My column at Fine Art Views on how to ease the pain of letting stuff go. Enjoy!
My column at Fine Art Views on how to ease the pain of letting stuff go. Enjoy!
How to relocate without losing your sanity. (Actually, I don’t know how to do that.)
Moving is a
bitch difficult experience.
At first, it’s kinda fun. I pick out a few things I can easily let go of, and donate them to a thrift store. Oh, look! I just helped pick-a-good-cause-that-has-thrift-shops! That works for a few days.
Then I start packing what I call the low-hanging fruit. Extra dishes. Winter clothes. A few pictures from the walls, and some knick-knacks.
Then it gets harder. WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY DISHES?? Didn’t I purge dishes during our BIG MOVE from New Hampshire less than three years ago?? Why do I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR vintage pitchers? (I donate one–ONE–to the aforementioned thrift shop.) Don’t get me started on the tea pots.
Then it gets really hard. There is now a couch in our living room. One couch. That’s it for sitting. We fight over who gets to lie on it to read every night.
As the deadline draws closer, I get a little more panicky. I pack more boxes. As I unpack them at the new rental, I wonder why I packed THAT and put it in the give-away pile. As I slog yet another box of stuff to the now-overwhelmed thrift store, I guiltily pull out one or two things, and sneak them into the new place.
My attention span is shorter than the time it takes to pack one box.
And now we’re at the point where the new place is more welcoming and home-like than this place. Probably because the stuff that’s left to pack is the important stuff I don’t really want to deal with. And once I pack them, we HAVE to switch home base to the new place.
As I lay awake at night, reviewing all the things I still have to do/pack/unpack/give away, I console myself:
At least we’re not moving across the country again! (We’re just moving across town.)
The new place is smaller (which means downsizing again), but that’s a good thing at this point in our lives, right? (Please reassure me on this.)
have had a whole month to do this! Er…maybe it would have been better to do the oh-God-we-have-to-do-this-in-3-days! thing. More painful, but we’d be done. (Ha! I’d still be looking for the box I packed with the printer toner til the end of days.)
Lest you think I’m getting off easy (in which case you are not my friend), add this to the pile:
I took our 2006 Toyota Scion in to get an oil change.
That was nine days ago.
Every day has added $400 to the bill. Because the worn bushings finally tore. And when they replaced them, they found an oil leak in the transmission. And when they took it to the transmission people, the t-people found a crack in the case. And when they pulled that, they discovered we need a new transmission.
Our oil change people lent us a loaner car, a sedan that didn’t hold many boxes. Like, maybe two. The gas tank is on the opposite side from the Scion, and it unlocks in the opposite direction.
After four days, we got bumped up to an SUV, which holds a LOT of boxes. But the gas tank is on the opposite side of the sedan, and it unlocks in the opposite way of the sedan.
At the same time, the front door lock on the new house jammed. After two different people tried to fix it, the second, a locksmith, said the whole lock and handle set needs to be replaced. (Jon had to climb over the fence to let us in from the back yard.)
So I have two sets of different house keys, which ALSO unlock in the opposite directions; have driven three different cars in the last nine days and three different sets of car keys, with different ways of unlocking and gas tanks all over the place; cats who keep trying to trick us into packing them into boxes so they don’t get left behind; two dogs who are alternately bored out of their minds for lack of long walks, and anxiety over moving again….
And yesterday I set up for a new show at Graton Gallery in Graton, CA, a wonderful gallery I’m so excited to be in. They showed amazing patience when I had to make three trips. One to get the jewelry cases I thought I’d forgotten. And another to bring the cases that a friend found IN THE ALLEY WAY where my studio is. Because I’d set them down to talk to a friend, and forgot to pick them back up again. (Thank you, James!)
Meanwhile, my South A Street studio is full of everything that didn’t fit in my new, smaller home studio (which is also stuffed) and I’m feeling a lit-tul bit overwhelmed with it all.
The bright side?
Friends with trucks! Thank you, James, Cory, and West Coast Greg Thompson!
A nice new neighborhood! We’ll be in the charming (Luther) Burbank Gardens neighborhood. Where almost every single resident there has already stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood.
We have two hyoooge, beautiful porches! More opportunities for large gatherings of friends and neighbors.
We’re even closer to my SOFA studio, and it’s easier than ever to get outta town.
We have a few more years to figure out our next steps, without worrying about the house being sold out from under us. Good friends own the house, but they won’t be moving up here for a few more years. This works out to everyone’s advantage!
I’ve also discovered that a mixed drink in the evening does wonders for easing my busy, buzzy brain these days. (Don’t worry, I’m not normally much of a drinker. Desperate times call for desperate measures.)
So if you see me, and I seem confused about how to gas up the car, or strangely reluctant to pick up the restaurant tab, or my key ring seems to baffle me, or you here me muttering about “pitchers” or tea pots, or wondering where the paper towels are, please have mercy.
And when the dust settles (from dusting all the knick knacks that never got dusted during our 30 months here on Boyce Street), come on by and see us!
Er…bring bourbon. Jim Beam’s Red Stage will do just fine.
This links to my Fine Art Views column for today, with all the good things about moving.
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.