Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

A love letter to 2019

I began the year in an embrace with the man I loved, surrounded by friends and laughter. If I can will myself to leave the house tonight, I will end the same year once again surrounded by friends and laughter, but doubtful there will be an embrace.

This is the part in the story where I expected to begin to cry. As a single woman, I hate this ‘holiday’ more than Valentine’s Day. But I’m not crying. In a moment of clarity, I realize there were so many wonderful things that 2019 brought to me on a personal level that I want to say thank you instead.

You were a rollercoaster, 2019. And a strange one at that. You were a ride with more loops than I have fingers, a stalled train car at the top of one of the loops, and quite a few breakdowns along the way. But that isn’t all; there were also the exhilarating moments – coasting downhill without a care in the world, and there was the time to chat as we waited in line for the next adventure.

There were magnificent trips – one to Snoqualmie Falls, the site of my beloved Twin Peaks, and not one, but two trips to Europe (Paris with my daughter and a couple of months later to Greece and Italy with my then-boyfriend). There were multiple opportunities to sit with one of my favorite spiritual teachers and learn from her. There was the discovery of acupuncture as a way to heal depression, and countless glasses of wine with the women I have known and laughed with for more than half of my life.

2019 was a year where I saw so many of my heros perform, that it makes me dizzy to recall it. Most notable were my heroine Amanda Fucking Palmer perform for 4 incredible hours, and my imaginary boyfriend Nick Cave – both sitting alone at their pianos bearing their innermost thoughts to auditoriums full of strangers. There was Yann Tiersen (also at his piano), Bauhaus, the Phantom of the Opera, and others I know I am forgetting. There were also the illuminating lectures of Michael Meade and later, Sam Harris.

There was the day I walked my Mom down the aisle as she married the love of her life, and later that evening where I authentically connected with my family for the first time ever. There was my daughter’s graduation with honors from High School, and the heartbreak of then driving her 5 hours away to college. There was also the low point, the breakup of a 2 year relationship which didn’t come as a surprise, but ripped my heart into shreds nonetheless.

There was the delightful premiere of Good Omens (a show based on a book I have loved for decades), and there was The Starless Sea. There were hundreds of days of working in my shoppe, selling my art and meeting lots of people who enjoy my work. There were more than a dozen ArtWalks, and one of the best sales years in my career thanks to my Tarot, the Dreamkeepers Tarot. And oh yeah! I, with my Tarot deck and book, were signed on by a publisher!

Quite a ride, 2019. Quite a ride.
In 2020, I intend to let The Art Life take center stage once again, and I look forward to falling madly, mutually in love with someone wonderful.

~Liz

 

An Anniversary That Falls Like a Ripened Fruit

Two years ago today I went on the perfect first date.
It was a simple evening now that I think about it, but still, perfection. We spent more hours than I can accurately recall at the Griffith Observatory; looking at the stars, talking about Galileo, philosophy, the universe, exploring the grounds and just really enjoying each other’s company. He was so smart, so charming (in an endearingly awkward way), and kind. The conversation flowed effortlessly, and it tickled my mind in a way that was as satisfying as a drink of cool water after an intense run.

I remember that I could feel myself starting to fall, but held my breath, holding on fast to the proverbial edge, for who needs to fall in love on the first date? My memory of that night tapers off after our dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, where the food was good, but the conversation was better – that I remember. It was an evening full of so much fun, connection and great conversation – it had been years since I experienced a first date quite so lovely as that.

Clearly something sparked, as we spent the last 2 years continuing to do all of those things together; conversing, wondering, wandering, eating, traveling, loving.

We broke up 2 months ago. My heart is still aching, and the tears are still falling, but with less frequency. I am healing. My heart is healing. I have missed him so very much, and there’s nothing to be done with that. Nowhere to put that. So, why am I recounting this here and now? Because, it began 2 years ago today. I think anniversaries live in our psyches in ways that we don’t fully understand, but the memories ripen and fall on certain days. Today is one of those days.

I am also writing this today because for whatever reason, in the time we were together, he chose to keep our relationship off social media. Our friends and family knew, but with me being an expressive person by nature, having to keep it quiet grew tiresome and hurtful.
And so, I am writing this entry today for me.
For my heart.
We had this beautiful thing.
We had this incredible connection.
For two years he was my best friend and most treasured companion.
Our time together happened. It mattered.
And I honor it.

