places, everyone!photo

I’m No Coward

Would that I had the blithe wit and urbane persona of a Noël Coward, but alas, I operate on a lower and more plebeian plane. And for those who are keeping score, yes, I am a big chicken, if that’s what you were reading in today’s title. Still and all, I think of myself as being less than hideously fearful when it comes to self-exposure as an artist.graphite drawingThough the upshot of all this may be that my audiences become unwitting consumers of drivel and bilge at least part of the time, I also remind myself that there is some credible evidence, historically speaking, that the greatest masters of the many forms of art are represented in the present age only by those portions of their respective oeuvres that they or others chose to retain. Long have I wished that I might gain access to, if you will, the Rubbish Bins of the Old Masters to see something more accurately representing the whole of the bodies of work that led to the known and treasured glories. So here I am, letting all and sundry look into the underwear drawer of my art closet, so to speak. After all, I think that I’m merely admitting to what my betters may have left to the artworkSo I’ll keep showing off process and behind-the-curtain action from time to time, knowing as I do that not only are folk wonderfully gracious and patient with me even when critiquing but also , and more importantly, that I appreciate those of my fellow artists who are willing to share the same access to their gifts with me. We all have our weaknesses. But when it comes to showing off my work, I’m no coward.

Stage Blood and Loud Noises

graphite drawingI’m a big fan of cheap theatrics, except when they’re being used to manipulate the innocent for nefarious purposes. Take, for example, the “rainforest” fakery of grocery stores that play a musical little mini thunderstorm soundtrack for a second before spritzing their produce bins with a fine mist of “freshening” water to impress us all with how natural and pristine their dew-flecked delectables are. Always hoping that we will be pleasantly enough diverted by this charming display to ignore the general reality: that we are being annoyingly dampened whilst attempting to retrieve our groceries in an ostensibly sheltered indoor space. That the soundtrack is remarkably similar to that White Noise one we play to put us in a somnolent state in the comfort of our own boudoirs, and could reasonably, therefore, fall under suspicion of attempted brainwashing more than vegetable-washing (no one need comment here on how much the two may be assumed to resemble each other by our grocery-vending overlords). That adding moisture to vegetation that has been removed from its growing environment speeds its decay and makes it more vulnerable to contamination of many wonderfully creepy kinds. That the ensuing waste of live produce drives up the cost of said produce almost as much as does the production and installation of the whole set-piece that put the drama in motion in the first place.

And we complain about the price of the Real Deal in the farmers’ market.

On the other hand, as a flaming fan of fantasy, I have to show my appreciation for the sincerely phony. You know: art for Fun’s sake. Silliness. Over-the-top drama on the stage and on the page, to drench the theatre or the reading room with tears and terror. Wildly, extravagantly gorgeous embroideries and carvings and photos and engravings and pastels and bronzes and encaustics that make no pretense of being journalistic but want only to transport us to their own extraordinary alternate worlds. This is the stuff that dreams are made on, and from which new dreams are made. Because it expresses our true selves in ways that no other thing can: art.

There are many lost or neglected skills and crafts in the wonderful world of art, and many yet to be discovered. The universe is awash in potential song, image, and dance, and the invitation is out: come and play! Write a play! Bring on the new opera, the marvels of a magical aquatint, a novel, a scintillating sweep of tapestry, a ballet, a symphony–or maybe it’s time to revisit some longtime form and bring a new perspective to this fabulous world of ours by opening new vistas into yet another set of worlds. Write a love letter to creativity that you’ve never written before, and all the rest of us are here waiting to share the love. After all, there is something deeply inviting about fiction and fun for their very own sakes.

graphite drawing

Rants in My Pants

Yeah, yeah. I get that itch and I just gotta scratch it. Clearly, I’m not much on keeping my feelings to myself. Secretive? Uh-uh. Obviously I’m not paranoid about my privacy. Got nothing worth stealing but the loves of my life, and they are all masters of their own destinies thankyouverymuch. The skeletons, if any, in my closet would likely bore the socks off of any self-respecting archaeologist, and any idiot that puts in the effort to sneak a peek into my nekkidness, physical or spiritual, will get the severe eye-poke he she or it deserves without requiring any action on my part beyond existing in my infinite beauty.

Then again . . .

photo collage of blue/white images + text

The unmapped life is full of wonderful surprises . . .

