I spent 2 hours crawling around a beach on Applegate Island in Prince William Sound on Saturday, filling a Ziplock bag with Finger Stones -- finger-shaped, finger-sized, smooth-on-all-sides and not wedge-shaped or too heavy otherwise you can't do this:
I first found Finger Stones last summer and knew they were something special: Why are they nearly all the same size? Why only in this tidal zone? Why can't I stop picking these up? Why is everyone calling me back to the dinghy and I'm not coming? I loaded my pockets without a plan (other than The Must Have Plan) and I'm sure my husband had flashbacks of 1970's summer camp rocks with googly eyes when I first organized and admired them like my own little battalion back on the boat. ("And you're doing what with all these?") Later combined with felted wool they created this heavy, bendy, spine-like fabulousness that feels primal and raw. Applied as a surface treatment, they take on a shamanic, bone-like heft.
I keep returning to bone and spine forms in my work because they feel important. (Here's where anyone who knows me -- even remotely -- is thinking, "Oh no, she's going to start talking about her one-time 12 mm herniated disk on L5 again ... go now, run!" But I'm not mentioning it here because that would be boring). So no. You won't hear about my pain, but my work does explore pain. And this is partly the impetus. It's really personal. But isn't that the point? Because if you aren't creating art that is personal then it's Plop. You've seen it -- plopped -- no sense of place, no sense of space, no sense of self or the human condition. But if you can create art that pulls from the inner thread and binds it to the loose ends of others' lives, then you will move people. If you can, in this case, distill pain -- physical, emotional -- and create something beautiful, then people see elements of themselves in the work, whether or not they understand why right away, or ever. There's just that something that makes one want to know more, or look more, or ask why, or listen harder, or be disturbed, and ultimately remember.
Or just be distracted for a whole 2 hours. By rocks.
Which is why I didn't react immediately when my daughter slipped and fell into an enormous tide pool and started crying (then made me pinky promise not to tell her dad and brother. "They won't even notice, honey," I said, emptying her boot and wringing out her shirt). I couldn't react. Because I was the mom who'd been crawling around on a stony beach all afternoon and was now FROZEN in that position (see comment about L5) with a splitting bag of rocks and a screaming kid somewhere behind me. There was that grimacing moment of: "Use. Your. Core. Have. To. Stand. Up." But then there was the other luxury, the moment of beauty staring at the ground and practicing what around here we still call hypno-birthing breathing: "Oh, look, there's another Finger Stone," and, "There's one more," and "No, that one's not perfect, but, oh, wait, here's a really good one..."
So I had this fabulous metaphor, about how changing careers was like steering an ocean liner (no, really, it made a lot of sense ... just bear with me for a second) because there's this feeling that you're cranking on the rudder to change course, but the momentum is keeping you from switching directions right away. I was going to wrap this up all inspirationally, too. Something about how when that new course is finally set, you'll have all that riveted, massive, smoking energy fully able to commit to your new fabulous intent. You just needed to be patient and that ship would eventually turn, sound its horn and you could get all Titanic on the bow. It came to me while doing dishes. It was going to be an awesome piece of writing.
Except that today there was no ocean liner, or rudder, or direction, apparently. No, today there was just this crappy lashed together life raft bobbing alone out there with me on it and I still haven't decided whether I was watching the metaphorical ocean liner veer away or bear down on me, but let's just say ... it wasn't a high confidence day.
I think I need to get out more. Or do less dishes.
If you've considered changing careers maybe you already know that the pity party of how you've spent years working hard at something only to walk away from it is, well, one of the more lonely parties; that people want to be supportive ("What?! But you were so good at that job! But that was such a fun job!"), but are secretly probably -- no, definitely -- wondering if you'll ever stick to anything meaningful ever again. And that ultimately, when it's time to move on from something you've 1.) wanted for years, then 2.) did for years, and then 3.) questioned for years, you know in your heart that it's the right decision, even if you can't make it happen right away.
And for the record, I do stick to things. For 12 years, I did this:
And for 14 years, I did this (not full time, I cranked out an MFA and two kids too, but still):
And now I think I'm doing this:
Okay, so I'm taking a year to explore this last part with all my heart and riveted, smoke belching energy and then see where the journey takes me.
I do still love children's books. I still do not love wedding gowns. Do NOT ask me to make a wedding gown. I will put you on that life raft if you ask me to make a wedding gown.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.