TMI can overwhelm. Start where you are, let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore, and take one step forward–today!
Today’s column from Fine Art Views:
TMI can overwhelm. Start where you are, let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore, and take one step forward–today!
Today’s column from Fine Art Views:
We were so excited about the orange tree in our new backyard in Santa Rosa, we almost overlooked the fig tree. The orange tree had reverted to less appetizing oranges, probably from a failed graft, though one branch continues to product delicious oranges. The blossoms are sweet, and the oranges that are edible are wonderful. They ripen all at once, though, so there’s a feast of oranges for a day or two, and then….nada. (Although the orange tree also keeps its leaves all winter, so there’s that.)
The less-romantic fig tree, though, is quietly becoming more important to us. And I’m amazed by the also-quiet, yet deep life lessons it’s teaching me.
It loses its leaves in the fall, then leafs out again in the spring. I don’t remember the flowers. We had to learn when to pick the figs, though we’ve also learned that some people like figs at any stage of their ripening-ness. One friend even likes the withered ones that fall to the ground. He pinches out the insides and cooks them down a bit to make a jelly spread. I like the idea that the fruit of this tree can please so many people, all along its timeline.
It produces figs for well over a month or two, and lots of them. Every morning, I venture out to the back yard to harvest a small bowlful. Then a large bowlful. Now I’m at the grocery bag phase.
So the fig tree is generous with its fruit.
I give them to our neighbors, to friends of our neighbors, and to the crew down at Atlas Coffee Co.. Atlas Coffee was the first place we stopped on our first visit to Santa Rosa, in the heart of the city’s art district ( SOFA Arts District)long before we knew we’d be moving there. It was also our main station to look for our next home. We could hang out, chatting with the owner, James, and Sean, Cody and Ian, the coffee meisters. It was were we saw a sign in a window on the alley leading to the coffee shop, saying a studio space was available for rent. It was availabe soon, which is unusual for these popular spaces. I jumped at the opportunity, and I’m so glad I did.
So the figs are a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who first made us feel ‘at home’ here.
There are some drawbacks to a fig tree. But there are lessons there, as well.
I’m slightly allergic to the sap, which is milky. So after a round of fig-picking, I have to wash off my arms and face, anywhere I’ve had contact with the fruit or the leaves. It also drops a lot of overripe figs, which have to be picked up before the ants and flies go too crazy. And what’s really frustrating is, the best figs are at the very top of the tree, way out of reach without a ladder.
I’ve learned a little itchy is worth the quiet, calming pursuit of fig picking. It reminds me not to take blessings and gifts for granted.
The ants and the flies, well, they have a place in the world. (Just not in my house, please.) And the birds can have the figs at the top, because they’ve been so good about not eating ALL the figs.
And here’s the incredible thing I’ve learned about fig trees:
At first I used a small ladder to try to get more figs. But after a couple near-falls, I realized I was risking a lot just to gather even more figs than could be eaten in a day! I gave it up.
But those branches I can’t reach? As the season progresses, the tree branchs actually begin to bow down, a bit more each day. Soon, the figs that were out of reach, are close enough to snag. The branches are often small and supple, too. I can use a hooked stick to pull some of them down even further, and gather those last ripe figs.
It takes my breathe away, that the tree actually bends to my desires. Yes, it could be the weight of the figs, of course. Except that not every fig-laden branch lowers itself.
Here we go with my fig tree metaphor. You knew it was coming, right?
As my brain buzzes with fears of lack (“I’ve lost my best, most faithful customers!” “I’ve lost most of my income, even the other things that brought in a steady bit of money!” “I have to PAY for a studio space now, what if we can’t continue to afford that??”), I think of the fig tree. Simply doing what fig trees do, growing into its space, adapting, and making enough figs for everyone I care about.
When I’m worried I’ll never achieve my dreams of fame and fortune, I think of this single fig tree, hidden behind a modest little house in an old neighborhood, giving us, and other creatures, shade, food, beauty, every single day. (And to be truthful, I know now I don’t WANT fame.) (Although a LITTLE fortune would be nice.)
When I envy the success of others, and when I think my slice of pie is smaller because theirs is bigger, I think of how the tree makes enough figs for everyone.
When I feel like I’m not in synch with the universe, when I’m anxious because I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do next, I think of how that tree brings its branches just a little lower, so I can pick more figs. Just like the universe has a way of bending just a little, to meet me halfway. Or, in the case of this California move, bending more than just a little! That generous nature astonishes me. It lifts me up when I stumble, and soothes me when I’m fearful.
I don’t know how old our tree is. Our house is just over a hundred years old, in a neighborhood originally settled by Italians. So its probably been around awhile, and hopefully has many more years to go. It’s surely been here before I was born, and be here long after I die.
I hope its lessons will continue to ripen, like its delicious fruit.
