Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

works in progress

I've continued to work on four of the paintings (the Bacon triptich still waits for my attention).

The bird/tree paintings are finding their way, but I'm not sure where they will end up. It is quite possible that they will take different directions. One is a singleton, the other is a diptich. I'm thinking the diptich is going to go through some significant changes. Right now they are both in acrylic, over layers of writing. The singleton painting is inspired by the ee cummings poem "may my heart always be open to little birds." The diptich is inspired by one of Mr. C's songs titled "Burden Tree." He has a tendency to play with language--so the refrain of burden tree could be interpreted/heard as "bird in tree," especially since the song is *about* a bird in a tree.

Both the poem and the song are (to me) about hope. Yes, a simplistic interpretation, they are about much more than that. But hope is at the essence.

Things are finding their way on other fronts as well. I read something a while back that keeps bubbling up in my mind. It is in regard to the concept of detachment:

Uncertainty is an essential ingredient of experience. In the willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. When things seem to be uncertain, the potential for security increases.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

behaving badly

How do I stop myself from acting so clingy and bitchy all of the time?

Here I am, well aware that Mr. C is going through the shit...and that his big issue is that for years he has put on a brave face and been the comic relief for EVERYONE, no matter what, but here I am kicking and screaming at him like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

His emotional distance is something so foreign to me. And his dark moods...why am I taking it all so personally?

I keep getting my feelings hurt by little things. I swear, he looks at me a certain way and I make it into daggers.

I am over-analyzing everything and it is driving me crazy and I am certain that it is driving him crazy too. I am acting in the completely opposite way than I intend to. I want to be supportive, yet I want to feel close to him as well.

I spoke to him about it Sunday night, so it is out there. But I don't know what else to say or do.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

questions of a spiritual/metaphysical nature

There is something that I need to get out of my head and try to sort through, because it has been circling around inside my mind for a very long time...and rather than making any progress towards clarity I think I'm just getting more confused.

The problem is that I don't have much hope that I can articulate it at all.

But I want to try. It is worth the attempt.

Where to start? Since my thoughts are so tangled-up I'm not sure where a good entry point might be. Hmmm...ok, if I am going to do this then I better just go stream of consciousness and not second-guess, because otherwise I will certainly continue to be stuck.

I've always had what I would describe as a strong faith, a deep spiritual connection to God. I don't believe that any one religion or faith has claim on God--nor do I believe that God has a preference for any one faith. I was raised as a Christian in a fairly liberal home, and I realize that my views/beliefs aren't shared by some people who consider themselves to be Christian. I don't really want to get into all of that, though.

While I realize that some people experience personal tragedy or loss and it reinforces their faith, this is not what has happened in my case. My faith has been shattered. It is important to clarify that by faith I don't necessarily mean belief. My belief in the existence of God remains pretty much intact. Any amount of *doubt* is no greater than prior to losing William. I am referring to faith in a way that is synonymous to trust. I used to have a strong trust in God, and now I have no idea if that concept is even possible.

Here is where I start to get all tangled-up:
I have never believed in pre-determination, that our lives are playing out as they were "meant to be." I believe that each choice we make determines the course of our lives, and even our thoughts and attitudes have the power to change that course--for better or for worse. In this same vein, I do not believe God is some puppet-master up in the heavens looking down on us and controlling outcomes. Yet I would pray. I would pray a lot. I would have conversations with God. I would do so at night as I was falling asleep. I would do so in the morning as I started my the car as I drove, at different times througout the day. Not formal prayers, no kneeling or anything...and I haven't attended church regularly (or really at all, besides every few years at Christmas) since I was in high school. But I was always *in contact* with God. Mostly they were prayers of gratitude. Or if I was trying to sort something out or come to a decision. I was never really asking for things, as though God were Santa Claus or someone who could run an errand for me. Rather than making prayers of request I would pray about what I thought I wanted and ask God to show me what would be best, for me and anyone else involved.

But then I started to go into labor with William and I knew that if we couldn't stop it that he wouldn't make it. And boy did I pray hard that things wold turn around. And for a little while there it looked like those prayers would be answered. They were doing one last ultrasound as they took me down for surgery when my water broke. And I knew immediately, in that instant, that praying wouldn't change the outcome. That was it. I haven't prayed since. I've started to, but it is hollow and false. The nice man at the cemetary (which is Catholic, although we are not) gave me a pamphlet titled something like "Making Peace with God after a Baby Dies." Mr. C saw it and said something to me about it...he clearly wasn't mad at God and found the idea of it hard to comprehend. I told him that I was indeed mad at God, but worse--that I didn't trust him anymore. It is worse than that, though. You see, I realize the inconsistency of this all--how contradictory to my reaction is to what I say I believe. If God isn't pulling the strings then I cannot blame him for losing William. This I can handle. I actually prefer it, how awful to think otherwise. What I am having trouble with, I guess this is where the lack of faith/trust comes in, is the flip-side--if God isn't responsible for the bad things then (he) isn't responsible for the good things either. So God is not there to express gratitude to, or to consult for guidance, or to share my deepest desires with in hopes for some sense of direction toward pursuing them. But is this true? If so, then what is God?

