Monday, July 28, 2014

Checking In

So how's this artist residency thing going?  Well, setting aside teenager wrangling, meals, laundry, visitors and workshop preparations, it is going well, thank you very much.  Each morning, I sit on the front porch (that's "bridge" to you) with my sketch book and notebook and sometimes a book book and see what happens.  Oddly enough, I have been writing, not drawing.  Several ideas have been reoccurring so I am letting them cook a bit.  I know that my ability to say with words is much less than my ability to say with things so at a certain point, images will come back.  

Yesterday, driving into Corner Brook to bring Lucy to the movies with a friend, I suddenly remembered how I used spontaneously stop and photograph things, especially graveyards, and how I never do that anymore and how I need to do that again.  It is vital to skip out of the groove of "this is the drive to Corner Brook" and all my other habitual patterns if I want to dig into what this place is again.

Meanwhile, the beach never fails me.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's Ok. It's All Over Now

A week of silence with eyes lowered?  Seven to ten hours of sitting zazen/day?  Bring it, baby!

Two hours of rigorous asana?  What else you got for me?

Twelve years of homeschooling two willful human beings?  Yeah....and?

But Lord Almighty if my spirit wasn't just about broken with these three inches (302 sts/row) of K1 P1 ribbing.  It must be some kind of madness that would compel a designer to create such a thing.

As a firm believer in Elizabeth Zimmerman's mandate on ribbing: continue until you can't take it any more, I would say that this went Too Far.

Friday, July 25, 2014

You Have to Say Yes

In the tradition of yoga that I am studying, there is a lot of emphasis on good digestion.  We talk about the five vayu-s (vayu translates to "wind" in English): prana (energy coming in), apana (waste going out), vyana (circulation), udana (communication) and samana (digestion).  Even as these vayu-s are specific and separate, they are all connected with each one affecting the others.  If your prana is blocked, you won't have good apana or vyana, which affects your udana and samana.  You get the picture.  Each one needs to be in balance so that they are all working together in a healthy way.  It is a way of thinking about our bodies and about how we interact with everything we encounter in the world.  It also is a way of understanding things when something is not functioning well - it helps us figure out where the problem comes from and gives us an idea of how to change the conditions that are causing it.

One of the cool things about this whole digestion process is that it is happening - right now! - without needing to think about it.  I mean, you can think about it and affect it and consciously take steps to alter it but even if you don't do that, things are happening.

The vayu concept is a beautiful metaphor and it is not a metaphor at all because you can see it in yourself if you take a look - right now!

I have been thinking a lot about this process lately.  The training in Nashville at the end of June was deliberately designed to stir things up for us.  We have to experience for ourselves the effects of these practices in order to be able to offer them to others - just as in any other therapeutic training.  Perhaps what is different about this training is that it is done very consciously on so many levels.  We can watch it all happen: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  It's happening and we are watching it happen.  Noticing it and deliberately making note of it.  The process isn't always clear, however.  That is the edge that we work - you can only see as much as you see and the rest is dark.  Until it isn't dark anymore.

I was talking with my mentor teacher about my practice(s) and my ongoing questions about why I stay devoted to Ashtanga (this is NOT seen as a good thing in this tradition) and how my Zen practice fits into the whole picture.  It can get pretty murky and dark and complicated in my head.  Stuff happened in Nashville around these areas and I was trying to articulate how it was feeling to me at this point.  After I spoke for a bit, she said to me, "You don't need me to give you an asana practice - you can do that yourself.  In fact, the whole thing is for you to do for yourself.  You just need to say yes to it.  That's the whole practice.  You have to say Yes."

Once again, it all comes back to this.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

How To Use Time and Not Be Used By It

Two months in Newfoundland is not much time.  According to our current day, workaholic, blood-thirsty capitalistic society, two weeks is considered a long vacation and two months is unheard of - what are we, in France or something?  But stepping a little closer to reality, two months is not much time at all.  For a moment, let's set aside the point that I do not consider my time here "a vacation."  I consider being here to be central to my life as an artist - it is a rich, fertile, nourishing place.  Given all this and my limited time here this year, I decided to use the time as I would an artist residency.

When I started The House Museum in 2001, the motivation and ideas for the project were coming from my first impressions of this place.  I didn't know anything about it really but I had a strong impulse that felt like it came from somewhere very deep inside me.  A feeling of knowing, even as I knew nothing.  The process of making and running that project for five years (!) brought me much closer to this place.  In a way, I came to know too much.  I got a bit jaded and cynical.  Newfoundland was this or Newfoundland was that.  It's always a bad sign when you think you know something so definitively, in my opinion.  Fortunately, I had the good sense to stop running The House Museum at that point and to spend time just living here.

Oddly enough, the question that was central to The House Museum - why are you here? - was never so pertinent or unanswered as when I stopped running The House Museum.  Why was I here?  I no longer had the obligation (as it came to seem to be) of running that project.  I no longer had an angry husband who was pissed that he had to spend all of his vacation here.  I no longer had two little children who needed full-time attention.  With all the obstacles cleared away, I was suddenly unclear about what I was doing and why.  I seriously considered closing this chapter of my life - without obligation meant that I was, in fact, not obligated to hang on if there was nothing to hang on to.  But that impulse that stirred in 2001 is still there.  I feel it.

So, this time will be spent rediscovering this place.  I know a lot now so it is time to get back to not knowing and, instead, to begin seeing what is in front of me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Home, It's Where I Want To Be

At long last, we have arrived!   And it is glorious.

We got on the ferry last night after spending the usual shocking amount of time in North Sydney.  Oh, how many days of my life have I spent hanging around in North Sydney, Nova Scotia?  It is time that I will never get back and, frankly, I am not so happy about it.  Possibly the only place more bleak than North Sydney is neighboring Sydney Mines, that uses the motto, "Rich in Hospitality....and Coal!" Need I say more?

It has been something of an odyssey - the storm, the delays, the no-cabin, the being parked on Deck 1 (it's a long story that involves a lot of waiting around).  Both Lucy and I had moments - many moments - when we wondered if Newfoundland is really worth it.  And maybe I say this every year....but it is so worth it.

This place.  This crazy place.  It is home.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Churning Up Above and Below

There was much talk about digestion in Nashville.  No, not like a group of old people at the dinner table.  This digestion consists of taking in all the information and experiences of our nine days of training and really absorbing them.  Tossing them around in our minds and our bodies and seeing what happens.

For myself, however, this process had to be delayed (we shall not speak of it as constipation as this delay was made consciously and deliberately and I can end it at any time, I swear).  I so deliberately delayed my digestion because we had only three days in NYC before heading north.

Unfortunately these training modules happen in late June so our time in Newfoundland must be pushed back - normally we would have been there for months already.  Of course it is an embarrassment of riches so I am not complaining!  When I booked our ferry crossing, I thought that for once I won't need to give weather a second thought the way I do in April or May.  How wrong I was.

As we drove northward it was clear that Hurricane Arthur was going to interfere with our crossing.  Indeed, the ferry departure was moved up to a time that made it impossible for us to catch.  So we - along with many others - rescheduled.  The earliest we could book was for Tuesday night but I am holding out some hope that we might get on one tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Lucy and I are on something of an enforced vacation, holed up in Cheticamp on Cape Breton while the storm passes over.  Seems like the perfect time for some digestion.