Tuesday, March 07, 2006

After enlightenment, the laundry


I have, as TEG is too fond of reminding me, an unfortunate tendency to make Grand Pronouncements that yield little fruit and no follow through. I know that he is right, alas (though I wish he would stop reminding me all the time), but I feel that this time is different. Maybe all of those other times were just dress rehearsals for this one, or perhaps I had been waiting for the Universe to make things concrete for me. I don’t ask for much...perhaps a few cloud bursts, angels we can hear on high, or at least a rainbow or two. But, in keeping with the tenor of my new attitude, I figure the only one who should be blaring trumpets around here is me.

The question is, as always, how? The Buddhists say, “Before Nirvana, chop wood and carry water. After Nirvana, chop wood and carry water." Intellectually, I know that’s excellent advice (well, in my case it would be “craft writing, carry baby") but emotionally I have yet to make it stick. I’ve never been good at making my epiphanies concrete in the workaday world, so all of my lovely castles in the air tend to stay there. How would I be able to live out my new ideals in the face of cooking, diapers, bills, and mounds and mounds of laundry?

I pondered this question while strolling with Madam this afternoon, and then I hit on it. I would make a totem--a way to commit to my creativity and make it a partner on my journey. It seemed like the perfect way to start. And I’ve been so inspired by all of your gorgeous collages and art that I suppose that’s where the seed drifted in. Surprised by my childlike glee at my plan, I decided to stop at Michael’s on my way back from Starbucks Park. Now, one thing you should know about me, I Don’t Do visual art. Not for lack of desire. In college I took a photography class and was told my photos were too “verbal" and “literal", not paying enough attention to the pure visuals. I guess I like my photos to tell too much of a story. But, I reasoned, this totem would just be for me, and everything you all make looks so delicious, it would be fun to try.

A word about Madam lately. If anyone reading this thinks that babies are docile and cute until they become intransigent toddlers...well, Madam must be advanced in that regard. Gone is the baby who sat peacefully in her swing, chewing on her fists while I wrote out my morning pages. No, now she looks askance at my notebooks and shares me only grudgingly with the computer. It appears she sees them as rivals for my attention (and I suppose they are...sometimes inspiration strikes while she’s awake). It’s a bit like living with the world’s tiniest teenager. If she could walk, she would be stomping off to her room in tears and slamming the door at all sorts of moments. But she was peaceful enough, leaning back to watch the tree branches wave in the breeze, feeling the sun kiss her face. I thought I could chance it.

For some reason, I chose to leave Starbucks Park from a different direction--and passed an intriguing little shop. Now, I live in the suburbs, where almost every store is a chain and branded to within an inch of its life. This odd little store was an anomaly--individual, and clearly someone’s labor of love.

Madam and I entered the empty store, and I lit up to see all sorts of handmade objects and lovely, unusual jewelry. I thought, Surely I’ll be able to find a totem here...or at least something to use in the making of it!

The store clerk smiled warmly at us, the only customers in the store, and wandered over to coo and smile over Madam. Usually Madam is wonderful with strangers, but her Inner Teenager emerged and her little face crumbled as she let out the kind of wails that peel back my fingernails. I shot an apologetic glance at the clerk and wheeled us out of there pronto.

Madam continued to wail and I knew there would be no Michael’s for me this day. Maybe tomorrow.

Perhaps she wants to remain the only creativity totem in my life.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Left of Center said...

hi there, full time dad, part time graphic artist here. I have a 16 mo and a 5 year old here with me all day, and the 7 yo to pick up from school at 2. I get the house cleaned, meals made, and still have time to work alittle and blog. It can be done. more power to you!

11:19 PM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

i knew a cool, artsy, eccentric woman in Seattle who had a totem.

i'll send you an email about it.

inspiring stuff...great idea!

12:35 AM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous jennifer said...

a totem is a great idea. i don't have a totem, but i use the top of one bookshelf for things that are meaningful to me. as far as mini teens go, jacob (4.5) began slamming doors at around the age of two and a half. and we hadn't even taught him that. i figure we're at about age 16 right now. he thinks he knows everything and will tell you so. good luck with madam :-)

11:15 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

can't wait to see what you come up with for your totem.

4:34 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous rachel said...

You need the graphic novel "Talisman" by Carla Speed McNeill. I used to always have a spare to send to people who need it, but I don't right now. Otherwise I'd just send it to you.

Regarding chopping wood and carrying water... so much of creative work is just that. Work. You work all day already -- start adding it in slowly. This blog is a start. It doesn't have to be brilliant at first. It won't be brilliant. But keep at it, bit by bit. Two and a half years ago, when my son was born, I started chipping away at a novel, and I just finished the first draft. Little bits add up.

And I know that sounds frustratingly slow, and perhaps you worry that you'll be OLD before you reach any of your goals, but as a friend of mine loves to say, how old will you be if you DON'T do it?

7:55 PM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Visitor 7777 said...

We are each an insignificant component of the universe so our achievements are generally small. Yet we each aspire to be a Dali or an Einstein. How likely is this?

What if we enjoyed the mundane more? What if we resurrected this lost art? Irony:

- The only stimuli we seem to accept are those that are capable of jostling us out of our (insignificant) routines

- Such stimuli become more unlikely as we continue to decrease our sensitivity

...we find our lives to be uninteresting.

Is it possible that extreme creativity comes from being extremely sensitive to stimuli? My weed-smoking friends swear by it.

11:32 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

Left of center...you need to give me some time management tips! Sounds like you get a lot done.

Bohemian girl (i love typing that out!)--thanks for the info in advance.

Jennifer...yep, I also find satisfaction in the way I set up my bookshelves...love to see my special books and objects around me.

la vie en rose...when I come up with something, I'll share with the class. :)

Rachel...wow, congrats on your draft! And thanks for reminding me that it's a slow process and it won't be brilliant in the beginning. And I looked up that graphic novel and now I must. have. it! (And talisman was the word I was looking for, I realize now).

Vistor 7777--it IS liberating to realize that the flip side of being pretty insignificant is the freedom to play...because what does it matter, ultimately, except to me and mine? I'm working on the mundane thing, LOL. Even the word makes me feel low.

Thank you all so much for your comments! This blog is such my happy place lately. :)

10:51 AM, March 09, 2006  

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