Essential To My Joy

Cat's Magic - finishJune 22nd. I’m sitting in the dining room of my new home. Windows on three sides open to the ocean of trees around us. I can see the hills and mountains across the Salish Sea, shades of blue and purple, snow on the tops of some. Clear sky and late June sun. Perfectly perfect.

I have the fan running. Noon and the air is hot already. It was officially summer this week.

Again I am writing at the camp table I mentioned in my last post. This is the last days of using camping equipment in the house. The movers are coming Saturday with the furniture, boxes and bags that were packed away in storage for the past four weeks.

Here is what I have relearned since the previous post, exactly because I was not doing it.

There are things essential to my joy.

A table and chair and quiet space with a view. Paper. Pens preferably in colours more interesting than black or navy blue. Music, soft smooth jazz, sax or piano. Coffee (iced and cream) or tea (iced please, and a lemon slice) or cold clear water in a mug.

Add to these a good book to read, a crossword puzzle book, a soft blanket for nesting and resting, and time for myself alone.

Here is my creation space. It doesn’t take much.  It’s easy to build.

This is the heart of me.

Here is a truth. Not building this space and using it daily causes me pain. I cannot ignore my need to create, my need to play in the heart of me every day. Here in this space I can breathe. I can rest. Imagine. Daydream. Write. Draw. Create. I am myself here.

I go ragged and angry when I ignore my creative self. I pay the cost, and so do those around me. I become impatient, blind, deaf. Everything is in my way, including me.

Of course everything is in my way. Of course I am blind and deaf. I’ve not opened the path to my creative heart. I am not open to life.

Drawing or writing every day, I am open. Thirty minutes given to myself. That’s all it takes. I do this, and I become patient with my life.

I do this essential thing, and I become kind to the rest of my day and the people in it (including me). The ragged anger is gone. My breath is easy in my body. I am easy in my body.

I learned this in art school, and I relearn it constantly. If I give to myself what is essential to my joy, I have space for everything else.

_________________________________

On a similar note:

One of my graduating-year professors, Lisa Baldiserra, gave our class a piece of perfect advice. Make art every day, even if it’s only for five minutes. I have both used and ignored her words. This post is about using them.  Lisa is writer and artist and Senior Curator at the Contemporary Calgary gallery in Calgary, BC. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your wisdom and experience! http://www.gallerieswest.ca/blogs-and-buzz/contemporary-calgary-announces-lisa-baldissera-senior-curato/  http://www.contemporarycalgary.com/

I finished this post today, June 27th, the result of taking my own advice and building a creation space. I am sitting at my dining room table in a dining room chair. Yes, I have furniture again! My new studio is half full of boxes and bags. My writing desk, artwork table, and easel sit in pieces against the wall. It will come together, now that I am making space for myself again.

 

Do the Long Work

 

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)'
What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)

I’m sitting in my dining room, on a camp chair, my laptop and papers and pens on our camp table.  My iphone is tuned to Jazz24 for background music.  The bedroom down the hall holds an air mattress and bedding, clock radio on an upturned box.  My son’s bedroom downstairs has identical furnishings.

The dining room window is open to a warm breeze, sun, blue sky.  I can hear the hummingbirds talking.  They are nesting in the white lilac next to the house.  Last year they were in the holly tree at the far corner of the yard.  I won’t see the babies learning to fly this year.  I won’t be here.

This home is pretty much empty.  Everything was moved to storage this past weekend.  I have a week of camping out in my house, and then on to the new house-home-studio.  (Excited?  Yes!!!)

I am finding it interesting how little I need to be comfortable.  And interesting how the floors and walls have become a kind of furniture.

I am thinking, these past few days, about doing long work.  The big projects that take time to come together and mature.  This home project is a big one.

Becoming an artist and writer have been big projects.  More than big.  More like continual.  Can’t help it.  I keep discovering new things to play with.

In all the packing, junking out, giving away, I uncovered a box full of old morning pages journals.  Pages written when I began this I-am-an-artist journey.

