Saying Yes Please To Help

I was one of those children who regularly insisted, “I can do it myself.”  My parents heard those words a million times.  Bless their patience.

Now I am in the messy middle of writing a book, and I can most definitely not do it myself.

I didn’t fully realize, when I began this process, creating a book is a communal effort.  I kind of knew, but hadn’t considered it at depth.  After all, book covers say “by author’s name”.  They don’t say “by long list of names.”

The clue is inside the book on the acknowledgements page if the writer has added one, and most do.  Right there is the long list.

When I think on it, I had help long before the book idea crossed my mind.  Every creativity book I have worked my way through, and every author of everything I’ve read throughout my life have helped me.  They’ve laid paths and rhythms of language within me.  I move to that beat when I write.

I learned from every teacher ways I wanted to play with words, and ways I didn’t.

My circle of friends are artists, writers, and readers, book lovers all.  They patiently read my drafts and ask exactly the right questions to unstick me from swamps of my own making.  They celebrate, commiserate, and push when I need it.  I do the same for them, and gain a deeper understanding of my own creative process.

In my future beyond the drafts stage, there is a stream of wise partners who will help me create, support, and present the book that shows up online, in bookstores, and in readers’ hands and minds.

The help list is long and growing.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I treasure the community coming into being, the wisdom and experience shared with me, the yes they are offering my project.

I was a do-it-myself child.

It’s a good thing I have changed.

(Written at a friend’s home, grey-blue ocean beyond the windows and a morning sky clearing towards a sunny day.  Thanks Wren, for lending me your place!)

Imagine A Love Story

Yesterday I pulled one of my framed drawings out of storage.  As of next week it will be a donation to the CNIB for their annual Eye Appeal Art Event.

Right now the drawing is propped up on my studio couch.  There are coyotes walking across this drawing, a wall of coloured stones, and words about building a fence then taking it down.  Really, it’s a kind of love story.

The drawing is all imagination.  There was no still life model beside me as I created.  I imagined an argument and a fence, and what happened after.  Then I drew.

Seeing this drawing has me thinking about love in its various aspects, and how love can grow from imagination.

I love colour.  It’s the first thing I notice in everything I see.  I love light and the physical, emotional feelings it raises in me.  All my life, I’ve felt colour and light run from my eyes through my body as shades of love and joy.  It makes me shiver.

I imagine no colour, no light, and I feel lost.

I imagine never having such love and joy again, and I feel empty.

I imagine someone gentle beside me who still sees colour and light. They speak to me, saying I will guide you through this, if you wish.  Take my arm and we’ll walk together.  You’ll find your way through again.

Imagine this love story.

This is why I give away my drawing, to offer love and joy to someone I will never meet.  To share light and colour from within.

It’s all because of imagining a love story.

________________

In this post:

CNIB (formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Eye Appeal Exhibition and Event 2019 http://www.eyeappeal.org/

My drawing is titled “Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)”, and it’s the image heading this post.  It is also on my art site at https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/image/garudas_cheshire_cats_and_other_/old_coyote_trick_sticks_and_stones The words showed up after noticing someone had built a fence immediately next to their neighbour’s fence.  The drawing came after.

I see your fence

Don’t like it

Build my own

Make us small

Judgments  Expectations

Mine  Yours

Not how we are meant to be

Take down my fence

(burn it)

Breathe us big

Pat your fence

(like a friendly dog)

And walk around

A Few Words And Lots Of Pictures

Two days ago I completed my second sketchbook project for the Brooklyn Art Library, and yesterday it began the journey to its new home.

It’s not your usual sketchbook. It’s a pocket mural. I made it to open like an accordian. Hold one cover in each of your hands, open your arms, and there it is, one long garden. Close it up, turn it over, open again, and the garden continues on the second side.

I am so very happy with how the drawings turned out, all colour, play, and joy. My heart loves the garden I created, and I can feel how my body longs to be in the midst of it for real, climbing and playing. I wonder if someone makes adult-sized swing sets with a glider and slide? I think I need one.

I can’t hold my garden in my hands any longer, but I can hold it in my heart and share it. Here is The Secret Garden. Join me! Come and play!

_______________________

In this post:

The Brooklyn Art Library https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/library

The Sketchbook Project https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/sketchbookproject

Busy Being Still

I’m packing the last of my northern studio, readying to move south for the last time.  I am about to have a single creation space, something I have not experienced for fifteen years.