Even tiny changes can reflect big ideas.
My head’s been in a whirl the last few months. I think I’ve entered that stage in a move where it feels like my life feels like a dream. Not the great glow-y kind. The kind where I find myself picking up dog poop and I keep finding hamburger patties in the dirt and I think, “Geez, this is weird. Wait a minute…..Am I dreaming?!” (I was.)
On one hand, there’s all the wonderful, heady stuff that comes from a major life change (the good ones, that is.) We go for a drive and suddenly remember this is an incredibly beautiful area, and the ocean is half an hour away. There are the marvelous moments, like learning our resident hummingbird darts into his nighttime resting spot in our little tree in front of our front porch, at exactly the same time (relative to sunset) every night. We sit and watch for him almost every night, and get a tiny frisson of joy when we catch him in the act. (It helps that he sits in exactly the same branchlet on the tree, too.)
On the other hand, there is the sudden realization that there’s no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go out for a drink!” Not that I could, anyway. Since we’ve been here, I can barely stay up past 9 p.m. Sooo…no one to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go to Happy Hour for a drink!”
I miss lakes, and rivers. There are lakes and rivers here, but not so much after four years of drought. I miss thunderstorms.
(OTOOH, I don’t miss mosquitoes, black flies, humidity, nor the season of funny smells.)
A few days ago, I had the scariest change of all.
I should preface this by saying my “year” tends to begin and end at my birthday. That sounds pompous, and I don’t mean it that way, really, I don’t. It’s just that when I realized the cave of Lascaux was discovered very nearly on my birth date, and other big events that cause me to stop and gasp (my birthday is 9/11), I often have reason to stop and take my measure. This month has been the same.
I was making a ‘batch’ of horses, as I usually do. Over the years, I built up to making my animal totems in batches of up to, oh, a couple dozen or so at a shot. It made for real efficiency, shaping them all, doing all the manes at once, all the eyes at once, all the markings, etc. (Even in a good sales year, I average about $2 an hour. Maybe I should go work at McDonald’s…..) (Nah.)
Lately, the batches have gotten smaller, down to one dozen, then half a dozen.
This time, I stopped at one. A feeling of revulsion overcame me. I was overwhelmed with this awful, awful thought:
I didn’t want to make any more batches of little horses.
That stopped me dead in my tracks. WHAT??!! What…is up with THAT??!!
But instead of panicking (what would I do without the heartstone of my work??!), I got quiet. I asked myself, where is this coming from? And what do I mean by that?
And thank the powers that be, it came to me:
I want to make one little horse at a time.
And so I did. I made two little horses that day. Each one, totally one at a time. Each got its own shaping, then its mane, then its eyes and nose, etc.
I then made other artifacts that take less ‘soul’, if you will, easier work, and popped the whole bunch in the convenction oven in my home studio.
This may not seem like a big change to you. It sure started out as a big change, but ended up being a very small change.
Or is it?
My horses have always ended up as completely individual and unique. For years, I’ve been telling folks how collectors look for ‘their horse’ when shopping.
I don’t know how to explain this, except that this, for some reason, feels even more important than ever. So important, I felt the need to slow down, to get calm, to get centered. To really see the power, and the blessing, inherent in everything I do.
There’s something growing here in California, something big. When people are attracted to my work, they fall hard. The things they tell me about it, are powerful. My internet sales are growing, from people back in New England who are either missing my work, or have recently discovered it. More and more people are telling me about how the work feels, on many levels.
It’s scary. Someone asked me why, and I couldn’t say. It’s something about, with my work having that power, comes great responsibility, something I don’t know how to handle personally. It feels like the time a bigger-than-life visitor exclaimed, “You’re a shaman! You’re a shaman!” when he first saw my work–like my work is bigger than I am. I’m not putting that right, but it was exciting, and wonderful, and scary at the same time. It was a powerful experience, and propelled me forward in ways I could not have imagined.
Something like that may be growing now. All I can do is listen. Pay attention.
The past year was all about realizing the harm brought into the world by people who don’t know what they don’t know.
I wonder what this next year holds for me.
Holy cow, where did that last month go?? Into the land of forgotten things, apparently. And so, to get back in the swing of things, a very tiny thought for today.
I have not one, but TWO chests of printers’ type tray drawers. The second one is special to me for the main reason that my son offered to refinish it for me. He did a beautiful job, too.
Except for the drawers, and I don’t blame him for not going there.
Someone had started to restore it–half the drawers have their original type dividers. But half have been removed. And although the outside looks great, the inside is dirty/dusty/oily as only a type tray drawer can get from dirty/dusty/oily metal type.
When I moved into my new, tiny studio here in Santa Rosa, I decided to use this piece to store my inventory of polymer clay beads–animal artifacts, shell and tiny bone artifacts, and all sorts of beads in different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Visitors are amazed when I tell them to open the drawers. And they love to look through all the tiny treasures, and pick them up and hold them in their hands.