Most of these journals I fed to the woodstove.  Letting go of old beliefs, angst (there was lots of that), limits I’d built around my creativity, limits I’d built around me.

I read a few pages here and there, as I fed them to the fire.

What I noticed—the Cat in these pages is no longer me.  Someone else’s story.  The incremental shifts really do add up to change in a good way.

As much as I love creating, it was a battle for me at first.  I had to fight my way past massive fear and anxiety.  Fear of making mistakes or a mess.  Fear of making bad art.  Whatever bad art is, I never did define it.  Anxiety over wasting art supplies (read ‘money’) because I’d screwed up a drawing.  Fear I was fooling myself; I wasn’t really an artist but no one had told me.  All fear.

What saved me was love.  When I fought past the fear, I loved creating.  Loved the ideas that grew.  Loved the surprises that arrived in my drawings.  Loved the inspiration sharing with other artists of all disciplines.  Loved what I discovered about myself through the creative process.  All love.

My love of creating was bigger than my fear of screwing up and making bad art and being a fool.

Inside the front cover of a journal, ten months after graduating from art school, I wrote notes to myself:

“You have to give the drawing everything, all of it, and now.”

“There must be something rattling in the brain and trying to fall out of the pen.”

“Okay Cat, tell me what I’m keeping out of these pages?”

“Imagine what an artist I could be with a heart fully open and aware (this terrifies me).”

“Do the long work, and trust.”

I read these words here, today, and realize despite the daily fear and anxiety, there was wisdom coming through.  I did the long work.  I trusted.  And now here I stand.  Artist and Writer.

I held onto the love in my creating as a life line.  Love gave me a path through the fear.

Love helped me trust there was a way through.

Sometimes, when my love even now is not big enough, I borrow love from other creators.  I play recordings of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron reading from their books.  I randomly pull books from my studio library and leaf through other artists’ creativity.  I leave books open by my easel and on my writing table.  Courage and determination are contagious.  Others’ images and words hold and inspire me while I walk through my fear and into creation.

During my final year of art school, I borrowed love from poet Pablo Neruda.  His words fueled my graduating body of work.  Imagine writing poems to a tomato, a pair of trousers, a watch.  I borrowed his idea, drawing a pile of carefully folded laundry, a teacup and spoon, a pear and knife, my favourite fuchsia-coloured brocade vest.

On that same front inside cover of the journal, I’d copied some of his poetry.

“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees

that burned with sweetness or maddened

the sting; the struggle continues,

the journeys go and come between honey and pain.

No, the net of the years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.

They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.

Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,

or action, or silence, or honour;

life is like a stone, a single motion,

a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,

an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal

that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”

______________________________

In this post:

Natalie Goldberg, http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Julia Cameron, http://juliacameronlive.com/

Pablo Neruda, 1904 – 1973.  The quote is from Still Another Day XVIII.  I am not sure who did the translation or from which book of his poetry I copied this.  His words continue to inspire me.  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/pablo-neruda

 

Packing and Unpacking

3crowsletter.600ppi
3 Crows a Letter, 4 Crows a Boy

I am writing this post in the midst of controlled chaos.  Namely, I am packing.  Everything.

Last time I wrote I had just decluttered and sold my home.  I did not have a new home to go to yet.  Now I do.  I also have a moving date, so I am packing with a purpose.  The perfect thing about having already decluttered?  No decisions to make about what to keep and what to let go.  No decisions complicated by memories or by dreams yet to be fulfilled.  That bit is already done.  Yay!

I have a new home with my perfect, amazing, big-with-awesome-light studio.  This is the studio I have been imagining since I began art school.  Twenty-one years of imagining have created me this wondrous place.  There is room for my writing desk and reference books.  Room for my art table and easel and supply shelves.  For my library.  An area with sink and tiled floor for mucky projects.  Storage space.

I saw a studio like this, owned by a master artist, a few years into my art practice.  Always I have remembered it.  Now I have one like it.

A blessing.  A gift of abundance.

I am dancing inside.

I’ve heard tales of artists and writers who freeze up when they finally have the creation space of their dreams.  Like somehow the expectations of results have been upped beyond what they can easily deal with, and it scares them into silence.

