Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ecco Roma

For a couple of weeks, I have had the thought that I need to post something here.  And then I would check in on myself and realize that I have nothing to say.  It is not that nothing is happening in my life - I feel quite stretched to the maxium actually - but really, what is there to say about that?

Although I applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship (hey - you gotta be in it to win it!) to expand on my To Stand in the Centre project, I am still feeling my way with this new energy around artmaking.  Where, oh where did my aggressive, competitive attitude about making art go?  I don't know but it is gone, sister.  Like, big time.  What's left?  This is the question that I am working with.  I glance through various art journals and websites and it is all really boring to me.  I just don't care about the questions most artists are taking up.  The questions that get me charged up are related to how we make our way in this crazy, messed up world.  Art holds some answers to these particular questions but, for the moment, it is not really how I want to work with them.

Maintaining the sense that I need to keep some kind of professional momentum going with my art career takes a lot of energy.  There is the doing of art business stuff - applying for things, keeping up networks/contacts, doing paperwork.  There is the guilt about not doing that stuff.  There is going to galleries and other shows to stay on top of what is what in the art world today.  There is other stuff too and it all takes time and energy.  And I am just so not interested in it.  When I can release a little of that feeling like I need to keep all those balls in the air, it is such a huge relief.  I feel both energized and profoundly tired.

Making things with my hands is what I do - this is not in question.  But somewhere in between the deadlines and hustling and the self-promotion, I lost the connection, or some connection of some kind to what made the whole thing make sense.  For now, I am giving myself permission to not make anything unless I really feel the need.  It feels a little like waking up from a deep sleep - where am I?

At the end of November, Lucy and I will visit Finnian in Rome.  It was in Rome, in 1985, that I had a profound experience of coming into my own with colour and painting and really feeling like the work I was making was truly my own.  Perhaps beautiful Roma will work its magic again, 30 years later!

Monday, October 05, 2015

A Bit of a Bender

Maybe it was some pushback after my big (and yet unfinished) Konmari clean-out.  Or maybe it was just because I haven't actually bought yarn in about three years.  But whatever the case, I have been on a bit of a yarn buying bender.

Michele Wang, knitwear designer and owner of Gauge + Tension, the yarn store in Greenpoint where I have been lucky enough to teach spinning a few times, has developed her own line of yarn from Cormo sheep.  She is working with an indie dyer to make a series of gorgeous colors.  The result is yarn that is bouncy and soft and beautiful.  When I taught the intermediate spindling class, I asked for payment in yarn.

Let it be known that teaching at yarn stores is a dangerous thing!

On the plus side, I have the pattern picked out already.

Then, it so happened that Lucy spent ten days at Not Back to School camp up in Vermont.  I drove up to pick her up on Saturday, which was rather grueling - 12 hours in all.  Such a demanding trip required at least one reward (I mean, beyond having my daughter back).  

It so happened that the route to Vermont goes right past...

Yes, the Mecca of yarn stores - WEBS.  It is all that.

There is so much yarn there that it is hard to make decisions.  I found myself over near the Lopi section, thinking about how I have long wanted to recreate a sweater that my mom made me about 30 years ago that has entered the unwearable stage after so many years of service.

Enter nine skeins of lopi.  Not exactly the same colors but I think they will be gorgeous together (the dark grey will be the main color).

Now to seek out that missing element in this big adventure:  time.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Of a Tuesday Morning

For the past three weeks, I have been teaching yoga at the Manhattan Detention Complex (yes, the same one that used to be called the Bernard Kerik Complex). Every Tuesday morning, I meet up with my fellow teacher, Jaime, and we go up to the 7th floor together, after a good bit of complicated security measures are taken. We teach an hour-long class to the women in the transgender unit.

I have this privilege through a group that I have mentioned before, Liberation Prison Yoga. LPY advocates for teaching yoga in prison in a way is "trauma-informed". We don't teach with commands. For example, we wouldn't say, "put your foot forward and bend your knee." We might say instead, "For this posture, we step our foot forward and bend our knee." It's all about offering the students a choice, even in subtle or simple ways.

This past Tuesday, everyone seemed agitated and distracted. We practice in the communal space so there are televisions on and people wandering around in the best of circumstances. This week there seemed to be an extra number of guards and inmates coming in and out, extra noise and extra tension in the air. I was leading the practice and it was a challenge to keep the class together between the background noises, side conversations, giggling about farting, the freezing cold cement floors, and a host of other internal and external disruptions. My inner school marm was wanting to call everyone to order, to sit at their desks with their hands folded. 
Fortunately, I resisted that approach.  I used two other things: the experience of our breath and a bhavana or visualization/direction for our minds about the full moon , drawing inspiration from the beautiful moon that happened on Sunday night.  At the end of class, I read this poem by the 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz.
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear? 
I wish I could say that it settled everyone down and we finally were able to relax into our bodies and experience a moment of calmness, but it didn't.  They did seem a bit shocked that I had read something so openly vulnerable in what it revealed and what it asks of the reader.  Then, one new woman in the unit asked me if I knew about Buddhism since she was interested in that.  And another woman sat with me and Jaime and told us more of her story - even going so far as to tell us that she was starting to ask why she let herself go back to drugs whenever she was out of prison even when she knew it would end badly.  We didn't really have answers for her but we listened to what she had to say.

Make no mistake.  These women are tough.  They have had hard lives and they know how to survive.  A couple of yoga classes isn't going to suddenly make them soft and tender-hearted - although I see moments of softness and tenderness in there, alongside the toughness...and the strength and the brilliance.  I see a lot of brilliance.  I am not fooling myself that a few hours of deep breathing will make up for the years of whatever horror they have witnessed and experienced, and who knows, maybe even inflicted on others.  I don't think that is why we are there.

I do think, however, that showing up, caring, making mistakes and then having a laugh about it, moving around a bit, sitting still a bit, reading a poem, taking a deep breath, sharing a story - being there with a full moon in each eye - is a worthwhile way to spend an hour each Tuesday morning.

What is yoga practice?  It's in there somewhere.