The only problem is, over time, those same beads are picking up the dirty/dusty/oily crud. And it’s hard to get it off. So it really wasn’t such a great idea to store them that way.
In the 8 months I’ve been in that space, I’ve agonized about what to do. Remove the polymer clay items? But it’s such a great way to have people interact with them! Use Q-tips and gently clean each tiny little section? That would take years. I mean it. And several bushels of Q-tips, and it wouldn’t completely clean them. And I hate cleaning stuff like that, and I don’t have time, and it will therefore never get done.
I kid you thought, I’ve thought about this every single day I’ve been in that A Street studio.
So the last two days, I’ve been moving into my new NEW space, into the larger, brighter, cooler (temperature-wise, but yeah, cool cooler, too!) space just vacated by my studio mate. Exactly one week after I realized my own teeny-tiny space was a bit claustrophobic for most visitors, she announced California was too hot for her (temperature-wise) and she was going to move a thousand miles away.
I felt very sad to lose her (she’s been wonderful!), but secretly elated I could now have her space.
So this is the third studio I’ve had in 10 months.
Setting it up feels just as daunting.
“Don’t worry,” say my artist neighbors and my coffee shop neighbors. “These things take a little time. Then it all comes together.” I know this is true, and for a moment, the panic ebbs.
It ebbed a little more tonight, for a funny (funny-odd) reason.
I remembered my friends in Keene tonight.
Today I heard a woman talking, and I thought, “Oh, that’s Julie!” But it was our new neighbor Jackie, who for some reason sounds like Julie today.
A hour later, I saw a woman walking to a car, and I thought, “Oh, there’s Jennie!” But it was someone who looks like Jennie (who is three thousand miles away).
Later I smelled the coffee my husband was brewing, which happens to be Prime Roast Demon Roast coffee, and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to get Jon more coffee from Judy today.” But Judy has already mailed us the Demon Roast. It’s sitting on the counter, waiting for me to find a jar for it. And suddenly, I could hear Judy’s voice, too.
And tonight, after taking a wall clock apart to glue on a second hand that kept falling off (don’t ask), I heard someone else’s voice, in my head. Someone who, when I told them three years ago that I loved the look of old, worn, oily-black wood boxes, but hated the smell, and what could I use to seal the wood so it wouldn’t smell yucky, said, “Luann, you can’t do that. You need to WASH those boxes first.”
So at the very end of today, I also heard Gary’s voice, giving me the good adivice on restoring wood boxes that eventually led to a six-month informal apprenticeship for me.
Now I know how to clean those type tray drawers. It will take half a day, or perhaps just a couple of hours and some time in the dry California summer sun.
Soon those drawers will be clean and dry, and able to safely hold my precious artifacts: horses, bears, otters, birds, antlers, stones, shells, and stones.
Someday, we’ll realize we’ve made deep new friendships here in California–because we always do. Change is hard, but change is good, and eventually you learn that change becomes normal in its own good time. We will laugh and cry with new voices, and make new memories, even right now.
And visits ‘back East’, and phone calls and emails,Facebook posts and pictures, will help keep those lovely, loving voices of old friends and good memories, alive and well.
Here’s a link to today’s article at Fine Art Views, LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Blessed Clarity”.
Looks like I accidentally wrote “Blessed CHARITY” instead of ‘CLARITY’. But both work.
Once again, I’ve neglected to post links to my columns at Fine Art Views, an art marketing blog. So I’m putting all the links since April 24, 2014, here in one place.
David Letterman counts down from 10. Me? I have a lot of catching up to do.
21) April 24, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: It Gets Easier
Insights gained while preparing for a life-changing cross-country move.
20) May 8, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Send Me A Postcard!
Advice on how to build your mailing list.
19) May 22, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: My Customer Base Isn’t Local!
Dispelling some of the myths surrounding open studios.
18) June 5, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: People Around Here Don’t Buy Art
You know who says this? EVERYBODY says this!!! Hint: It’s not true.
17) June 19, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: For Heaven’s Sake, Accept Credit Cards!!
It’s easier than ever to take credit cards, and it WILL increase your sales. Here’s how.
16) July 3, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Timely Time Payment Plan
Trust me, this tip is worth its weight in gold.
15) July 17, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE OPEN STUDIO: Don’t Say No!
When you and your studio say “NO”, your customers will say “NO” right back.
14) July 31, 2014
Tips for improving your teaching skills.
13) August 14, 2014
TEACHING 101: It Gets Better If You Try
You tell your students to practice, right? You should, too!
12) August 28, 2014
TEACHING 101: Crabby Students Part 1
Encountering the difficult personalities in your class.
