Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 41

Mostly just a hello, still here. Watched the news today.


Poppets have ordered me to bed.

I won't argue.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 40

In some Russian folklore, ghosts are believed to linger forty days after death.
The number forty certainly plays a leading role in the Bible. Rains that lasted for forty days and nights, 40 days of prayers, 40 days in wilderness, forty days of Lent--and those are just the few that come to mind right now.
Forty weeks is about how long pregnancy lasts. Forty, well, -40 is where Fahrenheit and Celsius scales correspond. There were forty theves, and for some unlucky souls, forty lashes.

And forty is the atomic number of zirconium.

At this point, the past forty days certainly have seemed like a period of testing, though not in a Biblical sense. I'm certainly no Job. I'm not even religious. Still, today I feel as though I've been sick 'forever.' Experience tells me that this feeling generally signifies it's nearly over. I'm going to hang on to that.

Today I mostly stayed in place and made drawing after drawing of dancing poppets. I've a wedding dress to paint, with a border of dancing poppets all around the hem.
Once I got into the rhythm, the drawings came more easily and the motion of the dancers more fluid. Not to worry, I'll share. A number of the sketches will become paintings. While I was in the groove, I sketched a few bug warriors too.

Orion and I didn't check in on our heros tonight because my voice is nearly gone. But we sent them our good wishes at bedtime and vowed to be back cheering them on very soon. We managed a few rounds of Crash of the Titans at least.

This is a tough time and I thank you for your comments. They help more than you may know. I hope I've helped you through some of yours.

Time for more Theraflu and hopefully, sleep.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 39

I look in the mirror and I see that I'm getting older. Not for the first time, it occurs to me that I may not reach the goals I've set for myself. I may not have the career I'd planned on. I may not make the art I want to. I may not have the love or life or the smell of the sea. For the longest time, I was sure they would come. For a short while, the plan seemed to be working, the goals attainable, the love, the life and the smell of the sea very near.
I wonder how much a part The Great Recession will play in this story. The Great Depression destroyed the parents of my parents. I grew up with those stories, along with salvaged bits of both implosions, relics of fine homes lost, fortunes never recovered, dreams that slipped downstream in the floods that followed.
I don't think this time even touches that one. I'm not minimizing the lives profoundly affected by the last few years. There are many. But I recognize that it had a part in the series of events that brought me from there, where I thought I was moving along according to plan, to here, which is entirely different from what I had in mind.
Thing is, I thought I was tooling along, fully invested in the belief that if I continued to work hard and be kind, success would come. Pieces would fall into the slots I'd prepared for them with audible clicks.
Now I wonder if I can learn to live in the present without that faith? Faith is exactly what it was. I believed. I did not know.
We can never know, because we can never own anything. Everything we have exacts a cost. We pay every day. Sometimes it's a little and sometimes it's everything.

Many human beings appreciate each day as it comes, outside of calming assurances that they will eventually arrive at their destinations. Children live freely, presently, at least until they're taught otherwise. They live in the pure light of wonder before context and linear thinking take over. Their world is not ours.
I may not get what I want. Huh. Didn't expect that. What I want is a something that I created. What I want is a construct, made of context and linear thinking, fed by second-hand values and glued together with promises of shiny bits. I can let it go. Is giving it up different from giving up? Knowing the difference is right on the tip of my tongue.
These are the things I've been thinking today. I'm better, but still coughing in spells that come suddenly and violently and leave me dizzy. Relief comes from sitting in a steamy bathroom. I'm awfully tired, inside and out. I'm taking a break from desires and plans. I'm taking a break from decisions. I'm taking a break from tomorrow.
I sound like a fool, I know, but I'm way too raw to pretend I'm anything else.
I am a shorn sheep, but dammit, I showed up. Three poppets watch from under the monitor. They tell me that showing up counts. That's one I still believe.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 38

Today, Orion turning to wave under a beam of perfect light. This moment now burned on my retinas like an image on film.

And for a glimpse of understanding. Just a glimpse. Any more would be way too much. Nothing to do now but rest. Dinner now, and sleep until I wake on my own.

Eventually, we lose our fears. They pass like kidney stones. Nothing worth learning is easy. I remind myself that I'm human, therefore, a student.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

36 into 37

So, here's the thing. I'm just starting to get past this horrible cold thing. I also seem to be stumbling toward the inevitable demise of yet another relationship. I don't think I've slept more than three hours in a row in a week.
But. I'm still a single parent (and all that goes with) and owner of a business (and all that goes with.)

I'm putting in studio time because (see above) quitting isn't an option. And the work is still pretty good, so there is that.

Writing here is an option, but dammit, I don't want to stop. You definitely deserve better than whining. You're here to read enlightening, uplifting words or at least arty/instructional ones and that's truly my intention. So, right now my life is difficult. I'm hurting, but I'm not dead. There's no tragedy. I'm really, really discouraged, but I'm still going.

I guess what I'm trying to say here, in real time, when I'm in the shit, is I won't give up. . I'll just keep swimming, like Dori said. She is one smart...well, she's a fish with insightful moments.

