The Irony of Chaos

I have a confession to make.  I'm disorganized.  

I work hard at hiding my chaos from the viewing public.  It's there to see, of course -  the haphazard receipts in my purse, the lack of coherency in my closet, the socks (and more) under the bed.  Even as I have tried to reduce and simplify to get a handle on the disorder,  I admit none of it comes naturally.

I cannot tell you how it was to own and operate a five star B&B and keep this part of me squirreled away indefinitely from the viewing public.  It's one thing to start each working day at point zero and bring everything to a high standard.  It's an entirely different thing to start at point minus twenty and do the same thing.  It ate up a lot of my life force to do that.  More than I care to think about. 

I am not going to sit here and say I didn't enjoy it.  I enjoyed a great deal of it.  But I spent too much time fussing about all the things that were not, in my mind's eye, perfect. To complicate things, the property was 400 years old.  If there's something that's never going to be perfect, it's a 400 year old stone house.

I have often considered the irony of that. 

Why people really came to our B&B.   

Why people really came to our B&B.   

I missed, in those days, the big glaring elephant in the room.  And the elephant knew this:  People were not coming to our B&B for perfection.  They were coming there because of us, our story, and what we had created.  And the warm, inviting atmosphere came, in large part, from my sense of chaos and willingness to throw things together in such a way that they felt comfortable but not planned. They were coming for the creative energy on our little hill in the wine country. 

The part of me that shames me was actually responsible for creating the very thing people loved.  It wasn't perfection they were looking for after all; it was rather the magic that came from whirling creativity that expresses itself on occasion as a hot mess.

 Now, all these years later, I consider the ultimate irony in that and feel grateful for it.

I learned from this.  Changing my basic nature is not going to happen. And I find that I no longer want to. I am accepting that there is only so much order I can demand of myself without being self-destructive. And while I'm pretty sure I'll never completely get away from the small voice demanding some kind of unattainable perfection, I will learn to hush her as I choose my paints and clay and messy sock draw over the dust rag and Swiffer one more time. 

Aging 1

Life is so unreasonably fascinating. 

No matter how hard we try to bend and shape it into a form that works more conveniently, it follows its own formidible, self-determined path.  Doors open; doors snap shut.  Age takes us, uncannily, by surprise.  I suppose that's the vanity in us humans.  We see ourselves in mirrors and our eyes correct what photos cannot deny.  We find out that wrinkles don't hurt, even when they appear in multitude.  We become softer.  We look, well, more vulnerable.  The edges are more rounded - worn down by time and experience - sometimes gently and sometimes with a harshness like a sandstorm on a piece of soapstone.  

I get tired, so exhausted that I can't really think.  My brain hurts. It's part of being 58 and having juggled too many balls for too long.  It seems the only solution I can find for dropping balls is to find new ones - new, more complicated, shiny ones. 

Because I'm still so damned interested in just about everything I do.  I love thinking, engaging, meeting new people, discussing, trying new ways of creating art or working on a start up or designing a house.   I love all of it so much.  I think, much more than a passion for one thing, curiousity about many things has helped me negotiate a complicated and sometimes precarious path. Sometimes my energy level can't keep up with my curiousity.  That's when my brain hurts. 

I'm lucky.  I've done many things that have thoroughly interested me.  I've taken risks and plunged into very diverse lifestyles in different countries doing different things. I became a student who never stops learning. The same things that taught me wild and beautiful lessons have also  flooded me with anxiety and pain.  They've pushed me over limits I never thought I would supercede. I've faced enormous fears that I fully believed were not survivable and survived. These are the lessons of this path that I was meant to learn. 

As hard as it's been at times, and it's been ridiculously hard, I never want it to stop, because it's absolutely magical.

When we shut out what naturally sparks us, we kill off pieces of ourselves.  And as we age, that's dangerous.  Because engaging with our own spirit, our own nature, however insanely difficult that might be, is what this aging process is to meant be about.  Pulling back will happen naturally as aging moves into out-of-life transition - but until then, engaging is something that keeps us in expansion.  

When I look around at people older than myself, I am most touched by those who continue to engage with the things they love right up until they can't.  People for whom the word "retirement" doesn't really exist. Grandfathers who help their granddaughters in the vineyards.  Older artists and scientists who still read, create, and challenge their own set of beliefs. People who know they don't have all the answers and allow for input and change. People not permanently stuck in their own ideas of religion or dogma or ideology. These are the people who move me the most and who I want to emulate as I advance in age. 

I know this means I'll have to continue to take risks and continue to make mistakes.  Those things have been scary enough up to this point - I am quite sure they will continue to terrify me as the years go by.  But the alternative is to contract and whither.   For whatever it's worth, I don't think that's an option for me.  Not as long as I have the strength to fight on. 

I will, however, allow for more naps.  I will definitely do that. 

Drama

Drama

Drama.  The thing we want less of but need more of. 

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A Special October

The water's edge in Bromma, Sweden 

The water's edge in Bromma, Sweden 

How are you, friends?  Opening up to new energy? Calming and releasing old stories?   

The year is entering its final sixty days - hard to even imagine.  The days are shorter, the shadows longer.  The air is crisp and the leaves are whirling in their final descent to creating next spring's fertile ground for new seedlings.  

It has been an intensely emotional month for us on so many fronts.  So many things have happened, and this weekend I'm taking time to simply put all of the impressions and emotions into a place of calm and rest.  

