Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mission Statement

This morning, I woke up late to an empty house. Extraordinary, blissful silence. 10 am. Just getting out of bed, and it is 10am. A bathrobe and a shower and a cup of steaming mate (french pressed, whole milk). The whole house to myself. There will be a pregnant pause as you digest the miraculousness of this moment.

This is our survival strategy: we each get one morning of the weekend, to sleep in
for as long as we want, with earplugs and a closed door, while the other wakes up at 7 with the chublet and plays and makes breakfast and, in this case, (looks like) goes to the gym. I can't tell you how much, this one single morning per week of indulgent, luxurious laziness, has done to recover my sanity from the horror of an entire year+ of sleeplostness.

And so what, if it is cold and gray and dingy outside, the mountains of snow piled up on each corner becoming graying castles with turrets and ledges that look like they have doubled as horse stables for the season. I don't care. I don't care because yesterday it was 50 degrees, and the sun shone warmly down and the gutters were running with little miraculous trickles of streams and SPRING IS COMING, dammit. I just know it.

I want to answer a few things about this blog, as it is a newborn thing and I would like to talk about it and why it has come into being.

One: the picture which is the header of this blog. I did not take the picture- my mother, an exceptional person, took this up in the Broughton Islands. The picture is not of me nor is it intended as a self-portrait... I am just captivated with the juxtaposition of elements... He of the bald head at once mirrors the shape of the jars as he contradicts them completely. The humor of the moment... his unwitting (and I assume it would be unwilling) contribution to a perfect composition.. there is something in this photo that captures what I have been trying to say all along in my paintings. Irony- discordant elements colliding together in harmony- the introduction (or remnant) of the one inexplicable element that opens up the piece to a world of possibility. It is a little bit like the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, (or at least I was powerfully struck by this concept when I learned of it), in which the imperfect is deliberately introduced to a piece of delicate and perfect symmetry, in order to acknowledge that "nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." So anyways.. as I am writing this, I realize that perhaps the picture is a self-portrait. Of sorts.

Okay, so what else. Why did I start this blog? I started this blog because it has been winter, and I hate winter- struggle every year through this dry, cold time, but about a month ago, while researching ideas and craft projects for my upcoming spring and summer art camps, I came across the blogs of some crafty mamas (see blog list to the right), who were generously sharing their ideas and reflections with the world. I would wake up dispirited and overwhelmed and uninspired, and they would have a new post.... there would be pictures of snow adventures, images of projects taped to the windows that had been created that day- That same day that I had been moping about, these people were living in acceptance of the state of the world, and enjoying it. So yes, perhaps these women are lucky enough not to have to work: perhaps they have live-in-staff. I really don't know how they have such perfectly crafted lives and I will probably never get into the art of Valentine-making with such enthusiasm... BUT I DON'T CARE- They are angels who catapulted me out of my inertia and I am riding an unusual torrent of energy: new blog, new website, new Etsy, new art projects. Suddenly, it is quite valuable that the snow has locked us in.. that in order to go to my freezing studio in the backyard, I have to wade through waist-high snow. Because I am eyeing my desk... the papers and clutter that have not been filed since June. What else I am going to do now, with an empty house and no reason to go outside?

But the real reason I have started this blog, is that I realized that it could be the one place in the world that was completely mine. I share a house with three people and two animals: I am involved in many collaborative projects (including the great adventure of raising a kid): almost everything I do is subject to review or input or design process. Don't get me wrong: I love these projects: I love working in partnership. But since I am not currently in an active painting phase (read: frozen studio, read: massive creative block) I need there to be one thing that I can do without ever having to submit it for review. So this blog is my own damn thing- my room of her own. Maybe it is a way for my feet to find their way back to the studio. Who knows: but I pledge that in it I am going to follow my whim- I am going to practice dancing with my eyes closed, attempting to be unaware of the audience. For example: I am not going to apologize for the inordinate length of this entry. I am going to write with honesty and nakedness. This is it: This is me, elbows out.

And I will end this entry, with an excerpt from a David Whyte book, which so belongs here:

Crossing the Unknown Sea (excerpt)
by David Whyte
You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly to rot on the vine.

"Tell me about exhaustion," I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: "You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?" "The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest," I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. "What is it, then?" "The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

"You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don't have to tell you."

He didn't have to tell me. Brother David knew I wanted my work to be my poetry.

"Go on," I said.

"You are like Rilke's Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn't cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard. Particularly if you think you might drown." He looked down and read again.

And to die, which is the letting go
Of the ground we stand on and cling to every day
He looked up again, warming to the theme, I was getting a good talking-to. "This nervously letting yourself down, this ängst -lichen Sich-Niederlassen, as it says in the German, takes courage, and the word courage in English comes from the old French word cuer, heart. You must do something heartfelt, and you must do it soon. Let go of all this effort, and let yourself down, however awkwardly, into the waters of the work you want for yourself. It's all right, you know, to support yourself with something secondary until your work has ripened, but once it has ripened to a transparent fullness, it has to be gathered in. You have ripened already, and you are waiting to be brought in. Your exhaustion is a form of inner fermentation. You are beginning, ever so slowly" he hesitated "to rot on the vine."

Fuller excerpt here


  1. Love your room! Happy to see you sharing yourself with yourself and with all of us. . .
    As always, your words are refreshing, beautiful, striking, and as all great art does, shows the world in a new way.
    I love it sister!

  2. Erin, whether you're painting or writing or just existing, you are an inspiration. I'm so glad you have this blog-- this space of your own. I feel like I have access to your beautiful, honest soul again, even so many miles away. I eat up your words like honey. You are the "craft mama" for me today, giving me something to read that will inspire and lift me out of the grey heaviness of winter. Thank you. I miss you! Sending love.