In other news, Bilbo has just found and pocketed the Arkenstone. And Smaug is on his way to wreack havoc on the lake people. It's always something.

Crying is not good when you have a cold. And reading is a blessed endeavor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 34 and 35 too

Is about time travel. Because this is actually Day 36. If you remember, I wrote recently about continuous vs continual.

Continual wins. I set out to write something on the blog every day for a year. I'm not going to give it up because I missed two. The same applies to any goal.

In first grade, when I was learning to write sentences, I couldn't tolerate a mistake. If I made one, I'd wad up the paper from my pad and march it up to the trash can. After the third such trip, my teacher, Mrs. Yonce, snagged the wad from the trash can and gave it back to me. She told me that such perfectionism was a waste and that I'd have to smooth out the wad of paper as best I could and finish my assignment on it. To a six-year-old perfectionist, this was devastating.

In the end, I finished the assignment and handed it in, tear stains and all.

But I learned how to erase and keep going. Occasionally I have to remind myself of this lesson. Occasionally I fail. It's hard to go on, plough forward despite mistakes, failures and flaws, but it's infinitely smarter than quitting.

It's January 25th. I wonder how all those New Year's resolutions are holding up out there. We tend to refer to them as 'broken' when we slip. Possibly we should switch to another term. Got any suggestions?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 33

Saturday is a 'wash.'

Mostly of being miserably uncomfortable and exploiting all the aspects of cups of hot tea, which are many. There's the act of making it, the anticipation of comfort, the feel of the hot cup in one's hands, the fragrance, the steamy air to help with breathing. I found that holding the cup against my face eases pain there too. And then, there's the drinking. Aubrey is in day 11 of this awful cold/flu thing, I'm in day 6, though I don't think I have nearly as bad a case as she. Apparently this is an airbourne virus 'sweeping the desert,' even making the news.

Our hopes are tha Sunday will be better. g'night

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 32

This morning I awake to the sound of bells. Clarion clear, not of-this-world bells, the bells of my dream world. They are otherworldly beautiful. Golden. How can one describe music in words? It's a difficult exercise. I was there again. In that place of sunlit fields and dusty roads. Azure skies and air fresh and cool. And I there, healthy, tanned and strong. But the memory vanished like smoke when I opened my eyes. I haven't been there in weeks and I begin to understand why. It's my alarm clock.
This morning was a scheduled 'sleep in' day with no alarm. The 6:45 of my usual day doesn't allow me to get to that place, or possibly doesn't allow the transition, which is the only opportunity for bringing back any sort of memory.
Today was no exception, really. I didn't bring anything back except the silent space where the music was. But that was enough at least to know I was there. But, was I? The brain is a terrible and wonderful thing. Bigger inside than out.
What is this place? I honestly don't know.

I do know that we work things out in our dreams and that my dream life has always been strong. My schedule has been off for awhile. I don't know why, but when my morning alarm sounds I awake with dread and emptiness. I must talk myself into getting up and doing the things I need to do. Mostly it's the sort of morning hurdles everyone must jump over. I'm sure you know what I mean.

So I get myself up each morning, put on the coffee and do all the things expected of me and then some. I'm a little torn, actually. Possibly it's better if I'm never reminded of this other place. But then, time spent there allows glimpses of truth that make sense.

Sigh. Here it is bedtime again. No alarm tomorrow, for it's the weekend. Perhaps I'll have another visit. Tell me, please, where do you go when you sleep? Do you frequent any particular place?

It's warm here in the desert. We're having a sort of 'false spring' with the streets dusted with pollen and trees in bloom. It could be that winter is over here, or it could get cold again and the blooms drop and we have no fruit next winter.

Just moments ago, Orion and I followed our heroes as they cowered against the Lonely Mountain, waiting for Smaug to vent his wrath and destroy them. We both have high hopes that luck will prevail and Bilbo will find a way to save them.

I wish you good dreams and that you awake with anticipation of your Saturday.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 31

Pictures today. Words tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 30

Am I any closer to finishing the book I'm working on? I honestly don't know. I make notes, think, make more notes. Sometimes it's right there, so very near, like the elusive solution to an equation that just won't balance. Yet.

I tell myself that the only reason I'm not sitting down and writing this thing is because I'm not ready. It's not ready. But I am writing it. Just not all at once.

This evening finds me strolling down the middle of our street. I smell like citrus and I've a bag of lemons, tangerines and grapefruit from my neighbor two doors down. The sky is the blue of an Arabian Nights tale, complete with a huge round moon. I'm a little tipsy. Nothing fun--just cold meds doing nothing for my symptoms except making me foggy enough not to care so much that my nose is running. Surprisingly, I can still distinguish grapefruit from lemon.

It was eighty two degrees today. Eighty two. And, if I wasn't sneezing enough already, this pavement is dusted with green shoots and pollen. This morning felt like April.

And, just as I close the door behind me, the cold closes in on me. I feel as though I've been hit in the face. So, no more writing. Who has time for colds? No one, but sickness does not discriminate, nor does it wait. Dammit.

