Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

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?

My anniversary…

The date on my seller’s permit is 2/15/2006.  This means that I have been a self employed artist for 12 years, today. A dozen years!

12 years ago I was happily married, raising our daughter (then 5), and working at a great job in the music industry. I had this crazy idea of becoming a full time artist, but took baby steps to realize that dream. I first began working from home and traveling the city with my traveling curiosity shoppe, bringing my husband and daughter to the weekend events, selling my photography, handmade jewelry and procured curiosities. Momentum began to build, I started to take artistic risks. Things were good; I took a deep breath and gave notice to my wonderful and safe job.

Just 3 years after that bold move, my husband, having met another woman, asked for a divorce. In that splitting I lost my job (I worked from home), my family, most of my belongings and my entire life as I knew it. I very nearly gave up on my art dream, but somehow kept it going. I lived in tiny apartments, sleeping on the couch, taking every freelance job I could find to just stay alive. Time and time again I nearly opted for the easy way out, to get a regular job, but every time when it came right down to it, I just couldn’t do it. So I kept at my art, I kept honing my craft and vision. I kept making my books and I kept submitting my art to shows. I was receiving no alimony or child support – I only had my wits and determination to keep me going.

Sometimes I marvel that I’ve been at it so long without throwing in the towel – and boy have I ever gotten close. But I can’t give up on my dream, it’s not in my makeup to give up. So I show up, even with faith runs low, I show up and I do the work, and the work has, in turn given me EVERYTHING. This art that I make, it not only saved my life, but it gave me life.

It’s not often been an easy path, that’s for sure. But it’s always been my right path – the path that holds the most heart for me.

My sincere wish is for everyone to find what their path is, the one with heart, and to follow it faithfully. And in that following, to be surrounded with the love and support of people who believe in them – especially when their own faith dims.

I am lucky to have had the support of so many people who have purchased my art over the years, of my dear friends and family who have encouraged me in those times when the light dims.  It feels a bit weird to share this, to celebrate anything when the world seems so broken and fragile. But we must continue to find value in who we are and what we bring to the world. We absolutely must shine on.

Thank you for being here to celebrate this milestone with me.
I am truly so grateful.
Thank you for a dozen years of this magnificent art life.

With love,
LizCuriosities-Liz-2006

Photo of me, Liz Huston, circa 2006, in my home studio

On Support…

Is it hard to believe that your dreams are supported? Is it too far fetched to believe that when you lose faith in yourself, your path, that encouragement and support will arrive, gathering around like a warm blanket of comfort? Or maybe it arrives and unites to form a ladder, lifting you to a great height so that you can once more reach the thread of your vision and get back to creating?

There are times in life when it gets dark, no matter what your path, and it is hard to believe there is a benevolent universe there to help. Luckily, that is right when the support shows up – usually in the most unlikely of places.

My phases are cyclical, it seems. Times of inspiration, that fevered time of creation is seemingly always followed by periods of drought. The creative drought is one of the most painful times in an art life; that space between the created and the becoming a barren wasteland of hopelessness. I have been in one of those painful drought periods, where the ideas are not solid enough to grab onto, and the longing for them, exhausting.

I nearly gave up this morning. Reached the point where it felt that I could not drag my weary body into the shoppe for even one more day. All I wanted was a dedicated studio day, alone with my art, courting ideas, and of course complete with long walks in nature under this perfect Sunday blue sky. But I knew I could not give in to that longing – I had to rally and come in to work. The longing was winning though, and despondent and tearful, I laid on the couch not knowing what to do. That was when help arrived; he actually picked me up and drove me to work. Bless that man.

Once I got to the shoppe, I was immediately greeted by wonderful people; full of enthusiasm and spirit. I felt like the right decision had been made, and being here today was where I belonged.

I received a surprise box from the U.K. in the mail.
It was such a surprise, as I don’t know anyone there – at least, nobody who would send me an box. I opened it, and inside was a beautiful letter explaining it all – who it’s from, why these items were chosen, what they signify, and how they relate to my work and my little world. I’ve rarely felt so seen and so appreciated. It was incredibly thoughtful, and I’m still a bit awestruck that someone I met once a year and a half ago went to such great lengths. I held my breath as I read the letter, as I opened the gifts. I could feel the care and the earnestness and the appreciation for something I do day in and day out, sent with love across the Atlantic. Amazing.

A couple came in, the man out of nowhere bestowing quotes upon me.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Helen Keller

“You’re an artist because you see more. With that comes the responsibility of communicating what it is you see.”

I had said nothing about my trying morning, the nagging doubts, nor of the confusing desert landscape in my heart. And yet, having said nothing, still the encouragement came.

Life is beautiful and strange and full of the most wonderous poetry. You just never know what will lead where, or what will fix what…
Perhaps the point is to just keep going.

