Poetry from the porch #7

Soot

Today, I feel loss. It sneaked into this house, my house, despite my defenses.

Adopted from a shelter, a petite, black cat lived in the house for years.

The thing is, she only had three good legs. She dragged the fourth, along with her tail which swept the floors-back and forth – leading a path for us to follow. Hit by a car, and left by the side of the road, she came to us circuitously.

We called her Soot.

Her sweet nature craved love. Her meow, barely audible, could never quite muster the attention she demanded. Yet, she could claw her way up any chair, sofa or bed with those strong and muscular front legs and then, curl herself into the softest, smallest ball and purr as loudly as any big tom prowling through our streets.

Who knew then – oh, more than a decade ago and several cats later -that she would leave me with a broken heart?

Today I long, with such an ache, for her presence.

What drives the art?

Patience and creativity

Returning to life as an artist is a challenge after twenty years immersed in a left-brain career as a librarian – organizing, cataloging and instructional designing.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the past two months working on a seemingly simple artist’s book.

Prior to my life as a librarian, I was a working artist for twenty years with roots in calligraphy. This form is the foundation for everything I learned about art subsequently. Knowing the quality of work of which I am capable by looking back through the boxes and folders of my art projects, and then, looking at my current work, left me sorely demoralized. This is true, even with calligraphy, my first love.

So, I turn to writing prose and bookmaking, additional loves in the artistic life. My intention (please note this noun!) to create an artist’s book with my prose at the central point is a turning point. Designing the format and attempting to carry out the all the skills needed, demonstrates how far I have meandered my previous life. Nothing was meeting my standards. This went on for more than a month. Over and over, re-thinking, re-designing, re-hashing imagery…until, one morning, I collected all the debris and threw it into an envelope to shelve.

What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t this working? I was on my third attempt with this “simple book.”

May I suggest that you read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

 

Cover art

Finally, after re-reading one chapter of the above title, it hit me. I was working with the left-brain. Intention. In my process to create, it was all linear – get from Point A to my Point B .

So, I cleared everything off my desk. Created a big open space. And played. Ran my hands over the handmade papers until I found those that felt right. Moved around the pieces of photographs like a jigsaw puzzle until they fell into place visually.

Continuing along this path for the next two weeks, the book I had never imagined began to form. Yes, there were times I was afraid to “be intentional” not wanting to subvert a new beginning. Each decision, intuitive or deliberate, was met with patience. I put the work aside and came back to it another day; played with it for an hour and then, went for a walk.

To continue to encourage my ability to create step-by-step, piece-by-piece with respect and composure is my task for this season – this month as we enter into the time of hunkering down for winter. If I can allow myself this time, spring will be a joy.


AS I AGE: free verse

As I age, I would like to sit across from my mother at the kitchen table, the one with the red and white enamel top the table where she rolled out her dough for Christmas baking, year after year; where she set our hot meals before us every day – except Sunday.

I would like to talk with her, mother to daughter, about our families, our marriages, and her grandsons. I would like to know my enigmatic father, her spouse, through her eyes and with her heart. To hear tales of my sisters as toddler, her girls. These sisters I love and who were born years before me.

There is so much I ache to know, but mostly it is this: to have my mother close by me again with her smile and scowl in equal measures, the sound of her voice surrounding me. Simply to be in her presence; to share our lives as women do.

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Poetry from the porch #4

Small struggles

I

The lines do not come with ease. My hand forces the paper to lay down at odd angles. Every minor effort is met with resistance.

Repetitive images and motions, one after another. Again and again. And another. Persistence is the curse.

Distracted thoughts, but with eyes steady. The thin, silver blade slices through layer upon layer. Yet the plethora of pieces find no rest. No home.

There is no angle. No paper. No place for these lines. Not yesterday. Not today. Will tomorrow be the same?

II

Outside my open window the redbud branches arch effortlessly from the trunk. So too, the leaves from the branches. And so on. Here, all is aligned accordingly. The songbird bestows her blessing with song. All is as it is intended.

III

To live with ease. To grow with grace. To be elemental.


The Eastern Redbud is prolific in the area where I live. In spring, when the purple buds are in bloom, before the leaves emerge, they are breathtaking.