Thursday, June 30, 2016

The last days of Troy

The Last Days of Troy

Alex called from the studio
They’re breaking down the shelves
and my heart sank
No! Wait! Ask them to wait
I’m not done there yet

And all afternoon my mind worried for it
for the goodbye not yet said
for the ritual not yet performed
for the quiet not yet released

As my work day closed
as the editing went into waiting
I knew that tomorrow wasn’t a good idea
the pull of the place was now
and I went down

Still noise there,
still disruption, still transition
but less now, only one or two of the artists
I’d never seen now packing
now dismantling their creative lives
as I had been doing all week

Five trips to the car
then sweep the floor
a frivolous gesture in light of what
would track across it soon enough
but a full circle come to
sweeping the first thing I did
on taking possession
three years ago May

When only my stool
and the wide openness
of the floor and walls remained
I sat and said a prayer of thanks
to the muse and the floor and the walls
for finding a piece of myself here
I’d not known was lost
for opening my soul
for sheltering the eager child in me

I was rewarded with stillness
inside and out
the hammers and drills
on meal break

And then I was complete,
as complete as I could be in the loss
and I folded up the stool
and put the two keys on the table
and took my grateful heart and the stool
down the steep, steep stairs
and out the door to 11th St
one more time
and drove the last pieces
of three years at Troy
home in the June-lit evening

Jill Kelly, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Going green on cat litter

I've known quite a while that clay cat litter comes from strip mining. Not good. Not good at all. But I was of the mistaken understanding that my cats wouldn't tolerate a shift to a less destructive litter. Not so. I've been using a clumping litter made of grass for the last month. I put it under the clay litter at first so the cats would mix it themselves but I've had not complaints and no thinking outside the box. It's a bit more expensive but the earth is so worth it. Here's an article on alternatives if you're ready to help out in this effort.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A beautiful brief essay from poet David Whyte

Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.

Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.
To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someones, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witnesses all at once.
Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table as part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative might mean we are simply not paying attention.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stuff and more stuff

I have felt really done with the Marie Kondo tidying-up project over the last several months, but now I need to sort, tidy, and purge all the stuff from my studio. When I set my studio up three years ago, I didn't think too much about what I was taking down there. I hired my nephew to help me on a sunny afternoon and we drove carload after carload of stuff from my cabinets and my basement storage unit. There was a lot of built-in shelving and storage space already in the studio so I just filled it up.

A year or so before, I had sorted out some things. I knew that I was never going to learn about all manner of art media and skills, so I let go of calligraphy tools and watercolors and a lot of mixed media possibilities. But I was still doing collage and acrylics and pastels and colored pencils and a lot of other things just seemed worth hanging on to.

And when friends learned I had a studio, they gifted me with all kinds of extra paints and brushes and tools and books and paper. Not to mention, all the shopping I've done in art stores and online. Since candy stores and bakeries are no longer someplace I go, art stores have become the big treat. So I've been slowly filling up that studio space.

Now I need to reduce, really reduce what I have. More tidying and purging coming up.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The evaporating studio contract

Bad news came in a phone call last night. The trustee of our studio building has refused to sign the contract he agreed to three weeks ago. He has found a buyer and the buyer apparently won't honor that contract. Instead, the buyer will manage the studio spaces himself and charge what he thinks is more in line with the market. There is no guarantee that he will even keep the studio spaces as they are or offer them to us.

None of these details really matter to me. The fact is that I will most likely need to vacate my studio by the end of this month. I was already stretching my budget to accommodate the 30% increase we were looking at in that now-rejected contract.

 I feel very sad about this loss. I won't stop painting. I'll find another studio or reorganize my apartment to make the work feasible for me here. But having a real artist's studio, one that I could afford, one that I could walk to, has been a dream come true and I'm sorry that it's ending.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

I'm learning more about my addiction to food

The last couple of months have been tougher on BLE. I'm not bored with the food as I suspected I might become. In fact, I really like the food that I eat and because my tastebuds aren't jaded by sugar and fat, everything is delicious. I'm even getting used to the long stretches between meals and the no snacking, which seemed so hard at first.

No, what I miss is being stuffed. Eating all I want at a meal until I don't want anymore. That may sound crazy if you're not an overeater. But I miss being sated, really sated. Not just kind of full, but the license to keep eating until I'm really done.

I've had not trouble convincing myself that I was a compulsive eater. I have obsessed about certain foods, I have eaten when the compulsion strikes me rather than at mealtime or because of physical hunger. But I have not wanted to admit that I overeat compulsively, that I can't stop eating. But of course that's true. If there had been a hidden camera here watching me go through ice cream or bags of caramels any of the last decades, I'd have had incontrovertible truth.

Somehow I wanted to hang on to that last bit of denial, but I can't hang on to it anymore. And so I have to abstain from that as well as sugar, flour, and snacks. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On not attending the opening of my first gallery exhibit

Last night was the opening of the Pack It Up exhibit at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River, OR. Four of my paintings are on display and for sale but I was home. No, I wasn't sick. No, I didn't have other plans. Instead, an oil train derailed a few miles from Hood River, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil that caught on fire, and the freeway was closed for about 11 hours. That freeway is the main access route east-west for hundreds of miles and so the traffic came to a grinding halt.

We contemplated going and then realized we needed to stay out of the mess. So I took off my party clothes and watched a movie on TV instead of mingling with art patrons and potential customers. I was disappointed but am hoping there are many more art openings with my work on display in my future.

The fire is apparently out. No word yet on the environmental impact: the serious air pollution, water damage, the humans and critters affected. There's a big movement here to stop such trains from operating. I hope this disaster will serve some greater good.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Donald Trump and the last decades of American education

I don't usually include politics in these posts. There's so much discussion online and most of us have made our decisions. But I've been thinking about the phenomenon that is Donald Trump and wanted to share a thought I've been having. For about 20 years (1974-1994), I was a college professor and I watched the level of preparedness of college freshmen sink lower and lower. I taught French for a decade and then taught composition and writing. I saw the knowledge of geography disappear. I heard from students that they had never had a class in anything that resembled Civics, antyhing that gave them an understanding of our government, how it works, where it came from. The history of immigration, of Civil Rights, Women's Rights, nothing. This was true at all three places: a big state university in Oregon, a small state college in Virginia, a private college in Pennsylvania. The students at all three knew less and less about much of anything. Many of them also read very little and wrote poorly. And they were still college students who would most likely graduate. It's one of the reasons I left the profession.

I see Trump as a consequence of this. When we don't read, we don't know what's true or real. When we haven't learned to reason critically and question the words of others and their motivation, we fall prey to fear and panic. In a way, we are all responsible for where we've come to. Yikes!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Building more of my life around creativity

One benefit of the news that the building that houses our art collective's studio space was being sold was to get me to take it much less for granted. I had been assuming that it would always be there, that the rent would always be affordable, and as long as I could find the money and climb the many stairs to our floor, I could keep going down there. 

Once I realized I was going to lose it, sooner or later, I began going much more frequently. Instead of going maybe once a week for a couple of hours, I started going every day or every other day. I'm now averaging 4-5 times a week and about 10 hours a week.

I decided to take this avocation much more seriously. I began two news series of paintings. I started reading some of the many how-to painting books I've accumulated. An opportunity to really establish my art life was going to close on me and I didn't want any regrets about it. I wanted to be so thoroughly a painter in my own mind that I would find a way to keep going once the studio disappeared and that would take momentum. I'm so glad.