Thursday, December 30, 2004

What is it?

Is it rain? Snow? Rain? Snow? I don't know but it looks like winter out there and sounds like summer. Today I am going to hole up with my cup of coffee, slippers, a blanket... and read Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. It is another grey grey day out there. Perfect weather for the book I started last night. I want to read some of the books for next semester's class BEFORE I get stressed out with whatever will be expected of me. Yes, I want to enjoy them...leisurely. Anyway, Rita's got me inspired.

In this book there is a character named Lily. She is a painter. Was Woolf a painter? I think she was. She had to have been. There is no other way she would be able to write about globs of paint, color, and brush strokes the way she does. My favorite part so far is when Lily is walking down the road talking to a man when all of a sudden she sees the white wooden table of her father's in the crook of a tree. Just like that... things manifest them so strongly in her imagination that they appear as real as the silver bark of a tree. She gives no explanation. I think that is why her work is so difficult to read-- the lack of explanation for what she sees with her mind's eye. I like that about her. Why do we always walk around trying to explain ourselves? The mind is full of abstractions. Woolf allows those abstractions their full presence. This is why her stories are, at times, confusing. She travels great distances within even the ordinary. Maybe we'd all be crazy if we allowed ourselves this sight. But crazy is over-rated. It's a matter of where we allow our minds to go.
There is a line that she repeats:
"But what had happened?
Someone had blundered."

Ha! I love those parts. I have no idea what she is saying, but I have a feeling it is the parts that her mind spun out of control and was her only way of reeling back in. Someone had blundered. Stop. Take note. What is the question? Is it snow or is it rain? Something shifts. She is a strange one. I admire her for letting it show through. She hides nothing. She walks around in her novels with her mind split wide open. Yes, like Rita said... and egg split open with her insides spilled out. My guess is that her favorite color is green. The world unravels itself. This is the difficulty in holding it all together.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

jumping off into the unknown...

I haven't been blogging much because I've been writing long e-mails to friends... my long lost friends who I feel the need to share my time and energy and thoughts with. It feels good-- as though there is the possibility of regaining a sense of connection with the outside world. Yesterday I watched movies and ate potato chips until I went to bed feeling sick at 1 am. I won't need to do that anymore this break. I have all the movie and junk food time in that I needed to make up for from the past several months. However, I watched a very interesting movie: Angles in America. It was good. At moments offering incredible insight and wisdom. It was the kind of movie that made me feel like I could sit down and write page after page of thoughts with no end. But like I said- I did myself in and was only able to go to bed instead of recording any of the fleeting, insightful thoughts that I might have been having.

The last couple days I have been obsessing over finding a new house. I say obsessing because that is what it is. I have one of those obsessive natures that manifests itself in strange ways. As we drove around, Vinny reminded me that I don't have to figure all of this out right now-- not until we're actually ready. I was thankful for that. At that moment I put it to rest a little bit. This compulsive need to make a decision, to instigate change is a direct result of everything that has accumulated up until this point. It is a direct result of my inability to just relax. I guess my brain just had to rattle around for awhile before it could settle. Anyway, I'm not sure that any of the houses were right-- it will be there when the time comes. That is one thing that has always very apparent in my life. It is strange the way things fall into place when they are meant to. The right people, things, opportunities have always come to me when it was meant to be. Yesterday I was reminded of this... and felt comforted. I know I am lucky indeed to be blessed in this way. I feel like I need to quit worrying so much and just let the extraordinary fall into place. That is the only way I have ever gotten anything good out of life. And it has worked every time.

Last night I got an e-mail from my friend Nicole saying that she couldn't do the show-- our collaborative exhibition. I was relieved. I felt sad for her and wanted to give her a big hug because, like me, she is suffering from a much too hectic life. She doesn't have the energy to put into it... and neither do I. So now I have what I asked for-- time to experiment and play with my art. Time to go inside myself and not worry about what is produced or not produced. I told her about how hard this past semester has been for me too, that I understand where she is coming from. She graduated last year and is trying to find her place in the world being both an artist and a technical designer. I am trying to find my place in the world being both an artist and a writer. I am trying to find a place in the world and in myself where those two aspects of myself can exist together. I constantly feel like I'm being ripped in two directions. But it doesn't seem like I should have to-- but it is not easy. I told Nicole that I too am trying to find my footing. And it is taking more energy that I ever thought possible. I'm glad Nicole is in my life. I imagine us inspiring each other to keep painting far into our lives. Even if that means deciding together that we need to approach it from a different angle-- not always pushing so damn hard.