The joy is bubbling in me.  I want this.  But I have a question for myself.  Will I be able to sit still in one place?

I was a child who exploded with energy, curiosity, mess, and noise.  I have a million memories of being told to sit still, stop wiggling, stop making so much noise, be quiet, clean up the mess, put that away, don’t touch that.  And on and on.  I am not surprised my Mom, like me, napped every afternoon.  I wore both of us out.

Eventually, I learned to become someone who appears quiet and peaceful.  The word ‘appears’ is a clue.

I’m not actually sitting still.

Under the surface, my mind and heart are constantly, busily, happily engrossed creating the next drawing and the next piece of writing. Inspiring myself with other artists’ work, and how exactly did they create that colour and that effect. Being curious about the book I’m reading, and how did the writer get me to assume this and feel that. Can I do these things, too?  Wondering, experimenting, learning.  I love this activity.  I am alive here.  This is my me-ist me.

Here’s the paradox.

Under the energy, mess, and noise, my heart and mind are in stillness.

My creativity is rooted in stillness, the deepest internal pool of quiet.  Infinity is here.  Forever is here.  All possibility lives here.  My ideas rise from this place, rise from peace to become energy and activity.

It fascinates me that my creativity requires these seeming opposites.

One of my art professors regularly talked of getting to know and use paradox and the awkward in the work.  I know he didn’t mean the kind of paradox I experience every day, but his words stick in my memory, a reminder to be comfortable with all that surfaces when I draw and write.

Embrace it all, the mess and noise, the stillness and quiet.  Opposites creating wholeness.

Being told to be still wasn’t wrong after all.

And maybe a single welcoming, perfect, light-filled studio is exactly what I need. 

How Far Can I See?

I had a favourite climbing tree when I was growing up.  It was a West Coast hemlock, three times the height of our house and brilliant with branches perfectly spaced for my reach.  I stretched for the first branch at the base, but from there up it was a ladder, easy and welcoming.

How high can I climb?  How far can I see?

I didn’t ask myself these questions, but I could feel them in my body.  The feeling pushed me, made reaching for each next branch as natural as walking.

There was a natural stopping point, too, about three-quarters up, a set of branches grown for sitting.  Here, this exact spot, I’d have nested if I’d been a bird.  Lived my life in the sky.

Here I always sat and hugged my tree with one arm. I rubbed the flat needles between my fingers and smelled their green perfume. I felt the wind push us gently back and forth, and I watched the clouds.

My climbing tree was a different world, and here I was a different person.  The worries and anxieties (there were many) that nailed me to the earth vanished.  I looked out and saw all the world.  I saw possibilities.  From my nest in the tree I saw myself in forever, and I knew who I was.

No one except my tree and the wind knew I was there.  No one saw me when I left the earth.  I made sure of it.  And no one saw me return.

Freedom was my secret.

My climbing tree has come back to me as I work on my book.  The feeling of the questions that loosed me and pushed me into a forever world has returned.

I look at what I have created so far, and I feel the push. I feel the reach, as natural as walking, for the next branch.

How high can I climb?  How far can I see?

Possibilities.

This feeling is joy.  The memory of my climbing tree pulls up the nails that hold me to the ground.  Nails etched with ‘too hard’, ‘be afraid’, and ‘wrong’ are no more than thin smoke as my feet leave the earth.

I see the whole of my book from up here.  I know this view and I know myself, here, in my climbing tree.

I’ve made a note, to post above my studio table where I write.

All the note says is ‘my climbing tree’.  Enough to remind me.  Close my eyes, become still, feel my hands and feet on the branches, smell the green needles, feel the wind rock me, know who I am and the world I see.  Now open my eyes and write from here.

Writing From The Body

End of January and the sky is grey outside the studio windows.  We’ve had freezing rain on and off this morning.  Step outside and you take your life in your hands.  Ice is everywhere.

I’ll stay inside in my studio, thank you very much, where it is warm and bright and the footing is sure.  The music is on, Joe Hisaishi’s Freedom Piano Stories 4.  My three strings of Christmas lights, hung around the walls, are on as well.  They are my year-round joy, especially when days are grey and the light from the windows is dim like today.

My senses are wide awake this morning, and I am understanding how different my words are when I write from my body.

That sounds odd.  I use my mind to write, of course.  Well, yes and no.  The more I write, the more I use body and mind as one.

This is a huge shift for me.