11) September 11, 2014 MY BIRTHDAY!!!
TEACHING 101: Crabby Students Part 2
Managing the difficult personalities in your classs.
10) September 25, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: It’s Not as Hard as You Think
Most of the things you’re afraid of, aren’t going to happen.
9) October 9, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Settling In, Getting Centered
Things I wish I’d thought of before the actual move….
8) October 23, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: You Can’t Get There From Here
We need a plan to help us get where we want to go. But as our needs change, the way we get there changes, too.
7) November 6, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: I am Blind (er….Lame) and My Dog is Dead
When the blues hit you, mix it with a little green to make turquoise!
6) November 20, 2014
WHEN THANK YOU ISN’T ENOUGH
When you get a compliment from a customer, don’t stop with “thank you.” Turn it into a conversation.
5) December 18, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: California Dreamin’
It turns out my heart knew we were California-bound before my head did.
4) January 1, 2015
YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT TO DO
Time for some tough love!
3) January 15, 2015
BIG EFFIN’ FENCES
What you make, how you make it, and why you make it, matters. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that.
2) January 29, 2015
Who’s missing from the history of art?? Everybody but dead European white guys. Let’s change that.
1) February 12, 2014
LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Hard, Harder, Hardest
When you realize it’s not gonna really be over for a looooooong time…..
It’s been less than a week since Cap’n Ben’s words of wisdom on moving. And it’s been a busy one. There’s been a flurry of paperwork. Many listings of our belongings on Craigslist. A yard sale or two, with more in the works.
I’m a collector and a mixed media artist. That means almost every object that crosses my path has “potential”. Possibilities abound. I have drawers of decorative papers and specialty glues, paint in every form you can imagine, beads, fabric, yarn and books. Frames and canvases, paper cutters and miter saws, waxed linen and silk tape.
And I have a thousand containers for all of them. Including….
It’s a beautiful wood hutch, three glass doors up, two drawers in the middle and three wood doors below. Pine stained to cherry. Nicely made, not those clunky ones that always end up in the thrift shops.
We bought it the first year we moved to Keene, 26 years ago. Our daughter Robin was five weeks old when we moved in. In the middle of a heat wave, and us with one window fan. My husband went to work in an air-conditioned office every day, complaining how cold it was. I would lie on the floor in front of the fan, begging the weather gods to please, please, please remove the maddening 95 plus degree heat.
After six months of staring at my craft supplies sitting in boxes, my husband proposed we set up some sort of organizer for them. We ended up down at Winchendon Furniture, in the clearance section of the second floor. We found the hutch and fell in love with it. It adorned our dining room for twelve years, and another fourteen when we moved to Roxbury Street.
Eventually I had a room and then an entire studio for my projects. The art supplies in the hutch made way for our pretty wedding china, and eventually my McCoy pottery collection.
Now it’s 26 years later. Where did the time go?? The kids are grown and nearly on their own. The house is sold, and here we are, emptying our home of a lifetime of memories, getting on our way to California.
It was strange to see the hutch empty. And though we priced it to sell, it survived three indoor tag sales this spring, and even a yard sale. “Maybe it will go with us to California!” I said hopefully. My husband was pretty sure it wouldn’t.
He was right. Eventually someone saw it on Craigslist, and an email conversation ensued. The woman said her husband loved the hutch, and he would pick it up that day. When he arrived, though he paid us less than we expected. “But we agreed to the price!” I cried. “Let it go”, said Jon. And so I did. But I couldn’t watch it go, and hid in my studio.
Now it wasn’t just an empty hutch I had to look at today–there was a huge empty spot in our living room. And there was the funny gap in the molding surrounding the room we’d completely forgotten about.We hope it won’t kill the sale.
Today we received one more email from the hutch’s new family. The dad was chagrined to get home and realize he’d underpaid us. The mom promised to send us a check for the difference. I told her how grateful I was for that little extra to help us on our way.
But the best part of her email was the picture she included….
Their two very young children, already exploring inside the hutch.
We came to Keene with not too much, and made a life here. I became a mother here, and an artist. We made friends, we made a home, we became a family.
Now that time is finished, and something new begins. Jon will lose his job any day now. The layoffs at his company are massive, and he’s already been told it will be soon. We don’t have a home yet in California. We simply remember the quality of light when we were last there, and how light in heart we felt.
I do not know what lies ahead for us in California. Our friend Julie says when she looks at us, she sees light. I believe her. We are becoming lighter, letting go of what we don’t need to hold onto anymore. We don’t need sweaters in California, nor snow shovels and ice skates. I don’t need my beloved salt-and-pepper collection in a city of earthquakes.
Some days it’s hard to let go of so much. And some days it’s easier.
But through it all, I know this:
The memories are in our hearts. We need very few mementos to keep them bright.
And new memories are waiting to be made, in California.