I’m mentioning this because when I first walked into this space I said out loud, “Too big.”  It scared me, this huge lovely space made for creating.  This perfect space that could be mine, and I was rejecting it.  This space I had imagined, and I was turning my back on it.

But something interesting happened as I turned my back.  I caught myself in the middle of no.  I felt the abundance being offered me here in this light-filled space.  I stopped, and I began to laugh.  I began to feel joy.  I began to dance with the possibilities of creating image and word right here.  Right here.

In that moment, something unpacked itself and I saw it clearly.  Old beliefs limiting my worth, my abilities, what I do and don’t deserve, what I can offer through my creativity, how big or small I should be.  For the first time, these old beliefs stood fully in the light, and I discovered they are not mine any more.

Oh, I know their ghosts may still show up once in a while, as I create in my new studio.  That’s okay.  They no longer have the same power over me.  When I see my beliefs clearly, I know what to do with them and how to handle the feelings they carry.  I have choice.  They won’t stay long, and I’ll wave goodbye as they leave.

Then I’ll go right back to creating.

_____________________________

A note re unpacking limiting beliefs:

Jennifer McLean teaches a gentle and effective method of releasing old beliefs, emotions, experiences, and trauma.  Spontaneous Transformation Technique (STT) is an easy and quick process to learn and to use.  I know, from personal experience, how beautifully it works in clearing creativity blocks and glitches that slow us down and limit our creative lives.  As a Certified Level 2 Spontaneous Transformation Technique Practitioner, I use STT’s powerful process in my creativity workshops and coaching.  This link will take you to Jennifer’s information page.  http://go.spontaneoustransformation.com/powerhealing

 

Clearing Out, Letting Go, Creating New

3.'Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (south)'--Cat Fink
‘Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (south)’

I’m back.

I have a home of thirty years cleared out and sold, all in the space of the last four weeks.

Whew and wow.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few years.  And suddenly it is now.  Let’s quit talking and do it.  And we have.  Done.

I feel lighter.  Excited and exhausted both.  There is a new horizon out there.  Can’t quite see it yet, but I can feel it.  It feels like home.

After thirteen years of seasonal moving between two places that didn’t truly feel like home, I am approaching something that does.  How strange that I don’t know what it looks like or exactly where it is, yet the feeling is clear and certain.  I feel my feet on the ground.  I feel the path in front of me.

Some small part of me is trying to not trust this, saying ‘scary’.  The biggest part of me is saying ‘This feels right, feels good.  I trust this.’

Trust.  A blessing gained from growing into my creative self, trusting the artist-me who knows who she is and what she wants.  I am now all artist-me.  Not only creating image and word.  Creating my life.

I remember doing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way tasks of clearing out and making room.  I’m not sure she meant a whole house, but then again, she might have.  I’m laughing, thinking how I’ve taken task number eight in week six to the extreme.

The task says, “Clearing: Any new changes in your home environment?  Make some.”

Make some changes?  Have I ever!

______________________________

In this post:

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 2002 Edition, Tarcher/Putnam.  http://juliacameronlive.com/  The clearing tasks are on pages 90 and 114.  Julia connects clearing out to creativity on pages 83, 197, and 198.  “You’re either losing your mind—or gaining your soul.  Life is meant to be an artist date.  That’s why we were created.’’  Page 198.

I’d say the quote from my last post applies even more so.

“My barn having burned down

I can now see the moon.”

Poet-samurai Mizuta Masahide

 

Change and Change Again

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 21 2016 (nature)'
What Gives Me Joy Nov. 21 2016 (nature)

I am in the midst of choosing, organizing, and packing this week.  I’m making my seasonal move southwards three months early.  Leaving tomorrow.

I am a nester, not a traveller.  Yet, for the past thirteen years I have lived a transient life.  Depending on the time of year, I am in one of two places.  I keep studios at both.  Most of my drawing and writing is done in my northern studio where life is quieter.  In my southern studio I plan, gallery hop, visit, share inspiration with artist-writer friends.  Filling my creative well to the brim and overflowing.

