We’re in the earliest stages of our experiment of living in the hills, a forest environment near a larger town, and I’m just getting used to it. In many ways it’s what I’ve always wanted. I feel like it was finally time to make paintings and music on my own terms, but there was something I started to feel here. There’s so much going on in the world, and I am no stranger to it, and some days I just feel like giving up, but I don’t , I’m lifted up by all of the voices online, and though there is so much hate and indifference in the world, I finally feel like I’m part of a family, a large one, larger than I’ll ever know. It’s an inspiring time to be alive, a real moment for change. But I’m concerned that we aren’t quite making it. I think if we all emerge from this with a greater perspective, we have the ability to reimagine the future. For me, almost everything that is happening is still not quite there. We have a real opportunity to really enact change. The bay area could be the greatest experiment in history if we all come together, this incredible place of so much diversity, yet somehow in many ways still with social issues that really demand change. I’m worried that we’re missing out on something. We have beautiful forests, oceans, inspiring cities. Soaring downtown districts in so many parts of the bay area. But I didn’t grow up here, so it’s always something new. In my greatest hopes and dreams, this beautiful place could become something that combines it all: science, ecology, environmentalism, social justice, the birth of the internet. Why is this not what we see? Why do we get so involved in one issue or another without looking at a greater whole?
When we decided to move to the bay I was inspired by the beat poets, but not in a nostalgic way. They were groundbreaking voices, crossing ethnographic lines, so socially diverse. My greatest honor was finally having a zine accepted by City Lights, which became my greatest guide and hope for a future. But what future was that? I don’t even feel like we’re in the present. Can we look at what’s here? And what can become of it, not through some kind of destructive change, but because of a sharing of all of these efforts? If we combine technological exploration, design, ecology and social justice, couldn’t we make this place not something to dream about, but something to be?
I often, because of the meta prayer in Buddhism, focus on what could be expressed through The Eames film, Powers of Ten, which in medtation looks like this: you start by loving yourself, and then move your compassion slowly into a larger circle with honesty, starting with people you are closest to, your neighborhood, then moving through each consideration until you reach into feeling compassion for all that there is. There’s a scientific basis to this, most elegantly displayed by the Eames film, which is one I saw long ago. I don’t know California that well, it’s still in a dream in my mind.
So for now I’m looking at just the beginning of the meta prayer, and I’m looking through the lens of painting. If you’ve read this blog you may be able to tell that I moved from writing into painting for the last three weeks. I’m selling work and things are going well. I love the connection with the world. But I’m just at the beginning of the prayer, moving slightly into the level of the neighborhood. I’m connecting with people and getting to know the environment. The first thing I had to do was just have compassion for myself, because if you can’t do that you have no ground to stand on to expand that to all there is. It’s simple but difficult. I rework through paintings and nothing is ever static. That has always been part of my strategy with digital painting in honor of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I’m getting there. I looked through so many old photos, but that was just the beginning, for the next series I’m going to try and show what it means in the real world, which is neither physical nor a dream, it’s consciousness, and I can see that only when I read certain kinds of poetry.
And I’m going to work hard to understand the climate around us. Right now in our part of California, the wildfires aren’t that far away, and we all know here what it’s like when that happens. The world is undergoing so much from climate change, metaphorical and in direct reality. But I hope we don’t miss this, I hope it’s not too late. We have to address the climate, because it may not be time for deep contemplation, which is why I wanted to move here. I thought this would be a place of complete retreat. A place to heal, which is happening but in a different scale. But I’m worried that the world may miss this chance, the ability to make the most incredible dreams, some imagined both in technology, literature and fiction, which seems almost myopic in it’s limited scope. What was the pandemic worth if we didn’t bridge all of these forces together? That was my dream with Amaryllis, but even that feels like it’s almost on the verge of being ignored. I’m still painting every day, but it may not last forever. In many ways I’ve done already what I want to do, I just have to make the paintings, and that will take time, but for my part I’m going to head back into research, and see if there are other ways I can help, for my partner, my family, our communites, and all there is. But first, I have to express my own views on my experiences, in my own voice, and on my own terms. I know so many people are here for us, and I hope through this I can still find a voice through it. But that’s not enough. I need to think about the world, but it can’t start if I can’t find a way to dream and hope with my neighborhood, my direct community, and then expand outward, to truly make something new, together, with everyone I know.