Back and Back and Back

I go into what is now a studio for me, the garden shed outbuilding on this land. And I choose a vessel, or I pick one from on top of the big cabinet in the kitchen. I start with the container. 

Then I wander through the gardens to see what's there, what's blooming, what's wilting. I am almost always drawn to the plants, the flowers, that are in a state of decay. I like the ones that have lived a little, the ones that usually get passed-by in favor of the bawdy bloomers. I like the quiet ones, the ones showing signs of droop, wear. They have been through several cycles of rain and sunshine, night and day and are coming toward the end of their time.

This was true when I was moving through the world with my camera. I loved the buildings that were abandoned, the ones left to rot and break apart. I loved signs of age, places that looked like they held a good story. I liked the old structures.

Faces, too. And hands. I like the ones that show signs of life. I don't understand people who inject chemicals into their bodies to smooth out the wrinkles. I love what life looks like worn by a human being.

I am curious about the shifts I have felt in regards to being an artist, although I am loathe to use that word for myself. An article that appeared in yesterday's New York Times inspired a conversation between Brett and me about the word, "art." 

I have always been intrigued by this. Where does the world end and art begin? What things do we, as individuals, consider when we determine what is and isn't art? How much of our feelings and our own personal experience is brought to the moment when we discern what art is?

Does it have to be beautiful? Moving? Inspirational? Can it be grotesque? Must it be complex? Do children create art? Is it necessary to study art to become an artist?

I don't paint or draw, though I have tried and continue to try to sketch. I cannot sew, but I know how to weave a basket and I can knit, a bit. I know how to develop a photograph in a darkroom. When I had a shop, I loved creating window displays. I consider a house to be a place where the reflection of one's inner life can and should make an artful space in which to live.

Expression. Are we all artists of one sort or another? Lauren can make a beautiful and delicious pie. Courtney's bookshelves are arranged in ways that take into consideration color and shape. They are a delight. Little takes food elements and arranges them in stunning compositions. Mimi wears clothing and jewelry in such fun, intriguing and surprising ways that she seems to be the canvas. My father can fix almost anything with his bare hands. Brett takes sounds and arranges them in ways that sit in your heart and then follow you wherever you go. My brother builds beautiful furniture; watching his wife, Stacey, skiing down a mountain makes me feel the same way looking at John Singer Sargent's Fumée D'ambre Gris makes me feel. Sam launching himself off of an enormous snowy jump and spinning in all directions. Art? My sister catches fish in Antarctica and then looks very carefully at them so that maybe some day one or two of our human ailments will be eradicated.

Are we all artists of one sort or another?

I don't know. 

Right now I am madly, passionately in love with flowers and plants. The smells, the shapes, colors, the way they feel, how they look, together and apart. What the gardens look like in the morning and in the evening. I'm captivated by all of it. I was sitting in the sun just now, and I started thinking about going into the garden studio to create another arrangement. It made me feel like a person facing a blank canvas, it made me feel like what a painter might feel like before he goes to his studio to make a painting. It made me happy to think about gathering the materials and placing them in a container. And I wondered if that's what's at the heart of being an artist: the joy that ignites the fire of creativity. Maybe that's the common denominator: the love of the thing, the joy in the act of creation.

The older I get the more often I come to the very same conclusion: that love sits at the center of every part of this life. Not romantic, goopy love, although that can be lots of fun. But a kind of love that seems to have been placed in our core, perhaps even before we were born. And that all of life seems to be an adventure, a journey, taken to find our way back and back and back to that love. And when we are there, when we find it and we know it, very often there are no words, only a feeling, a sense, a knowing ... this is why I am here

Bless you all, greatly, on this Fourth. And may you find your way to the joyful freedom that comes with living your life in the love that is yours alone. Made for you, created in you, and awaiting your arrival. Amen.