So now I have the time to get those big canvases built that I've been thinking about-- the size of an entire wall... to do abstract. Wordless paintings to journey through... to search for myself inside color. I am thankful for all the artists in my life, writers and painters, who have carried me to this place in life-- where the only where left to go is to jump off into the unknown. This is the territory I have always felt most comfortable with-- most alive. The unknown is tugging at me... in wordless, figureless landscapes of pure soul. It is always a hard place to travel to, with many detours along the way... but those times in the past that I have gotten there, have been the most important and memorable of my life. Here I go.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

feeling relief...

Right now I am drinking the best cup of hot chocolate in the world. It has real vanilla from Madagascar, natural processed cocoa from South America, cinnamon from China, and a little bit of sugar. My sister treats me well. Yum, a box of spices that elevate the sensations of my tastebuds, making me feel like I've traveled the world... all in one little cup. Warming my winter bones. I am already a coffee snob... my sister is turning me into a spice snob as well. These expensive tastes could grow on a person. But, mmmm, it tastes so good. She gave Vinny some fat lil' vanilla beans to cook who-knows-what with. I am looking forward to breakfast.

But now I am ready for sleep. Tiredness has finally caught up with me. The kind of tired that I can enjoy, because I have time to.

Merry Christmas everyone. And sweet dreams. The day is done. It feels good to be home.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I used to like Christmas...

but I'm liking it less every year. I remember the first time I missed Christmas, I was in India, sitting on the dirt floor of my palm frond hut on the Arabian Sea. Who could complain about that? I sent christmas post cards home to all my friends and family with a picture of the cockroach I was living with. It was as big as an ornament. But cockroaches aside, I pulled out the christmas card my friend had given me before leaving... the one that said "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS!" I loved her for that. Because it turned out I needed it more than I thought I would. That night I slept on the beach, looking at stars, and realizing how much I missed everyone. I haven't talked to that friend in a long time. And family... well, that has gotten pretty complicated. Christmas plans have changed one to many times. But this year, Vinny and I will spend Christmas Eve alone. It will be wierd, but I am looking forward to that part of it. We'll eat cannolies (his specialty) and play scrabble by the fire and pretend we're in a country far away from everyone else's problems. We decided not to exchange gifts this year. That part feels good. But I can't help but buy a tennis ball for Abe. Yes, the dog loves opening presents. He loves tennis balls. He lives for them. It is how he expresses love. Snuggle? Tennis ball? Those are his favorite words. I wish other people could be as easily satisfied. I've always loved tradition. But it seems to be getting in the way these days. It's not about what it should be. Actually, it's turned into something that people cry and get upset over. Tonight my grandma called and started freaking out on me again. I tried explaining to her that, at that moment, Vinny and I were decorating the tree. In other words, couldn't it wait? I am wondering if there will ever be peace. Yea, I love tradition, but not unrealistic expectations. There's a difference. If only I could fix everyone's world. I would. I am trying hard to go with the flow. Just be there when I can, but know when to say enough is enough. It is never an easy task.

But on the positive side, yes, we finally got our tree up and decorated. I cleaned the basement which had turned into a disgusting hole and rearranged the bedroom. There was about an inch of dust on everything. And I won't mention how big the dog/cat hair balls were that lurked in the corners. I'm having a hard time coming down from all the work I've done in the past few weeks (months actually). I took it out on the house. I'm hoping that relaxation will find me soon. In the process, the house is a little bit nicer place to be.