Day 29

Aubrey's new apartment is ready for her, but she's not ready for it until she gets over the cold that's caught her. Moving day is hard enough work when you're well. I hope she feels better tomorrow. It's like that with colds--you think it will never end when suddenly, it simply goes away. She introduced me to Desperate Housewives. It took her a while to convince me to give it a try. I didn't expect the sensibility of a bedtime story. a surreal fable for grown-ups.

Tonight Orion was restless and we read for longer than usual. Our brave and weary troupe managed (thanks to Bilbo) to open the secret back door to the dragon's lair. What struck me most tonight were words about change and courage. Orion asked me what the passage meant and I did my best to explain it simply. I'm not sure if he asked because of the words themselves or because he heard something in my voice as I read them. You may already know them well.
Two passages from Chapter XII:

"He was trembling with fear, but his little face was set and grim. Already he was a very different hobbit from the on tht had run out without a pocket -handkerchief from Bag End long ago. He had not had a pocket-handkerchief for ages. He loosened his dagger in its sheath, tightened his belt, and went on."


"This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.
It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait. "

We don't really appreciate our ability to adjust to change until we do. We can't know the courage of another person--ever--because we're not privy to their quiet victories.
We cannot judge or label because each of us is bigger inside than out. We cannot judge or label ourselves either, because until we are finished, we don't know enough of our story.

It is late. I have used all my energy up on this day. Now to sleep. g'night

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 28

All day today I'm troubled and tonight I'm much worse off. That's how it is, our troubles. Harry Nilsson sang about thinking of our troubles as we sit at the breakfast table. That's one way to start the day, I suppose. Not my favorite though. Still I'd prefer that to troubles at night. We all have them sometimes. Not the everyday sorts of things that are bothersome, but the things that can't be fixed with money or hard work. Troubles of the heart that threaten to take our legs right out from under us.
Reading sustained me tonight. I read to Orion tonight, focusing intensely on the words, reading quietly but meaningfully as we followed our disheartened friends facing the final leg of their long journey. Eventually, I began to think more about their challenges and less about my own.
I don't know really, how my own troubles will resolve themselves, only that in time, something will adjust. It's how the universe works. I trust that. Eventually, I'll put the pain into its proper context, which means some form of art. I speak that language much better than this one, it seems.
In the meantime, I will read my way through it. For the books on my shelves, and the humans who created them, I am always and forever grateful. To Harry Nilsson too, and The Point.

Think About Your Troubles


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 27

So. What've I got for you today? Right. I still feel like crap. The things that I don't like about my life are pestering me to no end. I remind myself that pain and sadness are a natural part of life. After all, there's always something. That fucking something.
Then, really, what would we do without it? Silly humans.
The only sane thing to do is to get over it and move on.

I walked past Orion's room a few minutes ago. They're in there now, four humans, each playing together, separately, on integrated DSI.

It is the present I see. And the past. They might, at a glance, seem to be separated, but then they yell in unison, laughing and shouting challenges at each other. They could just as easily be four kids playing with sticks and bones.
But they just had Cookie Crisp. Over- priced and over -sugared mini cookies that are really just one more form of corn.

And the best way to eat corn is in moderation.

I pause. This is worth saying again. The best way to eat corn is in moderation. All of us.

Or, we can just keep eating nothing but corn and doing all the things we're doing now and change only when things get so dire we have no choice. Which is what is most likely to happen, as this is the approach to change practiced by humanity for all time.

It's gambling, for sure, because if things get dire enough, we run the risk of not getting the opportunity to change. This has happened countless times in the story of this planet. Species come and go. Life is short, everything is eventual and nothing lasts forever.
But then, that's not my problem or yours. Because we cannot control what the species does. We can only control what we do. I can only control what I do. And even then, only within the constraints of my situation. But the impact of changes I can make could be profound for me, and those immediately connected to me. Same for you. Same for all of us.
So, in a nutshell: We're sort of fucked. It's not my fault. I'm not completely powerless.

I can make a list of all the things I want to change--like eating and buying less corn products--but I won't. Lists don't work for me. What works for me is simply to develop my vision to be mindful. If I want to change, I must look at everything through that filter and pay attention. That will affect every decision I make. Maintaining that mindfulness requires effort, but gets easier with practice.
Another round of yelling. They could be four kids playing at shells and sticks. Thing is, there are four kids playing at shells and sticks somewhere else on this planet today, right now, who live lives so different from this one as to be alien, but who are every bit our human family.
More laughter, cheers, challenges from Orion's room. Maybe the things that should change will. Maybe the things we get right, like playing together, will stay. Silly humans.

