Archives for category: gardening

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about life as art. Authenticity, creativity, beauty… transcendence of pain, finding voice for those things in life for which we lack language or words… isn’t a life well-lived, itself, an artistic endeavor? Life, lived, as an art form, itself… means… what? Another day in the studio. Today, a lot of questions, consideration of the day behind me, work already started, unfinished – like life.

Who is the artist? A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really; gnothi seauton. The journey to the answer, is the life as art.

A woman told me, once, some long time ago in another life altogether, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body – I’m not an artist. I don’t do anything creative.” I took that at face value, at the time, and it fit my understanding of the world, then. I later saw her in her home. Her home struck me as a piece of fairly wonderful artistry, and the lack of paint staining her jeans, or dust under her nails, or bits and pieces of creative moments needing to be cleaned up didn’t detract from that impression at all. Her home was lovely, orderly, cared-for – each piece of memorabilia, each ornament, carefully selected, an impression exquisitely crafted – how is this not also art? Wherever she moved, she appeared to be quite carefully placed to communicate a mood, a moment, or an idea of beauty. The point I’m trying to make is that, as an artist, it isn’t really for me to define “what is art?” – only to define who I am, as an artist, myself. Those choices are not made of words – they are conveyed by my actions. By my art.

Words over coffee. It was a good day in the studio yesterday. Playing with paint – and chaos. I choose my materials with care.

A pair, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow and UV. “Chaos Theory”

I did several pieces as pairs yesterday, specifically indulging my fascination with chaos theory. I started with two canvases, the same palette of colors for each, the same measured amounts of those pigments, placed similarly on each canvas, the canvases placed side by side, and worked as a single larger piece, to the same playlist. Mood, movement, brush strokes, technique – all as much the same as I can easily make them.  In every instance, of course, two different canvases still result. Not just different-as-in-separate-and-individual, but also just… different, as in – not the same. It was a fun day in the studio, playing with science, chemistry, and philosophy.

I spent the day in a meditation made of movement, color, and music, contemplating differences and similarities, considering the way I’ve carved up my life into “separate canvases”; the life of the artist, alongside the life of the analyst. The lover, alongside the angry woman. The professional, alongside the free spirit. The citizen, alongside the protester. I spent the day thinking about life as art, and contemplating this vast broad canvas of experiences as a single unified whole. I spent the day free of any constraints aside from those I have assigned myself. I answered a few questions – I asked a lot more.

I spent time in the garden, too. Another living metaphor.

I gardened later. I grilled a lovely summer evening repast. I meditated as evening came, and watched the dwindling twilight become night. It was the sort of day I could single out from among many and say “this is some of my best work”, as an artist.

Happily enough, it’s already time to begin again. The day stretches ahead of me, a blank canvas. You, too. What will you do with it?

I slept well. I woke rested. My coffee is adequate, and I’m content with that. It’s a generally pleasant morning. Sunday’s bit of afternoon aggravation in traffic seems far behind me, and it would be easy to just let that go so completely that I leave myself at risk of repeating that experience for lack of fully considering the circumstances, and how best to care for myself and build lasting emotional resilience such that it doesn’t ever happen again (a lofty, potentially unreasonable goal, also worth keeping a watchful eye on).

The flowers in my garden may bloom on their own, but they do so more beautifully, more generously, more reliably, if I care for them with skill.

This morning I take time to consider what opportunities for self-care got overlooked, or set aside, and which among the later consequences turned out to be unacceptable compromises after-the-fact; it’s a helpful way to re-calibrate what matters most. It’s helpful for ensuring I continue to practice those practices that support my long-term wellness, even where that may occasionally also mean a long-term lifestyle change. (Trust me, making the changes in my lifestyle needed to skillfully support my emotional wellness, over the past three years, has been a journey all its own!)

Are there things I wasn’t doing, that reliably work for me?

Are there things I was doing, that reliably don’t work for me?

Are there things I hadn’t considered previously that, as practices, would support a healthy life, both physically and emotionally, and support activities like late night art shows, all night parties, social weekends, limited sleep, and being generally exceedingly busy? (“Is this an unreasonable expectation?” seems a good follow up on this one.)

Am I doing enough to care for this fragile vessel? (If I answer “no” to this question, are my expectations too high? If I answer “yes”, am I kidding myself?)

This morning I water my garden, turning these thoughts over in my head. Where is the path to success, to balance, to perspective, to wellness…? What path will I take, myself, on this journey through life? What matters most… to me?

What matters to the wellness of the world? Where do I fit in, there?

