Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Good Thing

I'm sitting here at Saltonstall Arts Colony, thinking about my thesis. I'm turning it in next week, and a few weeks ago had booked this time to retreat alone and finish the thing. This colony and the land surrounding it is magical, and though I'm glad to be here, I'm also in mourning. Like in the wake of 9/11. Something has died and I'm left wondering how it happened, it is true, and why is there so much hatred in the world?

The anger is underneath my skin. I haven't dealt with it yet. It simmers, slips to sadness, roils again, slows to resistance, then bubbles up again. I want to scream and swear at people I know who claim that "not everyone who voted for trump is a xenophobic racist." People who say we should "give him a shot." People who didn't vote because "neither of the candidates deserves my vote." I want to shake them, talk to them, fight them, smack them upside the head. I want them to somehow see their white privilege and their own deeply rooted racism. I want to unfriend them, ignore them, shut them out, refuse to see them. I want them to take back their wrongs and apologize.

I can't do those things. That would make it all worse. The divide in this country is so great, so vast, so seemingly insurmountable. I know anger doesn't bridge that gap (nor does Facebook). But the urge to hate comes so easily for all of us. For me.

This morning the sun streamed in my windows and the hope rose up that this had all been a nightmare. It wasn't. I didn't think I would be ready to move on today, to accept, to even cope with this. The sorrow was so deep yesterday. But something new has emerged today. A coming together of people ready and willing to challenge the President-elect and all the hatred he spews forth. So many people I know are rejecting the results and vowing to fight back, in any way they can.

How do I reconcile the anger I feel with my wish to do good?

I can't get rid of the electoral college. I can't run for office myself. I can't stop global warming or make sure women can get birth control or prevent hate crimes. I can't do those things, and I am even more certain I can't change anyone's mind about their views. What I can do is so much more. And it is the one thought today that has given me the ability to calm down and write.

Every day, I pledge to do something good. I've banded together with a group of people around the country together on Facebook to encourage, share ideas, and support each other to do one simple act. One good thing a day for someone else, for the planet, for those in need.

I'm not saying I'm perfect, not saying I won't screw up and get angry and be mean or just plain feel selfish. But I'm going to try. And maybe I'll write about it all here.

A few ideas to get started:
Write a blog post and share it.
Pick up litter.
Buy someone else a coffee.
Walk instead of drive.
Give money to any one of myriad charities in need.
Walk dogs at the SPCA.
Volunteer at my child's school.
Write letters to political leaders.
Send a thank you note.
Donate food.
Give homeless people bottles of water.
Make art.
Remove earthworms from the road after rain.
Help with the VIDA count.
Thank my child's teachers.
Hold the door for someone.
Reach out to someone in need.
Knit things for others.
Donate to NPR.
Make someone tea.
Send care packages.
Take someone out to lunch.
Plant trees.
Write.
Remember to Love.

If you're interested in joining this movement of goodness, contact me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Today

There are too many things to say, and yet I feel at such a loss. So many reasons why the country chose a misogynist, racist, bully for a leader, and so few that I can understand.

The hatred I see, mostly on Facebook, is astounding. Is horrific. I have to believe it is tied to fear, rather than just pure hatred. The fear of people who look different. The fear of gay people. The fear of other religions. These things just don't compute to me. But I know the fears are ingrained, deeply seeded into the soil of white America, into the heartland. And I wonder how we can ease these fears.

The greed I see, through newspapers and media, through stories of wall street and big business, is disgusting. Is discouraging. The need to be the biggest, the best, the top ace, the loudest, the winner at all costs. The belief that money buys happiness. The disregard for the millions of people who work the small jobs, the ugly jobs, the necessary jobs. This power-hungry state of mind is never something I have felt, so it doesn't make sense to me. But I know that much of the population of the world wants more. More of everything, because they feel they don't have enough. They feel what they do have is being taken away. And I wonder how we find contentment, satisfaction, fullness.