Day 26

Here's the test, for sure. Day 26 and I don't want to write here. I'm in a funk and I don't think I have anything worthy to say. It happens. It's happened before and it will again. We all have ups and downs. Times when we feel alive and colors are bright and life makes sense.
And then there are days like this one.
It doesn't matter why. What brought me here is unimportant,mundane and the sorts of things that happen to each of us in turn. What might matter is that I believe that it will pass. I have plenty of evidence to support that belief. My own experiences certainly support it. I didn't always think that way. There have been times when I felt so absolutly lousy that I was convinced I'd never feel good again. I've felt old and used up and that I'd failed. I'd fight against what felt like a blanket of darkness. I'd struggle until I wore myself out and gave up. Then, it would finally fade away. I'd feel like getting up and doing things, I'd get back into the studio and make art. I'd put makeup on again and laugh at myself.
I'm not laughing much today. Still, I'm going to skip the struggle. I'll trust this one to pass. Like a cramp, or this cold, or a bad day at the morgue. If that doesn't work, I'll try something else.

In the meantime, our dwarf and hobbit heros have reached the strange island city of men and are being treated like kings by people who believe the legends of the dwarve's ancestors.

Dark Shadows now, in this time, in the context of the world we live in now, is a whole other animal than it must've been in it's own time. Sixties fashion, goth and emo mix up and make an odd reflection of the late 1960's. So funky weird.

I don't think about the world on days like this. I don't watch the news. I might break a television. I want to say human beings are too stupid to live. Poppets would say I'm wrong, that humans are immature and silly and will get better in time, hopefully.

I'm going to bed. But, once again, I showed up. Is that enough? I don't know, but it's what happened.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 25

Aubrey and I have apparently caught the cold Orion had. Today was a lot of tea and even more Dark Shadows. Both for comfort. Watching while the sun set, then later with a fire going. Not so much laughing as usual, mostly we both don't feel well. Still, I feel myself being dragged down into unhappiness as the evening wears on.
Best way to deal with a weary day is to end it. I'm going to let go of this one, go to sleep and try again tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 24

Twenty-four days. On my birthday, twenty-four days ago, I made this commitment to write something here every day. The something would be pulled from the experience of the day. I figured, no matter how ordinary a day, there's always something to be gleaned. Easy enough too, as I'm always reading. The hard part is that writing well generally requires perspective and perspective is gained in time. And there are limits too. Some things can't be written here.
It helps to remind myself of the why I'm writing this stuff in the first place. . The why is that I'm an artist. I make art and some people like what I make well enough to collect it and that is how I make a living. It's not the easiest job I've had, but it's the one that makes the most sense to me. The art I make isn't created in a vacuum. It is created from experiences and thoughts. I'm as much interested in the process as the finished pieces. The process is tangled up in everyday life.
That said, I'm dead tired tonight. It was a long work day and a little boy home with a cold and a toilet that overflowed and made a lot of things wet, among many other things.
Still, a couple of things did occur to me.
I stopped at the gas station at dusk to fill my tank and empty about $40 from my bank account for it. Dusk always is charged with energy for me. It's a transition from day to night, neither one nor the other. The crows have stopped their bickering and are sequestered silently in the trees and the bats are emerging . The colors of the sky and the mountains against them are striking. Such beauty. I think I'd see beauty at dusk no matter where I was. Partly it's the magic of the hour, but mostly I think it's because I'm looking for it. If you're looking for beauty, it tends to show itself.
The other thing that seems important is that I realize that my best work has very few words, or none. It seems that when I care deeply about a subject, I work at it, wear it out---paint it, sculpt it, write prolific and wordy notes on it but, eventually, I will and must distill it all down to something really simple. Understanding this, I believe, is a bit of a marker for me. It takes a long time and a lot of work for any artist to discover her own strengths and weaknesses, to understand her process. There aren't any shortcuts. Eventually though, we begin to recognize ourselves. It begins to make a bit of sense.

Finally, writing here once a day is training my brain to think. If you want to do something--write, paint, learn a language or how to cook, whatever it is-- the first step is to show up every day. Even if you don't produce a single line, you're training yourself. Eventually your brain will figure out that if you're going to be there anyway, you may as well make something. And, you will.

Must have sleep.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 23

It's not that easy to photograph objects under glass, so I included several shots. I enjoyed making this little poppet world.

It started with the mushroom, found behind the greenhouse several weeks ago after the first autumn rains. It dried completely, then I soaked it in the sort of stuff used to seal wood to make it strong.

It begged for a poppet reading under it.

But tonight isn't for talking about poppets. We know they're here. And they agree that we might be best served by continuing to talk about education. Thank you for your comments. I'll answer each of them, but likely, it will be tomorrow morning as this has been a long day of yaks and interruptions, the end result of which is that I'm convinced that, at this point in the history of my life at least, that I am an excellent parent.

Here is another excerpt from Thinking About Quality:

" Education is different. Since you can never know everything, education must continue. And it is better, according to Deming, if that education has little or nothing to do with your job. That's the point where traditional American managers balk. Major corporations consider it reasonable to pay for a course in advanced accounting for a new accountant, but even some of the best companies seem reluctant to pay for a course in philosophy or art appreciation or Japanese flower arranging.

Worker education in unrelated areas may have a better payoff in the long run than skills training, but it is, we admit, impossible to measure or prove. The theory is that he or she will bring that new thinking skill to the job. Thinking of the old job in a new way could create a new solution. For instance, Japanese flower arranging requires the eye of a designer searching for maximum artistic benefit with minimum materials, which is one way to describe creating a better product for less money. Even if there's no breakthrough, the worker will be smarter, and that is an asset. What will provide commercial success in the twenty first century is a workforce of highly educated, highly motivated people.

