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Today I put in a sink. Then I took it all apart again. Pedestal sink (if you've ever put one in, you'll understand). Apparently, when those experts say "it's important to NOT tighten plastic fittings too tight," they aren't addressing someone with arthritis. The fittings needed to be tighter. BUT, after a mop-up and a few hours to let the plywood floor dry and I'll be heading up there to get that thing back together. I'll have someone double check the junctions. And plenty of rags on hand in case....

 

This is important to note. I'm putting in the sink in my studio! It's been years of up and down stairs with brushes and buckets. I've always just counted myself VERY fortunate to have the space and enjoyed the exercise. But when I found myself sinking into the mire of self-doubt last week, it occurred to me that taking a risk and doing something I've never done before would be just what I needed to boost myself and, well, I'm getting a sink in the studio as a bonus!


My blog post from the Chair Affair didn't save! Argh... oh well,... here it is!
This is my last photo with the Fear Chair. It was taken April 17th at the Artists Reception for the "Chair Affair" fundraiser for the Portland non-profit, The Community Warehouse. I have since learned that the chair did indeed sell. I didnt realize I would be curious about who bought it or why but I find that I am...

Kind of a delightful thing to think about.

 

Fair-thee-well-my old companion of 51 days! May your new owner realize the truths you carry and build upon your story!



Here is the last-finished prayer flag. It's not part of a set, that I know of as yet. Who knows what will come to perhaps join it in a set (?). The photo's just taken with my phone. I'm still not adept at editing photos taken from a phone. Bear with me... And I don't want to have a professional take photos until I've got a few more pieces together, to make the set-up fee work to greater advantage. I'm not selling these on the internet yet anyway. Still working on marketing strategizing... learning learning... (see more below photo)

 

 

I am working presently on another set. At tryptich. Something about threes is very engaging for me. Anyway, it is the three graces "Faith, Hope and Charity." I'm still sewing "Faith," very happy with it. Excited for the set. It's a bit more uplifting than "Up from the Broken Heart," which one would think would be uplifting but in reality, this image is very dark I think. It expresses the difficulty of pulling ones self up from the experience of feeling her/his heart having been broken. Yet too, the heart is not shattered; It is broke but it is broke open as well. The image came from a conversation with a friend, who at the same time as my own heart had been broken, was going through a divorce. We talked of our experiences but the phrase broken hearted never came up. For some reason, we gravitated naturally to phrasing our experiences as "healing from the broke-open heart." I think with every heartbreak, there is the opportunity to see it as an opening of the heart or a shattering. I chose and I hopefully in the future will choose (heartbreak is inevitable as part of the human experience) the former. The devastation is the same, the pain, the death, the "undoing," as I called it in last nights post is the same; but with heartbreak there is a choice. The choice is to respond with  love or to respond with fear. With Love is openness, curiousity even,  and a confidence that, even though I can't know what life will look like now, I know it will continue, I will continue. Even a wondering what life will mean to me through this devastation. The Fear response would be a shatterment then a gathering of the pieces and building a wall around them to protect what was broken as if THAT was all that was left. (I've made that choice before in life too)

 

"Up from the broken heart," IS dark, but it is not a fearful piece. It's also not particularly pretty, but I think it has beauty. There is a strength in it. The original offers a betterl look at  the details too that express the vulnerability of the experience of rising from the broke-open heart. The skin is green and rippled, as if raw and new. The skin at rebirth is very tender indeed. Yet the vulnerability doesn't indicate weakness either but simply the true state of being when one experiences loss, shedding the old and emerging into something completely foreign-feeling. Such is not weak at all, but it DOES FEEL extremely vulnerable. Like a tender shoot rising from a seed, we are green and softened -- and we strengthened to rise above the dark earth and face the sun and rain and winds of continued life.

