Monday, December 22, 2014

Found

A recent comment on my last post - from August! - has reminded me that I have been absent from this space for far too long and that I do still have followers here who aren't following me on Facebook and are maybe wondering what's up, which is just as well because the news isn't all that great and I'd hate to be a downer during a season that has its challenges in that direction. Life doesn't entirely suck either, but rather than review the past few months I thought I would share a poem that happened, oh a few minutes ago. I have lately been posting photos based on weekly theme prompts on a wonderful site known as Luminous Traces Collective. This week's theme is "Rise." Seeking inspiration, I found an online dictionary with multiple definitions and illustrative examples. It didn't take long for the poet in me to shove aside the photographer and recognize the poem waiting to happen in the seemingly random selection of these phrases. So here is the first poem I have written in even longer than I have posted on Blogger. It will give you some insight into my state of mind and mood. Happy Holidays all, and I promise to be a better blogger in 2015.



Rise:  a Found Poem

The sound of their voices rose and fell.
The hair rose on the cat's neck.
Old fears rose to haunt her.

The tower rose above the hill.
The moon rose an hour after sunset
bitterness that rose from hard experience.

She rose to the occasion
rose from the dead
the rise of a new talent.

Rise is an intransitive verb.
If something rises it moves upwards.
The river rises every spring.

Thick columns of smoke rise from the chimneys.
New buildings are rising in the city.
He will rise in the world.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Claims Department

The Rise and Fall of Fortune

I confess. It has been 6 months since my last blog post. And what a six months. The fortunes of my heart have been rising and falling with equal vertigo inducement as my financial and creative affairs and at the same time I am full to bursting with gratitude, contentment and a sense of belonging I have not felt in a place and among people in far too long. So the good news is Vermont, even under less than ideal circumstances, was, is and ever shall be home. The really good news is that you have been spared six months of posts following the arc of my hopes and disappointments in just about everything I am doing here.

Prospect 
 
In every aspect of life, limbo is hell to me.  If I were to die and find myself in limbo I will know I was a really really bad person worthy of merciless eternal torment. Bring on the active conflict and challenge, the messier and scarier the better. Give me an opening, an opportunity, a prospect, something to argue, defend, work with, around or through to a happy outcome, to any outcome, just let me roll up my mental and emotional sleeves and have at it. Silence, endless waiting and passive speculation in the void are not my comfort zone. But I have been in that zone more often than not, and way more than I care to be this year. 

You do the Math

I won’t even mention money and artmaking. Today it’s about love. One of the themes as I look back on a particularly nasty sequence of false start or outright failed love affairs that has dominated this year was that I was neither being claimed nor rejected by the man in question.  The trouble is, some men clam up recede or vanish simply because they are busy and clueless and some because they have already rejected you in their mind and just forgot or are too cowardly to share this information with you, or if they do, do it in an indirect “you do the math” kinda way.  As I discovered last year, sometimes the only way to find out your relationship has ended is when your maybe ex, or maybe never was, changes his Facebook status.

 Gone for the Day

I suppose the one benefit to being romantically limboed is that at a certain point you stop waiting for your heart to be claimed, like a lost bag in an airport terminal, and you claim the bag yourself.  So, here I am as the end of summer approaches, having put up the “gone for the day” sign and slipped out the back door of the claims department to see what exactly is in this heart that no one has any interest in taking home but myself.

Lighthearted

First thing I noticed was how easy my heart is to open. It doesn’t even have a lock on it, no complicated closures, and while it looks really well traveled and often repaired, on the whole still strong and flexible. Like you could drop it from a great height and it would bounce back upright, knock it around and it would keep its shape.  It looks to have once been dark in color but has lightened up over the years, due to hours sitting in the sun. Some areas are transparent, so you can see exactly what it contains. There are no secret compartments. It is packed neatly with many essential and unique things of neither grand nor negligible value, but there is still room to hold more in some expandable places that have not seen much use but are still functional.  As full as it is, it's not heavy at all. Not much to look at, easily overlooked in fact, hence it's being so long stranded in the lost and found, but this heart has gone places, and still has places to go, in the right hands.

So I am bringing it back to the claims department.  Because, who knows?

The Trio is Complete

Thanks for reading, whoever is still out there in Blogland. Stay tuned for a new post in sooner than 6 months that deals with some things I actually have reclaimed for myself – my photography and fiber projects! And hey, I guess I am writing again, so the creative trio is complete. And now you can try to figure out which goat is words, which one is images and which one alpaca accessories! Til next time, be well, be kind, be happy.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How did it get to be February already?


I've been unforgivably absent from this space for far too long. I promise to put up a nice long thoughtful piece of writing soon, but in the meantime, as winter winds down, and my life is less and less occupied by the making and selling of warm fuzzy accessories, I offer you a nice short thoughtful piece of writing instead. Those of you who follow me on Facebook will have already seen this, but poems, particularly love sonnets, don't really seem to fit well in that medium so I am re-posting here. Enjoy.