Somehow, despite these two places, I do not feel at home.  It is the knowledge of another move to come in a few months that prevents me from feeling settled and grounded, even though both places are familiar to me.

I am talking about change.

Not all of this back-and-forth life is my choice, but much is.  I find and create and cherish the good.  I have beloved friends in each place, artists and writers and creators all.  They are a blessing.

Change and change again.  This was turning in my mind yesterday as I washed clothes, wrote lists, packed my studio, packed my life.  I picked up my sketchbook and opened to a 17th century haiku, carefully copied down three years ago.

The haiku speaks of change, unanticipated and perhaps not welcome.  It speaks of finding the blessing, something to cherish.  It speaks to how I feel each time I choose, organize, pack up my transient life.

“My barn having burned down

I can now see the moon.”

Samurai and Poet Mizuta Masahide, 1657 – 1723

________________________

In this post:

I’ve found three translations of Masahides’ poem.  This is my favourite.

 

 

What The Dream Said

 

birdsonwithbluefeathers.detail
‘Bird Son With Blue Feathers’-detail

I am asleep.

I’m dreaming.

I’m sitting in a rowboat.  The boat is all wood.  We, the boat and I, are floating on a deep pond.  A fir and cedar forest rises beyond.  The water is rimmed by a grey rock beach.  The boat and I are still.

I watch a small, black and white cat step from the forest, across the beach, and into the water.

The cat swims, and then dives deep.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that,’ I say.

I can see her, as though I am under water too.  The cat catches a large fish in her mouth, swims back to the surface, and returns to the beach.

She eats the fish.  She looks very satisfied with herself.

I wake.

I write my morning pages after breakfast.  Purple ink today.  It is snowing again.  The thermometer says -10 degrees Celsius.  The forecast says expect the same through this coming weekend.  Hmmm.  My eyes are beginning to get hungry for green.

I write out my dream.  I hear my voice again.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that.’  I again feel my astonishment at something unexpected and new.  Since when do cats not only swim, but swim underwater?

Tigers swim, I write in my pages.  So do jaguars.  Why not small, black and white cats?

Why not me?  I am Cat.  I love swimming, and my dad taught me to dive.  I know how to dive cleanly and well.

If I dive deep, I will catch the words.  I will catch my book.

I sit very still.  My pen has stopped moving.  Exactly what Natalie says not to do.

The dream is talking to me.  I start writing again, to catch the words.

This second draft I am creating—I need to dive deep.  The dream says I’ve only been paddling along the surface, even staying safely on the beach in some parts of the story.

If I want my book to be fully realized, and I do, I can’t stay on the surface.  The book isn’t here.  The words and feelings I want are down below.

The pond is deep and clear and full of flashing, silver words.  I love words.  There is nothing to fear.  I know how to swim and dive and imagine and write.  I am good at all these things.

The dream says, take a breath, and dive.

The dream says, cats can do this.

___________________________

Natalie Goldberg’s first rule of writing practice is ‘Keep your hand moving.’  She also says ‘Shut up and write’.  I’ve invented a new writing rule for myself, ‘Shut up and dive.’  All of Natalie’s books are my favourites.  You likely already know Writing Down The Bones.  So go read The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language, Atria Books, 2013.  Really, the true secret of writing is in there.  Natalie spills the beans.  Thank you, Natalie, for showing me a way of being a writer, and spilling the beans.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

 

 

Inspired by Anne of Green Gables

anne-of-green-gablesI’m in the midst of creating a mixed media drawing for the local gallery’s summer show.  Their theme is the story Anne of Green Gables.

The entire gallery, upstairs and down, will be filled with mannequins and miniatures by artist and costumer Korene Kidd of Prince George, BC.  The walls will be hung with artwork by local artists.

I read Anne of Green Gables four times, probably more, as a child and teenager.  Anne was my kind of hero.  She had red hair which I longed for.  Funny, that I had the raven hair she wished was hers.  I grew my hair long just so I could have braids and pretend they were red.