One of my favorite memories of our time together happened just a couple of months ago over the summer when we were in Europe, around the mid-point in our 16 day trip. We were spending the day in Vatican City, climbing to the top of St. Peter’s, visiting the incredible art museum, and had stopped for lunch at the museum cafe. We were both in good spirits, talking, laughing, eating. Nothing special was happening, we were just both open and relaxed, and enjoying the moment. I wish I could bottle that feeling and drink from it regularly, it was that good. I just remember the looking across the table at him, and before I could catch the words, they fell out. I said, “I am so happy right now.”

And I was happy. Deeply happy.

Now, this is kind of a feat for me. First off, I have a pretty serious predisposition to depression and melancholia. I treat it with medication, meditation, and acupuncture, but still struggle with it regularly it seems. Because of this, moments of true happiness, (or dare I say bliss), are rare and absolutely noteworthy.
Also, I’m not catholic. (In fact, I avoid organized religion at all costs) so why this huge feeling took place in Vatican City is beyond me. But it did.

The love I held for him, combined with the joy of being on this dream vacation together (Athens, Santorini, Rome and Venice!)… sharing so many sights and sounds and tastes caught up with me in that moment. I have rarely been happier than I was right then.

I had no idea that just 6 weeks after that blissful moment we would reach an impasse  and end our relationship. Looking back I see I held my breath for two years, not allowing myself to fully fall in love with him – and when I finally (accidentally) did, I understood why I held it so long.

Still, I have no regrets. I am so glad I was able to spend two years with a beautiful man, who has a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind. I know that in the end I loved him completely, to the best of my ability, and how wonderful that after all I have been through in this life, I can still love so deeply.

My heart thanks you for reading and witnessing.

 

Love,
Liz

On Cravings and Choice

Last weekend I went out to dinner to a fabulous new Mexican restaurant near a friend’s house, and all I wanted was machaca tacos. So much so that I could almost taste the spices in my mind. Which was weird, because I’ve been vegetarian for many years and vegan for the last year and a half. Don’t worry – this isn’t about pushing my dietary choices on you, the backstory is important because this craving was really strange! Was my body in need of iron? Why suddenly the intense need for red meat? I labored over my choice. Investigated my desires. Took a deep breath and defiantly thought, “I deserve to have what I want. If I want meat, I’m going to order meat!” When faced with the option by the waiter, however, I couldn’t actually bring myself to order meat. Much as I craved the taste, I don’t actually want to eat meat. Feeling defeated on one level, I ordered the vegan-friendly veggie fajita (which was delicious, btw) and called it a day.

Tonight I felt fed up with the usual restaurants near my studio shoppe, and set out on an adventure looking for new place to eat. Eventually, I stumbled upon a tiny little Mexican joint which was new to me. Something told me to check them out…turns out they had Beyond meat on the menu, which was quite the delightful surprise! I have not had a beyond taco yet, but the burgers are good, so this had to be good! I couldn’t decide between the vegan nachos and the vegan taco, but went with the beyond taco. Wouldn’t you know it, but it tasted exactly like machaca! I think I actually squealed in joy with my first bite. Full disclaimer: I will say that it’s been so long I may not remember what machaca actually tastes like, but this was cooked in very similar spices and my week-long craving was completely satiated!

Walking back to work, I thought about desires, wants and satiation. I really wanted that machaca last weekend. Like, really wanted it – but didn’t indulge because it went against my own preferences. In making the choice not to have it, I also let the desire go. I even completely forgot about it, to tell you the truth – only to have it suddenly come to me in a way that was in complete alignment with my values. (and the taco was only four bucks to boot!)

My point is, we all have things we want… maybe even desperately want. The craving is strong, and sometimes it’s so strong that we make choices which go against the grain of who we are just so we can scratch some itch. But what is the payoff there? Temporary relief, sure, but at what price?

There are things I really desire right now, but for various reasons, am not actually aligned with, and therefore are not part of my life experience. Truth be told, I’ve wasted far too much time lamenting these lacks. Today, though, my silly, delicious, not-machacha taco reminded me of something really valuable. It is vitally important to let go of what is not working, let go of what is not in alignment, let go of who or what is not choosing you – in order to receive what is truly nourishing. It’s almost as if once you let go of a non-productive desire, the subconscious can go about solving that particular riddle, and scratch the itch in a way which is deeply satisfying.

