Liz Huston

Original Art, Musings and Photography

Category: Uncategorized

The unseen process between the question and the answer

An acquaintance messaged me today asking in the most genuine of manners, how I am doing. I don’t know her well, so despite the tug I felt to bear my heart and soul, my response was polite. I safely and lightly danced around the question in order to avoid troding directly upon the depth which her inquiry had stirred up.

It’s a curious thing that I would rather write an honest answer to the question in my blog, and to people I don’t know, rather than people I do. I wonder what that says about me, really? Am I just participating in an unspoken but pervasive societal rule, assuming that nobody really wants the true answer to the question “How are you?”
How often do I truly want the answer? All the time I want to tell myself. Sometimes I don’t have the bandwidth or the time for the real answer, it’s true, though often, I do. I want a true answer in response to my inquiry of others’ well-being. So why is it that when I have a true, deep answer to give, it feels like such an imposition to give in all that depth?

And so, I turn to this blog, to say what I really wanted to say (and may still send as an amendment)…

At the bottom of it all, I am okay. We are living in quite a paradox, or at least I am. Perhaps it is not fair of me to lump the grand ‘we’ in with my solitary observations. With every thought, action and deed, I am willing myself to just accept the unknown with grace, and a dash of trust – in order to avoid slipping off the sharp cliff and into despair. There is much melancholy within and all around – and yet, so. much. beauty.
The roses in my neighbor’s garden are blooming with such a ferocious strength and in such great numbers, that when the wind is just right, their scent wafts into my open window. The branches from their mulberry tree lean over into my yard and drop their fruits at my door. When I pause long enough to see these gifts of unexpected beauty, the melancholy lifts like a marine layer in the afternoon. It will be back, though.

I have been making art as often as I can, though not as often as I would like. My deepest satisfaction has been coming from painting mandalas with oil paints – deeply meditative, pressureless acts of devotion, focus and simplicity. Pressureless because they will not be for sale or exhibition, so the inner critic takes a vacation. I must say, it is immensely enjoyable to create without a drill sergeant hurling insults at me. My lines are more precise, the time passes quickly, and there is a deep sense of satisfaction at a day well spent. These paintings are not meant for the world, they are a simply conversation between my heart and the divine, whomever that may be. Perhaps that is why the critic is not interested? Is the critic only present as a representative to my ego when there is the question of reputation at hand? I wonder how I might silence the critic more often as I approach my artwork?

I took a long walk early this morning; 5,600 more steps than I did yesterday, which sounds like a lot, but I only took 65 steps yesterday according to my phone. Between my gym being down (obviously), and confusion as to what outdoor activities were allowed, I have been moving my body somewhere between not nearly enough and not at all. Which may also explain the pervasive melancholy. On my walk today, I spotted a little library of books, a well-fed but skittish coyote, a cooing morning dove, a tiny starling, 3 squirrels darting up and down the trees, a bamboo forest with its own cooler climate, and 3 humans. It’s funny to me that even in a large city like LA, there’s still a small-town vibe in the early morning hours, a sense of community as we pass each other and nod good morning from our mutually safe distances.

I’ve noticed a new favorite word popping up for me lately: agency.
Agency as in: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power
(thank you Miriam-Webster).
It’s no wonder, really, that the word would get my attention the last few days, as it is the vital ingredient I have been most lacking since the quarantine began. In waking up early today and taking that walk, I found a sense of agency once more. And now that I have properly reflected on the original question, I can answer you honestly…

I am well. Thank you for asking. How are you?

Acceptance and Gardeners

I live in a guest house in a green part of Los Angeles, which I rent from a wonderful doctor. She owns this large property (which has a second guest house on it, in addition to her house and mine), and employs gardeners who come every Sunday. They seem to be nice, gentle men, and I have no choice but to trust them.

Lately on Sundays, I keep forgetting that they are coming – noticing only when the leaf blower comes far too close to my open front door, blowing gas fumes and debris through the screen into my home. I honestly wish they would stop using the leaf blower on my porch, and have asked, but with the language barrier, I don’t think they understood. So, there is nothing to be done about that, really. Just keep the door closed.

There are wild, untamed morning glory vines growing all over my house. Some of them I have trained to climb the walls, while others I have coerced into creating an archway above my door. At a glance, my garden looks untended, unloved, but nothing could be further from the truth. I treasure this garden. The lush green, the bright purple flowers, the lizards, the hummingbirds, the squirrels, my cat and I all get along harmoniously.
There is a small section of herbs which I planted 4 years ago, and marvel at their tenacity. Rosemary by the gate. Mint, growing wild and free a few feet away. Lavender, which is just now starting to flower. Oregano and thyme, which I use to cook with, and basil, which I can’t seem to keep alive, but never stop trying. I tend to these herbs as best I can, keeping them safe from the intrusive vines whose nature it is to take over everything else.

These last couple of months in isolation have been very strange. There are swaths of time where I don’t feel motivated to do anything – even the simplest of tasks seems too complex for me. It’s as if I have an allotted number of things I can accomplish on any given day, and seem to bottom out after only 4. So, then, yes, I have neglected my garden. I have neglected the herbs. I walk by them and think “I really have to cut back those vines”, but did not do it once in the last 30 days.

Yesterday was Sunday. Gardener’s day. I woke up in a decent mood, and remembered to keep my door closed. Once they were long gone, I stepped outside into the warm, afternoon light. I walked down from the porch and looked around. It was untouched – the morning glories were wild and free as ever, the weeds still jetted up a good 5 inches. I think to myself that they must have had their hands full with the rest of the property, and spared my house. Which was a kind of relief, actually. I appreciate that she employs them, but they never seem to care for my garden the way I would like. I took a deep breath, mentally going over my plans for the day and decided that today was the day to finally trim those vines near the herbs.