What I could never have designed for myself or expected as a reward for my humble personal resources is a life history marked by the remarkable and filled with the fabulous. To take inventory of the amazing things I have experienced and the outstanding people whose paths I have been privileged to cross is to stand in awe of my incredible good fortune and all of the odd and pleasing presents it’s tossed in my circuitous life’s wanderings. Here’s a little inventory of some of that funny life o’mine in the form of a list, in no particular order, of things I have or have not done, for good or ill. I guess we all do this sort of self-inventory from time to time because such reflection is an intriguing way of finding out surprising things about each other and, more than that, about ourselves.

Here goes.

Things I Have Done:

*   Been bitten by a pony
*   Exposed a thief by revising a public swimming pool’s accounting system
*   Captured a bird by using a veiled antique hat
*   Canoed the Kickapoo River
*   Designed/sewn a ball gown out of plastic trash bags for a special party
*   Used an arc welder—very briefly and ineptly, to be sure
*   Seen celebrities at airports and discussed tuna sandwiches with one TV star
*   Forgotten very nearly as many things as I’ve learned
*   Grown vegetables
*   Been president of a theatrical organization
*   Helped rebuild an old toilet by custom manufacturing obsolete parts for it
*   Changed tires
*   Been the pianist for a wedding and for a theatrical production
*   Attended a formal banquet in a foreign palace
*   Told lame jokes
*   Been served coffee by a famous symphony conductor
*   Gotten stitches for a hockey injury
*   Drawn pictures
*   Drawn a crowd
*   Drawn butter
*   Drawn a blank
*   Slept with my hairdresser (okay, my husband cuts my hair)
*   Won a Best Actress award
*   Won a safety-orange knit dickey
*   Fallen through a ceiling and hung by my armpits from the joists
*   Rooted plants from cuttings
*   Grilled shark
*   Had an allergic reaction
*   Taught university courses in art, English (writing) and learning strategies
*   Ice skated on a frozen lake
*   Stage-managed a national convention
*   Practiced archery
*   Delivered a homily to a chapel full of theologians and religion professors
*   Darned socks
*   Made dinner for an internationally famous cookbook author-editor
*   Carved alabaster
*   Run lighting for a professional ballet performance
*   Created a computer cataloguing system for a library
*   Disassembled and reassembled an ellipsoidal reflector lamp
*   Played guitar
*   Fried eggs
*   Worked as a temp in a software company
*   Served on a jury
*   Danced onstage at the Opera House
*   Photographed dead flies
*   Shaken hands and exchanged greetings with a reigning King and Queen
*   Driven a shuttle van
*   Attempted Bikram yoga
*   Written and produced a one-act melodrama on commission
*   Taken Chinese calligraphy lessons
*   Slept on a tall ship                                                                                                         *   Glazed a window
*   Been the subject of a midnight police raid on the wrong house
*   Won a baseball trivia contest without knowing a thing about baseball
*   Composed a song about a pony (not the one that bit me)
*   Gone snowshoeing
*   Seen a Blue-crowned Motmot in the wild
*   Fallen in love

Then there are all of the Things I Haven’t Done (yet, anyway):

*   Won a cash lottery
*   Had a dental cavity
*   Owned a four-legged pet
*   Broken a bone in my body
*   Been to Asia, Australia/NZ, or Antarctica
*   Learned a second language (some will say I’ve not yet mastered a first)
*   Eaten escargot
*   Written a bestseller
*   Visited all of the states in America
*   Cured cancer
*   Gotten skillful at any sport
*   Truffle hunted
*   Been able to understand and/or believe what politicians are talking about
*   Milked a cow
*   Danced gracefully

*   Lived overseas longer than a few weeks at a time
*   Mastered the marketing skills to sell my artwork and writing well
*   Been chased by a badger
*   Looked attractive in yellow or orange clothes
*   Died
*   Played golf
*   Decided to have children
*   Swung on a trapeze
*   Competed willingly
*   Overcome all my fears and anxieties and inhibitions
*   Made glass artworks
*   Had an audience with the Pope
*   Been arrested
*   Successfully raised Himalayan blue poppies for more than one season
*   Figured out how to get square pegs OUT of round holes once in
*   Knitted (except my brow)
*   Gotten irrevocably bored
*   Hybridized a plant
*   Studied marine biology
*   Piloted an aircraft or any boat larger than a rowboat

If I were to do even a tiny portion of the latter list, imagine where the remainder of life will take me. Oh, yeah–you can’t, nor can I. It’s the whole wacky and delightful point, isn’t it. There’s just no way to guess where the next turn in the road will lead. That’s how an ordinary broad like me managed to get to this point in life. Coo-wull.