I know what you’re thinking. There is nothing more infuriating than the instruction to “let go”. We don’t know how to let go. We are not well versed in accepting the way things are, and we don’t know how to say goodbye, for that matter. But it is something we truly must learn to do if we are to have what we really want, and have what will be satisfying on multiple levels.

So, with faith and conviction…let go.
xo
Liz

The Comfort of Books

I have more books than places to reasonably store them. I have piles next to my bed, on the coffee table, on the floor. There are piles next to the piano, on top of the piano, and the bookshelves themselves are at such great capacity that they seem to be leaning against one another for mutual support.

I can’t put my finger on just what it is about books. Is it the romance of the page, the well aligned typeface, the quality paperback size that fits oh so uncomfortably perfect in the palm of your hand? I am not a fan of hardcover books (though I read many of them), for they are far too cumbersome to carry with me as I travel on the train and read. The mass market size books seem too temporary in size to be taken seriously. No. I love a good quality paperback size book; it has substance and size, but not too much weight. Its presence alone says that it will provide companionship on the road which you travel, and will not weigh you down.

Today I found myself hungry for yet even more words, and so to the bookstore I went – looking of course, for nothing in particular, yet I knew it the moment I found it. It was in an unsuspecting volume of collected essays by Mary Oliver where I discovered today’s delight.

“And whoever thinks these are wordy, breathy words I am writing down is kind. Writing is neither vibrant life nor docile artifact but a text that would put all its money on the hope of suggestion. Come with me into the field of sunflowers is a better line than anything you will find here, and the sunflowers themselves far more wonderful than any words about them.” (excerpt from Upstream)

Is that what it is about books then? The hope of suggestion? Reading about love is not quite as delicious an experience as having love, (as the sunflower is to the words describing it) but when the experience of love is out of reach, is reading of it and feeling the hope of it not a satisfactory substitute?

 

On Delight (Day One)

I just stumbled upon Ross Gay’s book, “The Book of Delights”, and am here to report that it is indeed a delightful little book. In fact, for what it’s worth, I highly recommend you head to your nearest indie bookstore and buy it right now, or head to the library and borrow it.

It was the description I first found intriguing, wherein the author describes how in counting the delights every day, he actually felt more delight in his life. “Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight.”

Intrigued by that statement, I remembered the year I photoblogged every single day – (all the way back in 2010). When I look back on that time, I feel a sense of expansiveness, joy, and attention to detail. In writing my daily blogs (which were not journals, they were intended to be shared) I became a much more engaged witness to my own life. And it’s true – that time was filled with delight! Who knew?! And so I have become inspired to take up the project once more. I would love to do a post a day for an entire year, but can I promise that? I don’t think I could promise a delight every day, but I will certainly be honest. It occurs to me that perhaps if I am honest, there is always something, if not many somethings, to delight in. Let us begin and see what happens.

Day 1.
December 2, 2019

I am sick in bed today. For 5 days I pressed on and fought the urge to rest; insisting to myself that I was not ill. Believing instead that this intruder upon my good health could be fought off with supplements, vitamins, and daytime cold medicine; but of course, I was wrong. My body just needed the rest. And so here we are – a little stir crazy, a bit fatigued and foggy headed, but in strangely good spirits. I wonder if perhaps good spirits are what naturally arise when one ceases to argue with what is, and simply accepts it.

I think it was Henry Rollins who said, “It’s hard when someone you know becomes someone you knew.” For the last two months I have been nursing a broken heart. We had nearly 2 years together, so the least I could do was give my sad heart the proper mourning time. However, I’m not sure did, for in this time of healing, I doubled and tripled my activity. Making plans for every night of the week, my tactic was to stay busy, a step ahead of the pain it would seem. The sadness found me anyway, and usually in the most inopportune moments. Plus, here I am now, missing a day of work (a luxury the self employed can rarely afford), sick in bed with the flu. All because I couldn’t stop running from my feelings? Or was it the snotty child who sneezed on the train last week who bestowed this gift upon me? Does it even matter? For here we are, and my original intention was to look for delight, not the rough edges. How easy it is to focus on that which hurts. What a challenge then, to point oneself towards delight.

