Well, it’s been a pretty rough few days, but things are looking better. I finally got a chance to update all of my sites with the latest work, and spent the last couple of days looking through everything and analyzing what I’ve been up to since we moved to Fairfax. During the pandemic I couldn’t focus on much, just stolen moments in a very stressful time, much of which has been documented on this blog. I didn’t really have time to relax and listen to music, I had to be so on call most of the time. I was so frightened that I wasn’t able to really focus on anything well enough to take it all in, except by proxy when I was reading the news, analyzing advertisements and trying to get a holistic view of what was going on. I had a voracious media diet, and it was absolutely necessary. It was like going to grad school all over again, reading as much as I can. I really didn’t pay attention to world events and preferred to just engage with a small circle of friends, and even then, it was mostly to study art.
I got up to speed fast. I’ve now sat in on most of the UN assembly speeches, watched countless C-Span, watched the Olympics, and read the NYtimes back to back until I could only scan the headlines once I started to look into everything else. At times the world around me was almost soul crushing, but what I realized is that I slowly built up my tolerance so that even in the most difficult situations I was able to pull through. I think that’s just what the idea of a spirit can seem like, in line with spirituality. For me the concept means that our consciousness is fluid enough to respond with subtlety with any difficulty that can occur. Even when I reach the point of heartbreak something is released in me that allows me to find a place of calm. I don’t think that’s a mistake. I meditated consistently for years, and now even though I don’t sit at a cushion as much as I used to, I engage in what is termed off the cushion meditation, just everyday zen. The way this works is that you focus on one thing at a time completely, it allows you to change, adjust and stay steady for any type of situation. It has an interesting effect. For me every action feels like a deep universe of motion, and I don’t perceive time the way I used to. A week for me seems like a year, and so much happens, but if I didn’t have the ability to forget things sometimes, I might really slip since there’s so much information I’m taking in.
I made so many paintings this year and finally went back today and looked through everything one more time. I may take the rest of the month off from making new work. The art show is next week and I’m trying to figure out just what that means. I hope I get at least one sale, anything would be really helpful to see. But honestly that doesn’t even matter. What mattered to me the most was finally looking through all of my work and seeing just exactly what I was up to. The main thing I learned is that it was all abstract. Even when I painted individual portraits and worked from photographs, it was essentially the color and texture work that really had me interested. And what I’ve found is that’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. Each of these paintings is so important to me, and the fact that I’m not focused on any one physical reality, each of them just exist on their own. It’s like instrumental music or a kind of sound that hasn’t been realized yet. I’d love to hear what this work sounds like to musicians who are looking for inspiration.
I’ve come in contact with some difficult online hate, but I ignore it. I don’t let any of it get to me, yet I”m cautious getting into any potentially uncomfortable situations. It’s quiet and peaceful in the forest most of the time, leaving me free to paint and research on my own if I have to. I often wanted to run away in the pandemic from the place we were living, but where we’re living now is essentially all I dreamed of. And I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted a year to spend painting and researching, and so far I’ve been able to do that. This morning I finally set aside some time to listen to new music, and I listened to Taylor Swift for three hours to get a good sense of what she was up to before her albums last year, which were amazing.
I don’t know what caused me to do this, other than seeing that Red came out. I think there was a conversation with some of my friends in the Ace community that caught my attention. It was a rollercoaster, so beautiful and heart breaking, so that every song or so the happiness and joy was tempered by a tinge of sadness, sometimes almost unbearably so. She’s a genius. I listen for three hours and didn’t notice, and that is an amazing achievement. Everything is so carefully considered that it doesn’t even occur to you that you’ve spent so much time listening, and that’s the power of catharsis. We can experience our own emotions thanks to the honesty through which she channels the songwriting. The only thing as a human I can say though, is that I get to walk away once the songs are over but it leaves me wondering if the author is OK. That’s a little weird because I’m sure she’s fine, I really hope so.
After I listen for a few hours it’s weird that the later half of my day was spent finally uploading my work for the year. During the analysis I thought a little about what I listened to. I find parallels in the overall experience of all of that work together and what I had been developing on my own, the varied textures, and the lines like melody, harmony in the color structure, and a steadfast refusal to be held back. There’s a ferocity in a lot of her music, and I think that’s what gives it some of its strength. And it allowed me to be relentlessly objective after listening when I looked back at my work. I don’t know if I could work to this music, but listening to it right before getting to work was the foundation I needed to really look at what I was doing and come to realizations. My work is better than it has ever been, and even if no one likes it I know I’ve been true to each painting in allowing it to become something I didn’t expect. The fact that I don’t plan the abstracts allows it to be a record of emotion and thought, and each of the paintings I upload in the morning are snapshots of what that process looks like. I know this post is full of analysis but it’s my progress report for the year.
Why did I choose Fairfax for this? We lived in Marin when we first came to San Francisco, but didn’t really consider it until seven months ago. It seems like a lifetime. I originally thought that it would be a good place to train the mind. I shut everything out and only checked the news without great detail. The sounds of the forest were at times distracting, but I got through it, again because of zen. I just listened to the sounds free of intent, and letting them flow by. Anyone can do this, it’s just a matter of training. There are so many places that offer this in the bay area. It’s not hard to find.
So we’re almost at a year in , and this is the check-in. There’s enough on the blog now to document all the rest. I think I achieved exactly what I needed to when I chose this apartment as a place to build up my strength, both mentally and physically. The job at Peets combined all of these things, and it was hard but definitely a powerful antidote. I’ve dealt with so many difficult situations, because as Swift sings, “Because I have to.” And today by about mid-morning I realized that I had finally passed what was for me a self-imposed test. I learned exactly what I wanted to learn in the last year. It’s very simple. I learned to be completely honest, come to acceptance, and I learned to let go. Not as an ending, but so there is the ability to have something new. I posted recently the Rumi quote “Be ground, be crumbled, so that wildflowers can grow where you are” which I first heard from a Tara Brach meditation, which was a cornerstone of my practice for so many years. It doesn’t mean defeat, it means you conquer yourself and let go, so that new life can emerge, and after the early morning I painted something in a few minutes and posted it and realized that’s all I needed to do. I can’t wait to make more work soon, but it’s been a long day. It’s been a great year, and I’m finally caught up. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and all the work all of us have left to do to make this world a better place. The climate crisis is real, and we all can change what’s happening for the better. Because so much is at risk, and because we have to.