writing through the pandemic, and other calamities

Songwriting, I have been doing a bit of that. I, along with most of humanity one could correctly assume, feel tossed and battered in a hurricane of emotional turmoil at this time. I don’t know about you but some days I feel on the cusp of tears. With not only the pandemic, but now the violence and hate that is dominating over people’s efforts to do the right things. Specifically south of the border. So, I try to distill all that into brief lyrics.

RIP, George Floyd, if peace can even be found anymore, and the too many others who innocently fell under a needlessly aggressive, violent end.

 

Oh Mama

 

Oh mama, you picked a good time to go

You packed your things and floated out the door

We never saw this coming, what laid us down so low

Did I hear you say it’s the wicked seeds we sow

 

Oh mama seems the sky’s cracked open

Hearts are torn, there’s only darkness showing

The -light- has- left- our- eyes

Seems too late for redemption

But shouldn’t we try?

 

Can it ever be sweet again

Looking down from those high places

You’ve nothing left to defend

But I’ll take any love you send, down on me

 

Oh mama you don’t worry anymore

It’s not like this hasn’t happened before

Take the blows, bite back the pain

Mend the wounds, wipe the stain, do it all over again

 

Oh mama will you hold a place for me

When it comes the time my soul’s set free

By then I think I’ll have had enough

Of this crazy world that’s left me worn and scuffed

 

Will it ever be sweet again

Looking down from those high places

You’ve  nothing left to defend

But I’ll take any love you send, down on me

And it will be sweet again

When we’re looking down from those high places

We’ve nothing left to defend

There’s only love, there’s only to send

 

 

 

 

Artist in the time of Corona

Have you seen the memes being circulated that show an artist before, during, and then after the Coronavirus self isolation period? In each phase the artist is doing exactly the same thing- creating. Another meme shows a gardener in each phase of isolation who also continues as usual in working in the garden.

The message is obvious. Creatives, and artists can isolate like champs. Happy in our own little world.

And I’m grateful to be living in a good place while this nasty pandemic is ruling our lives. Not seeing my kids and grandkids is my only heartache.

Of course in the beginning of our Sheltering in Place period, there was quite a bit of anxious focus and energy given to thinking how to retool our lives to fit our New Normal. Like, how are we shopping now? Is it okay to even go to town to shop for food?  Do we set up sanitization stations at our front doors? Do we wear gloves? Masks ? Are we suppose to strip off all our clothes before entering our homes after being in town? Do we wash all our groceries and packaging before putting them away? What happened to all the toilet paper? The flour, the yeast?

Because I live in a tiny island community, one kilometre from the main big island of Vancouver, many here don’t have their own boat and rely on the private little passenger ferry to get to town. When the ferry had to implement a severely limited ferry schedule and cut the passenger count from 32 to 14 per run to adhere to health distancing protocol this brought a surge of near panic and mayhem amongst my neighbours.

I’m fortunate (logically practical?) to have always had my own boat. And right about now many of my neighbours are considering hard in buying their own boats too.

Those of us with boats were requested to be available for emergency rides if needed. Our community email feed each day became filled not only with discussions about the virus but also with; who needs a ride in, and is anyone going to town and could they pick up a grocery item, or asking if anyone is going to Costco, or to pick up a package at the post office, or a prescription at the pharmacy. Often times when a neighbour is in town they would post on our community fb page asking if anybody needs anything. We came together and we help where possible. Benefits of a small tight knit community.

There are the daily morning updates from our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and our community discussions over particular protocols to be followed, with the latest agreement that visitors would be disallowed coming to our island. In fact all of the gulf Islands have banned visitors form coming. Signs saying this were posted at dock heads, and at the ferry waiting area in town. Next was to close the kids playground area and our off leash dog park when the government mandated to close all recreation parks.

There was simply a lot to digest in those first few weeks. And it can take a bit of time to disseminate all of this new information. 

Now we have seemingly settled into our respective routines. The community email feed has levelled out. Requests for town item pickups have lessened. We’re tentatively acquainted with how things are to be done. We put on a courteous face, although there is a hum of cautious nervousness just under the surface when in town and interacting with a cashier at the grocery store, or waiting in line outside the pharmacy. We can’t ignore the profound feeling that this is truly a surreal experience/existence.

Being an artist while living through this is a saving grace. Creatives enjoy their solitary time, given there is coffee and snacks within reach.  We may not be in the company of others, but we don’t mind because we are in the constant, engaging company of our artist self. We can never feel bored, lonely, or at a loss in what to do. We are constantly inspired by even the quietest muse.