It is after 4pm now, and twenty minutes of daylight remains in this day. I feel as if I have wasted today, accomplished nothing, because, well, I have accomplished nothing except to rest and an absurd amount of time to write this first entry. Earlier this morning, I somehow summoned the energy to make a large cauldron, if you will, of homemade chai. The entirety of which is still sitting on the stove, covered, because I fell asleep for nap #2 before it was ready to drink.

(She steps away and heats up a cups worth on the stove)

Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, anise, pepper, black tea, all mixed with rose water and honey, topped with frothy almond milk – it is delight in a cup, the sweetness and spiciness of life distilled.

Of course, in my condition with full blown flu symptoms, I can’t actually taste it. But, since I know how chai is supposed to taste, I imagine. Expectations are superimposed on the experience – the mind and taste buds argue. Neither is particularly pleased, but while they fight it out, I notice something else. There is a pleasant warmth inside as I drink the tea, and the chills I have been feeling (and unsuccessfully tending to) for days are finally smoothed into comfort from the inside out.

There it is!
Delight.

Not in what I was expecting, (the taste), but delight in what is actually occurring (the comfort).

…And we loop back to where I began in this writing – on the good spirits which arise when one accepts that which is actually occuring. Cheers.

The Sense of Touch

It’s morning. Another day is here. What will we do with it? Will it count?

The sky outside is grey. There is a chill in the air and a light drizzle outside. I only know about the drizzle because I let the cat out and he came back inside almost immediately with a light spray on his coat; little tiny beads of water that were so small in size, they only felt wet when touched collectively, not individually.

This big black cat on my lap begs for my attention. He claws at my typing hands, begging for them to tap away on him, not this keyboard. Touch is a powerful thing, a beautiful thing, a necessary thing for all living creatures. I pause to connect with this beautiful creature, my friend.
 He purrs.

Oh, touch – yes, that is why I sat down to write this. It’s strange maybe, but I didn’t know exactly why I had the impulse to write until now. It has been so long since I shared with you.

I had a moment in my shoppe yesterday. Just signed a lease on a new art studio, and was feeling the triumph of the art path reforming. Considering what needed to be moved, and what would stay, I saw the tiny holes in my shoppe wall, holes from old nails. Holes that were created from hanging artwork and measuring badly. Holes that need spackle and paint, but there is no time to do such an activity, so they sit open and gaping. I think it’s okay, doubtful anyone notices. I know I hadn’t.

The shoppe and the bookstore were both quiet in that moment. I felt alone, but not lonely. It was a profound moment of solitude. The kind of moment where it is most delicious to be alone, where the mental chatter of the inner critic ceases, and in its absence all the senses awaken. In that moment of true solitude, the realization that you are alive enters. I felt alive and fully in my body – a rare moment of connectivity.

Gazing at the holes so in need of repair, I gently touched them in this full presence with the tips of my fingers. The drywall crumbled away. I saw the stripes, and remembered painting them. I ran my fingers across those stripes and thought about when my shoppe was just a dream, and those stripes the anchor in my mind. I thought about all the art, my art, those walls had held over the last 6 years. Over a hundred works of art maybe, have been hung and rehung in that time. Not just on that one wall, but in that room. Over a hundred works of my art, the fruits of my labor, the souvenirs of my journeys, the gifts of solitude.

I felt such appreciation for those walls that have held me and my art. Appreciation for the hearts touched, for the conversations sparked, for the income and the support. Running my hand across that small space of wall, I felt, in a very palpable and real way, supported. It was a new feeling. I know there is support for my art and what I do from loved ones and collectors, but I don’t often feel that support. Most of the time I feel crushingly alone. But in the tangible evidence of the wall, I felt support. I knew it. I saw it for both symbol and matter; a structure of support that has held me and allowed me to grow into someone I am (sometimes) proud to be.

