Month: September 2013

Reality? Check!

This post has been percolating in my brain for some time and now I am finally sitting down and writing it.  If it gets a little long, forgive me but there is so much to talk about.

Reality is an overused word these days.  Reality TV shows, virtual reality, the internet, the “reality” of what is happening in Washington, the “real” sour cream (and don’t get me started on the word “natural”), all of these have totally compromised our perception of reality. We use adjectives and adverbs to extend, judge and glorify what is often a simple moment. Read the papers, listen to the news on TV and you will hear very little of what is actually going on, you will hear words designed to make you interested in what is going on. In fact, read an article some time and take out the adverbs and adjectives, all the judgement words, and see how short the news becomes.

The fact is, reality is individual and fluid. It is often shaped by how we perceive the world. It is shaped by how our neurons fire (or don’t fire). It is molded according to what medications we are taking or what limitations we are working with. My reality when I was in my depression (I like to call it my terrible time) was different than it is right now. And my reality when I was 20 was, well, I don’t know what it was, I was young and stupid and just a tad bit naive.

I once worked with schizophrenics in a state hospital. This was just before the revolving door policy that has been sooooooo successful. (not) I worked on the chronic ward and dealt with men and women whose sense of reality was chained by their brain chemistry. Although it was not the norm to deal with them this way, I often let them know that their reality, the voices they heard, the paranoia they felt, was not my reality. I was intrigued by how someone who seemed rational, could experience such a different idea of life than I did, that he “knew” that someone was around the corner just waiting to kill him. How do you tell someone that this is not true? How do you explain that his brain is making him think these things, that it is making up stories that he believes?

Recently, I have been enjoying the simplest of realities. I strip away all judgement and descriptions and am simply in the moment. It is something that I strived to accomplish for most of my life and I find that it is actually easier than I thought.  The trick is to use your senses. I sit for a minute and just feel, see, hear, taste and smell. No judgement, no description, just pure sensation. I realize that not everyone has the use of all of their senses, but I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have any senses. It is possible to just observe, even if you are blind, to hear even if you are deaf. Reality is this moment, right now.  Reality is me typing on my keyboard, hearing the sound of the cat chirping, feeling the footstool under my feet, the cool air on my skin and breathing.

Now the reality has changed slightly, all the things are the same except that I now hear the cat making noises in the other room and my stomach is starting to growl. The reality changed in a fleeting moment, ever so slightly. There are an infinite amount of these moments in each day, yet we tend to ignore them and get side-tracked by what other people call reality. Even writing and reading blogs tends to do this, I get caught up in other people’s version of reality. It’s not always a bad thing, it can open up my world and show me how other people view it. But the moments I am most content are when I am sitting in the sun with a few animals around me doing their animal thing, feeling warm, hearing the birds and whatever else is making noise, and just being.

This point really came home to me this past weekend when I was celebrating a wedding. There was a moment when I was on the dance floor, and my reality was all about the movement, the music, the feel of the rhythm moving through my body. It was pure bliss.

Because this is a blog for sharing such moments, I will share some pictures that came from three of these moments in the past few days. I took them on the iPhone, and already there is a distortion of reality as I have put two photos together to create the longer view of the soybeans. But each of these moments was something I wanted to preserve, to revisit, to document. And share with you.

soybeans in the fall
soybeans in the fall
blimp in a cool sky
blimp in a cool sky
dead
dead
happy
happy
happier
happier

something borrowed

Before we moved to this great farm, we lived in a suburb of MD called Ellicott City.  Our neighbors for 16 years was a Filipino/Chinese family who quickly became friends.  I was their “back door” neighbor and their children became our “borrowed” kids.  We watched them grow up, attended multiple graduations and have enjoyed getting to know them as adults.

Last night we were honored to witness Mika, the middle daughter, get married to her Prince Charming, Mikey. Mika was 2 when Albin and Fe moved next door and we have seen her grow into a beautiful, bright ray of sunshine. She is currently getting her master’s degree in psychology. She has known Mikey for seven years and her facebook page for the last year has been all about the wedding.