And, what I’m really enjoying right now is seeing the videos of the music, the dances, the skits, the art from all those out there who are embracing this forced opportunity to be creative too.

Give people enough space and time from the daily grind and see what good things can happen.

I hope you are finding your muse to help you get through this time and are staying well  ~

 

 

Silent Spring 2020

Interesting times we are all sharing. We are all hunkered down for the long haul here on Vancouver Island. It truly feels real now that the BC ferries, our connection to the mainland, has been severely curtailed. They have cut 50% of runs at two Vancouver Island terminals – allowing only four runs a day for commercial traffic- our supply goods traffic, and four runs for regular passengers. The terminal in my downtown, Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, has been discontinued for the next two months.

I give a major shout out to FaceTime and Skype and Zoom. Our saving grace is our technology at this time. We can still keep in close enough contact with family and friends. Our kids can still easily keep up with their studies from school. Adults and kids alike can take up a new interest, do research on the internet, download books and reading material, and music. Along with all the virtual tours online of parks and art galleries.

People are getting acquainted, or reacquainting themselves, with actual cooking meals from scratch, and baking their own bread- how empowering is that!? Many are seriously considering starting a vegetable garden or at least growing some kind of food in pots on a patio or balcony.

People are digging deep into themselves through all this chaos; reawakening dormant, or once lost talents and skills. We are thinking and rethinking. We are reinventing ourselves.

This event may stretch in to the fall, some authorities are saying. How profoundly will we all be changed?

I think of all the brilliant innovation that is now being developed, the retooling, the radical new inventions being brainstormed. We will be changed by this, it’s inevitable. Travel will look different, our family connections too. Workplace environments will shift and re establish in a new way. Schools will definitely look and behave differently. Will there be an insurgence of home schooling? Smaller localized schools?

When this is over, we will all be a different humanity. I hold onto my trust of the 99.99 to infinity% of well intentioned, brilliant, humanitarian individuals in the world who have love and compassion for fellow inhabitants, and for those who are dedicated to working over the new ideas, the new thinking, and the new manner of living on the planet in our rebooted future.

I have been accused of possessing a “Polly Anna” attitude and outlook. And I have to agree. I’ve always been an optimist. But it doesn’t imply I am not aware of the underlying negativity that exists in the world. I acknowledge it, and voice it from time to time, but I don’t stay there with it. I see it, I understand what it is, and assess if there is some truth that needs to be retained from it, then I make the choice.

I turn the channel. I move on with new information with my innate optimism.

Interesting times. But fascinating too. Watch, observe; this is real time and we are all at the same time learning how to do this.

Our “Oneness” has never been so evident.

Stay well everyone and be a studious witness to all this unfolding. Be kind.

 

Spring Push

March is here and I’m happy about it! Time to start thinking about the veggie garden and other gardening activities, time for being out doors more than indoors, and soon time for swimming in the river and ocean.

Half of the month of February was taken up by a minor injury that required five stitches and two weeks to heal. I was pushing down on a large bag of my recycling bag to make room for yet a little more, and a can sliced into the fleshy part at the base of my right hand thumb. A nice fillet of palm.

I buy hardly any canned products, but that little can of evaporated milk got me. I clean all my recycling, because I’m an obedient citizen (insert sarcasm ), but it was still a can, and a deep slice. Off to the walk-in clinic and stitches, and a tetanus shot for good measure.

A note about the young resident doctor at the clinic. I chatted with him about where and how long he has trained, etc. He says UBC and  eight years, then the residency. He put his rubber gloves on, got the tray of sewing gear ready, then he reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone- had a look, swiped it to read something, then slipped it back in his pocket. I said, “Would you mind changing your gloves.” (it wasn’t a question) which he promptly did; I think he realized his slip. I thought, Didn’t they teach you hygiene in med school? Cell phones are petri dishes!

The cut kept my right hand in limited use. I managed to get some more pottery under-glazed, but throwing on the wheel was out of the question, or hand building.

I got some writing done too, class work, but also concentrated on a non-fiction short story to submit for the CBC competition that ended yesterday, the 29th. I had changed my submission story three times. I started with a story from my childhood and a grade five bully. Wrote 2000 words on it, then thought who wants to read about an old woman’s little bullying  episode from 1967?

So I started another story based on the life of a good friend of mine, someone I am close to and love like a brother, and who has overcome real hardship. 2000 words. Then thought- is this my story to tell? Then I started the third -and last story, because I was running out to time! I chose an event from a 1997 sailing trip I went on. Some interesting things had happened on that voyage, so with one week left till deadline I wrote another 2000 word story and got it in last night.