I was utterly lost in my moment of reverie; savoring the memories, looking back on a difficult journey with love and appreciation. Mind you, the shoppe was open to the public during this time, and as it were, someone came in. I don’t know how long they were there, but suddenly I felt the sharp edge of reality – and in an instant, turned around to see a man standing there watching me. I yelped, startled, then laughed. He laughed too.
“What are you looking at?” He asked me.
I told him. I told him the whole beautiful thing, through embarrassed giggles.
He was kind and sympathetic. He moved to the wall to feel it himself.
As he touched it, he asked me, “And what are you feeling?”
“Gratitude”, I said. “The deepest kind of gratitude.”

He smiled and introduced himself as the owner of a business in the neighborhood. He might not have ever touched the wall of his establishment in the way I was doing, but in his introduction to me as a business owner, and in the light in his eyes, I knew he understood. And even though my cheeks burned bright with embarrassment – I felt seen.

Later that evening, I went outside and was chatting with a neighbor. The man walked up again, he knew my friend. We both laughed about the moment we shared, like old friends with an inside joke. (It occurs to me that the nature of an inside joke is that you have to go inside to create one. But I digress…)
He asked my friend if he knew me.
“Yes, of course” he said. And the man nodded and said with certainty, “well, she’s very special” and walked away.

I’ve been thinking about this interaction ever since. We all want to be seen, but are so afraid of it. I myself live my life in bursts of being seen. Retreating to the studio to make something all alone, delving deeply into the work and myself. Bringing back the art I created – a souvenir from the trip I took, I am then seen (or the work is). Only to retreat once again, deeper into myself.

I once read that in order to be an artist one has to learn to be alone in many ways. This is true, in my experience, and yet maybe not entirely true. Yes, one need be alone to dive in and create with focus and intention, but to live that way is crushing in its aloneness. I am seeking the balance between it all. The sublime moments of solitude, the divine revelations that come of it, and coming back to the world to find the reassuring caress of the beloved’s touch.

xo
Liz

Ode to my boots

It has been so long since I posted here. In that time, sooooo much has happened in my little world. I did a Kickstarter, which was successfully funded. I finished a Tarot deck (which took 10 or 13 years to complete, depending on how you look at it). I wrote a book. I published the deck and the book and shipped them all out myself. (And I’m a Mom, a small business owner, sometimes even in a relationship, and I have amazing friends – pretty full plate). How fortunate am I to be able to say that? As I write this, I recognize just how incredible my life is.

So why do I feel so…down?
I am struggling so much, emotionally these days. I admit it, I have a mood disorder, (or chronic depression), whatever you want to call it – so the melancholy is not unfamiliar territory. I manage it the best I can through exercise, meditation, supplements, diet, journaling, art, friends, family, cat… But also, a lot of things are up in the air right now. There are many losses, and navigating them is proving difficult. The biggest thing, which you wouldn’t expect it to be a loss, but it actually feels like it is – was the completion of my Tarot deck.

I began my first deck in 2006. I have orbited around the idea of making/and actually been in the act of making a Tarot deck since 2006. Consider that for a minute – where were you in 2006? As fate would have it, that first deck, which taught me how to be an artist, as it neared completion, was destroyed in a great computer crash. When I finally began again, it was 2008. So the Dreamkeepers Tarot took me 10 years exactly to create. Even when I wasn’t consciously making the deck, it WAS the thing I was orbiting around. And now, with it finished, without the gravitational pull of that very solid idea, I feel lost in space. Wow, I hadn’t made that metaphor before, but it’s exactly how I feel! Lost…in space.

Because I am a fighter, have been taking steps to get back to work, though. Yesterday, in fact, I spent the entire day piecing together a new tableaux. So far, the idea is a bit convoluted, but I think there’s something good there. Something solid. I think this is my way of testing the waters again, of processing where I am and considering where I want to go artistically (since there are really no parameters, except for what I think people expect, and what I expect of myself, both tricky things to navigate).

My daughter will be leaving home for college in August. Emotionally, I am already preparing for this. She has a very full life outside of me, so on some level it already feels like the separation is happening. Another gravitational pull that has diminished in nature. Everything is so fleeting, looking too long at what is changing can be disorienting, so I search for an anchor. Historically, that anchor was my art, but the art is new now, too. I feel like I need something tangible, something that tells me in this moment of transition who I am, and where I stand.