It was easy to see the art in last night’s wedding, the back drop of the Chesapeake Bay, the bright colorful flowers held by the bride and her (rather extensive) bridal party, the wonderful music provided by Mika’s sister and cousins, the amazing food (hey, they’re Filipino…there’s ALWAYS lots of food) and the beautiful tent where we ate and danced.  The dancing was my favorite part, as always.  Wearing my snake skin patterned dress which flows and twirls in the most delightful way, I danced the night away. Okay, not the whole night, but a good portion of it.

It was a lovely evening, full of dancing, music and laughter. I wish Mika and Mikey all the happiness in the world.

listening to a concert by her sister and cousin
listening to a concert by her sister and cousin
the happy couple
the happy couple
R and me
R and me
beautiful
beautiful

 

the power of 50 + 1

Last night I was cooking dinner and during a pause in the operation, I lifted my leg and put my heel on the counter (away from the food) to stretch out my hamstring. My husband turned around and went “Whoa!” I hadn’t even thought about it while I was doing it but I realized that it probably looked a little odd. Then I started thinking about yesterday’s post and realized that I had only told part of the story of being 51.

You see, I forgot to mention that I am actually in very good shape.  Dance, movement, walking and yoga have been part of my life since I was very little.  I am not a naturally flexible person, you won’t find me on the stage of Cirque du Soleil, but I can touch my toes and do a handstand. And yes, I can still get my foot on the counter without having to contort any part of my body. I realize that I am stronger and more flexible than most women my age or even some that are younger than me.  Thinking in these terms changed how I tackled my yoga class today. I felt more confident in all the poses and enjoyed them a lot more. Mindset makes such a difference.

(In addition I have recently lost 10 pounds and am feeling like I got my body back…but we’ll save that for another post, maybe.)

I also realized that when my sister told me “tempus fugit” she was only echoing what I mumble under my breath when I see a 20, 30 or 40-something year old dithering and wandering through their life.  (This is the moment where, if you are of that persuasion, you roll your eyes and think OMG, the old lady is trying to teach us something. And it’s the part where I declare “I’m not old, I’m well seasoned.”) Anyway, it is true that there is no way to understand what you’ve got until you don’t got it anymore. Yes, I still got most of it, but I pay more of a price than I used to.

So by telling me to get my ass in gear, my sister was in fact speaking the truth. In other words, stop worrying about whether I can and (in the immortal words of Nike) “JUST DO IT!”. If I need to, I’ll find someone to help with anything out of my reach, and then I’ll create, share, love…

You get the picture.

Upside down with Izzy
Upside down with Izzy

 

P.S.  This was such a fun picture to do. I had to find the right height for the camera but just as I was hitting the 10 second delay button, Izzy decided to join me…I love self timed pictures, you never know what you’re gonna get.

 

The power of 50

“Tempus Fugit” the voice on the phone declared emphatically.

“???” I replied.

“I’m feeling 62 this year, that means you’re feeling 51.  It’s time to get cracking.” said my sister.

“What does 62 feel like?” I asked, wondering what this had to do with our conversation about whether I was going to enter a local public art exhibition.

“62 is when you realize that there are not many tomorrows left and if anything is going to get done, it better get done NOW!”, she proclaimed.

“Oh.” I said, a little forlornly.  “But I am getting things done.  Why just this morning I cleaned the kitchen, took the dogs to the vet for their shots, weeded the garden and…”

“Tempus Fugit” repeated my sister.  “How long will it take to make something that you can enter into a show?  The deadline is one month away…that’s loads of time isn’t it?”

I sighed. Of course it is enough time…in a perfect world.  In a world where I am 31 and not 51.  I am still getting used to what it means to be over 50.  Obviously, thanks to my sister, I now have an inkling of what it’s like to be over 60, but I’m not there yet, so I’m not going to worry too much about it…today.  But my 50’s are a new movie that I am acting in, one with a script that is familiar only in that I have seen some of it before and declared, “I’m not going to be like that when I’m old.”

Uh huh.

Here’s a small view of my life over 50.

