We are approaching the one year anniversary of first wave of pandemic shut downs in the US. It’s strange to look back and remember how utterly flabbergasted I was by the though of in-person school just ending and not coming back for a whole 6 weeks. Now, having more or less adjusted (accepted our fate), to a work from home schedule and with both children still not attending school in-person, the world as I knew it last March feels much farther away than the space of a year.
“Zen pretty much comes down to three things — everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.”
― Jane Hirshfield
Not long after the shut down I came across the quote above. I remember thinking about it and the mysterious (to me) concept of Zen, how it felt like everything had changed, seemingly overnight. Thinking about the paradox of this huge world that I suddenly felt much more connected to, even while my social circle and actual number of human interactions dramatically lessened.
Around the same time my kids and I started making stick lean-to structures around our neighborhood and alongside the creek that runs through the heart of town. We would stop and build them up one stick at a time, sometimes carefully, sometimes slapdash, balancing fallen branches and bits of twigs.
In my early pandemic naivety, I tried so hard to re-create the schedule that we had lost, to bring back and impose the past on our new reality- sigh/chuckle. This was before hitting the many “pandemic walls,” before I knew it was enough to just try and make it through and [insert lessons yet to be learned]. The only thing for us to do is pay attention and it’s hard enough to be the only thing. Change will continue to happen, connection will continue to happen.
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
A timeline of a creative process
Start Here* With a beautiful idea/goal/dream. I have received some sort of creative input from [insert cool Instagram artist my neighbor just told me about] and now there are endless possibilities and a kind of optimism that allows me to go out and buy that giant canvas AND despite trying and failing to find that damn email from Michael’s with the 40% off coupon, I don’t feel even a little bit harried, nope! and to the young innocent clerk, I lie and say “no big deal!” All the while holding tightly onto that *bliss* quietly chanting to myself “get it girl, you got this.”
A week or so in. There’s a good base coat of paint on the canvas and inhibitions are still miles off shore, best be safe and not stare too intently in that direction tho. Also far adrift is my original idea, what was it really about? It’s all getting kind of hazy. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll just keep going and see what happens next.
WORK. the good sh*$. The ZONE.
Burn it down. Like truly, madly, deeply– I hate it. If there was a way to actually burn it without burning down my studio (littered as it is with paint soaked rags-yikes), I think I would have done it. So instead I paint over, or tear up, occasionally snip snipping it into tiny pieces, anything to move past that feeling of revulsion and despair.
(Sometimes I don’t, sometimes I just ride the feeling and give the work some space. )
(Sometimes I do. And sometimes after it’s all wiped out, including my sense of artist accomplishment and creative identity, there is emptiness.)
Reconciliation. There is accounting to be done, now this relationship has experienced conflict. And for that conflict it has depth and well placed holes in it’s jeans.
Wrapping it up. The “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” phase, that calls for picking up the pieces and making a bit of sense out of my composition and palette. At this point I am usually feeling proud of the work or at least fond of the direction I am headed, there is an end in sight.
The end? Hard to say. Phew, this feels like a lot of steps. In reality they can be all mushed up, out of order and repeating! But there usually is an END, and when I am there I almost always (all jokes aside) find release. A sense of “coming through” and catharsis.