Writing non-fiction is harder than writing fiction. More fun to create a world. Writing fiction is far more entertaining than trying to unearth anything interesting from my own mundane middle-aged life to write about!

I’ve submitted to this competition three other times in the past. Spoiler alert- I didn’t win, or get short listed. Never expected to, and still don’t. Right now I’m just working at getting comfortable with submitting! Of course my writing is garbage, that’s ok. Maybe it’ll improve, it’s why I’m taking a writing class. Each time I polish something for submission it’s good practice, working with a deadline, all that.  I know I get better by increments. And that’s quite enough for the time being.

Happy March !

Studio Work and Back to School

I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last few weeks. One, I’ve been getting some work done in my studio. It took me a while to get myself down in to the basement- my studio’s location-because I had to overcome a ridiculous hang up; where will I put the things I make? Where will I store them? True, there isn’t a lot of space down there, yet presumptuous of me to worry about stuff I haven’t even made yet.

So I gave myself a pep talk: just get in there, make stuff, then consider the logistics.

 

I can self sabotage like a champ.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Why do we self sabotage ? Especially when it’s something we love to do, or have always wanted to do? Self Sabotage is slithery, sometimes – many times- I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I don’t know about you but I can always come up with a justification for not doing something.  I’m working on rectifying this, and recognizing when it’s happening is the first step.

There should be a Self Sabotage Anonymous Group.

 “Hello, my name is Debra and I am a self sabotager.”

“Hi Debra.”

The other preoccupation; I’ve enrolled in a Fiction Writing university class! It was hit and miss for a bit because I was on the waiting list. This happened mid January and I’ve got three weeks assignments in. There are reading assignments, then questions to answer in paragraph form. We submit our own short story piece every other week and give constructive critiques to each other. The instructor then does his final critique privately to each student at the end of each week.

Writing is a passion for me. I’ve been writing, privately, for many years, and have kept journals since the age of fourteen. Badly written pieces aside, I want to do this. These first few weeks have been illuminating, and I’m loving the process!

And let’s just add that I need this class.

The bonus is the class is conducted online, which is ultra convenient. If you don’t know, I live on a tiny gulf island and commute by boat. So when it’s a snowin’, blowin’, sleetin’ or a rainin’,  I. don’t. care. I’m snug at home.

Enrolling in the class was a positive step in taking something I imagine I can do to the next level. It is also a sly method to seek some outside validation. In other words I can write till my fingers fall off and think it’s pretty good. But, in fact, like Schrodinger’s cat, I’m a great writer- in my eyes – in my house.

Now I’ll see which state collapses when observed by a third party.

I continue doing Morning Pages. I believe they have been instrumental in guiding me to dig down and mine the good stuff I had buried over the years. Focused journalling, is what I call it. Three pages every single day for nearly five months now.

Happy Creating ~

 

Tethers

The elephant and the tether. That’s what reclaiming my “self” feels like after years of my self being claimed by work, duties and obligations.

The circus elephant, accustomed to a limited range of motion while their foot is tethered to the post for so long that when the tether is removed, the elephant still never ventures outside the range of the tether. Over time that range has been ingrained into their behaviour. They are trained to stay within a certain circumference.

Don’t we kind of do the same thing? We, the elephant; our daily grind to make a living, the circus.

And we stay tethered even if its no longer attached to us too. Is it because the tether can represent something familiar and predictable? That it circumscribes a safe area where we are comfortable, because we know what lies there in that length of rope between the post and our foot?

Never really noticed this until I no longer had to go to a job, but I am, slowly, learning how to reset the parameters, regain the lost horizon. I feel weightless, but in a disconcerting way. But I know it’s only temporary, that unsettled feeling. I can only think this must be what it’s like when, once bound, now boundless. Oooh, that sounds lovely. And terrifying.

 

New Year, New books, and why don’t we creatives take ourselves seriously?

Well, that was a bit of hiatus. We got through the hubbub that is the Christmas season, a happy time for me. I love the winter season, the get togethers, the food, the very atmosphere the season can bring with it. Also, I love the winter season for the quiet time, some delicious solitude time, the snug of a warm home on cold stormy days. Christmas time, being a secular celebration for me, doesn’t discount the beautiful spirit we share together in our human condition. Regardless of religion, I feel it brings us closer, and causes us to remember and connect with the people we love – or those strangers we want to reach out and help.