Yesterday, I hung out at the studio most of the day. But I only painted for maybe a half hour. A block of hot pink, and a little red. A wall and a fire-hydrant. I wrote, and looked through books, and basically just putzed around. Putzing-- that's all I really wanted to do. At this rate I am wondering if I will actually be ready for the show I have planned at the end of January. I wonder also if my collaborative partner will be ready either. I haven't gotten far, she hasn't even started. Yesterday I just felt no desire to push myself any further. I find myself wanting to do abstract paintings instead. Wordless colors... merely emotional responses, nothing more. In my putz mode I also did a Tarot reading. It didn't help to motivate me, rather justified my lack of forward momentum. The card representing my past said that I have just finished a very stressful part of my life. The card for the present said that what I need to do now is sleep, to rest, and renew my energy. Well, that hit it right on. Unfortunately, I didn't understand the meaning of the card representing my future. Nothing except that I need to appreciate what I have. hmmm-- interesting. I don't hold full stock in what a tarot reading might say. I believe that we are responsible for our own past, present, and future. It is not dictated by what card may say. But it does provide a window of thought, a way of examining your life. And so yes, at face-value, I feel that I should use this time to relax. Not to feel guilty about what I am or am not doing. What I really want to do now is explore my art freely, without worrying that it will be hanging on gallery walls and that it will be seen and judged by others. I need to just go inside myself for awhile-- explore, experiment. And not worry about deadlines and reactions.

Sometimes I feel like my life is heading in a direction that I did not plan for. My art has played a big part in this. I feel the need to be open-- towards possibilites, towards the future. Pushing myself so hard has made me feel like I'm wearing blinders, like a beaten and submissive horse.

Today Vinny gave me a suitcase. It is old and brown. He didn't want it anymore. At the dinner table, I asked him-- if he was going to leave his life as he knows it now and he could only pack what fit in that suitcase... what would he bring? He got hung up on what the weather would be like where he was going and if I would fit in the case. Ok... but assuming that we'd be leaving together and that anything we might need along the way would be provided, what would you bring from your old life?
I decided that I would bring:
my photo albums
my old journals
what ever books that would fit (but which ones???)
and my little buddha for good luck.

that's all. I could easily walk away from the rest. Life is interesting that way. Why do we carry around so much baggage, collect so much junk, when in truth, most of it is of so little use?

Tonight I hope to dream of wild horses. Wild and free and living each spontanious moment as though there was nothing to weigh it down. I wonder where I would end up if I didn't bring the suitcase at all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Water, words, and stars...

Today I moved into the new studio-- the corner one with two windows instead of one. Painted the walls white. White! I've never painted anything white before. I am a woman of bold colors. But I was feeling in need of white-- simple, like snow. But color got the best of me and I painted the pipes (it is an old building) orange and magenta. It felt good to get settled into the new space. I came home tired and Hungry. I slept good. Woke up once to stars bearing down on me through the cold sky. Was I dreaming, or was it really that surreal? Now that I am awake, I see that they really are that amazing. It must be the cold-- doing something to the atmosphere that brings the stars a little closer, making them shine brighter, bigger.

I was also dreaming of paintings. One was of water, one of words, and one of a Mexican woman wrapped in a red shawl. I am looking forward to the coming week. I have a feeling that Vinny is going to get lonely. It is all I can do to keep from driving back to town in the dark of morning to get my dreams down on canvas. But I will wait. I want to have breakfast with my husband. I want to lay around in the sun with the cats for a little while. I want to lounge and not move too fast. I'll go to the studio later. Listen to good music. Enjoy myself. Yes, life is feeling as surreal as the stars. I am enjoying getting used to it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!

The "I'm done" song comes to you from the one and only Barb, the one who taught me this dance in the dark halls of Hagg-Sauer one quiet Sunday night. I am happy to say I can finally join along in the chorus.

Needless to say, my eyes are puffy and tired. The mirror does not lie-- I look like shit. But now-- oh-now... it is time for the best sleep I've had in forever. No clenched jaw. No biting of my lip... just a deeeeeeeeeeep peaceful sleep. And in the morning I will make a pot of coffee and head for the studio. Oh joy!

After my last class tonight I came home and rearranged the living room to make space for a christmas tree...which Vinny and I will adventure into the woods for tomorrow.

I'm floating. I think it's time for some sleep. I've done enough complaining for one semester.

It's over! :) :)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It's snowing!