But what I saw on the other side of the gate, in my herb garden, broke my heart a little bit.

Dirt.

Only dirt. Where once, only hours earlier, there were lush green herbs, now only dirt. They cut down and removed my rosemary. They dug up my mint, my oregano and my thyme. The lavender was spared, as was the jasmine and the baby olive tree. The basil was gone. The trees were pruned back a painful distance. My Eden was disrupted. No, it was robbed. I stood looking in disbelief. It was the loss of the mint and rosemary that hurt the most.

Why would they pull up all of my perfectly good herbs? Sure, there were a ton of vines circling them, but couldn’t they be spared? It hit me so hard, this loss. It was a symbol of my own powerlessnes, my inability to meaningfully shape my life right now during this pandemic. I wanted the relief of tears, but held myself together. Lost herbs are not a thing to cry over, Liz.

What could I do? My landlady is a doctor, and the last thing she needs right now as she works endless shifts helping people is her needy tenant complaining about poor gardening choices. As for the gardeners, I don’t know how to reach them, and what would I say? There is nothing to be done. Truly. Nothing to be done, except to accept what has happened. Accept the loss. Accept that we are not in control. I am not in control.

I see the parallel in so many areas of my own life. There is a long-time situation on my mind which I just cannot seem to accept and move on from – still very much in bargaining phase of my grief there it seems. But in that situation, in the powerlessness that is living in the time of Covid, as well as this loss of herbs, there is nothing to be done short of acceptance.

I cannot save what has been uprooted, I can only plant new seeds.

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

 

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 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

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.
 

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

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…”

I danced

From my journals, post trip:

I’ve been home from Greece for a few days now. It’s 3am, and I have still only slept in fits and starts. The jet lag is so much worse than ever. Every night, if I can sleep at all, I wake up every two hours confused, looking desperately for the Libyan Sea or some other now familiar landmark. I am glad to be in my house with a purring cat on my lap – but it all feels different. I feel different. There has been a deepening in me, and there has been a wounding and a profound healing.

The world is full of terrors, I feel shallow and selfish being so preoccupied with this feeling. I should be doing something more productive with my time, something to help others, but what can I do when I my heart is howling? I found that place in my soul that has been calling me for a lifetime – and now I weep from the feeling that I left it all behind.  It is a sad, frightening feeling when I wake up at 3am looking for the sea. Where is the sea? Where is my heart?

There is work, there are art shows and deadlines, collectors and ideas pushing me forward to get back into the work. Of that, I am so very thankful. I use that lifeline to re-enter my life. I lived something mythic in Crete, honoring it with making new artwork is my gift back.

And yet, the sadness. My priorities have shifted ahead of my life. I dream of going back there to Crete. And yet somewhere inside I believe that once you have left, you can never return. The pain is tremendous. What am I mourning?

I explore the contrast, which serves to give shape to everything. The night gives way to the day, the hot to the cold, the happy to the sad, the deep to the shallow. We receive tremendous benefit from experiencing the contrasts, they clarify and refine all the edges, sharp and blurred.

Looking to the contrast of this extreme feeling, I realize that even though I have worked very hard to make something of myself as an artist, that in so doing I have been isolating myself to the point of danger. I don’t think I am actually meant to be alone. I don’t think I actually want to be alone. This revelation blows my mind.

In Lentas, I grew close with a small group of medicine women who gathered there from around the US and Greece. We were looking for healing, community and sisterhood. We each brought a unique piece to the puzzle, sharing our gifts with the group, and in our close communing, were prompted to see our shadows and our light. The support in those moments was overwhelming in its vastness, its wisdom. I was at home with these women, we became a family of sorts.

I had the sea, beautiful and bountiful food, the support of a community, all in the lands and the ruins of a culture that venerated the Goddess. If I had a religion, it would be of the ancient Goddess cults, that has always been where my heart knows itself. In the sweetness of all those experiences, what else was a single woman to do but fall for the handsome stranger at the local tavern?

Our moonlit encounters on the beach were the archetype of every beautiful and trashy romance novel. I was utterly smitten. For his part, for what he felt, I do not really know. I want to believe the same of him, but perhaps that is naive. Our ending was a bit tragic, full of miscommunications and missed opportunities. So many evenings together and in the end, we never even said goodbye. There are no pictures, he has no presence online. That part of the story is done, and I feel I cheated myself there. Was it fear and old stories that kept me from truly finishing what we had started? Or did it just go as far as it could? I will never know.

Yet, because life is generous, on my last night, despite that abrupt ending, my heart was expanded even greater, and into more joy than I had ever known!

There was food and community and an incredible Cretan band played who played for hours upon hours (five hours or so, I think). Their music stirred me profoundly. I danced and danced and danced! Tried to learn the traditional dances, which were fun and centered around community. I was not great at them, but with a heart as overflowing as mine, they didn’t seem to care. They welcomed me anyway! The band bought me drinks, the other patrons bought me drinks, and we danced some more. When the others were tired of dancing, I kept going, my body could not stop!

In my dance, I was following the ecstatic spirit of the music, my heart, the sacred land and the magic sea. I danced for the joys that were revealed to me in that week, and I danced for the sorrows at leaving it all behind. I danced for the beauty that is yet to come and I danced for all that is strange and frightening in the world. I danced for the sisters I had found, and the love we all shared. I danced for the man in the tavern who was not there, and I danced for the man who would come next. I danced for my heart coming home to herself, and I danced a prayer that this would please please please come around in some form, again.

IMG_5422

This is me. Happiest I’ve ever been in all my life, on the last night I spent in Crete, as the band played on. October, 2017. (Photo by Demeter)