Of quiet and longing

It was a strange day in the gallery today. With so many people about and wandering in the bookstore, it should have been a lucrative day – but it was not. I imagine most of them are on vacation, and with their carefree holidays coming to an end, have no time or interest in the alternative worlds that adorn my walls.

In the absence of an attentive audience, I busied myself with the work of a business owner; balancing the budget, considering employee schedules, allocating funds for reordering supplies. Realizing I have not the funds for any of it, I turned a hopeful glance to the patrons in my space.

But I was invisible to them today, or at least it felt that way. They found my art strange and weird, a compliment on most days, today it was not. Some of them, teenagers, even giggled awkwardly. At one point, hurt in a way that I should not still hurt (doesn’t 5 years of this business of art give me thicker skin?), I attempted to take some control of the situation and closed my glass doors (with me inside) to prevent their entrance. That mattered not. The people were not there today to buy, and after the third fated, “what beautiful frames you have” comment, I closed early, walked to the train, and came home. But can one come home early on a day they are not scheduled? Why did I even go in on a day I did not have to?

Last night I ached for the earth. All I wanted was a place in nature to go – a private, quiet spot to park my car next to a natural haven to sit my weary spirit down and be with Pachamama (Mother Earth). But the parks had all closed, and there weren’t even any places to stop the car and just get out, to just be still for a moment. I drove for hours like a woman who has not had water in days looking for a well; a fevered desire for just one tree, just one tree…

I never found that spot. Returned home defeated, a little sick from the longing. My own slice of heaven, that is what I would like. Only heaven is not in the clouds, it is right here, right now. I know the original Eden is still here, it calls to me as I call to it. If I could just find it.

My adventure last night was a striking parallel to the realities of our harsh modern life. We move too fast, going nowhere in particular, and without a natural place to rest and regroup.

Constant motion, distraction, busy busy. Perpetually pushed forward in a fevered dream of commerce and commodity.

The elite buy up the land and lock it away from the rest of us, charging admission, creating hours of operation for a thing that is, by its essence, free and wild. In the suburbs, where does one escape the cold modernity for the wildness of nature?

On the train home today I started thinking about that search last night which led to a question of pleasure, of joy, of happiness. What gives me pleasure? I feel so little of it in this constricting life I’ve created. I’m suffocated by the pressure to do do do, to go go go. What is the thing that feeds my spirit and heart like nothing else?

Venice.

That is my first and perhaps, truest answer.

I can no longer remember the details of what it was like to live steps away from the pacific shore, even though it was nearly 7 years, off and on. Perhaps I am protecting myself from the memories. I loved living in Venice so completely and was utterly heartbroken when I had to leave (which I did for my daughter, and only her, but that is a story for another time…)

My heart remembers Venice though, in the way only a heart can. It has some precious details, like the sharpness of the paint that was peeling off my fire escape perch. Or the rattling sound the fire escape made when someone walked up it.
Sometimes the memories are all about my neighbor, how we would talk for hours from our respective perches (my fire escape, his balcony); smoking cigarettes and tossing each other books to read into the wee hours of the night – night after night after night. Sometimes it’s remembering the early morning sunrise walks, when the sand was so cold I thought my toes would freeze right off. Or the way I always kept the windows open, hearing the ocean, smelling the saltwater, sometimes letting in magical creatures like a hummingbird or a dragonfly.
It’s the laughter of the women across the hall, so dear and precious friends, their laughter like gold. All of these moments and so much more, live inside a feeling in my heart. Tucked safely in a tiny space I rarely ever open anymore, for it just hurts too much.

There are times when the memories surface unsolicited. When the air is cool, and the sky is blanketed with thin clouds, I feel the person I was when I lived a life I loved, in a city I loved.

The memory-feeling goes as quickly as it came. Exhale heavily. What would bring pleasure in this moment, right now?

A book. I want to be taken by words carefully crafted by another that weave a tale of some extraordinary, yet ordinary life. I have books to read already, so many of them, hundreds even- but none of them are right. They are all so informative, which I enjoy, but am so tired of learning. Right now, I want to be seduced. And then I remember my plight, there is no budget for a new book…

The library is still open. I found 4 books that piqued my interest, plus a book on how to paint watercolors like Turner (I am a good student, after all).

The sun has gone down now. The air is crisp, cool and a little bit moist, which is strange for this desert. I look up and see that the clouds have obscured the stars.

Through the gate, walk under the overgrowth, up the steps, books in hand, I turn the key and step inside my warm and empty home.

It is empty from the lack of another body, but warm from the presence of something familiar.
What is this feeling?
What is this presence?

It is myself.

That life I loved in a city I loved? It’s still alive in me. The feeling arose and greeted me tonight in the silence of this pink room.

And I said aloud, “hello old friend…”