This is one of my all-time favorite blog posts, originally published on March 8, 2005. So many powerful memories! Bunster (who we found the perfect re-home for when we left New Hampshire, figuring a 12-year-old bunny would not travel well in a car with two dogs.) My daughter Robin, who wrote a poem for Lee. Lee Filamonov, who died a few years later after I wrote this, a talented artist who lived with extreme mental health issues most of his life. Blizzards! And of course, the lessons learned along the way.
Today my friend Lee visited me in my studio and we talked about art. I told him some of the fierce upheaval I’ve been feeling in my life lately. “I feel like I’m suddenly surrounded by people who want me to believe they are who they SAY they are. But I see what they DO, and I cannot believe them anymore.” I struggled on for a bit and finally, for lack of words, exclaimed, “I’m surrounded by liars!”
“Hell!” he said, “I have to LIVE with them!”
Point taken. At least I do not have to live with liars, and that’s a blessing.
I printed out a lovely poem my daughter has written about him, and gave it to him:
I came to this country
in a year with no real numbers.
I wore my fur hat with pride.
I may have lost my teeth,
but never my dignity.
I have visitors here sometimes,
but they don’t come by
as often as they used to.
So I sit here, sketching
kaleidoscopic Russian princesses
with noble features and
I paint red, for the Revolution.
And I use dead glass
to represent my own mind.
I walk in the cemetery,
feeding to squirrels the nuts
I can’t chew.
I write on the walls, and
they have threatened to paint over them,
but I know they won’t.
Everything I am, and ever have been
is on those walls.
Especially the shards of
By Robin Udell
Lee is so moved that he gives me a beautiful painting of his sister to give to Robin.
As we talk, I show him the book I’ve been rereading, “Art and Fear”. He grew impatient. “There are a million books written about art, and I’ve read them all. They will lose you in the woods. They are like a box of chocolates with one poisoned truffle. You eat them and eat them and they taste so good—but that poisoned one—watch out! It will get you! Quit reading them!”
But this one is different, I protest. It’s reassuring me about my fear.
“Quit reading about the fear!” he exclaimed. “Be ordinary! You are creative—make your art!” He bent over to stroke Bunster, and his voice became gentle again. “Be like your bunny. She’s fearful—but she has a place in this world…”
His words stunned me, weaving (as they always seem to) together a myriad loose strands in my life.
Months before in kickboxing, I was struggling with the moves. Too many injuries, too much weight. I’d jokingly suggested that my “animal hero” was the guinea pig—nervous and fearful, easily drop-kicked, chubby body with short legs and not able to jump very high—but I could NIBBLE my enemies to death. It got the laugh I was seeking and the tension relief I needed. My work-out partner and I have been mouthing “Be the guinea pig!” to each other when things get tough….
But I’ve been frustrated, too. I’ve now studied martial arts for over five years and constantly feel the limitations of my studies—both physical, and spiritual. I’m more afraid than ever in both arenas of my life. I’ve wondered if I’ve reached the limits of what this discipline can offer me.
Am I quitting if I give up? Will I find anything to replace it—the excitement, the challenge, the workout, the mental benefits?
And yet, in other ways, it’s not enough, and I’m through being patient, waiting for this ancient art to catch up to MY needs, as a woman and an artist in this dangerous world. I’m tired of learning how to square off for a fight in a bar. That’s not the scenerio where harm will come from.
So, if it’s too much and yet not nearly enough….What else could there be?
In the space of a few hours, I HAVE found other options. Suffice to say, small miracles have occurred. Other teachers, other opportunities have come forward. Permission. Acceptance. And perseverance.
Above all, indomitable spirit.
I am astonished at what has appeared in my life, so suddenly, so quietly, like the first few snowflakes of a winter storm.