Heart Shaped Balloon

Not claimed but not discarded,
here is the heart I took for a walk,
that nearly got crushed in a closing door,
tangled in the branches of a leafless tree.

I had to pull it back from playing in traffic.
Every little wind brought it down and up,
the one red thing in a bleak winter landscape,
floating on a slender silver string

I could have untied at any time,
setting it free. Instead I brought it home
to keep in suspense saying over and over
I LOVE YOU for no one to see but me,

when I lie every night staring up at the ceiling,
holding a space that’s yours for the stealing.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Alpacas, Cats and Patience


Selling handmade accessories crocheted from alpaca fiber in a small city in Vermont holds you to a high standard.  Anywhere else, the handmade aspect alone would be impressive, or the fact that I am the sole proprietor and entire staff of an extremely small local business, or that all my items are one of a kind and designed by me, and I sometimes, but not always, source from small local businesses for my materials. I even walk the three mile round trip to market and back each Saturday carrying a duffle bag full of wrist warmers and scarves, some of which I just finished that morning. It doesn’t get more honest, natural and down to earth than that.  


But this being Vermont, I know the next question to follow “do you live here?” and “do you crochet these yourself?” will be “are these made of fiber from your own alpacas?” And my proud yesses will be followed by a somewhat apologetic “no, but” followed by what I hope is an earnest friendly explanation that hopefully redeems my fiber artisan cred, because while, no, I do not own my own alpacas, or shear them, or spin or dye my own fiber, I did once apprentice at a farm where I spent a lot of time with alpacas, and even trained them, which has to count for something.


You may be wondering where I’m going with this, an essay on the politics of the fiber world, or the importance of supporting small local businesses, or how much I love doing the weekly Vermont Farmers Market, or exactly why it is that I am not the owner of an alpaca farm using my hands to care for the herd and process their fiber instead of typing on a computer as the sun rises. But actually, it’s about what came to me as I was lying in bed in the pre-dawn dark this morning with my cat Henry standing on my chest and holding his nose to my nose with the kind of trust not often found among felinekind, about what my time with alpacas taught me that I can apply to life beyond the farm.

 
Alpacas, although they are a prey animal and find safety and comfort in numbers, are a lot like cats, highly intelligent and extremely resistant to training. You get to know pretty quickly that this is not an animal whose will needs to be broken to get it to do your bidding. It will never follow you around obediently like a dog or set aside its wild nature to work for you like a horse.  You won’t get adoration or service from an alpaca.  But you can get a surprising amount of affection, and you can even get them to do what you want them to do, provided it is also what they want to do. Which pretty much makes them large fuzzy cats with very long necks.


I think my experience with cats helped me a lot when I worked with alpacas. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere with a bold imposing approach. I would have to let them come to me on their own terms, that patience and consistency were key. In the mind of an alpaca, anything sudden or different can pose a threat, and words and gestures mean nothing. They can’t be lured by treats or coerced with discipline or domination. The way to earn the trust and acceptance of an alpaca is just by being there, alongside them, and proving to them that nothing bad happens when you are around. And once they accept you, and behave in their natural way, you can slowly direct those behaviors towards what you want them to do.  They don’t even notice that they are wearing a harness and are attached to you by a leash because you’ve become part of  their movements and their comfort zone and not only is there no reason not to trust you, they even kind of like having you around.


Henry has been with me for only 3 months and even for a cat of great confidence, he has already accepted me with a depth of trust I did not expect for several months, maybe even years. The more I leave it up to him to figure out the boundaries of our relationship, the more permeable those boundaries become. Cats love routine and an unchanging environment and I am such a big part of that formula he now frets when I leave the house for a few hours. Wherever I am in my apartment, he usually picks a nearby spot to recline. This does not mean he wants to be approached and attended to, just that having me where he can see me makes him feel good. And that makes me feel good too.


I have not always been a patient person, waiting for things to come to me. I much prefer the active approach to life, reasoning that any gesture, declaration or initiative is better than just sitting around doing and saying nothing. But some situations call for the less is more approach, and I am glad I have had experiences in which that approach proved so successful and rewarding. I have been living on my own in this small city in Vermont for a few months now, and I have found that people are accepting me not because I have gone forth and cultivated friendships aggressively, but because I am simply, consistently there. Vermonters are a lot like alpacas, they stick together, do not respond to the heavy-handed approach, and they are slow to trust, but once they do, you are one of them. 
 

