15 June 2018

Construction and Reconstruction

It's Friday!  Who else has fit two or three work weeks into this one?!  Life here is a gorgeous tornado these days.  The kind of life that leaves you tumbling into bed with bandaids on your fingers and gratitude on your lips for all the busy-ness and the chaos that, despite the effort and the fatigue, make everything good both possible and present. 

For those of you who may be new here or who didn't know, there is a little cottage on the back of my property.  It served as a rental unit for me until a few years ago, when my tenant (ahem, now my husband... ) moved out... to move in with me (but that's a whole different post).  Now, we are gutting the structure to make space for an open, airy teaching studio, fully equipped with metalsmithing tools, an inspirational reference library, an inviting atmosphere and ample work space for small groups of six or so students.  


So far, we've uncovered a brick ventilation column which I had hoped would end up being a fireplace.  Sadly, it wasn't so.  Also under the surfaces: hidden doorways, a fruit cocktail wallpaper, a snake or two, and even a really creepy stash of old stuffed animals up in the attic.  I have to say that construction excites me, and reconstruction excites me even more.  I'm not one of these that has a natural eye for potential, meaning that I can't really envision what a space could become until it's empty.  Watching the rooms slowly clear out has been such a thrill... sort of exciting and intimidating and full of prospects all at the same time, like a blank canvas or an empty page.  Sheer possibility.

With the tearing down of the old, though, comes a lot of mess.  There's a lot of history to be sorted through, some of which I'd like to save to add to the character of what is being redone, and much of which just needs to be released to the garbage or Habitat for Humanity.  Living in this dusty span of time is chaotic and my stress, like my joy, soars... something about my anxiety over loose ends and unknowns and just general chaos, everything scattered around my feet and the knowing that I'm half way in... just as far to go to get out, and the best way to do so is through!  Now we're committed.  I look at the piles of shit laying around me and grin-wince: it's SO good, and it's SO terrifying.  It's all just making me grow.

On a parallel note... I'm tearing myself apart as well.  I haven't talked too much about it outside of my family and closest friends but I promised myself back in January that this, THIS, was going to be the year of radical self care.  Last year brought too much loss, and despite all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me in this life, I felt myself slipping into something darker than my vision could penetrate, heavier than I could carry.  No amount of reassurance, "perspective" or pep talks could pull me out of it and on some deep level I knew faintly that the only one who was really going to save me from this depression was myself.  It took a few months and many false starts, but I feel I'm gaining some traction now.  

As such, it's been a season of refinement by fire.  My time has been spent more on writing, more on making and experimenting with techniques and even new materials (I'm falling in love with textiles, so... that might be something), creating new samples and projects for upcoming silversmithing classes, cooking new recipes, tending to climbing rose vines, reading books on Stoicism and Highly Sensitive People and God and Ketogenics and Boundaries and The Human Species and Indoor Plants.  I've spent four days a week strength training as if it were my religion, convinced that any weakness I feel inside is worn on the outside.  I've taken to braiding or curling my hair just to show myself a bit of love, to moisturizing my cracked hands, to adding supplements to my daily vitamin, to journaling everything that feels good and everything that still guts me.  I tickle Jovie Rose.  I design dream homes with The Monkey.  I literally, quite often, sweat and bleed more than I have been accustomed to.  Callouses are forming on my hands and soul- not in a negative way but in a protective, productive way that says these parts of me are getting a lot of use.  Mostly I ask question after question as the days go by, and with every honest answer, a surface layer falls aside and I'm a bit more hollow... much in the way that a little cottage might become while being gutted to make space for a grander purpose. 

This is emotional demolition.
This is bulldozing through my own dated patterns of behavior.
I look at the piles of shit laying around me and laugh.
I laugh a lot.
Because it's ALL a LOT.
And it's all helping me grow.

Interior heart spaces, hallways of memory, exterior structures, future goals... all the areas of my life that serve as a foundation for whatever dreams I plan to see through, whatever steps I choose to take? We have to take care of these arenas, nurture the ever loving hell out of them. More and more I see the responsibility that I have not just to my children, to my husband, to my students, to my patrons and parents and friends, but to myself.  It's so much easier to live and die for others.  It's so much harder to do it for yourself, and yet in the "for myself", I'm finding my power... Trying harder each day, and granting myself some grace.

How are you doing, Sister?  How are you Growing?

Image via Pinterest

11 May 2018

Small Thoughts

To my left, somewhere past the low tree line and the exit for DeLisle, is the Gulf of Mexico.  Ahead and to the right, the sun is slipping low over saturated fields that border the marsh.  The highway stretches ahead in gentle curves, a winding panamorama beneath striated skies of peach and pumice.  Diamondhead is just a stone’s throw away, while New Orleans waits approximately fifty-six miles ahead.  Home is a day’s distance behind.