I  traveled to the south of Europe, visiting Italy.  The vendemmia or harvest of the grapes in Serralunga d'Alba was extraordinary this year and we walked for miles, tasting the sweet nectar of the prized Nebbiolo, absorbing the last truly warm rays of the season, allowing ourselves to be caressed by the beauty and magic that only the bel paese can offer. 

I traveled to the north of Europe, visiting Sweden.  The hint of winter was not far away, although it was mild and sunny and beautiful.  We spent a few precious days in the company of close friends, trading stories and eating beautiful food on white table cloths lit with tea lights in Orreforrs crystal candle holders - as beautiful and as cozy as you might imagine.  

Between those two visits to the south and to the north, we lost a most precious family member.  My mother in law, Ingeborg Baur, transitioned in peace at the wonderful age of 95 years old.  She had been struggling for months and although we will miss her beauty, her tenacity, and her warmth,  we are grateful for the amazing years we had with her and know that she is far better off. We feel her love every moment. On the morning she left this earth plane, I was standing by the window in my dining room thinking about her when a small yellow bird appeared and landed on the sill.  We looked straight at each other, and then she turned and flew away.  Inge's spirit is free now, and it's exactly as it should be.

Her love makes me a better person.  I will carry her with me all the days of this life and beyond. 

Through all this, I have felt compelled to create. First of all, I am taking on the Diva of ALL Divas - porcelain clay.  I have to admit, this has never been my favorite material to work with but I am determined to see what kind of role it will play in my creative life.  I have started making some organic platters, and a few have just come through the bisque firing process.  Although they will need their glaze firing, I find them very interesting.  I am using the technique of stamping the clay with textured fabric.  

One fabric in particular is close to my heart.  My father, after returning from World War Two, took a job in Brazil laying electrical lines.  From there he brought back for my mother (who had been waiting forever for him to come and marry her) a group of lace table linens.  I used those table linens at my B&B - the first person to actually use them - and decided to try making a free-form platter out of imprinted clay.  Here it is so far, after the bisque firing but before the final firing: 

The next platter is simply a piece of ancient burlap I found in the attic of the house we are living in now.  I like the thought that the burlap comes from one of the farming families who lived here at one time, therefore giving continuum and depth to the design. 

I am not settled on how I am going to glaze them yet.  

I find myself wanting to add layers of history and meaning to creative projects such as these and am pushing hard out of my comfort zone to see where this all takes my art.  

I want to create in that tangential space where meaning and substance connects to personal style and design.  And I have made a commitment to myself that I will exhibit the results of this process at some point during 2016.  This involves not only planning, but my stepping out into the public arena in this new place that I live and introducing my work.  That scares the living crap out of me but it is what I need to do to move forward with my art.   

 I am so intrigued by this concept:  that personal spiritual growth is enhanced by creating beauty, and that beauty is created through spiritual growth.  

So now it it is about taking in all of the impressions and deeper meanings of a very complex and emotion filled month and allowing the spirit to heal.

And it seems there is no better time to do that than at the end of the year, when the days are shorter and the shadows are longer. 

Be well my friends.  Let me hear how it is for you.  

Darkness, Light, Truth and Art

Stoneware bowl, thrown and altered, exterior glazed and interior raw black. 

Stoneware bowl, thrown and altered, exterior glazed and interior raw black. 

These days I find myself worrying less about creating things to please others, and thinking more about creating things that express my point of view now. 

Stoneware bowl, thrown and altered, interior glazed and exterior raw black. 

Stoneware bowl, thrown and altered, interior glazed and exterior raw black. 

Exploring creativity in this way enables me to work more freely, unaffected by anything more than my own desire to move forward with my own process.  

What this requires is honesty.  Honesty with myself.  And digging deep into a place where technical understanding, artistic ability and creativity join to produce the best of what I am able to produce.  

But more than that, it is about the work.  I am feeling my way through this stage with curiosity and a good deal of trepidation.  

Because everything about the creative process and about growth and about facing who you really are and not being afraid to stand up and be that person is full of vulnerability and trepidation, isn't it?   

Stoneware vases, burnished and glazed 

Stoneware vases, burnished and glazed 

 

Creativity is enhanced by vulnerability.  Vulnerability comes from understanding one's own authenticity and living it as fully as possible.  Authenticity comes at a price - and that price usually involves, in one way or the other, living - and feeling - the way through darkness. 

There is nothing that darkness does better than clarify things.  The pinpoints of light that present themselves in our darkest moments are the lights along our path to authenticity. 

So when you fall, and when you are down, and when you think you might not be able to get up again, realize that the earth around your poor and tired self is the most fertile place you can be. 

When you are down on that ground, the truth presents itself to you.  The cold, hard ground is not a place you can run from - not when you've exhausted all of your escape routes.  It is there that you will learn how critical it is not to stand up and move on, but to look up and to see.  

To see exactly where you are.

And to see exactly why you are there and how you came to this point. 

To see truth and to see that if you can forgive yourself for everything that got you there, the tiny points of life that you know are all around you in that darkness will get brighter, will get stronger. 

You will be able to understand better what you need to do to move forward.  

And then, just then, when you forgive yourself, you can take those baby steps to move yourself in the direction of those points of light. 

And you can start creating what you were meant to create and you can stop pushing to do things that will make everyone around you happy except you.

Simple place setting, glazed and burnished

Simple place setting, glazed and burnished


This is what this new art is about for me. 

It is about finding a way out of darkness, about forgiveness, and about learning to create straight from the heart.  

This is resilience at its most personal and vulnerable place.

You can find pieces from my new collection in my on line shop.