The anger I see, in Trump's rallies, in comments on blogs and news, on Facebook, is scary. It terrifies me. I know what anger is. I grew up with it dominating my life, frightening me at every turn. I fought my own anger, pushed it back and found a way to let in peace. Anger is powerful. Anger hurts. It stings. It kills. And the fact that it has been a dominant force in this election cycle is deeply troubling. How do we soothe the hurt from all that lies beneath? How do we disperse the anger?

The misogyny I see, in chants about Clinton, in T-shirts people made, in Trump's own words and actions, in the people listening to him, makes me sick. My gut clenches up and I feel near retching. The lack of respect for women is simply far too far away from anything that I could ever understand. It is incomprehensible to me. I am terrified of what they, men, have, are, and will do to women. Again and again they do it. As if we are theirs to do with as they wish.

Yet, when I step outside and away from the media, I see trees bending in the wind. A drizzly rain mists the hillsides. My chickens clucks for more scratch. I hear the crows, cawing after each other, talking in their own tongue to each other, oblivious to our cares. The last of the poplar leaves rattle against each other in a small, unobtrusive sound.

I walk the path behind my house and cry. I find my breath again. Take slow steps, looking at the leaf-strewn ground. And I see the colors. They catch my eye and something other than sorrow takes hold. Possibility. So I let myself follow. I bend down and stretch my arms in all directions. I seek all the colors, the deepest tones, the lighter film of papery leaf. And I lay the pieces down and for minutes, several wet, cold-handed, leafy minutes I just create. The bad thoughts slip away and I remember something. Something that is at the heart of who I am.

I am an artist.

Art is, at it's core, creation. It is building something new. Seeing, hearing, discovering the unknown. It's opening your mind to space and pulling out something that wasn't there before. It is life.

I am devastated today. I fear for our children. For our planet. For our government. I do not believe that things are going to go well for people interested in progressive and global unity, or for blacks, immigrants, Muslims, women, gay people, our natural places. The future is clouded and grey. The fear and hate and anger are slipping in, getting ahead, wiggling in and rooting.

I am lucky to live in a place where acceptance, tolerance, and peace are plentiful, but I know so many people do not. Friends all over the country today are dumbfounded and shocked. But something I keep hearing is that we will not lie down and let the hateful ones prevail. We must keep doing good. Keep loving. Keep being kind. Keep helping each other, standing up for each other, protecting our children, walking in the woods, doing the work, and striving for community and cohesion.

I am not there yet. The tears are still flowing and the pain is too real. But I know I will get there. I believe that hate leads to more hate, leads to Voldemort and Darth Vader and Hitler and Mussolini and so many other wrong paths. And I will not go down that path.

I also know that I will strive every day to do good. To help someone else. To inspire art. To love. To give of my time or money. To let down my own walls. To listen. To let others know they are valued. To offer a shoulder, or a laugh, or a march on the capitol. To find a way to offer myself to the fight to defeat fear.

We have so far to go. My trust in the good of humanity is shattered today. So I must turn and put my trust in the rivers and the golden tamarack trees and the towering mountains and the white ice and the black soil and the damp fall air and the geese overhead and all the art that we can muster. These things I know are good. These things are real. And I will wrap myself up in them with a thin sliver of hope, and find the way back to myself again.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Transitions

This month has brought changes I wasn't fully prepared for. My stepdaughter left for college last week, and my son started his final year of elementary school. Of course, I knew these days were coming, the calendar is quite frank about what it contains, but emotionally, I had no idea that I'd be so affected.

Additionally, I am in my final semester as a graduate student at Chatham University. With the guidance of my director, my thesis is coming together and I am revising all the bits and pieces and trying to make a cohesive whole. The date for completion looms and then there will be the final defense. Assuming the best, I'll leave Chatham with a piece of paper declaring my Mastery of Creative Writing.

Then what?