I want snow. I want a dark day to ease the strain on these eyes of mine that I tired and hurt from staring at this computer screen for so long. I feel like I got lost on Mango Street somewhere. Took a turn down a dark alley. Yes, it's hard to believe that it would snow in a place called Mango Street... but it is Chicago after all. I am such a slow writer. Shoveling words at this point. My head is floating. My eyeballs feel like separate entities. I can only hope that this cup of coffee-- strong and in a favorite cup of mine, will put my thoughts back in place. The paper is due today, and I must admit, I have enjoyed writing it.

I have stumbled upon something else that feels good this semester... and that is writing by hand. With paper and a pen. Writing becomes a physical act, not just a mental one. When I write on paper, I can feel my mind keeping time with the ink moving across the surface of my thoughts. I feel as though I am actively participating with the words on the page... something that sitting at a computer sometimes lacks. Yes, I have come to appreciate this form of writing, longhand, very much. I have a stack of old journals 3 feet high. But writing on paper feels different now... better.

This has been the hardest semester in my life. And I never want it to be this way again. Writing, pen on paper, might be the only thing that saved me.

4 more days and it will be over. I hope for lots of snow. I look forward to going into the woods in search of a Christmas tree. I look forward to moments of peace. To creativity. To having a little bit of my life back.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

eating mangos and feeling sneaky...

or at least like time is sneaking away from me. I should be working on my paper... not blogging. But just quickly, I need to make a mark saying, yes, I still exist.
The last couple of days I have been working diligently on a critical essay on Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. I never in my life would have thought I would enjoy this kind of writing-- but I am! There is something about her language that absolutely sweeps me away. I stop occassionally to let Spanish words swell, turn into satin, then slip smoothly off my tongue to land here and there. Silvery threads. I say the name, Esperanza, out loud and let the letter "r" roll around in my mouth before it falls to the page.
I am amazed by Cisneros' ability to take such simple language and with it create level upon level of meaning... a house of cards-- fragile, and multi-layered. A world both internal and external, both beautiful and ugly. And lil' ol' me, well obviously, I am inspired.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A blizzard of noisy dreams...

This wind is going to drive me nuts today. It is about ready to rip the screens out of the windows and pull the roof right off. I'm hearing some shifting creaking sounds coming from places where silence would be preferable. The things on the porch are knocking around and wolfie's locked up in V.'s room. The cat's are smartly in the basement. And I'm sitting next to my window freezing to death like an idiot tied to the computer.

On the other hand I wish this wind would whisk me up and send me flying back to India. Swoop-- she's gone. Last night I had a dream that I was back on Chandni Chowk in the Old City of Delhi. Oh- the chaos was blissful. The smells, the broken down shops, the samosas... and best of all the graffiti written a cement wall and shards of corrugated steel. I wrote back to this graffiti which is when it happened... when I found my words again. I couldn't stop. A feeling of elation. Is that where I have to go to get that part of my brain back? Yes, I want to go back. It felt so good to return... if even just for a dream. Someday I am going to go back. And I promise I will not come back the same.

Sometimes I feel like my college education is turning me into something I'm not. Or maybe it is just the expectations surrounding it. Before I went to school I decided to travel the world. I knew I had nothing to teach until I learned something about myself. And what I found I consider to be the best part of me. Now I spend more time thinking about where and how and if I'll get a job. I feel like a drone, a cog in the machine at times. There's something about India that has always felt like it could save me from that. Yes, someday I will return. And I look forward to that day. In life I am not willing to settle for anything less than the extraordinary. I have a great fear of living a "normal" life, of slipping into a homogenized comatose.

Let the wind blow this house down. Fuck it. I'm ready to wear words, bold colors, and an uncertainty of tomorrow. India, I miss you. This place rattles too much in the wrong ways. One of these days soon it is going to be time to move on...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I'll write for old times sake...

This blogging thing is going down the tubes. So much for doing it everyday. Anyway, I've noticed that my creative writing muscles have turned to absolute mush. I'm a bit dismayed. I wonder what I will have to do in order to get that part of me back. All I wanted to do today was watch TV. It's a good thing we don't get any channels out here.
Instead I have successfully waded through about 50 pounds of portfolios and journals. It took me three times longer than I thought it would (becoming the case always). But now I can (briefly) celebrate (with a glass of water and some sleep). It's done.
And now I no longer have a brain of my own. I am capable of only gibberish. I have V. for a witness.