I welcome and very much appreciate your comments and thoughts on this.

Now, I've just finished the third steamy bathroom for a croupy, congested child who is now asleep with a vaporizer. He and I left the brave Dwarves and Hobbit in the cells of the prison of the King of the Wood Faeries. (At least they now know that Thorin is alive and well.)

Aubrey and I are about to complete the last three episodes of Lost. And I, your artist, am feeling quite satisfied to have jumped through the many hoops thrown in front of her on this day.

I thank you for checking in, as always.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 22

Not my favorite number, 22, though I can't say I have anything particular against it. My twenty-second day of this particular year I've set for myself was a studio day. It wasn't the mad-artist-inspired sort of day. It wasn't the logistics, physics, editing sort of day either. It was a very practical day of grinding, sanding, finishing and painting. In other words, I was a one-girl Poppet factory. I don't mind being that, two or three days, or sometimes, even four days in a week (though that's pushing it.) I would mind being that every single day. I was, for a while there. It just sort of happened after the recession got a good hold on all of us and I had to let go of my helpers, much to my sadness. Eventually, it was just me in the studio, trying to keep up with what four (and a half, hour-wise) were doing. That couldn't go on. And it didn't.
How I got from there to here is another story and I'll tell it, if enough of you think it would be helpful for you. I know some of you are artists and that it can be a tough gig even in the best of times.
I didn't plan to write about that either, but this was a very long day of it. It didn't have to be. I could've spread the work over several days. But then I wouldn't have had any time to work on books and/or paintings for books. It's like that. I'm an artist. I do exactly what I love. True. It's also my 'real' job. And all that goes with. As with any other job, I have to push a little harder to make time for longer-term work and labors of love. To get larger works created and things published. I refer to it as 'running for escape velocity.' Sometimes it works.
So yes. It was a long day of working with my hands. My mind was somewhat free. What I was thinking about was education. It's been on my mind a lot. Of course it has. I'm a student. I'm the parent of students. I live in the US. I read C. M. Kornbluth. I'm afraid for us.
And, I'm still reading the book about Deming. I'm really tired tonight, I need another glass of wine and a heating pad. Oh, the hot tub always on my wish list....
So I can't write for shit. So I'm going to post this passage from the book. I'd really like to know what you think.

Thinking About Quality pg 21

In a global economy, education is much like quality; it's a matter of continual improvement throughout life. We aren't doing that yet. In a society in which 20 percent of the adult population have college degrees, less than 10 percent in any year read a book more difficult than popular fiction. Some estimates are even lower than that, but that is low enough to make the point. American colleges and universities have handed degrees to about twice as many people as they have educated. The old idea that education was something that could be completed has to give way to the modern requirement for lifelong learning. Society would be better served if every degree from every institution had stamped across its face in two-inch-high red letters "Learner's Permit."

Tell me what you think.

Oh,.. I desperately need a new computer keyboard. The letters are worn off of more than half the keys on this one and several keys stick, clean or not. Will Trade For Poppets.
I think I'll get started on the wish list...


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Day 21

Day 21, which is a good number, made of sevens and threes, which are two of my favorites.

Today is a lot for resting, mind and body, though I did play a little at clay while introducing Aubrey to Dark Shadows. Of course, now Poppet is bugging me for a tiny cape and cane and, oh yes, the ring. When I was a little kid-type of human, Barnabas Collins was king.

Seeing it again is fun. This season is shot in black and white and live (it's a soap opera, after all.) It's very theatrical--has the feel of a play and watched as such, its charm really shines through.

That said, I'm going back to it. Have a good evening and sleep tight.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Day 20

I'm driving to Thousand Palms for Aubrey. That suits me just fine because, out here, it's the real desert sliding past my window. Looks like I just missed a good dust storm. The air is thick with fine particles tinted pink by the last of the sun's rays. The mountains, through that filter, are a pastel painting by a student of pointillism. Listening to Foster the People. That suits me just fine too. It fits--reminds me a little of Gorillaz with almost childlike lyrics on top and underneath, a darker layer held in place by a melodic base. Good stuff for this landscape. It's a sensibility I'm tuned into, this dusk--this hour with night on the way.
I wasn't born with it. but I was born into it. My childhood was a mix of sweetness and wonder, with both secrets and night air sighing through the walls at night.

What is is about children and ghosts? Light and dark? Good and evil? Is it the contrast I look for, or the balance?

