Thursday, February 04, 2021

epilogue



It would be presumptuous to say that this is the end of the love story.

Of course it's not the end! It's just the beginning.

Of many strange things in this world, love might be the strangest of all.

Sometimes I think there is nothing easier...

and other times nothing harder than to love. 

It takes a lifetime of learning to love and be loved.

Or perhaps, more accurately, as Editor would say,

it will take an eternity plus one day. 

But we must not be discouraged by this. 

On the contrary!

We can begin to relax from our driven,

performance-oriented existence,

take a breath, or two or three,

and allow the vastness and the beauty of the universe around us

... and inside us...

to enlarge our vistas as we grow in the best adventure of all. 



Sunday, January 17, 2021

a place of love revolution




In the spring of 2020. I worked on The Garden of the World
for Recycled Art Exhibit. The piece was made out of 
international newspapers my pre-COVID globe-trotting friends
kindly hauled clear across the globe for this very purpose.
The significance and value of this project has only increased
in my eyes over the past year.

The message of love is clear.  Every citizen of the country whose native language is love understands this message without a need for an interpreter.

However, when you live on the delicate intersection of two such vastly different worlds, trying to bring them together, trying to spell out with your life this strange bi-lingual, bi-cultural, bi-continental identity, you are bound to mix things up, break some rules, make some spelling mistakes. 

I sense the Editor on the inside, squirming a bit. He can't help himself, he is so well trained in spotting the mistakes, red-penning the mix-ups, enforcing the rules.

Strangely this time, perhaps for the first time ever, he appears disarmed, stripped off his red pen and correction fluid, taken in by something infinitely greater than immaculate sentence structure, purist grammar and perfectly followed syntax rules. 

She grins. 

My heart melts. 

No small feat has been accomplished here and I think she knows it. Satisfied, she trots off, hopping from cloud to cloud, sprawled endlessly along the beach.  I eventually catch up, take her by the hand and we walk back together.  It's getting late but I have to see the epic message just one more time.

What I discover when I go for that one last look takes me completely by surprise.

When she started spelling her heart out, hers were the only broken-shell-carved words marking the pristine blank page of the sand.

But now, everywhere I look, all around me, there are countless new messages of love, scribbled in the sand by strangers, turning this glistening heaven-on-earth beach into a giant love letter!

I chuckle, because I know she has no idea that she has started a love revolution. 

I hesitate, wondering if I should point it out, draw her attention to it, but something stops me. 

It's better to leave it this way.

It will be our little secret.

Monday, January 11, 2021

a place of vulnerability



During one of the workshops, an artist shared this cool alphabet idea which
I used to create a Serbian Cyrillic alphabet version. Creativity has infinite
ways of being expressed. I am always fascinated when I see what others
are doing with this God given gift. The variety of the markings in this work
represents the unrepeatable nature of organic creativity... even though it's
universal, it is also as unique to us as our fingerprints. 


I think she would rather be caught dead than admit that she is anywhere close to being like her mother. For better or for worse, her father's resemblance - his brilliant mind; his perfectionism; his methodical attention to details - follows her everywhere she goes. 

But, without a doubt, she is her own person. Independent. One of a kind. Adventurous. Carving her own way, making her own mark on this earth. She is frail and strong, cautious and brave, fun and serious.

She insists she is not a writer.

Her own essays begrudgingly submitted to the Language Arts teacher laugh in her face.

If she can't find a pen a stick will do. If there is no stick, she'll use a broken shell.

And the entire beach becomes her very own blank page.

One by one, she writes out the letters.  So focused.  So intent.

The birds swoop over and around her head, but she is undistracted by them.

I watch her curved back, as she moves sideways and backwards, stringing letters like beads on a necklace.

When she is done, she straightens up, turns around and looks at me beaming.

Her unfurled scroll now reveals a message for all to see although there might be just a few of us living on this planet who really understand it. 

See, she grew up on a delicate intersection of the worlds where her mother tongue is not her first language.  She is fluent in the language of the country where she is born and where she lives. But she knows that there is another country she also belongs to, her mother belongs to... where another language is spoken. The language she understands very well but she is still learning to speak, just learning to write.  