This year while out doing my gift shopping I noticed that everyone had a countenance of happiness about them. I saw no grumpy faces in other words. Everyone was courteous and polite, smiled at each other. I’m sure there are many out there that do dread the shopping forays.- Not me. The bustle in the shops makes me particularly happy. It’s a super conductive positive charge knowing everyone is shopping because they are looking for a gift to give to another. How can we grumpy when we are engaged in that kind of activity?

This year Bob and I bought only a few gifts for the three grand babies. Between us and our two grown kids and their spouses we had decided on no gifts, but then we all seemed to stumble upon hearing about this particular Swedish gift exchange of Jolabokaflod, or Yule Book Flood, and decided to adopt it for our own gift giving practice.  It’s a full on WIN in our family. Tradition installed!

As a happy and luscious addition to ones’ new book, you are also required to have some good chocolate and some wine as you snuggle down on Christmas Eve to read. I can’t think of anything more delightful! Just so happens I made some chocolate truffles to send along with the books. The wine- well they had to look after that, but next year I may wrap that up with the truffles too.  Ah, see how it can escalate?  Hmmm, do they need a new duvet to cuddle down into with their new book, truffles and wine?

My chocolate truffles!

My daughter gave me a non-fiction written by Kate Harris; Lands of Lost Boarders, Out of Bounds on the Silk Road. What a spirit this woman has! Loving it, beautiful writer, and I’m nearly finished it. My son gave me The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book that he had just read and loved, a book I had on my list to buy since October.

The War of Art runs along slightly the similar lines as The Artists Way, but isn’t a workbook per se. It’s not a big book, so got through it in a day, but found his insights very supportive and motivating for pushing through to, as its subtitle says, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

Very helpful stuff in there. And since this blog concerns itself with the creative issues of unblocking and recovering our inner artist I want to share and touch on one of the sections in The War of Art that spoke loud and clear. On page 69 under the chapter “We’re All Pro’s Already” he lists Ten behaviours we all already do as employees when working that day job for other people or companies. The implication he makes is we can transfer these behaviours to our creative work. This, for me, was like an Oprah moment.

Of course! Why wouldn’t I apply the same discipline to my own creative aspirations as I did when an employee and held a day job? And I was a very good employee by the way. Here are the ten points he makes:

    1. We show up everyday.
    2. We show up no matter what
    3. We stay on the job all day
    4. We are committed over the long haul
    5. The stakes for us are high and real
    6. We accept renumeration for our labour
    7. We do not over identify with our job
    8. We master the technique of our jobs
    9. We have a sense of humour about our jobs
    10. We receive praise and blame in the real world

These ten points make sense; treat our creative aspirations with the same “professional” attitude we give our day job. Why would we offer ourselves any less attention? It became evident to me my own inner reason for never considering this has to do with me not believing my creative work is worthy of such a commitment. Hey, it’s not real work anyway, so I can take it or leave it whenever- not important.

In fact, I am cancelling an important date; turning my back on a loved one- ME!

Number 6 is a good one. Receiving monetary reward. Why do we have such a hard time putting a monetary figure to our creative work? Instead we look down at our beaten shoes, give a scuff, and mumble awe shucks when someone likes what we do and wants to buy. We can go to our day job and not even be 20% engaged in that job, but we still happily collect our pay.

I know, and I’m just thinking on the fly here; Art resides on a different plane. Because we have a near spiritual connection to our creative process. To “sully” it with money seems at odds. I don’t have an answer for that, because I’m guilty as charged in that instance. I find it difficult to attach a monetary figure to something I’ve made.  I haven’t made much of anything to sell as it stands, but the few things I have had to put a price on was awkward for me.

I do recommend this book for a good kick in the pants.

In the meantime, The Artists Way has been a boon to my inner work, I’m on Week Eleven now and have noticed many definite positive inner shifts. I haven’t gotten down to painting yet, most of my creative work for the last while has been working to complete a writing project, so not privy to sharing that right now. I am still gearing up to push myself into the studio though! It’ll happen.

Delving into my personal hold backs, blocks and self-doubt around creative issues is deep solitary work, with not much to show at first. I’m a sponge right now, soaking all this information up, and I’m loving this whole process of exploring my creative blocks of why’s and why nots. It’s an enlightening, revealing journey!

But also, in keeping with my sponge metaphor, I’m going to have to squeeze out something eventually.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Hope your Christmas was glorious, and wishing you a creatively fulfilled New Year ~