I find myself saying things, blabbering, wandering through a conversational forest as if I have no idea where the path is, much less who else is on it. I see the same looks on peoples’ faces that I had when I was young and listening to someone “old” bumble their way through a conversation. I hear what words come out of my mouth and even I know that they make no sense but can’t seem to stop myself from wandering off into the briars and thorny patches, trying to disregard the look of complete and total confusion on the faces of those around me. I’ve always been a bit ADD but it’s now like I’m ADD in slow motion. Yikes.

I look at my skin a lot, marveling at the changes produced by my decreasing hormones and wondering why I have more skin all of a sudden?  And how on earth did my cheeks end up near my chin?  It’s actually kind of fascinating. I feel like I am looking at someone else’s body, a body I once knew very well but which changes from day to day, turning into some alien 50+ form.  Of course, I am talking about changes that would appear microscopic to others, but don’t we always see ourselves in a magnified manner?

Time has changed as well, and how I enjoy my time has shifted.  I take longer to do things, but I enjoy doing them more.  I am more grateful that I can still accomplish things like stacking wood, gardening, welding, working out and walking the dogs and I realize that the enjoyment of all of these tasks is what life is about.  Yes, life is short.  Does that mean I have to rush to do everything or should I slow down to enjoy what I like to do?  I also am better at deciding whether I really want to do something, whether it’s worth my time and energy.  Sometimes I say no, and am happy that I have more time to enjoy the things I really like. That doesn’t mean I have stopped trying new things, it just means that I am quicker to come to a judgement about whether I really like it or not.  This includes finding people I like to spend time with, who feed me emotionally and intellectually. People who suck my energy out through a straw are now left out of my life.

Speaking of which, my energy level has definitely dropped over the last couple of years.  I can’t blame this one entirely on the half century mark.  Other factors like mental health, hormonal changes and medications contribute to my general malaise.  It’s just a crap shoot as to whether I can get through a day from morning to night without wanting to go lie down.  But on the days that I go straight through the day, I am still quite productive.

So all of this goes through my mind as I try to figure out what my professional life will look like après 50. What do I put my energy into, how much do I rush to get something done? What is my goal; to enjoy creating or to put my work out into the world and make money? Do I have time and energy to do both? Do I really want to be a famous crazy lady sculptor or just an unknown crazy lady sculptor? Do I have the wherewithal to walk through the forest and not get distracted by the sunshine hitting the leaves on the ground or the beautiful spiderwebs glistening in the breeze? These are all questions that I must ask myself and soon because, after all, tempus fugit

forest floor
forest floor

neglect

The other day I took my camera off of full RAW format and started playing with the macro settings again. My subject was the Dusty Miller in the planters on my patio steps. Usually by this time of year I have gotten really tired of my daily watering chores and have left nature to do it for me. The problem is that this year, after all the rain we received during the summer, we are in the middle of a mini drought.  Nature is definitely not helping with the watering chores and thus my late summer plants are not looking so good.  I noticed that without a daily watering, the Dusty Miller has started to curl up.  Looking at it through the camera lens, I was really struck by its beauty.

These pictures were taken on two consecutive days. The first two were taken in the gloaming, while I was waiting for dinner to cook.  The other two were both taken in broad daylight. With the fourth one I was playing with shutter speed and wasn’t paying attention.  Sometimes that can lead to happy accidents. Now I know how to create drama in full sunshine!

garbagemen

I am fascinated by vultures. Don’t ask me why.  To a lot of people they are gross and a reason to think bad things are going to happen when they are around. But in fact, they are the garbagemen of the bird world. Without them, we would have some pretty stinky dead things hanging around.

Case in point, the dead groundhog that they found on our property. Fortunately, it was outside the dog fence, otherwise this would be a totally different story. As it is, the story started a couple of days ago when I thought there might be something weird going on on the opposite hill. Sure enough, today the black vultures came en masse.

feasting
feasting

At one point there were at least 12 or so on the ground with another 10 circling in the air. This was obviously not a big enough corpse to warrant 20+ vultures, so it wasn’t long before the ones in the air went away looking for a better lunch. But the ones on the ground were obviously used to figuring out which was the “top” bird. Challenges were tentative, but caused the feaster great angst.

top bird
top bird
"Get away!"
“Get away!”