As child and adult, I’ve lived primarily in my mind.  Mind ruled because my body was not a reliable place in which to be.

I grew up experiencing how my body was defective, broken, and wrong in so many ways.  Eyes and ears requiring medical correction to function well.  Balance and coordination just a little bit off kilter.  Skin overreacting.  A menstrual cycle guaranteeing monthly pain.  Muscles and sleep throwing themselves into deeper dysfunction the older I became.

Being in my body did not equate to safety or comfort.  No surprise I preferred to live in my mind.

As a writer, I am shifting this. I have to.

Body is the living place of my emotions and the beginning place of my writing. When I write from my body, emotion and experience become immediate.  What I notice enriches me and makes its way into the words.

My mind refines what my body has initiated. It listens to the words that emotion and experience have put on the page.  It listens for rhythm and pattern.  Something in my mind knows when a word, phrase, or more, sounds wrong.  It hears the stutter or break in the rhythm.  It knows where the pattern is out of balance.

How it does this, I am not entirely sure.

I do know my body is rhythm.  Breath, heartbeat, movement.  My body lives in constant rhythm, and the experience translates itself to my mind.

Even more, my mind lives within my body, lives within breath and beat and movement.

“Not separate.” I hear as I write this.  “We are one,” say my body and mind in chorus.  “We are the ocean in which you live.”

I hear this, and suddenly I feel my mind in the tips of my toes, noticing how my socks are warm and soft and how my toes love the feeling.  Noticing how the wood floor beneath my feet grounds me and my writing both.  Mind and body noticing the reassuring steadiness of the chair I sit on, the familiar worn touch of my studio work table where my elbow leans.  Noticing the joy of being deeply anchored in this moment of my life.

Here is body, mind, senses, emotion, and experience in concert.  Braided in a single melody.  Heard and experienced in a single voice.

Hear us.  We are one.

____________________

In this post:

Composer and musician Joe Hisaishi, piano album Freedom Piano Stories 4. I first met his music through Hayao Miyazaki’s anime movie My Neighbour Totoro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Hisaishi

Image, Word, Emotion

‘Note to myself at 4 a.m.: I miss you’

For Christmas, my sister gave me a gift I’d hoped for, the book Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart.

I cocooned myself on the living room couch, and read the book slowly over two December afternoons.  I could have read it slowly in one, but I had to stop halfway.  I had to stop and let my feelings wash through me.  Wash through me and make enough room to experience the second half of Tom’s story.

Rosalie Lightning is a graphic memoir.  Tom and Leela’s young daughter Rosalie died suddenly and unexpectedly. Tom found a way through, drawing and writing.

You’d think this memoir is about grief.  You’d be wrong.

Tom, Leela, and Rosalie’s story is about love.  Immense, devastating, life-filled love.

Grief is always about love.  I have learned this over the past year, grieving and loving first my Dad and then my cousin.  Feeling both empty and far too full at the exact same time.  Frozen in place, and yet needing to run as desperately fast as I could, as if I could outrun pain.

You can’t outrun your heart.

My heart—love—is the only thing that can carry me through when nothing feels right.

Tom knows about heart and nothing feeling right.  His book tells something unimaginable, chaotic, stark, crushing.  And yet, at the same time, his images and words show a way of continuing to love when you don’t know how.

Emotion.  I try, but words cannot hold the whole of it, and images only suggest it.  Then I see them together, and there is magic.  Together they walk me into layers of feeling another person’s world, knowing beyond any doubt my world feels the same.  Word and image together reach into my heart and heal me.

Tom Hart, your name fits you perfectly.  Say it aloud.  Hart.  Heart.

Thank you for Rosalie’s story.

_________________

In this post:

Rosalie Lightning:  a graphic memoir by Tom Hart.  St. Martin’s Press, New York.  2015.  http://www.tomhart.net/  I also have his book The Art Of The Graphic Memoir which I am beginning to work through.  This book came out in November 2018, also published by St. Martin’s Press.

Creating Light

Go ahead. Risk it. Love yourself exactly as you are right now. I already see the beauty in you, and others do too.

Go ahead. Risk it. Create loads of joy in your life. When you think you’ve created things bright enough, don’t stop. Be the light for someone else, too.

This world needs all the light and love, joy, compassion, kindness, play, and peace we can be. Now there is a gift worth sharing.

Wishing you a light-filled Winter Solstice, and a loving and joyful Holiday Season.