The question plagued me for the better part of this afternoon. “I have nothing”, I kept telling myself. Nothing. (I told you I’m in a bit of a depression) Nothing Nothing Nothing Nothing other than the shoes on my feet…
Then it hit me. The shoes on my feet! My 20 eye Dr. Martens which I’ve worn most days for a handful of years now. They are my beloved companions, and I must introduce you to them. I have replaced the zippers on them so many times that I no longer chance the zipper and instead lace and unlace them every time. These boots have carried me through more heartbreaks than I care to remember. They have moved me from 4 different addresses, 3 art studios, and held me as I work day after day in my shoppe. They have carried me across Paris as I wandered her cobblestone streets alone. We clocked miles inside the Musee D’Orsay, wandering from one exquisite painting to the next, took the steps on the grand staircase of the Opera Garnier, and stood in the home of Gustave Moreau (which is now a museum of his works). We walked together under the light of the full moon as I met a beautiful man after-hours in a taverna in Crete. We walked the hill of the Acropolis, visited the oracle in Delphi. We saw Frida’s house, took to the streets of Mexico City alone in the dawn, and hiked up to the tops of pyramids. We got lost together on the muddy path leaving Macchu Picchu, and trudged through the Amazon jungle to take in the view high above the lost lake.

They have taken so many steps with me that the tread on the bottom is practically nonexistent, and I have to step very carefully in the rain. This does not deter me, mind you. I still wear them almost daily. When I take them off, I swear they still carry my presence. I would ask to be buried in these boots (unless someone who loves me wants to keep them to remember me by). I have tried unsuccessfully many times to replace them, but they are not manufactured often it seems, and so I have yet to find a new pair. I still wear them down, day by day, step by step. Oh, if there was one thing to bring me out of my depression and into a place of gratitude, it is this, my beautiful, world traveled, weather beaten boots.

Thank you for reading.

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Much love,

Liz

Feeding a Starving Soul

I have a question for you.

What are you feeding your soul?
What are you taking in, on a regular basis, to nourish your inner being?
What stories are you reading? What songs are you listening to?
What new places are you visiting, be they near or far?
Do you even know if your soul is hungry? Do you know if it’s starved? And if you know this much, do you know what your soul is hungry for?

These are the questions that bubbled up for me, today. In recent days I have found myself surprisingly fed on a soul level – so much so that I didn’t even know I was starving…

Recently I started reading a new fiction book, a modern book about an ancient Goddess. It was recommended to me by someone I’ve known for a long time who said she reminded him of me. Not that I think myself a Goddess (nor does he), but there are some strange parallels in her story and mine – though perhaps it is the story of most women, if you look deep enough.

This story is epic in its scope; simultaneously reaching into the depths of mythology and the depths of the heart of a woman. It has been ages since a book enchanted me so. It has been so long since a book has touched my heart and sense of wonder so deeply that I actually feel closer to myself.

For the gift of this book, (entitled Circe by Madeline Miller for those of you wondering) ,I am so very grateful. For the gift of wonder and remembering, I am grateful.

This moment serves to remind you, too, please search out nourishment for your spirit, for your soul. Whatever form that takes, for it is fuel for you and you alone. You can’t create from an empty tank. Trust me. I’d been running on fumes for far too long and I didn’t even know it.
 

Creativity and Prometheus

This morning I was reading about Greek mythology, when I was struck by the myth of Prometheus. I was already quite familiar with the story, but this time, it applied to the life of an artist. Allow me to explain.

The story of Prometheus is one of a mortal, a Titan, who challenged Zeus, the chief Olympian God.

There was a feast, where the mortals came to “settle the debts” with the Gods. Prometheus tricked Zeus with his offerings, and Zeus, in a word, fell for his trick. This enraged Zeus to such a great degree that Zeus took fire from the mortals.

Fire, itself, not only represents cooking and nourishment, but it is also a symbol of creativity, of passion.

Prometheus turned around and bravely stole the secret fire back from the Gods and gave it to humanity. Zeus was outraged! The punishments were severe. Zeus, in his rage, sent Pandora to live amongst the humans, unleashing all kinds of plagues and evil upon the humans.

(Side note: Pandora did not open her jar (some say it was a box) in order to deliberately unleash evil, she opened it out of curiosity. So similar to the story of Eve, eh? It is said that she closed the jar (or box) out of compassion, but in doing so, she left Hope sealed within. I could go on, but Pandora is not the reason for this particular entry…) As I was saying. Back to Prometheus.