Every flower has its place in life’s garden.

I reflect on my choices. Am I the woman I most want to be? Am I living up to my promise, as a human being? What does it take to get there? Can I have/do/be that, too?

I reflect on my experience. I’m not hard on myself, although I am as honest as I am able to be from this wholly subjective perspective on my own experience. I could do better.

It’s time to begin again.

 

 

What a delightful weekend! I probably couldn’t say enough about it in the time I have available before a new work day begins. It was… awesome. Fun. Warm. Merry. Chill. Exciting… so exciting. It was also characterized by disrupted sleep (see “exciting”), and a lot of stimulation (an art show, a road trip, a weekend with my Traveling Partner…). I’m quite entirely made of human, and having the issues I do, a weekend – however delightful – full of exciting moments, color, light, music, and did I mention the excitement? A weekend such as this one just past often – too often – results in some sort of major freak out or melt down of some kind. No kidding. Yep. I have “mental health issues”. Definitely. It’s one little detail that is a reminder that I put so much time and attention into my self-care for reasons, not because it is a hot new trend.

Flowers need no excuse.

The drive back to the city started well, and traffic was well-behaved, although more than usually dense. Average speed was a comfortably ordinary 70 mph. Somewhere about 2 hours (a bit less, I think) from home, a bad snarl and some congestion developed rapidly ahead of me. Like… bad. Cars were spinning out, into the median, in one case, onto the left shoulder in another, and the third skittering across three lanes while other drivers used breaking maneuvers, and attentive skillful driving to both keep moving forward, and also, not hit anyone else. No collisions. I’m making a point of reminding myself of that. I “drive ahead of myself” a good way, and saw things going awry in real-time. The driver directly ahead of me began to lose control of his SUV. I let up on the gas after tapping my brakes gently (just enough to flash the brake lights) to alert the driver behind me, and slipped between the SUV as he slid sideways out of the lane, and the car to his right, which was crowding the fast lane out of panic as the driver ahead of him braked hard, very suddenly. Oooh… so close. As traffic finally slowed to a full stop, I looked in the rearview, and around; no collisions. I’m still very surprised by that. No indication of collisions further down the road, either. What the fuck? I began to seethe as it became more clear that this was likely the result of aggressive or frustrated ass-hattery, custom made by some clueless fuck knob. My fury began to build as the traffic crept along. At some point, I lost myself in my anger. Oh, “nothing bad happened” – by which I mean I did not attack anyone, hurt myself or anyone else physically, nor did I directly or indirectly confront any individual, or group of individuals…but oh wow. The invective. The yelling by myself in the car. It was… not okay. I’d fully lost my dignity, my resilience, my sense of self… I was… gone. Lost in it. Taken over by my metaphorical demons – who finished the drive more or less without me.

I got off the freeway at the first opportunity. It helped to do so; it slowed everything down just a bit, and reduced the feeling of “crowding”. Unfortunately, at that point I was also quite triggered, highly reactive, and the state I was in was less than ideal for driving, at all. I had no understanding I could have stopped driving. I wept much the remaining drive home. “I just want to go home!” I wailed, weeping. Purposeless, frustrated, impotent tears poured down my face, even completely blinding me briefly (I had to pull off the road to wipe the sweat-salt from my eyes). I got home shaking, angry, sad – so sad. Filled with drenching hopeless sorrow. My brain straight up attacking me from all sides with my deepest insecurities, disappointments in life, and leaning in hard on anything positive, and all my good feelings and recollections – a bit as if I’d come home and been confronted by a fucking dementor, honestly. It was pretty horrible.

I numbly started doing things that felt routine, feeling pressured by those experiences, and a little forced. Going through the motions. I made a point to let my Traveling Partner know I was emotionally unwell, and that I would be offline. (It does not do well to stay online in such circumstances, not for me; I use words. lol) I simultaneously gave a quick heads up to friends that I was having a tough time, but also that I did not require support; just in case shit went crazy wrong with me during the night and spilled over into the morning, I at least wanted people to wonder if I were okay – but I didn’t want to be fucked with right then (the terms in which my thinking colored all such thoughts in the moment). Then I got to work taking care of this all-too-human creature that lives my life.

A sunny summer day in the garden, tasks, routines, patterns of light – better moments.