 

 


It's been an intense two months since I posted. Dealing with much Fear, Love and Art actually, while also moving through this period of recovery from the trauma of personal events of Winter-time. "The Winter of My Discontent," comes to mind but that would be trite. "The Winter of my near-undoing," feels more accurate. Now however, a few months forward in life, the near-undoing also looks like sort of a strengthening. 

 

For a long time, I'd been afraid of what happened happening, then it did. Sometimes that is life. And when it did happen, it felt like death. Yet I survived. One day, one moment at a time, millions of moments, I lived. I may not have been pretty or graceful about it, but I walked through my days.

 

I don't feel that i have tremenous wisdom to share at this point. I wish I would; but I can offer myself as an example that sometimes the deepest, most frightening Fear happens to come true; and it doesn't have to be your undoing. You may feel as if whatever it is is going to kill you, destroy everything, leave you destitute and utterly alone and without purpose. In the end, what happens AFTER the worse thing in the world happens, is your choice. Or, rather, your choices. Every moment, every day the choice to let an event run you through or for you to walk through IT is yours. When everything feels totally out of control, you still have one thing in your control, how you will face the situation.

 

Initial shock from trauma is natural. Pain, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Fear, Rationalizing, Avoidance,... all completely part of the human experience. But trauma happens and then recovery either begins or it doesn't. Either I get mired in those initial responses and stages of grief or I move through them. Notice them, feel them, move on to what comes next. 

 

And always, ALWAYS, the choice is between Love and Fear. Perhaps it was that the worst already happened, or perhaps it was that the worst thing to happen would be me losing my life over what had occurred; but never did I doubt that Love had to be the undercurrent that connected my choices or I wouldn't recover. And foremost had to be learning better how to Love myself. 

 

And so I made art. Years ago I envied people who were able to create their art AS they struggled with personal issues and challenges. I didn't know how to do that. My art came only with great inspirations and wonderment. And so, life being what it is, hard, I often didn't make art because I was busy struggling to make it through the days, months, years even. Eventually I turned my envy into interest. I began watching people who could do this thing that I could not and I began looking at WHY I was blocked from that which I knew I needed to do -- to make art at ALL times in life, ESPECIALLY when life through me under the bus. It's been exciting and excruciating learning this lesson but as of this winter and upon this day and in this moment, I am to my core grateful I learned it. Making art has saved my life many times. This winter and now spring, it continues to draw (no pun intended) me forward even as it pulls me deeper. Deeper sometimes into the pain, sometimes into the profound, sometimes deeper into the Love that is all part of what I call a death experience. An experience where one's life, even one's self as she knew it dies. Art is what helps me create the new life that comes after the worst thing happening. Birth the NEW life, the new me.

 

I don't have a professional photo of the most difficult piece of art I've made in a long time. It took February and March to get myself through it. It was disturbing and challenging and profoundly TRUE, every step of the way. It is a prayer flage called "Up From the Broken Heart." It's not "pretty," but I love it perhaps for that reason. (And I find I don't even have a photo on my phone. I will take one tomorrow and post it.)

 

So, perhaps I now have two antidotes for Fear. The Fear Chair Project taught me that Love is the antidote. But I'm thinking actually Art may be one as well... will give this some thought...Or, is Art a form of Love? Hm


"There is something SO important about not wanting." Carlo Delumpa, Portland Photographer

 

Carlo said the above statement when he and I met at his shared studio, an old warehouse on the East bank of the Willamette River. We'd been talking and getting acquainted, something he valued as a precurser to photographing an artists works. He was going to photograph my prayer flags.

 

We'd been talking about carrying "stuff" through life as artists. Stuff we needed but also stuff we wanted. And we reflected upon how this forces us to long for larger spaces or convenient storage. I relayed the story of talking about just this subject last fall with my friend Carol when we were feeling nostalgic for times when we felt fully ALIVE. Last fall, and I told Carlo at this time, I'd mentioned that the times I felt most alive seem to have been the times when I could fit all I owned into my car and drive it across country to move where I would. Carol had talked about coming back from Nicaragua in the 70s with only a dime to her name (the basement where she'd stored her possessions while gone had flooded and everything had been destroyed). I related to Carlo that this had been the discussion last fall that led me to carrying a Fear Chair for 51 days. 