Of course, if a challenge was made and accepted, that left the food open for someone else to get.  Birds are weird.

All of these vultures happen to be black vultures. I don’t know where I heard this but black vultures can’t smell, thus they have to rely on turkey vultures to smell the food and show them where it is. Our vet’s office assistant told me that when the field behind her house is threshed, the black vultures hang out on the farmhouse opposite, because they know that there will be dead critters to feast upon, and they don’t have to rely on a turkey vulture to point the way to the cafeteria. Black vultures aren’t quite as interesting to look at as turkey vultures though, the turkeys are just plain UGLY.

Needless to say, when they were all done, I did go look at the remains, just to see what it was. Yes it was a groundhog, yes I took a picture of it, yes it’s gross and no I’m not going to show it to you. I was, however, quite impressed with the teeth on it, they are long and curved on the bottom and short and curved on the top (seems backwards).

I am not sad that this animal is now deceased and has fed some birds. I don’t like ground hogs much. I used to like all animals. In fact, there is a story of me as a little girl. One day I saw a fox  in the back yard and started running toward it screaming “Doggie!”. Now, as an adult, I have a more balanced view of the natural world. Everything has pros and cons, the cons of groundhogs are the damage they can do to the foundation of houses and barns if they burrow under them. We have already removed one family from under our barn. Since I am not much of a gun enthusiast, I have to resort to relocating them. Of course if someone were to come in and offer to keep the population down to a dull roar, I would not argue. Call me heartless but there it is.

Isn’t life in the country fun and full of stories???

In the middle of nowhere.

A couple of weeks ago I was minding my own business, driving out to hike in the Catoctin Mountains in northern Maryland (think Camp David)  I drove along, wondering if it would stay cool (it didn’t) or low humidity (ditto).  Maryland farmland is very beautiful.  Gentle hills, flat pastures, beautiful old barns.  At one point I saw something in the distance that looked out of place.  I couldn’t quite place what it was though.  It was too small for a silo, too big and shiny for farm machinery.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it, but it wasn’t until I got closer that I started to understand what it was.  I say started because I’m still not sure, even after spending some time looking at it.

IMG_0929

I salute the creativity and the perseverance that would lead someone to plunk these down in the field.  This person obviously has a passion for large mechanical-looking objects, and the resources to create them.  He/she also has the need to shout out to the world.  Nothin’ wrong with that.  So does Richard Serra, who I talked about in my last post.  This sculpture is in the middle of nowhere and because of this, it stands out.  While the traffic on this road is minimal, it would be hard to miss this creation.

I’m currently debating how much I need to shout to the world or whether I just want to keep up a constant chatter, make sculptures that are wonderful but may not get the “WOW!” factor.  A giraffe gets the “WOW!” factor, but it is costly, in time, money and personal energy.  At this point in my life, I am having to decide how much I want to do by myself and how much I let someone else do for me.  I know I CAN make another large-scale structure, it’s a matter of if I WANT to.

I recently read an interview with an artist named Peter Downsbrough in Sculpture Magazine.  He was talking about how he constructs his word/line sculptures.  At the end of the statement he said:

Things don’t need to be big.  Giacometti’s figures may not be big, but they certainly take their place.  There’s also Medado Rosso, who made very small sculptures.  An artwork does not need to be big to be consequential.

(Sculpture, Vol. 32, No. 8, October 21013, pg.42)

This really spoke to me.  I think it’s time to scale down my work.  Not permanently, but just so that I can play.  Of course, the problem with “WOW” is it is often followed up with “Do it again!”.    I know that not everybody will understand my new smaller-scaler direction, but I’m good with that.  If the sculptor of the very large mechanical beings listened to everybody, he/she would never have made that sculpture.  Sometimes you have to stop listening for a while and just do what the Muse tells you to do.  If that happens, it will be consequential no matter what the size.