I took a shower. I had a big class of water. I medicated (cannabis for the win, here*). I meditated. I watered the garden. I started some laundry. I began to redirect negative thoughts to their positive counterparts; ruminations about traffic were redirected to how pleasant the drive was in other respects, and what a pleasant day it was for driving, generally, and that there were no actual collisions, for example. I reminded myself, too, that once I was dealing with a storm of emotions, not only must the storm be permitted to pass, but then, as is often the case with the weather, there’s some clean up afterward needed. Our emotions have their basis in actual chemistry. Feelings of rage? Yeah, that’s like being on a fucking drug that causes that experience. It takes time for the drug to wear off, even though the moment is past. Sorrow, too. Each blue, emotionally disarrayed moment got some support, some consideration, some care and attention. It did pass. All of it passed. I felt better before I’d been home for even 2 hours. The recovery period was shorter than the emotional event. (That’s real progress!) I went to bed a bit early; I hadn’t slept well over the weekend, and all by itself poor quality sleep is enough to put me at risk of losing my emotional balance and resilience, if allowed to go on.

During the night the phone rang. Connectivity was poor at the location my Traveling Partner and I spent the weekend together, and he’d only just gotten my message. He called, concerned, to check in with me and see how I was. I answered a ringing phone during the night (I rarely do), because I went to bed expecting he might call. Partnership is lovely. I heard the warmth and love in his voice, and he heard it in mine. I was definitely okay at that point. I woke this morning, feeling rested, content, loved, and comfortable in my own skin. It’s a new morning.

A picture from a lovely summer morning hike yesterday; where will today take me?

Hell, I considered not writing about this experience, that’s how good I feel this morning – but here’s the thing; this experience is not one I’m ashamed of. I didn’t “fail” here. I managed things pretty well, actually. Somewhere, out there, there is an alternate version of this experience playing out that may not end as well, or may feel “permanent”, lacking any hope or perspective. I put these words on paper, sharing this moment, not only as a later reminder for myself that all this progress isn’t “a cure” (I need these practices, this level of self-care and self-awareness, to maintain my quality of life day-to-day.) I also put these words on paper because someone else may need to hear that there is hope, and it is possible to do better, and it is possible to find some relief – it’s within reach. There are verbs involved, no lie, but the incremental change over time has been… huge. Wonderful. A vast improvement impossible to overstate. It could have been much worse. I’m okay right now. That’s a big deal. It’s worth sharing.  🙂

Oh, hey, look at the time! It’s time to begin again. 🙂

*Note: It is unfortunate that cannabis is not yet fully legal, and that it is not more widely available, and easily, affordably available to more people. It is actually fairly stupid we make it so difficult for researchers to research it. Literally nothing offered to me by doctors, anywhere, has been as reliably helpful for my PTSD as cannabis has been, and for the most part side-effect free. Psychiatric pharmaceuticals were less effective for me, had horrific side effects (that included impairing me artistically, cognitively, sexually, emotionally, intellectually, and destroying my health), and didn’t actually result in an improved quality of life for me. I don’t write much about cannabis, itself, mostly because I’m not sure how to do so skillfully, and feel uncomfortable with the unsettled legal status it has in a broader sense. Having said that, I’ll be frank; when I talk about “medication” and “medicating”, if I am not more specific, I am most definitely referring to cannabis, and no, I don’t particularly care that it doesn’t come in a pill. 🙂

I woke in pain this morning. Ah, but, I am also undeniably well-rested. That’s something. I scrolled through my feed too early, not quite awake, and fucking hell, the news is not very pleasant. On the other hand, there’s also quite a lot of hopeful news, and, historically, a lot of forward momentum, too. So… I guess that’s something to hold onto. Back and forth – finding “balance” is its own challenge. Like a pendulum or a see-saw, my experience, mood, perspective, and general sense of both wellness and self, shift, swing, adjust, wobble… It’s kinda crazy up in here. You, too?

Where is your fulcrum? What do you pivot on? What supports that search for balance, and soothes your stress? For me, it’s “now”. Just that, and it’s pretty basic, uncomplicated stuff. I come back to this present quiet moment, right here. If “now” is also really super shitty (and not the national or global heart-wrenching what-the-fuck-is-going-on “now”, we’re talking about our personal right here, this instant, “now”) I may need to walk on, get some distance, and work from some other slightly future “now”, when I get to it – more often than not I simply need to let go my attachment to something or other I’ve begun to cling to emotionally, and be truly present, myself, in this “now” right specifically here where I am, myself.

A flower. A moment. There is effort in tending my garden with care.