 

I felt VERY alive for those 51 days too.

 

Back to Carlo and I in the studio in Portland in January, ... we talked about that dichotomy of living light being the time when one might be most likely to live FULLY. To LIVE. And then we paused and he said, almost as an aside, "There is something SO important about not wanting." At the time this comment seemed in a way simply a small observation. Yet something in me knew I needed to store it away. Something in my middle knew it a was profound Truth for me. So I wrote it down. And I've kept it at the front of my daytimer ever since.

 

Today it haunts me.

 

I found out last night that I did not get in to the show I'd submitted to last month. It had seemed such a spectacularly perfect fit for my prayer flags. It felt synchronous from the moment I found the call to artists. This and life has been so challenging of late, the prayer flags getting out into the world seemed something so hopeful. It feels like this show was my only dime. 

 

So, now, am I simply left wanting? It seems so. The initial loss feels like a blow. Like my already broke open heart just got pushed aside. It's not a pretty picture if you think about it. And it doesn't feel very good either. But I've had to live with it for the day. Ever  since I read the rejection email last night.

 

What do I Fear? There are all sorts of superficial little fears, not being good enough, never being good enough, not ever showing, blah blah blah. But what do I REALLY Fear? I Fear that my work doesn't matter and ultimately that I don't matter. I think about it and, driving across country alone with all my worldly possessions packed in was easy. It was easy because I MATTERED. No one could do that but me: no one could do that for me or with me. I (ME, I) LIVED my life at those times. Unencumbered by expectations of others or even myself, to measure up. I drove my life and I listened to the directions that called me. I didn't WANT anything. I just lived. And without ME, there was nothing. No car full of MY stuff. No change of direction. No story. I certainly couldn't have articulated this at the time, but it is very clear now, I (ME, I) mattered greatly.

 

Now? Do I matter? I am at a transition time in life again, much like those times when I packed the car and drove to some new home. But I have a house. A studio. I have stuff that would fill trucks. I have a body of work that could fill a car. What story am I telling? What directions call to me? I WANT to matter to the world. I want my work to matter. Yet, there is something SO important about not wanting. 

 

It haunts me.

 

Am I, is my art,... enough?

 

 

 

 




Last time carrying the Fear Chair! My friend, Carol Woodford (first witness to the Project), came with me to drop the Chair off at The Community Warehouse in Portland. The CW has an annual fundraiser called "The Chair Affair." Funds are raised through auctioning off chairs and tables that local artists have transformed into art. I first found out about the event while carrying the chair to a coffeeshop last fall. Artists and patrons of the event saw me and asked, first why I was carrying the chair, then what I planned to do with it when I no longer needed to carry it. Their explanation of the Chair Affair and the work of the Community Warehouse to support families, created a perfect conclusion to The Fear Chair Project. The Chair is now in it's "green-room," with other wonderful works of art, awaiting the big show on April 18th (check out communitywarehouse.org for info. on tickets)!

 

I wrote a very brief explanation of the Project to be included with the chair for any potential buyers to see it's unusual backstory. In that explanation I mention that "The Fear Chair Project was one of the greatest gifts I've ever given myself." There is sadness in letting go of the companion I carried so many days, yet, it was about letting go that the FCP taught me. Not just detatchment from Fear but from anything that I am Afraid of losing. As it turns out this lesson began (we never fully learn anything) just in time for some enormous losses in my life. The FCP strengthened me and its lessons continue with me, even as I travel an unforseen road through the Forest of Unknowing for a time. 