I don't know.

And I'm not so sure that I even expressed mself very clearly. But at least it's a start.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

art therapy?

I've been painting.

As is usual for me, I am working on several paintings at once. For some reason I prefer this to focusing on one painting at a time until it is complete. It allows me to work for a while and then shift gears while layers dry or just to let me move onto something new when I need to.

As a result of this practice I have many works-in-progress and few finished pieces.

Since I started teaching pretty much all of the work I have done has been related to the work my students are doing. I do projects along with them to use as examples and to demonstrate techniques. But three of the paintings I am working on now are "just for me." I'm not sure exactly where they are going yet, but there is a lot of bird imagery inspiring them. Birds and trees.

The other four paintings are related to projects my students are doing. One painting is a "forgery with a twist"--a project my first year art students are working on. Mine is after Marc Chagall's "Paris at the Window" in which I have added landmark buildings from other major cities that hold fond memories/significance for me. I've also turned the cat into Cleo and added Jackson next to her. At the lower right corner of the painting Chagall has a figure with two faces, both male. The face on the left in my version is still a man, but his eye brows are much more like Mr. C's and the face on the right is now me. I'm liking it so far, it is fun to see it take shape. The other three paintings I'm working on are a triptich, which is inspired by/influenced by the work of Francis Bacon. My second year art students are researching periods in art history and creating works of art in the manner of the period. Bacon is one of Mr. C's favorite artists, so I'm doing this for him. I actually started it a few years ago and only got the underpainting done. I was never really satisfied with the color scheme I chose, so that is changing. I am uneasy about these paintings because Bacon's style is so macabre and I really wonder if I can pull it off.

I plan to post some pictures soon. (I tried to put Chagall's painting up at the top, but it didn't work...)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

thank you

I've been meaning to post, but just haven't been able to. That is not to say that I haven't been reading blogs and whatnot...I just don't really know what I want to say.

But I do know that I want to thank those of you who commented on my last post. It really did help. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts and perspectives with me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

what is this?

I really should be doing other things right now, but am somehow typing this.

I feel like I am coming unglued.

And, on top of it all (or, perhaps, as a result of it all--I can't be sure) I am at day 12 of my cycle and am having spotting and cramping. What is this? Really, I don't need to start worrying about my reproductive health on top of everything else right now. I already have a tendency to worry/obsess about things as it is. I don't need actual strange symptoms to fuel my anxiety.

So here is what ran through my head earlier today:
I was having a conversation with the Student Teacher about relationships and how we met our significant others. And as I was talking about Mr. C I found myself falling far short of what I usually say about him. Now I realize that I am still getting to know Student Teacher and am very aware that I am sharing personal details very cautiously. But here is essentially what I said when I described Mr. C today:

When I met him I was immediately attracted to him. At the same time, I was caught completely off guard because he seemed so different from me in many ways. As it turns out, these differences are what make him so perfect for me.

And here is what I have always said in addition to the above description:

While Mr. C is one of the most intelligent and creative people I know, he is also extremely funny. His sense of humor is one of his most attractive features to me. This is where he and I differed so strongly. Before I met him, most people would describe me as being very serious. But Mr. C has softened me, helped me to lighten-up. He makes me laugh EVERY day, even if he has to tickle me to make me do so. My sister and my brother both told me, after dating Mr. C for about a year, that they liked me better.

What occurred to me is that I didn't share these details with her because it felt too personal and sensitive. Because right now my wonderful husband, for the first time since I have known him, isn't the one who is holding me up and helping me to see the brighter, more hopeful view of life. Right now he is struggling to hold himself up. And I feel so fucking helpless in the face of this. And I also feel terribly guilty that he has always had to be the strong one...and because of this he is finally feeling weight that he has so gladly piled on his shoulders for me and everyone else he cares for.

When Mr. C was fighting cancer he was the one to make jokes and lighten the room. Sure, he expressed his fear...even shed some tears. But now that I think of it, the one time he really cried was when he was on the phone with his father. He was talking on the phone with his father after he got the diagnosis and he just broke down and had to hand the phone to me. On the other end I could hear his father crying as well. I hung up the phone and held him and he told me that he just couldn't handle hearing his father cry--that is why he lost it, it just tore him apart to hear his father in pain. And when we were in the hospital and they were prepping him for surgery the nurses (his mother included) made a huge fuss over me because they were certain I was about to faint. He was so worried about me, he said that he was more worried about me than he was for himself. How could I be so selfish? Why couldn't I just pull it together so that he would have felt more supported, not to mention that he wouldn't have had to add worry for me on top of his own fear and sadness.