Today, for some inexplicable reason, she decides to take a leap, she chooses to take a huge risk of expressing herself, of exposing herself in that other language.

She must consider this risk worth taking, because she wants her mom to know... perhaps she wants the whole world 

- the heaven and the earth -

to know... that the language of that country is the language of love.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

a place of encouragement

 


I created this piece during an exceedingly frustrating abstract art lesson that
kept going from bad to worse with each layer. In an exasperated attempt
to 'erase' my 'horrible mistakes' I literally washed the paint off the page in
my kitchen sink! What appeared was this beautifully textured background
which now I wish I could re-create😊 . As Miles Davis said,
'Fear no mistakes. There are none.'


These heaven-above-heaven-below, walking-on-clouds endless shallows are so mesmerizing, so inviting, so beautiful and safe and welcoming, my soul suddenly pops out, all cramped and wrinkled, from the confinement of its inland button-hole. 

It wants to park and live right here, sprawled out, naked and unashamed, on this endless beach. 

Forever.

Not a single argument comes to my mind to shut down the fantastic idea.

"Mom! MOM!!"  The Mom-Hat lands on my head bringing me back to earth.

"What?  WHAT???" I always think that M-O-M is a code word for some kind of dire emergency, not unlike the Morse S-O-S. 

"What happened??" I yell without even trying. 

"Nothing happened. Everything is just fine. Look, there is a snowman!"

I look up, and sure enough, there is a snowman, hat, 'broom', baseball bat and all, perched on the beach ahead of us.  

It most certainly is the ugliest Snowman I've ever seen, but somehow that doesn't matter, because as we approach to inspect it, we are surrounded by a joyful crowd of thawed-out Canadians, who are so pleased that somebody - ANYBODY- showed interest in their masterpiece.  

They laugh and point out all its special features as I take pictures. Then, we give them thumbs up and they wave enthusiastically as we continue on our way.  Their happiness is quite contagious and trails behind us long after we can't see either them or their creation.  I know we must be kindred spirits, our hearts set on building a Snowman on the beach. The only difference is that they got to build theirs and I didn't get to build mine. 

Surprisingly, in this moment, such 'unfairness' doesn't bother me. Doesn't bother me at all.   

In fact, as I reflected on their contentment and joy - which became OUR joy -a thought crosses my mind that... 

... sometimes...

it might be as - or, perhaps, even more - important 

to encourage other artists in their creative attempts, 

no matter how quirky, small and seemingly insignificant they may appear, 

than building and showing off my own perfect snowman.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

a place of reflection



I can't think of a better time than New Year's Eve to reflect. 
For some of us the end of 2020 can't come fast enough. We all 
have changed, we all have something to learn, something to take 
to heart and care for it, like one cares for a seed... May those seeds
grow, blossom and bring good fruit in our lives in 2021.


I am always keenly aware that the ocean has depths. Those who know the ocean have profound respect for its depths. Some people may call it fear, but I think that reverence is a better word. 

The depths can be both exhilarating and terrifying. I discovered that even when my feet can't reach the bottom, and I am in way over my head, the ocean somehow never fails to support my full weight - effortlessly! And it does the same thing for the guy next to me, three times my size!

I am not the type who lingers long in the shallows. If I go to the ocean, I mean business. I don't mess around with petty stuff.  Within minutes, I am off into the deep end.

But, today, the little hand guides me along the shallows, tiptoeing on the edge of the glistening robe, chasing lazy birds that have no fear of humans and no end to their greedy appetites. I watch her skipping over the sea of glass sprawled endlessly in front of us.

"Wow, I never realized how BIG the shallow end is!" A thought strikes me.  "It looks... it looks like a giant... mirror!"

Indeed it does. The water is barely covering a large shoulder of the sandy beach, turning the entire thing into an enormous mirror - reflecting a million shades of the blue sky dotted with wispy and puffy clouds, with perfect veracity.

I look behind me, and it's there too - sprawled endlessly behind me as well. 

I've been walking on the clouds and I didn't even know it! 

I can't peel my eyes away from the sight even if I wanted to... 

There is unspeakable glory and unspeakable sadness in this strange union on the edge of the ocean... this unlikely marriage of heaven above and the earth below.