Orion's room has bookcases both wide and tall, filled with books and toys and bits of interesting things. It has walls I painted myself with sunlit clouds and blackbirds flying. Occasionally, it has a strange sensibility. Not evil, not scary...exactly, just strange. Before it was Orion's room it was Aubrey's room. Before that, it was just a room, roughly in the center of this house. On the day we moved in, I thought I saw something in there. It was a fleeting thing, trick of the light. What could possibly seem out of place in a house just moved into, when everything seemed out of place? It was just a shadow, after all.
I saw the shadow through a glass door--newly installed--as I passed by with a box or an armload of clothes. I don't remember which, there were so many. What I do remember is that the house still smelled of fresh paint. I was walking fast and lightly. It was a good, happy day with everyone bustling about. I was in a light mood and I teasingly said to the shadow, "I see you." And, instantly, I felt a change.
The desert's light shifts from pinks to lavenders and in the dust, headlights pop on at random. Thinking about it now--the change--I don't know. If pushed, I'd say it was a change in the air pressure. It only lasted for a few seconds.
I don't think about it often. I trained myself not to, at first. After all, it was just a shadow. And we never, ever had a single incident or odd happening of any sort in all these years. Although, Orion went through a phase of nightmares for a good while. I slept in there with him a lot during that time and felt nothing. The memory wore pretty thin.
Gurtie slept in there and now Soosi does. It's good to have a cat in the house. Houses want cats, I think. Dogs too, probably. But most definitely cats. It's a happy room with cartoons, games, reading and playing.
Aubrey has a new apartment. Her new apartment is getting new cabinets, so she's here with us this week. Orion is visiting his dad and grandparents this weekend so she's bunking in there alone. She didn't sleep well last night. Said she woke up and had this weird feeling. Not disturbing, but uneasy. We talked about moving day. She remembered too.
I've arrived. Aubrey will come out and we'll head back home. The song has ended and now there's an ad for something but I don't hear it. I'm watching the mountains, black now, outlined against a sky just a shade lighter. No stars through the dust, just streetlights and headlights, fuzzy in the dust. It's still beautiful, in a very different way. I'm wondering about shadows.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Day 19

I'm cleaning the kitchen. Really, really cleaning it. And thinking as I clean. It's where I do some of my best thinking. Is it because of the squares? There are lots of squares. Grids, racks, checks, tiles.
This is where I do my most honest thinking. Today, cleaning in here is my pleasure. I'm enjoying it.
I've lived in this house for rather a long time, though. And the ghosts of other cleanings live in the grout. I wonder how many times I've cleaned this kitchen? I really don't want to know.
I fixed the broiler. Actually, Spencer and I fixed it together. It took about five minutes of figuring out how it worked. And about forty-five seconds to fix it. But that was early in the cleaning, before I started thinking.
The kitchen can be a very honest place. How many women have cried while scrubbing a floor? Today? This month? Since women have been scrubbing floors? Or made plans, joyful or murderous? Or given up?
I'm just saying...

But I'm not crying today. I'm limping, a little, but counter top detailing doesn't require a lot of walking. Thinking though, if it gets out of hand, can lead to pacing. That's not gonna happen today, not without the cooperation of both ankles. I'm doing the sort of cleaning that needs to be done occasionally while working some things out in my head. I'm wondering if the book I'm working on currently is the one I really want to be working on right now. I'm wondering if I'm brave enough to complete the work I'm compelled to create. I'm not sure I am. The more I wonder the more I do the obsessively detailed cleaning, like washing the collection of monsters that live on the windowsills.

In the end, the kitchen is sparkling and quirky and comfortingly familiar. I haven't sorted the rest out. It's too much, too big, which possibly means I'm not ready. Doesn't really matter why. I didn't get it sorted out. I took a frank look at it though. That's a decent start.

Day 18

Day 18.

Which was yesterday, meaning I'll be back tonight to write about today, which at this point, is just a guess as it hasn't happened yet. Yesterday Orion came home from school with a terrible cold and last night was busy with steaming bathrooms and other such remedies. Not so much for writing, when all was done and the house was asleep. As for yesterday:

I've told you before that this is an old house. Realtors would refer to it as 'mid-century.' That means it's not really old enough to be truly interesting, just old enough to have poor insulation, wonky doors and a narrow oven whose broiler has begun to clang open at the slightest crack of the oven door. It's an outdated and narrow oven and I was told a few years ago that to replace it would require tearing out a supporting wall in the kitchen and redoing tile and drawers and, well, if you give a contractor a cookie...

Anyway, it begins to remind me of the bannister finial in "It's a Wonderful Life." The broken finial came off irritatingly in George's (Jimmy Stewart) hand each time he mounted the stairs. Watching the movie, you might wonder why the hell he doesn't just fix the thing. I've seen the movie a number-of -many times and I never had that thought once.

I believe most viewers (including me) don't make that jump to 'just fix it, George' because they're caught up in George's life. He's a man with a very full plate. In fact, he's close to a breakdown. In addition, he's caught in the terrible dichotomy of his life's dreams versus his reality. And, things are moving pretty fast. In the movie, the broken bannister is a metaphor. It's a symbol of the many things George believes are wrong with his life. And we embrace it as such. Beautifully, after George has a rather dramatic paradigm shift (if you haven't seen this movie, WHAT?, please do.) he comes home, the finial comes off in his hand and he kisses it. The messes and quirks and imperfections of his life are beautiful. He's found joy in his reality.