Lately, as I move through my days, I am remembering that first day I went out into their enclosure on a snowy day in Maine with my camera and walked among the alpacas I was going to be working with for the next few months. I walked with even steps and made myself very quiet inside. I stood motionless a lot of the time. They stopped running away to the furthest distance they could manage and eventually forgot why they were trying to get away from me. Then something magical happened. I was in the middle of a herd surrounded by these magnificent creatures and moving among them as if I were one of them. I could feel their strength and heat and hear their low humming vocalizations. They were looking me in the eye, at first with misgiving, then with curiosity, and then with what was clearly approval. That day, I brought back some amazing photographs, and so much more. And now I am getting that feeling again, that things are on their way to me, and if I am just very quiet inside, magic is going to happen.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Right and Wrong

Right and Wrong


They say that those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Personally, I have had more than my share of past situations that I would very much like not to repeat if at all possible, which is probably why I spend so much time, in the aftermath of something that has gone horribly wrong, doing my best to confront, review and thoroughly study its history in hopes of learning whatever it is that will protect me from ever having to go through it again. If what they say is true, all I need to do is carry those lessons around like snapshots, or mugshots, and whenever I am about to make a decision to go ahead or run like hell, I can pull them out, hold them up, and if anything matches, choose that second option without doubt, hesitation or remorse.

We all know how it feels to find ourselves suddenly in the middle of something that has gone horribly wrong, whether it is a job, a relationship, a living space, an activity or item acquired or pursued with a considerable expenditure of good faith, time, effort or material resources. You do your best to get over the shock of yet another failed enterprise, make changes in attitude or behavior, and if you have been down this road as many times as I have, once an acceptable amount of wallowing in self-pity and giving things a second and third chance, and weighing the good and bad to be had in staying or going has happened, start creating a ruthlessly practical exit strategy.

The nice thing about an exit strategy is that during the period when you could be either talking yourself out of leaving a bad situation or beating yourself up because you can’t catch a break in life, you can instead apply your mental and physical energies to things like looking for a new job, or packing up your belongings, or coming up with a new budget, or investigating new endeavors and places in which to do them. It also protects you, during that transition time when you are literally neither here nor there, from feeling the full impact of exactly how horribly wrong the things you are not quite free of yet have gone.

It is a facet of human nature that, (gloomy malcontents who thrive on seeing and perpetuating only the negative regardless of how good things are aside), most of us try to see the good, or refuse to see the bad in a situation clearly disintegrating before our eyes, whether out of optimism, denial, pride or a sense of survival. It is only once we have cut ties and know we are soon to be released that the true extent of the wrongness becomes clear. And once we are indeed completely free and no longer need to protect ourselves, we discover that this clarity increases with the amount of time and distance we put between ourselves and the wrongness. Soon we have to ask ourselves why we tolerated something so clearly wrong for so long? When did it go wrong and how can we recognize and act upon that kind of moment sooner and spare ourselves so much grief? And then, how can we keep ourselves from getting into it in the first place so we won’t have to spend seemingly more time in life getting out of the wrong things than enjoying the right things?

I have had jobs, relationships, living spaces and all manner of pursuits go horribly wrong, and every time I have looked back and wondered if I could have done something differently, seen the signs sooner, not just to spare myself future grief, but to keep myself from coming to the tempting conclusion that I have not learned a thing in all my years and all my past studies, and remain the worst judge of character, situations and circumstances on the planet, and given my dismal track record am really no better off than the dangerously thoughtless heartless hapless people who bulldoze through life lacking all self and other awareness and to whom I have no right to consider myself superior. 

I know this is not true. But what can I tell my friends and family when I have to report another thing begun feeling so right and yet gone horribly wrong, and more importantly, what do I tell myself? Was I blind, or too optimistic and patient, making excuses for every sign that I can now see was there right in front of me? Was I tired of creating exit strategies and hoping I could ride this one out? Was I ashamed of the explanations I would have to make to family and friends and preferred to suffer a private hell than admit to it? The problem with explaining to friends and family what has gone horribly wrong is that if you are honest about exactly how bad it is you look like an idiot or a masochist for getting yourself into and remaining for so long in such a situation, and if you lie about the severity of your suffering, you look like a self-limiting perfectionist or an outright flake for jumping ship at the first sign of what sounds like minor trouble. To get at anything close to the full truth, you have to commit to a lengthy philosophical presentation, when all anyone requires is the quick and easy version of the story.

So here I am now, free of all the recent wrong things I have had to separate myself from, starting all over again. I am unemployed, single, and living alone in a new apartment in a city, and with acquaintances, I have not known very long, and while I am looking forward to all the new things that are going to come into my life, I am also looking for where, when and how the signs of things going wrong will start to appear, wondering whether I will recognize and act on them sooner rather than later, wiser for my studies of the past, or whether these signs are not always so obvious, not always a matter of  wise recognition and decisive action, but plain old dumb luck, the sad fact being that even the best persons places and things change over time in ways you could not have seen because they simply were not yet present or revealed to you.

And that is the quick and easy story I am telling myself and anyone who asks about my last job, and my last relationship, and why I am back at square one in middle age, and how things that start out so right can go so horribly wrong. And in the end, there really are no good, full or right answers. Whatever I have learned, whatever I encounter in life, I am still far more likely to go ahead than run like hell. But I have a traveling bag full of snapshots, and a process of elimination is in motion. If I can keep surviving, identifying, and subsequently avoiding the wrong, whatever is left has to be right.