 

Through losses, through Fear, through the unforseen and the unknowable, Love is always available. Love always travels with me, with us. We carry it as much as we carry Fear or loss or conflictedness. And we always have the choice of what we will focus on. I spent 51 days focusing on Fear. In my life, Fear had screamed long enough trying to maintain my attention. I gave it my attention. I took it to coffee, I took it to a play, I took it on jobs, shopping, to dinner, breakfast, on long walks. I made it beautiful. And in return, Fear gave me a deeper understanding of Love with lessions in compassion and patience and openness. Through carrying Fear as a chair, as a companion, I am strengthened, humbled and grateful. 

 

I am hopeful the Fear Chair will find a new place to call home where it can be a reminder that even Fear carries beauty, for under it there is always Love. And I am excited that the FC will help support a great program that serves families!


As the years changed from 2014 to 2015, I was heard talking to many people about how i felt grateful to have 2014 behind us for it had been a tumultuous year and I was looking forward to 2015 bringing prosperity and joy and most of all a sense of the strength gathered through enduring the previous year's tribulation. 

 

Among the people I talked to about this hopeful attitude was one woman. I don't recall who it was, only that she was a she. It's probably best that I don't remember specifically who whe was actually. For, the words "because 2014 was SO tumultuous," had hardly left my mouth and she interjected, "oh, just wait..." in an ominous tone. "What? No! What?" I exclaimed. 

 

"Oh, there's some stuff coming yet," she added.

 

"What? No!" at the risk of repeating myself.

 

"Oh, yeah, 2015 has some stuff to show us. There're BIG troubles coming in 2015." 

 

I started to ask what and how she knew this but was already overwelmed in my recovering from 2014's final episode and just didn't have it in me to hear the details of what was coming. Like a torture victim who had a chance to hear the final sentencing, I just would rather not know. It was enough that it was coming.

 

Well, we're six weeks into the new year and I've got to say, I wish I'd retained who it was that foreshadowed such troubles because I'd plant a big kiss on her cheek and invite her to have a cup of coffee (or glass of beer) and tell me what more she knows of this year. With great humility, I'd sit at her feet and learn. For this, so far has been not just for me, but for many friends and family an horrendously challenging year. 

 

As I type this, I reallize tonight there isn't even a question of Fear. There is only a question of Why (?) Not "Why is this happening, oh god, this is horrible, why, why why?" But "Why?" capital "W." Where will I find the Why of what is happening. The meaning. How can so many people be experiencing such massive loss (all unrelated) and where is the meaning? 

 

In a sense, Fear enters in because some people, myself sometimes counted among them, Fear there IS no reason, no lesson, no getting through this strengthened or wiser. Some days, there is only the raw pain and senselessness of suffering moment after moment, pain after pain. 

 

So, I struggle to keep myself focused on gratitude some days, some moments. But even harder is helping those around me who suffer their own tumult in 2015 to keep faithful to gratitude or even simply hope. When my own world feels like jello, how can I tell someone else who just felt their own life shift dramatically that there IS anything firm to stand on?

 

THIS is the question: When ones own world feels like jello beneath their feet, how can she offer hope of anything firm to stand on, or even consulation, to another person who's world just fell from beneath their feet? 

 

I don't know.

 

But with all my being, I know the path of hopelessness is the path of Fear. I know despair is the air one breathes walking that path.

 

And I know that as 2014 closed, the word given to me for the year 2015 was "Prosperity." At the time the word dropped into my head, I hadn't the slightest idea what the Universe could possibly mean, giving me such a word. I still haven't the slightest idea. These six weeks have tried me and have tried people close to me, people who are strong and good and wise. We have been tried to our very core, each in our own struggles. And I have no idea whatsoever as to the Universe's intension if there is such a thing. But, day by day, moment by moment, "prosperity" keeps me on the ride. 

 

When my daughter was a young child, I enlisted my schooling in child development and adapted it to gain the understanding that every age brings it's challenges, EVERY age. AND every age brings it's blessings. EVERY age brings it's blessings. That creedo made parenting the wildest, most wonderful ride I could ever hope for. 2015 is just another year, another age. It has brought some doozy challenges already, and it WILL bring it's blessings. This is life. The Universe clamours for balance ... doesn't it?