Tuesday, August 25, 2009

authentic voice

I am struggling in my studio to find my personality. I feel like an awkward teenager, wanting to be an adult, but not quite willing to give up the pleasures and ease of childhood. I have put myself in the position of growing as an artist and I'm suffering the pains that go along with new developments.

Yet, like a teenager, I'm always hungry for sustenance, and feed my creative spirit by studying numerous art books, noting what I respond to and learning new ways to expand my vocabulary. Recently I went on a "feeding frenzy" by attending a week long art workshop on Cape Cod. This nourished my desire to paint with all the new tools I learned, but now I'm trying to make MY work, not an impersonation of what I have been admiring in someone else's vision.

I have to find the balance between learning something new and being genuine. Growth means change, and change makes me uncomfortable. I miss the facility I used to feel when I made my paintings, a certain sureness of hand, even while I sought new discoveries. But now my work requires that I go beyond my comfort zone, while still recognizing my true nature and my authentic voice.

Friday, August 21, 2009


A few days ago I spent the morning with my daughter Bethan doing errands. She's a medical transcriptionist and makes a daily visit to Spartanburg Regional Hospital to deliver her work and pick up more. I stayed in the car while she took care of business, and she had parked directly across from a fenced in demolition site. I was fascinated to observe the slow waltz of the two pieces of heavy equipment as they synchronized their swinging jaws. I was mesmerized by the finesse of the operators and their ability to grasp a single piece of wood or metal with the huge appendage on their machine. After gripping and dropping a whole mouthful of waste, the other could go back into a large pile and select one little crushed window screen.

But as usual with me, I began to think about the underlying story. I wondered what that half demolished building had once been. I imagined the excitement of the owner who had built those brick walls and filled the rooms with personal taste.

As I watched the metal fingers of the machine take away a door and then a wall board, I thought about the house being like a person. Born, then growing into an adult and aging. All the strata of psyche and soul that create the rooms of ourselves we carry through life. A sudden wave of empathy hit me as the insides of this former home were exposed, layer after layer. But it seemed to me as though the operators of those dismantling machines had a respect for the process they were a part of. That gave me comfort.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


In Michael A. Singer's "the untethered soul, the journey beyond yourself," that I've just begun to read, he talks about the voice in your head that continually comments on what is happening. He calls this voice your "inner roommate." I really noticed it this morning while I was sitting down to eat my breakfast. I don't like having the same breakfast every day, so today I fixed an egg that I slipped inside a little toasted pita bread. I was thinking how much I like variety in my life, when this roommate roared with laughter. "Oh sister, who do you think you're fooling? Variety? You LOVE routine!"

I started going down a mental list of what my days are like. Well, yeah, I get up and walk just about every morning. Well, sure, I eat breakfast and get ready for my day in the studio or at my job. And yeah, okay, I have to check my email and look at Facebook to see what's new. But I really DO like variety in other ways.

"HAH!" my roommate challenged me. "Tell me ONE thing you like to change around, other than breakfast!" Well, ummm...I'm peering around the room to see if I can find any clues to prompt me. Well, I've begun to meditate every morning. "That just means you added something to your ROUTINE, dummy." Oh. heh heh. Ummm...my mind roams around my recent days, sure that I can find another example of how variety is the spice of my life. Damn! My roommate is getting cocky now, and I'm desperate to find a rebuttal.

Then I realized that the reason I'm reading Singer's book is to kick that roommate out. I'm tired of living with her and she's fighting to prove her superiority so I'll back down! HAH! I'm breaking routine. I'm kicking her out of here NOW!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

s l o w

This morning's walk was more like a swim in a mud puddle. The air was so hot and humid, that my legs seemed to warp into slow motion. I felt as though I was still in bed, dreaming that I was walking. Even a car coming out of the darkness towards us, seemed to be gasping for breath and struggling to make headway. As it lumbered by us, I had the illusion of being on a treadmill, going no where. Eventually, we decided to cut our route short and return to cooler, air conditioned existence. The walk was a struggle, but I was content to have prodded myself into exercising, no matter how abbreviated.

That is what my studio time was like yesterday. No matter how much effort I made to resolve one of my paintings in progress, I was mired in the mud of exertion. I plodded away, trying to advance my work, but I was stuck in a wearisome round of attempts and failure. I finally gave in to my lethargy and began to clean my tools. When looking back at what I had accomplished, I realized it wasn't so bad after all. I had not reached a revelation, or any kind of final resolution, but I had made progress. Some days are like that. Slow is better than no go.

Monday, August 10, 2009


There are just too many bugs in my world. Earlier this year we had round after round of fire ants, but when the drought hit in July, they seemed to disappear. Now, after just a few good rainstorms, they are back in full force. They've invaded my blueberry plants and one bush is struggling to survive. I hope I can save it.

Another scourge we've been dealing with daily is an infestation of grain moths. No matter how hard I've looked, I can't find the source for these invasive pests. We see them flying in almost every room, too, not just in the kitchen. I have checked every possible cause, short of opening up brand new boxes of pasta and crackers, and have come up empty.

The worst one, though, that raises the hair on the back of my neck, is in my garden across the street. After some online research, I discovered the name of it. Leaffooted bug. UGH. They are large and long and are covering certain tomato plants, hanging all over each other like some sort of obscene bug orgy. They are stealthy, slow moving, ugly things, and I have to gird myself to knock them off the fruit before I reach in for a handful of baby romas.

One day last week I was washing a whole basket full of tomatoes when I realized that one of these creatures had traveled home with me. I screeched and reached for my kitchen scrubbie to grab it and squish it. I couldn't do it, so I raced to the back door, squealing in fear as I struggled to make the latch give, and threw the scrubbie out the door with the bug clinging to it. I was covered with goosebumps and ashamed of myself for my overly squeamish behavior. A minute or so later, after I checked the rest of the kitchen counter and sink for more interlopers, I went back out and stomped the bug into the ground. Maybe that wasn't a nice thing for me to do, but it gave me back a feeling of control. I had to take back my world.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the train

There's just something about a train. The rhythmic clack of the wheels, the blare of the horn announcing its arrival and the gasp of the brakes as it comes to rest, all make me run to the window to witness the occasional freight train that loads at the nearby chip yard. Growing up in a neighborhood where every house looked the same, (and so did all the faces,) I'm delighted to now live in the South, across from railroad tracks that used to carry people, not just boxes filled to the brim with ground up trees.

One recent evening I was amazed to see an engine pulling two passenger cars. The horn gave a very different sound as it passed our home and headed for the street that crosses the tracks. I raced out the front door with a big grin on my face, then quickly came back for my camera. I knew the train would have to come back our way because the tracks are cut not far beyond that intersection. While I waited on the front porch, my neighbor Darlene came out on hers and she told me that distinctive horn signaled a passenger train, just like it used to every week when people would come up from Spartanburg.

After several minutes passed and the train didn't return, Danny and I walked up the street to find it. By then it was getting dark, but I took some photos just the same. Except for in the engine room, there were no lights, and no silhouettes of passengers. The name on the cars said "Norfolk Southern," which gave me a little thrill since I was born in Norfolk, Massachusetts and now I am "southern," at least by location!

The second car had "Research 36" printed under the row of windows. That made me hope that an investigation was underway to bring back train service to Landrum. There's just something about a train. The sound of the past whispering in my ear? Or could it be the future? I would like to think so.