The familiar words bubble up... a promise and a taunt, a prayer and a longing... 

"Your will be done...

...on earth...

... as it is in heaven..."

Saturday, December 26, 2020

a place of prayer





I dropped my phone and broke the screen at the time
I was working on this painting. 'Broken' has a bad
reputaton in our perfection-driven world, but as I looked
at the painting through the shattered glass, it seemed
fitting as it added depth, dimension and meaning
beyond what was originally intended. 



Funny thing, this answer-to-prayer business.


Sometimes, we don't even realize we prayed. 


To us, it was just... a sigh. That deep waiting-to-exhale out-breath that escapes our lungs apart, even against our will.  


"What was THAT all about?!?!!"


"What?!!?? Oh, THAT! It's really nothing... it's... just a sigh."


"Oh. O.K. Glad you are fine". With that, both of us are greatly relieved that the sigh was a nothing and not a something that we may need to face or talk about.


Or, it might be a tear. A single tear that rolls down the cheek, we surreptitiously wipe away before anybody else notices.


Or, we feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and confusion, we can't make sense of any of it, much less put into words. 


Or, like a drowning man, we shoot out a plain old yelp for help, in desperate hope against all hope that it will somehow, somewhere pierce the impenetrable silence of the sky.


There are many languages in this world, but the language of prayer is by far the most fascinating, the most diverse, and truly, the most unifying of all.


Sometimes, we forget we even asked.


Sometimes we forget what we asked.


I do both.   A lot!


Sometimes the answer comes, but we are so set on how we expect the answer should come that we miss, or almost miss it. Because it came in such gentle and unassuming way.


But, then, there is also this imperceptible pat on your back you can't miss. Like a quiet yet unmistakable knock on the soul's door. You look up, and look again, and there it is! You see it, really see it, as if for the first time. 


I admit I almost missed it.  


There was so much ruckus, such disorder in the courtroom - the Editor, the PR Manager, the Facebook Prosecutor, the Defense Attorney, the Judge - all insisting on the indisputable value of their own unique perspective - that I almost didn't hear the small voice, and I almost didn't feel the tiny hand inside mine.

Monday, December 21, 2020

do you want to build a snowman?



Every once in a while I like painting little greeting cards.
They are easy, fun and cheerfully lightweight, providing both balance
and welcome distraction from the weightier things of life and art. 


"Today, I want to build a Snowman",  I announce to the ocean.  

"Well, a Sandman would be more accurate",  I immediately correct myself.  It's really the Editor speaking. Accuracy is very important to the Editor.  Inaccurate sloppy language is an indication of inaccurate sloppy thinking.  And inaccurate sloppy thinking coupled with inaccurate sloppy language leads to inaccurate sloppy living. Needless to say, the Editor can't stand sloppiness however you look at it.  It's one of the ten deadly sins in his meticulously kept little red book.

Then, for some reason, I proceed with the explanation, as if the ocean needs me to explain everything, or anything at all, for that matter.

"You know, it's winter. It's a very appropriate seasonal activity."  

Now it's the Public Relations Manager's turn. The PR Manager is intensely concerned with all things appropriate and suitable, with a discreet emphasis, 'just a touch', she would say, 'of seasonal'. She is a tireless vigilante ensuring we never cross the invisible albeit ever-shifting lines of 'proper'.  My PR Manager has the most difficult job because she always wants to tame my naturally color-outside-the-lines, fiercely disheveled, messy messy life.  But she is also a very smart lady and knows how to play my Cool-Me persona.

"This would be soooo cool", the PR Manager continues. "We could take a picture of it once we are done and post it on Facebook. People would love it."

It slipped just like that.  This people-would-love-it part. 

Suddenly there is a wailing of sirens inside my head, a red alert, indicating imminent grave danger.

"Are you telling me we are doing this just to get some 'likes' on your Facebook page?!!! I thought we came here to have fun for fun's sake, not to parade it to the world so we can prove to everyone how much fun we are having!"

But before I could even begin to think of how to respond to this deeply personal betrayal creating uproar inside my mind and heart, I feel a tiny hand slip into the palm of mine, and a small voice overwhelms all the noise with its simple invitation.

"Do you want to go for a walk with me?"