When I sat down to write this post, I honestly thought I was going to be writing about how we can't fix everything at once. Something about priorities. Shows what I know, or what I don't.

Turns out what I'm writing about is learning to love the mess, the whole mess,because that's what life is, if it's wonderful.

I'm going to take a look at that broiler still and see if I can fix it. Later. Maybe.

Have a good one. see you tonight.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Day 17

Cocooning, is one word for it. Seems to fit. As expected, my ankle is somewhat sprained and not up to any sudden moves. The rest of me hurts too--pretty much all of the right half of me--but nothing broken. Good enough.

I didn't get dressed. I'm in pajamas and a soft support boot and spent much of the day reclined on a heating pad sculpting really tiny poppet creatures. I've been making these little fellows for a few days. I can sculpt them in my cocoon of sofa and movies, with Spencer taking care of things,bringing me food (thank you) and, after school, Orion and a game of checkers.

The poppet sprites don't take up much room. They require the smallest of tools. More than that, they let me take a break from me, from the sort of art that tears at me, from aches and pains, inside and out. These little creatures are all light and sweetness, (with a soft poppetty center. )I knew them when I played on summer afternoons in the dark, cool space under my grandmother's bed. When colors were of a different palette, because the the past was a glimpse, the future was unimaginable,this moment was everything and magic was anywhere I looked for it.

I can go there, very nearly, for moments. It's very, very costly. If you know. You know. So I don't, often. But I can pull in my antennae and step just to the side of things. Focus on just today and just being okay. Everything else can wait a day. This day. Quiet is good.

Tonight, we followed the troupe deep into Mirkwood and over that awful black stream. When it was my turn to read, Orion traced the stars on the wall by his bed with his fingertips. He sees those stars, his room, his world in his other-light, which even now is changing. When we finished, our brave fellows had escaped the giant spiders and the dwarves were learning about the ring.

Fantasy is good for this soul, for sure. Good medicine.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Day 16

Orion and I stood at the wash. The mountains are still topped with snow, but the wash was running fast with melt and runoff from last week's rains. We leaned over the rails at the footbridge and watched the cold water cascade over the spillway just below. Further up, the water parted around chunks of granite that, rounded over years and slick now, looked like huge bullfrogs. These we used as targets for stone throwing. I was able to teach him a little about mass--he could demonstrate that while it seemed that he'd be able to pitch smaller pebbles farther, a rock with a bit more heft sailed the distance with less effort. It was truly gratifying to see him have so much fun with something so simple.
Yesterday was a tough day. True enough, there's always something. But sometimes the somethings are overwhelming, whether it's a monsoon of smallish issues or one single, debilitating jolt. There are no simple solutions in matters of the heart, and little is black or white. Difficult stuff. I've said it before---I'd rather move house than try to untangle an interpersonal snarl. But there were moments of clarity and, where yesterday I was a mess of emotion, (finally giving way and having a good private cry in a very cold spot out over the deep end of the water) today was a day for 'soldiering on.' I like that phrase and I like the British friends I picked it up from. In fact, they make more sense when it comes to tough times. They tend to have a different approach to troubles--they expect them. Chin up and a stiff upper lip and all that. We Americans, or at least my generation, are too much brought up on Disney and ridiculous Hollywood-induced ideals of 'happiness.'
I think it's much smarter to chin up and soldier on. Of course I do. Who could argue? I also think that getting control of my emotions might be a very difficult course in my human curriculum. It helps to look at it that way and, for all I know it's how things are. The idea that we all must learn the same lessons, but not necessarily in the same order, makes more sense to me than most anything else. I can be aware of pain and sadness in the world without feeling the pain of it personally, and still be an artist, can't I? As for my personal hurts, it follows that I can better handle them with a calm head. And, with that same calm head, I better realize that I have no control over what other humans think, feel, say or do, not even my own children, when they are no longer children. And certainly not over the men in my life, past or present. Matters of the heart? The heart is a muscle that pumps blood. But I get the symbolism. I can see where it came from, even feel it. When it hurts, I feel it here, in the middle of my chest.
I scrapped a painting today. It's been a long time since I scrapped a work and never a painting. But I didn't feel it and if I don't, no one else will. I let it go. My friend Kevin wrote today "everything is wrong, everything is wrong, everything is wrong." He is right. When he phoned later, I only had a brief moment to talk, but the mere hello friend, I see you was good enough to spot us both, for a bit.
Today is for soldiering on. I primed a new canvas, took care of practical things. I madly twisted my ankle while navigating a curb in the dark and was so grateful not to have broken it, my spirits lifted a bit. Tomorrow, it will be sore as hell. And finally, we followed the hobbit, the dwarves and the wizard to the gnarled edges of Mirkwood, and I then some, as Orion drifted into sleep.
Tomorrow will be an entirely new day. Number 17, which is a good and indivisible number.

Next time it's your time, I wish you a chin up and a soldier on.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Day 15

I could call this day 'a bust.' But everything that happened wasn't terrible, and nothing truly terrible happened. But if I was off yesterday, I was off the charts today.