Prometheus’ punishment was even more severe than that unleashed upon the humans. He was bound to Mount Caucasus, where a vulture (or eagle) was to come each morning and eat away at his liver, which would grow back again at night. This torture went on for years, until eventually Prometheus was freed by Hercules. Hercules shot and killed the bird which tormented Prometheus, freeing him once and for all from his torments.

I see a great parallel between the story of Prometheus and the artist – a reflection of the creative process itself.

There is, inevitably, a time (or many times) where an artist fears they have ‘used up’ all of their creative ideas. A time when they feel tired, spent, used up, and so certain that they will never again create anything meaningful or have the ability to express the deeper yearnings of their spirit, that they decide to give it all up. They vow to quit, to take up something much easier (like a corporate job) just to ease the pain of (the fear of) never being able to create again.

Then something miraculous happens. In the dark of that night, their liver ‘grows back again’. The artist suddenly arises with a new optimism, a heart full of energy and passion, and they return to the canvas (or to the page, or the camera) and begin creating once again.

As with Prometheus, however, the cycle continues. The birth of creativity is followed by its death, as the birth of Prometheus’ liver was followed by the painful destruction of it. Suddenly, a sense of regeneration, hope and creativity flourishes. This cycle continues until a force stronger than the doubts that pluck away at us (or our liver) free us from our chains.

What is that force? The spirit of a champion? True courage? Is it someone outside ourselves? Is it inside us, the bravest part of ourselves? Could it be our rock solid resolve to end the cycle of suffering over our artistic expressions…

I don’t know the answer to that, as I too suffer from many of those dark nights. But I find comfort in the story of Prometheus, and the idea that liberation from torment is indeed possible. So keep creating, even when it feels hard or impossible. Cultivate courage, like Hercules, to free yourself.

-Liz Huston
August 11, 2011

 

Afterword: It’s February 24, 2018, 7 years later. I just rediscovered it and wanted to share!

Observations…

I left the house in a hurry today, and in that rush, forgot to bring my headphones and a book to read on the train. The train was packed today, standing room only, so I would not have been able to read anyway. I was in the last train car, crammed in shoulder to shoulder with bikes, wheelchairs and many other commuters of all ages.

As people shuffled in and out, it was the back window I faced, standing squarely in what would be the caboose, were it not the metro. Without a book, crammed in there, the best place to rest my eyes was out that back window. And what a happy accident! The entire ride I watched, from a rare, centered vantage point, the tracks as they disappeared behind me. It had me completely mesmerized. Think about all the places trains can and have taken us – the Trans Siberian Railroad, The Orient Express, the Eurostar from Paris to London under the English Channel, even the Coast Starlight Train up the west coast! So many trains, so many destinations. There are other times in history to ponder, too; the first which came to mind was a most important railroad which wasn’t a railroad at all, the underground railroad which led so many slaves to safety.

All of these thoughts arose simply because I had time and space and had completely accepted the circumstances as they were (no book, too many people) and made the most of them. Happy, in the end to have forgotten my book, and embracing being present in the moment. It was wondrous.

I got off a stop late on purpose, partially in order to stay in my train-daydream and partially in order to take a long walk. Today the weather is beautiful, cold and windy; unusually windy for LA.

As I approached the corner of 2nd and Spring, noticed a few men gathered there waiting for the light to change. One of the men held his phone in his right hand, completely immersed in that bright screen and oblivious to the world around him, while his left hand sat palm open. I found that curious, who stands like that? At just that moment I watched as a leaf loosened itself from the tree across the street and was carried by the wind – landing squarely in his open left palm.

I think I gasped quietly, but audibly when it landed. What a completely magic moment to witness! But, as it turns out, the magic was wasted on him. He shuttered, slightly unimpressed and tossed the leaf to the ground.

I thought about picking the leaf up, but it wasn’t for me, and I knew that. The moment was for me to witness, but not to keep. How many magic moments are given to us that we don’t notice? How many leaves have landed in your palm or mine, only to be discarded without a second thought? And how many beautiful moments do we try desperately to hold onto, when they were never really ours to keep, only ours to savor once?