On the stereo, Tom Petty’s song about Mary Jane’s Last Dance gives way to Metallica’s proclamation that Nothing Else Matters, and I watch the mile markers along the pavement count down toward the state line.

It’s one of those rare evenings that hold my attention.  I’m soaking it in, something which, as of late, has not been easy for me.  Yet now, caught between the beauty of a dying day and the dawning of an unknown adventure just around the bend, I live for a few hours in the present moment- blissfully amnesiac to past battles and future mysteries, losing myself and forgetting, in the vast space of these southern swamplands, my own private mountains.

I feel the difference.
“Stay here,” I whisper to myself.  “Stay.”

 It’s a prayer.

Over a matter of miles, virgin fields give way to yawning spans of rice paddies and crayfish farms, the waterways of which mirror the yellow sky.  Reflections cast a stunning double image, interrupted only only by the red traps interspersed amongst golden fronds of saltwater grasses.  My boots, still carrying the dust of North Carolina, rest on the dash.  An anchor of a man sits behind the wheel, relaxed and easy, a hand on my knee.  Behind me sits a wealth of knowledge and wit in the form of a tween boy, excitedly pointing out this sight and that sign, before burying himself once again in the world of electronic entertainment and dog-eared books on all that is weird but true.  Beside him, my fourteen-month-old heart briefly sleeps, already a stronger and wilder thing than her mother has yet to become.

What is it about these moments, I wonder?  These seemingly insignificant moments that reveal so much through their simplicity and their stillness.  I realize that as an artist, I tend to view and feel the world to a more intense degree than most, but I find more of myself, more peace and more purpose in the notes of music, in lyrics, in poetry, art, scenery, laughter, flavors and scents, bare feet and blue water and the softness of clean sheets, than I do in the mirror or the safe but stressful “normalcy” of daily life.  So often I swim in seas of overwhelm, of anxiety, worry, or even anger; but, never in these vibrant but unvarnished seconds.  Never when I open my eyes to the gift that is my breath, my small space in this world, and the circle of souls around me.  Never when I’m paying attention to the “little” things.... the shift in the light, the sound of the leaves, the sheer multitude of dots on a map or stars in the sky...  These seemingly small details sink in and I’m full of gratitude, the tightness in me more of a healthy swelling of heart tissue than a suffocating grip on my lungs. These moments teach me that here, between the mortal milestones- literal and metaphorical mile markers, is life, and here is all I have, and here is all I need.


Learning to exist only in the present moment has always been and will likely always be one of my most difficult challenges. To find the gold in the gravel, to give myself hundreds if not thousands of second chances with complete love for who I am on this day, because of who I was and what I’ve learned, and with faith in all that I’m becoming.  I feel the unevenness of the road beneath me as the cosmos shift above and know that I’m on more than one kind of journey.

Transience is the heartbreaking spine of our existence and yet is the freedom therein as well. I have closed enough doors, finished enough races, ended enough chapters and said goodbye to too many people to take for granted the fact that tomorrow isn’t a promise. Perhaps what gives the small moments so much meaning is the immediate realization that they are fleeting. It can be easy to forget in the day to day rhythm of commutes, conversations, stresses, situations, that life won’t always be like this. We feel eternal at best and stuck at worst, as if nothing is going to change. It becomes easy to stop seeing the sunrise as something miraculous. In five years, I’ll be a stranger to the woman that I am today. Life will be different- more souls will have entered and others will have fallen away. Battles will be over, new wars begun. Words will have been said or written, silver soldered, other things broken, mended, or left behind. Control doesn’t exist in tomorrow, or yesterday, and so much of what makes the minutiae beautiful is that it, too, lies outside of our dictation, orchestrated instead by invisible albeit far stronger, more capable hands. Geese in perfect formation announcing their flight. The breeze brushing lace curtains across a worn wooden table warmed by the sun. I cling tightly to these ephemeral times as they are the constistent glimmers of magic in a life that can seem at times too sterile, too structured by money and mainstream media. I cling to them because they ground me in The Now, rather than allowing me to be swept backwards in time by Sadness or forwards in time by Worry. They anchor me. Seeing them as gifts, presents, keeps me in the present. This, then, works to ease my anxious energies.

At least, it does for tonight.

I close my eyes, open all my senses, and stay. This life, in this car, with these people, right now- this is my world. Deeper than deadlines, worth more than the bills needing to be paid. Stay. Windows down, the pavement rushing by, laughter from the backseat that in turn is bubbling up from the dry depths of me, and the moon rising lightly above the horizon, smiling a sliver of a smile at this restless soul so often scattered, but finding its compass.