* * * * * * * * *

This morning I woke up early. It was still dark out when I made coffee. But as the light shifted I was able to make out the forms of several deer moving slowly across the field. They looked dark dark green against the snow. Color is an amazing thing. Our minds try to trick us out of seeing the way things really are. Anu (the wolf) didn't even see them. She was too busy hunting mice. Even so, she surprises me. When she notices the deer, she likes to just watch them. A couple years ago she even befriended an adolescent fawn.
Yes, life is peaceful out here. The woodstove has once again kept us warm through another winter day.
Tomorrow I think I will get up early again. This time to journey into the world of Latin America. On to the next subject of my endeavors.

...Until then I can only hope that sleep will repair this brain of mine.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I am a glutton for punishment...

Reading student essays. These are about art. I told myself I wasn't going to spend as much time on these. But I find them intriguing. They pull me in and I can't help but write them long notes at the end of each essay. Now I know why Carol spent such long hours in the painting studio, writing responses to our artwork. She couldn't help herself! And neither can I. Some students put so much energy into their essays... I can't help but give a little back. Unfortunately it is going to eat into my precious BIRTHDAY time tomorrow. Oh well, art is a good thing. I'm glad to see my students have an appreciation for it. I am amazed by some of the connections they make. Yes, they amaze me all the time.

But now... it is time for bed. To dream about my own art-- the stuff I am too busy to make.
Maybe I'll float around in Van Gogh's starry night. Talia's essay blew me away.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

It is cold...

inside and out. It's cold. I am sitting in my flannel pajamas, slippers, and wrapped in a blanket. Too lazy to fire up the woodstove. Grey light falls through the window, leading outwards to wind and ice. We live in a field. The combination of conditions creates a broad expanse of mind that today I am going to try to use to my benefit.

Yesterday I had a good conversation with a professor. I, for the most part, spent most of the conversation fumbling with my thoughts. But I walked out of his office and into my classroom feeling better about this process of becoming a teacher. It was one of the best classes yet. I felt present. My students were present. We spent the entire hour really talking. I saw a side of them that they had not shared before. And they in turn saw a side of me they had never seen. It was good. It felt like what teaching and learning is really about.

Today I am going to write the paper I've been struggling with for the past two weeks. I'm going to get it done. And this time I am going to try to approach it differently-- not to try to solve the "Great Inequities" of the teaching/ learning process, but simply to explore a few ideas that I have found comfort in. This semester has been hard. But it has made me all the more thankful for those that have helped make it a bit easier.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I should be doing a million other things...

like writing the content for Web Design, taking notes for Rhetorical Theory, or writing about Sandra Cisneros. But first just a moment of writing for myself. And even though I don't have much to say... it feels good.

I got to my office this morning and checked my e-mail. There was one from a student with the title "Guess What!" I was so happy for her I that I got a bit misty eyed walking down the hall with a big beaming smile to show Vinny-- she got an editorial published in her hometown newpaper that she sent in for a class assignment. There is something exciting about seeing your words in print-- and I'm excited for her.

Today my pant cuffs and socks are wet from all the snow we got last night. I wish I had my big fuzzy blanket here in the office to snuggle into. I slept good last night. Today I feel like accomplishing things.

... and believe it or not, I'm even looking forward to writing that 20 page paper on Cisneros. It's what I've been wanting to do for some time now. Interesting, the ways I've changed.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I was on a mission to write for this blog every day-- but it is becoming difficult. My brain is full of everything that needs to be done. Today I worked in my office, with the lights low. It was quiet in the hallways. Everyone is working hard on thier end-of-the-semester business. I feel a sense of accomplishment after writing 2 assignments and planning my class through to the end of the semester. My to-do list is far from crossed off, but tonight I will concentrate on reading short stories and even though it is for class, it is a welcome break.
My wolfie scratches at the door. I feel bad. She's lonely, but it is always dark when I get home. No moon to go for a walk by the light of. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight it is snowing. There's a fire in the woodstove. My belly is full on a wonderful meal that Vinny made. I do love winter. It creates a certain kind of "hardship" that makes me appreciate all small things even more.
Making the tea taste especially good tonight.