I woke in pain. Yeah, that sucks. Could be worse pain than it is. That’s something. Perspective is a big deal. I don’t focus on other moments of worse pain, though, that’s sort of backwards, as it happens. I sit gently with my thoughts, contemplating entirely other things than pain, at all. There’s the art show tomorrow night. That’s a thing. I’m excited about it. I consider the work I’ve selected, and what all I may need for the evening, generally, and the pain slips from my consideration for a time. I share a moment of conversation with a far away friend over my coffee. I water the container garden on the deck in the lavender light of dawn, before the summer sunrise. Perspective helps me find balance.

Carefully selected work waiting to be seen.

I sip my coffee, already past that irksome moment when I observed I’d yet again allowed myself to run out of “easy options”. I smirked at myself, leaning on the counter for support, hurting, painfully aware (literally) that the state of things is entirely my own doing, for me to manage. There’s plenty to make coffee with; it all requires effort. Effort, I point out to the woman in the mirror, is not a swear word, and is, in fact, a goal. Making more of it results in greater emotional and physical wellness, and connects me more fully to the things that matter to me most. There are verbs involved, and don’t I know it! I pull myself upright with a sigh, and make a pour over. My coffee is very good this morning. Better than convenient. Better than easy. Made with love. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Back and forth with myself all morning. Finding balance. Using perspective. Making an effort. Practicing practices. I smile and sip my coffee.

…Then sneeze, spilling coffee in my lap, and rather hilariously also sneezing it all over my keyboard. Damn it. Already time to begin again. 😉

It’s here. The longest day. The shortest night. A dim-not-dark pre-dawn sky. A sunset will follow later, so much later, and then a lingering twilight late into the night – then, Summer, Fall, Winter… the wheel keeps turning.

Summer Solstice, 2018, before dawn

Yesterday ended on a bizarrely anxious note. It’s really super uncomfortable having to recognize that the United States is squirming as the government leads in the direction of fascism, while the population struggles to resist. Uncomfortable barely describes it. I was able to sleep, which brought relief, and I am exceedingly fortunate, individually. That’s something. Yesterday was hot. I took cases of bottled water to protesters downtown on my way home from work. I thanked them for being there. The traffic home was pretty terrible, but I didn’t feel it so much as I felt I’d done something to help.

…Of course, halfway home, I found myself facing a critical inner voice reminding me that plastic water bottles are an ecological nightmare… and companies that bottle water are draining life-force (and life-giving water) from communities all over the globe for profit. Shit. This is harder than it looks.

The anxiety had me in its grip well before I got home. Every conversation I’d had at work resurfaced to be re-evaluated through a lens of insecurity, panic, and fear. Every decision got questioned. Every moment reviewed, critiqued, and used to build further fear-driven anxious narrative in my head. I got home, heart pounding, breathless, and on the edge of a panic attack, doing battle with myself. I fluttered around the apartment distracted and wretched for a few minutes – the air conditioning was a relief, and in that moment of appreciation, I found a hint of relief, something to hold onto for just a moment.

I took a deep breath, and felt myself relax as the coolness in the house wrapped me, and soothed me (it was a really hot day here). I stood looking out at the container garden, still feeling anxious, and aware of the hot day on the other side of the glass. “Right, well, I can at least water the garden, even if everything feels crazy right now – no reason to punish flowers…” Out into the heat I went, but the awareness of the waiting air conditioning was working on my mind in a nice way; I knew I would be comfortable again, soon. I slowed down. Took my time to really water everything thoroughly. I filled feeders. I rinsed and re-filled bird-baths. I tidied and swept. I weeded some pots, removing still more peanuts that had sprouted, thanks to busy squirrels.

I returned to the coolness indoors considerably calmed. The anxiety came and went a bit all evening. More like a nuisance neighbor I’m on good terms with, but would rather not see all the time, than like an attacker that has overpowered me. I felt content with the improvement, and sleep came easily when time came to sleep. I woke feeling rested, and ready to start a new day…

It is the Solstice, today. Hell of a good day to begin again. America is still full of Nazis – we ought to do something about that. We can. We have choices. 🙂

I have choices. So many choices – in life, in work, in relationships. There are so many verbs involved. Keeping up takes effort, practice, commitment… omg, just spelling it out, it all seems so daunting! One thing at a time, though? Not so bad. I don’t need to “fix” an entire broken world – or even this one entire broken human being staring back at me in the mirror. That’s no longer my approach at all – I just need to water my garden. Maybe tidy up a bit. Do a little weeding. Meditate for a few minutes. Get some dishes done. It’s just one thing, not everything, right now, all the time. “Everything“is super hard – I mean, have you seen all the shit that needs something done about it?? Too much. All that’s needed, really, is “enough”. 😉

I think I’m ready to begin again. 🙂