And when we lost William there was no one there to really support him. Sure, his mother was there, but all of the focus was on me. Once he knew that I would recover physically he continued to worry as he watched me grieve. Yes it is stereotypical but while I "grieved like a woman" he told me after less than a week that he "couldn't cry anymore." He was promoted to management just as we were losing William, and he returned to work quickly. He immersed himself in work, believing that it would be good for him to do so. And now what I believe is delayed grief is catching up to him.

Tomorrow will be his fourth session with a psychologist. When he decided he needed to see someone it was because he felt like he was suffering from anxiety and depression--due to his highly stressful job. He didn't even mention William at his first session. But after his second session, in which he did, he told me that he realized that it isn't just his job that is causing him "stress."

I am feeling pretty helpless in all of this. I wish that there was something that I could do. And it makes me so angry with myself that I had grown so dependant on him to be strong, to "lighten" things for me.

It has been hard for me to write much lately. It has been difficult to do much of anything. I know it isn't helping him for me to be so sad and depressed as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

like a flash of lightning in the sky

You are what your deep, driving desire is.

As your desire is, so is your will.

As your will is, so is your deed.

As your deed is, so is your destiny.

-Upanishad IV.4.5.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy Birthday!

It is Erin's 30th birthday today! I can't decide whether I like this picture better in black & white or in color...what do you think? Actually, I think Erin looks great either way. Me, well, that is a bit of another story. It was really dark in this restaurant and I didn't realize that my mascara was so smudged until I got home and uploaded these pictures. I saw it and at first thought that I have some serious dark circles under my eyes. Silly me. Anyway, it was nice to spend a little time with Erin. She leaves tomorrow for a wonderful trip to Costa Rica for her spring break. I told her that I am going to run the Port Angeles half marathon in June and she said that she wants to run it with me. She is running the Vancouver marathon in May, and plans to do her first triathlon in May, too. Wow! She is inspiring!

Now I am off to the Sunset to see the drop play. It's a busy night for me!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

a very, very, very, very long post about gardening

I used to plant gardens wherever I lived. My parents are gardeners, although—just like in every other possible way—they are complete opposites. My dad turns every landscape into a sculptural Japanese/Zen creation. This is not due to years of study of sparse design, or even a reflection of his spiritual beliefs per se. He grew up on a farm and as the oldest son it was his responsibility to do all of the work. He is still the hardest-working man I know. His occupation is no longer so physically demanding (since he was promoted to management years ago) but he has maintained his work ethic nonetheless. He chops all of his own firewood, and also does this for people in need (elderly relatives of his friends, or people he knows through the church). He does a lot of other things like this as well, and I could go on and on about my dad, but I won’t right now. Suffice to say that it is easy for me to go off on a tangent about him because I admire him so much. My point was that his utilitarian nature is what has influenced his design-sense the most.

My mother, on the other hand, is complicated in every way imaginable. I love my mom, but there are a lot of issues with her (how very normal of me, I know, to have issues with at least one parent…are there really people out there who have perfect relationships with both parents? I’m sure there are. Yes, there must be.) I could also go on and on about my mom and perhaps someday I will, if I am in the mood. But right now I am reflecting on my love of gardens, so I will get back to that topic. My mother’s style would best be described as an English cottage garden gone wild. But there is a method to her madness, as there is a bit of a mad scientist in my mother, and she knows every plant. More importantly, she knows every “baby” of every plant. So when my dad decides to “clean things up,” as he is inclined to do, she absolutely freaks out. To her, he has committed murder. They have found a way to compromise over the years, and now they have zones in their landscape.

When I was in my teens I began experimenting with planting, primarily vegetables. My dad and I built some raised beds in the back yard and I had a lot of fun. I also put some perennials here and there. When I went away to college one of my joys was to see how the perennials had grown over the years (and mom was always the first to show me all of the new babies that these plants had resulted in). She took over the raised beds as another place to plant flowers. I’m sure my dad appreciated the fact that they were contained in the beds.