Although I didn’t get into Anne’s kind of scrapes, I did have the same imagination, loud and busy.  Beauty would stop me in my tracks, literally, as it did her.  Cherry blossoms against a blue blue sky.  A thrush deep in its morning song.  The stream that moved through the dark of the trees beyond our house.  Wonder and joy.

I’ve been reading bits of Anne’s story as I make my drawing.  I’ve discovered something.

When I read Anne years ago, I focused on the actions and thoughts of the characters.

When I read Anne now, I am pulled in by the emotions expressed in the story and mine arising in response.

Anne lives her life wide open to the world.  Her heart feels joy and sorrow, love and pain in ferocious, instant, equal measure.

As a child I read the words but did not understand.  I was cautious with my heart.  I kept my feelings private.  There were emotions I didn’t know what to do with.  They were either too huge or too terrifying to set free.  Love.  Joy.  Anger.  Grief.

I am no longer that child.  My heart lies open to my life, as Anne’s does in her story.

I learned to be open.  I began with feeling love and joy, and now I also know what to do with anger and grief.  Emotions no longer mystify me.  Well, most of the time.

This, I am sure, is why I am reading Anne in a different way.  I am reading with an open heart.

It’s the same story, same words.  It is me that is different.

Anne was written with an open heart.  I get to feel that now with every word I read.  What perfect joy to have discovered this piece of Anne’s story that had previously passed me by.  A gift.

My Anne drawing is titled ‘What Gives Me Joy (Anne of Green Gables)’.  It holds a list of joy that begins with ‘blazing red hair’.

My drawing ends with what I’ve learned from Anne, what has nestled in my heart.

Notice beauty.  Notice joy.  Cradle anger and grief, for they too need to be loved.  Find people and places and things to love in your life.

Thank you Anne and Marilla and Matthew and all.  Thank you Lucy Maud Montgomery, for letting Anne into your imagination and out to the world.

_____________________

In this post

L. M. Montgomery, 1874 – 1942. Book Anne of Green Gables, Running Press, 1993.  ‘I wrote it for love…’ page 286.   http://www.lmmontgomery.ca/

The Station House Gallery, Williams Lake, BC.  https://www.facebook.com/stationhousegallery/

 

 

Public and Private Creativity

mug-blogsize

Last weekend I finished reading Kim Werker’s book ‘Make It Mighty Ugly’.

I love this book.  I love you, Kim, for writing this book.

There are a load of reasons why I love Kim’s book.  For me, the main reason–she is clearly a kindred spirit when it comes to creativity.

On page 116 she describes an aspect of her creative process.  This is the first time, since I began reading creativity books, someone has described a pattern that is dominant in my creative process.

As a writer and artist, I cycle between two creative states.  I work full on, taking everything in, being connected, being public with what I am doing thinking making—art shows, blog, social media, leading workshops.  Then I go dark.  I retreat to my studio, shut the door, and continue making but in private.  I do not want to see, talk, or interact with anyone.  Leave me alone.  In this creative state, I bite.

I have always created in this way, always shifted from one state to the other.

I used to think because I wasn’t entirely one state or the other, there was something wrong with me.  I thought I was being wishy-washy and inconsistent, possibly unreliable.  Isn’t that one of the myths, artists are unreliable?

It took me years to understand this is my creative process.

My creativity has and needs both my public and private states of making.  These states are not opposites.  They are partners.  Each feeds, supports, and inspires the other.

Maybe this is obvious to you, but for some reason I couldn’t see it.  I had to learn by doing, understand through experiencing, that this pattern of creating is my normal.  I learned there is not something wrong with me.  This is the way I operate.

The other thing I learned from accepting my pattern of creating is there is no single creative process.  There are as many processes as there are people.  Each of us has a unique way of making what we make.  The creative process is as wildly creative as creativity itself.

_____________________

In this post:

Kim Werker, book, ‘Make It Might Ugly:  Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty’, Sasquatch Books, 2014.  http://www.kimwerker.com/  Thank you, Kim, for sharing your book and your creativity.