I haven't visited my blog in some time because it seemed irrelevant, unimportant, unconnected. The work I put into this was overtaking my desire and becoming a chore. Now, many months later, sitting here facing the white pages of Blogger, memories stir of all the other blog posts I have written, all the feedback I've received, all the power that writing these words has contained.

I've done a lot of writing for free. Putting my words out there to contribute something, to say my piece, to be a part of the conversation. And all those contributions were important in their own way. But as I face stepping into the world with an MFA, a bunch of debt, and a desire to be paid for my writing, I wonder what this blog means and where it fits in to my creative life. I won't be writing book reviews any more, nor adding to my nature writing series or backyard photo collections. I love haiku, but writing those doesn't excite me anymore.

Life's transitions are upon me. I don't really know the answer to the Then what? question. But I think as I walk the path where kids grow up and I have proof that I am a writer and money is an object, this blog will transition with me.

Let's see what happens.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Backyard Artist Date - November 2015

It's been a while since I've written on my blog, or gone on my backyard artist dates. I figured it was time to start up again. It's been a glorious week here in Ithaca, and I couldn't resist trying to capture these golden days of sunshine spilling into my yard. Of course, they'll pass by soon enough, but it sure is lovely right now.






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

7/17/15 at 2:30 pm
At the Stewart Park Promontory


  • Temperature: 77 degrees
  • Wind: 1-10 MPH
  • Sky: Partly cloudy
Animalia:
  • Turtles
  • Geese
  • Mallards
  • Cormorants
  • Gulls
  • Songbirds
Humanity:
  • Camp kids playing tennis
  • Fishermen
  • People of all shapes and sizes walking and running and biking

I've been absent for a while; both at this blog, and my Stewart Park Promontory. Actually, I've been to the Promontory twice since April, but never felt inspired enough to get the experiences written down. Then spring slipped into summer, and without writing deadlines I have slipped away from words and into the world of my garden. But today I went to the park in search of something in particular, something I knew I could get my hands on at the Promontory.

As I strolled the well-worn path, I noticed how reinvigorating it was to be back. Strange to think that I visited there (almost) every week from January to May. Yet now it seemed almost foreign to me. The trail was grown over with lush green honeysuckle, poison ivy, and poplar. Grey, cackling birds I couldn't name hollered at me and startled out of the bushes. Logs were strewn against the shoreline, a product of heavy rains and flooding. Turtles sunned in the swan pen. It was still my place, but it had changed. I suppose, the same could be said of me. I regret, slightly, that I missed so many weeks of observation. But I walked on to find the thing I had come for.

Once upon a time, circa 1880, Ithaca's roads were paved with yellow bricks. This is a fact. There is a legend that goes along with it: Back in those days, a man named L. Frank Baum was a theatre actor touring the country. He opened one of his plays in Ithaca, where he met a girl who attended Cornell University. He returned to Ithaca often for his romance and likely noticed the yellow brick roads during his visits. Years later, Baum wrote a little novel you may have heard of-- The Wizard of Oz-- which features a particularly special Yellow Brick Road.



Over time, the yellow bricks of Ithaca were pulled up. Some red bricks replaced them, and eventually cement and asphalt covered what was left. In places around Ithaca one can still find asphalt worn away and yellow bricks layered underneath. And on a visit to the Promontory in May I found this:





Is it stealing to enter a public park and squish around in the shallows to dig up bricks that are yellow? If it is, I am confessing here.

Along with tending my pea and tomato and bean plants, I have been resurfacing my weed-covered, shale-shattered stone patio. I already had a couple of yellow bricks from my original patio creation ten years ago. But I coveted a few more. Most of those I found in the water's edge were red. But I scrounged up a few yellows to create a yellow brick road in my backyard. I think it came out quite nicely. It will serve as a reminder to me that should I get lost, should I need to find my way back to the natural world, all I need to do is follow Ithaca's yellow brick road and it will lead me home.