It was in one of the places that I lived while I was in college that I started my first solo experiments as a gardener. At home, with mom and dad’s supervision, my plantings were all successful. Dad made sure the soil was rich (a detail that I took for granted) and they both, as a matter of habit, pulled weeds before they really took root and watered plants to ensure they got a good start or didn’t get burned by the sun, etc. These *finer* details of gardening (some fairly common-sense aspects, really, but to a neophyte the common-sense/banal can be harder to grasp) were huge stumbling blocks for me in the early solo days. I enthusiastically dug a garden in the back yard of the alphabet street house where I lived with two other college roommates and one non-college-self-appointed-punk-rock-goddess. Nothing would grow for me in the topsoil (duh). In the front, where there were some beds along the walkway and in front of the porch I had better luck. I’m not sure why I made the decision to buy several big bags of potting soil, but it did the trick. So sad I was a few months later when my house had become essentially a flophouse (the three roommates turned into six, with people setting up residence in the mudroom off the back porch and in the ample upstairs hallway). As the house was being taken-over by more and more people I took refuge at my boyfriend’s house (this was in the very early days when Mr. C and I had just started dating). On the morning my parents came to help me move into a studio apartment I was saddened to see that my giant sunflowers, as well as pretty much all of the other flowers along the walkway, were the victims of these careless assholes who had taken over my once happy home. When my parents and I walked into the house we literally had to step over bodies just to get through the front door. But I digress. My point is that I learned a lot about gardening here—some fundamentals, really, not the least of which is how quickly a garden will fall apart when it isn’t properly cared for.

After graduating from college and moving out of the studio apartment over a year later I moved to Seattle where I lived in a house with Mr. C and two of our friends. I was dubbed “Snow White” by my now MIL. I loved making this house feel like a home and kept myself busy with projects. Outside I tended to the beautiful roses that were all along the walkway. And in the other flowerbeds I learned about planting flowers from seed. I also learned about the many different bugs—good and bad—that live in gardens. We only lived in this house for a year, though, as the guys had all lived in shared houses all through college and were finally feeling ready to have their own places.

So I moved into an adorable house by Green Lake with my friend Deb. Deb loves gardening with a passion. We had such a great time transforming every part of the landscape. My early lessons had paid off, and here I learned more. Deb and I were both creative in our approach and weren’t afraid to experiment. The landlord appreciated our efforts as well. Unfortunately, after just over two years of living there, Deb’s job at the hospital where she was working ended due to budget cuts. She found a new job two hours away. We had to say goodbye to our little cottage and our lovely garden. The landlord encouraged her to take as many plants as she could, since he knew that renters-who-garden are rare. I was moving into another apartment, so nothing could go with me. It is almost ten years later now and Deb is still living in the house she moved into that fall. I have watched plants that I put in the ground from 4” pots grow taller than me (ok, I am short, but some of them have grown really tall).

After finishing graduate school and landing my first teaching job I moved into a little house in North Tacoma—a neighborhood called Old Town. As a first year teacher I had no time to tend to a garden that fall and by the spring Mr. C and I were engaged so my “extra” time was spent planning an August wedding. Then my time living in that house was cut short when I realized that I had a stalker (a story for another time perhaps, albeit not a very juicy one, despite they way it sounds). Neither Mr. C nor I felt comfortable with me staying in that house another night once this was discovered.

I made some modest attempts to garden at the first house Mr. C and I shared as a married couple. We lived in that house in Renton (for those of you who are not familiar with the Seattle area, Renton is a suburb to the south of the city) for four years. We kept saying that we would move back to Seattle at some point, since Mr. C always worked in Seattle and that is where all of our friends are. What kept us in Renton was my job/commute to Tacoma. Finally one day Mr. C came home from work and said, “let’s move.” Since I had wanted to do this for so long (he is much slower, usually, to make the big decisions) I jumped at the chance. The next thing we knew we were living in the house we are in now.

This house has a distinct lack of curb appeal. The exterior, from the front at least, gives no indication of the charm that this house actually has. The living room wall, which faces the very private backyard, is pretty much floor to ceiling with windows. It opens out (through a door with a large window as well) to a deck. Since it is so private we have never felt the need to put up any curtains. Regardless of the time of year I always feel like I am close to *nature* here. I have for the most part ignored the garden. Our landlord shows up every now and then and wrecks havoc on the trees or shrubs, clearing things out. There is a huge rhododendron and some other plants that bloom when they should, and for the most part the rest of the landscape is evergreen. I added some bulbs to a spot near the entrance and every once in a while I pull out weeds when they get large enough. I’ve also made a half-assed attempt at container gardening on the deck, but my lack of consistency with watering always leads to the certain death of anything planted in a pot.

So what inspired me to write this lengthy post about my history with gardening? This morning I sat down with a magazine and didn’t make it passed the table of contents. I read this description: “It had a humdrum landscape and ramshackle house…but (she) knew at first glance that this three-acre property had enormous potential. See how she created the garden of her dreams.” At once I was overcome with wistfulness at the idea of having a ramshackle house and humdrum landscape to transform…while simultaneously I long for an urban, industrial loft-space. Yes--I know, I is the pull of the two extremes.

Our lease is up at the end of the summer. We are still not ready to buy a home. Over the years it has always been one thing or another to tell us that the time isn’t “right” yet. But with Mr. C seriously contemplating pursuing his film business full-time it just doesn’t make sense to make two really big life changing moves at once (and with starting a family still on the horizon, too…). Perhaps we will move into a loft-like apartment?