I'm too tired and wrung out to write about it effectively. Sleep will help. Very likely, this one will be filed under 'change is hard.' Or you don't know Jack Shit.'

I can do better than that. I know this. But I know this too. Some days, you just don't. Dr. Seuss said so, and Dr. Seuss was wise beyond many humans, including me.

Today I didn't. Today I sucked, for sure.

But the hobbit, dwarves and Gandolf escaped the goblins and wolves with the help of great eagles. All is not lost.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Day 14

A Sunday that doesn't seem like a Sunday, even though school resumes tomorrow. Cloudy, cold and gloomy here all day, reports of black ice on SoCal freeways. I read about disastrous weather in other places.
What's this thing with blackbirds?
I went out today to get wood for picture frames. Everyone I ran into seemed off too. Sort of , uncomfortable. I consider Deming's predictions for Americans. He was dead on about the unimaginably huge deficit, the crumbling of education and health care, the economy. The rest is grim and more grim.

I struggled through some work that would've taken half the time or effort on another day. Stupidly, really, stubbornly. The work finally began to come together. At about the time the metaphor for the piece clicked in, I realized that I'd pushed it because I wanted the work to go well. Because I believe that 'when the work is good, everything is good.' But, just because I believe something to be true doesn't mean that it is, or that it's a rubric to be applied continuously, that will always work without fail.

Really, how much of what we believe is actually true?
I wanted the work to be good, goddammit, because I wanted to feel... not off. Like a willful kid 'making' a puzzle piece fit. In fact, that choice to push the situation to support my belief, wasn't the best choice and goes against my 'master plan' which includes first and foremost to enjoy each day.
Silly human. So I stopped. Thankfully early enough to have time to hang out with my son.
It's a new year. Like most people, I'm thinking about things. I'm worried about the state of our society. I'm worried about the uncertain future. I'm worried about some of the people I love.
Anxiety is a condition of the modern human, for sure. Yes, Poppet, I hear you. I watch you watch me.
So I'm going to work smarter and not harder. I'll prepare for tomorrow morning, read and rest. Tomorrow is day 15 and I will continually make the effort.
continuous, continually, continue
Language is fun. We've got that going for us.
Stay safe out there.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Day 13

The rearranging of rooms and organizing of bookshelves yields. among several lost 'treasures,' a small stack of books to read or revisit. On top is Thinking About Quality -Progress, Wisdom, and the Deming Philosophy by Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason.
I grab it on the way to an appointment, knowing I'd have a few minutes to wait and that waiting wants a book. True enough, my first 'serious' job (after the morgue) was writing standard operating procedure manuals. This book sounds both right up my nerdy, nerdy, alley and dry as dust to boot. But it's not, really. It's a philosophy by a man born in the year 1900.
Think steampunk.
The waiting is outside and, this being one of the first real winter-like days this year, I'm glad for my wool coat and scarf and hoping the wait won't be too short because it looks to be a somewhat revolutionary philosophy and might be exactly what I'm wanting.
It's the New Year and I've been thinking about that--the what I'm wanting. I've been off too, these last couple of days. I'm a little off and the work is a little off and try as I might to force one or the other...forget it. But when I cracked this book and smelled the dust (it's a second hand book from a thrift store) I immediately felt a little better.
W. Edwards Deming was born on October 16, 1900, "the same year the Paris Metro opened and ground was broken for the New York subway system, the first Zeppelin trial flights were held and two birds--the passenger pigeon and the Caracara hawk--became extinct. About 2000 foreigners died in the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900 and about six thousand Texans died in a hurricane at Galveston that September, still the worst natural disaster in American history."

Deming saw the world change completely in his lifetime. He didn't watch television, but it was television that made him famous, in 1980 when NBC News aired a documentary about why Japan was doing better economically than the US. Deming understood the importance of systems. He saw things in a larger context. He taught his quality system to the Japanese.

I'm just getting into the book and don't want to speak out of turn, but so far, Deming seems to have anticipated the state we're in now, we humans. A couple of things really struck me as important and relevant to today, this day, this January 1, 2011.
One is that the Deming method requires the distinction between continual and continuous. I bring this up because I find the confusion of the two words to be problematic in regards to any sort of self-improvement, including New Years Resolutions.
Continuous means 'unbroken, never-ending.' Continual means 'occurring on a frequent or regular basis.' Improvement must be continual. It's never a straight, unbroken line, a perfect score. It's a process. It's never continuous. If we expect that, we're bound to be disappointed and likely to give up. Let's not.
So to clear this up-- Whatever it is you resolve to do, or not do, or change, your improvement will occur on a regular basis. If you slip on Jan 5th, so what? Just keep swimming.

I've decided that this year I'm not making a list of goals. Forget it. I have a direction. It follows that if I know where I'm going ,what I want to do, the kind of human being I want to be, the details will adjust themselves accordingly. The hard part will be to keep these things in focus. We all know that this is a tall order in the midst of daily human demands, minutiae, chaos and the occasional monkey-outta-nowhere.
My effort will be continual. This, I can live with.

I wish each and every one of you happiness and health in the coming year. Thank you so much for being part of mine.