Recently I have been thinking about how to get ahead. Not "ahead" financially - but emotionally and in my art practice. I frequently look to nature for inspiration . . . usually that would mean the trees, the ocean, the clouds and, always, earth's rocks.
But today my inspiration is the lowly and 'slow-LY' TURTLE.
According to www.animaltotem.com, having a turtle totem has the following inclinations: "Turtle teaches us to be careful in new situations and to be patient in reaching our goals. Turtle also teaches us to take things slow, for it gives us time to figure out if we need to protect our self or forge ahead. Turtle shows up in our lives when we need to go into [our] shell and wait until our thoughts & ideas are ready to be expressed. He also teaches us to be adaptable to our environment so we can find the harmony within it."
I think the most important attribute I am working on right now is patience. I want to run down the studio stairs and immerse myself in making art - I guess that art space is my shell in a sense. I can truly block out the entire world while I am lost down there. Yes, it is a true protection . . . but I also might miss something important or meaningful.
So we come full circle (woot, there is a turtle analogy), to audacity. That turtle needs a whole hunk of it to stick his neck out (this is the most dangerous time for the turtle) to get anywhere. Can you imagine not only having to risk your very LIFE if you headed out on a journey/goal, but that you had to drag your entire shell/house/studio/life WITH you!!!??????
Today TURTLE has taught me many things . . . the importance of patience, the need for risk taking, and the acceptance of life's baggage (home, children, extended families, work, etc). I am so encouraged that if nature has given TURTLE such a divine purpose and way to accomplish against all odds - I, too, have received the same potential and ways of progress.
I hope to live long, just like the wise old TURTLE . . . learning to work with and within my environment and balance the risk-taking with the necessary time of self-protection.
If you are interested in more meanings of turtles, please check here . One last item I found, which I am going to print out and use for inspiration:
Turtle is the oldest symbol for the Earth.
If you have a Turtle totem,
If a Turtle totem shows up in your life,
Turtle is a fine teacher of the art of grounding.
(excerpt from LinsDomain
Having had a particularly difficult day today, emotionally, speaking - I want to turn the page back to last week when I had some fantastic epiphanies.
Since December and the Miami-Pool Art Fair trip, I have been trying to answer a question I received during my flight wait to Miami. I was approached by a retired Military officer and asked "Where am I going? And "What do I do?" One would think that I have a snap answer to that question, but I never have. Maybe because I really work at breaking down my motivations and analyze my own psyche, I tend to answer in paragraphs or essays, NOT one sentence wonders.
So, I decided I needed to have that one-sentence answer ready the next time I am asked.
If you know me at all, and some of you do, I don't keep anything hidden, I am what I am, for better for worse . . . you know I am NOT a morning person! I think better at night, I work better at night, and the mornings (i.e., anything prior to NOON) are not me at my best. Last week, after realizing we would have ANOTHER SNOWDAY and that I could TURN OFF THE ALARM (woot!), I was given the great opportunity to slowly wake up and tiptoe through that twilight of sleep/dream and awake/reality. What I realized, was that, in one sentence,:
I am the most broken item I have ever put back together. It is a daily process, just like today, when I was literally ripped apart in a public forum for speaking my own truth about my rape. I am stitching myself back together - I am a one-armed Raggedy Ann, restitching my dismembered arm back to myself.
The 2nd epiphany I experienced last week was the solution to an installation problem with "YOU MADE YOUR BED", a new series I will be installing in March at the "Ladies First", Top 10 Women Artists of Tennessee Exhibition at The Customs House Museum (in honor of women's history month). Literally, laying 'abed' I visualized the installation solution and got it planned in my brain before I stepped onto the floor. Here is 1/2 of the installation:
So, what I have learned this month?
1) I realized what I do is, metaphorically and, literally, "I Put Back Together Broken Things", and
2) Just as I am responsible for what my truth is, so are others, and there are deep and lasting crevices that are created from speaking one's truth.
The last week has wrought many events that have upset my normally serene and content state-of-mind:
The Tucson shootings have left me even more convinced that the death penalty is a valid exchange for mass murder - I understand the idea of those against the death penalty, but in my heart of hearts, I truly believe that some souls are irredeemable in this life, that to restore universal balance, the scales need to be re-set. Even though I understand that mistakes have been made and innocent humans have been executed, I still believe that execution is the final retribution due because of lives stolen away . . . not to mention the lives of survivors of the victims.
Other issues are again, not directly my issues, but as they orbit into my reality, they have upset my balance . . . secrets kept, once revealed - can be freeing. Their revelations always bring about better understanding of the secret keeper . . . but if the information gets out, does that wreak more pain for those effected? Only the secret keeper can weigh that issue and make that call. Although I believe in full disclosure, I am happy to hold shared secrets until their time is come. What is the psychological WEIGHT of a secret????? That intrigues me . . . if I were to paint a picture, would they appear as a large burden carried upon one's shoulders? I am reminded of Robert di Nero in THE MISSION, one of my all-time, favorite movies, the freedom he gained when he, literally, let his weight fall from his shoulders.
One of my dear friends and her family suffered a fire on their property. Everyone is safe, but the loss of personal property, those treasured things . . . that is heavy, too. What would I grab if I KNEW my room was about to burn? My nook? A Photo Album? My Laptop? It is something to consider.
So, for all the heartache I feel in the world around me, for my dear friends and family that are dealing with these issues, I share this poem, which soothed my soul this morning.
THIS IS MY WISH FOR YOU by Charles Livingston Snell
This is my wish for you . . .
That the spirit of beauty may continually hover about you
and fold you close within the tendernesses of her wings.
That each beautiful and gracious thing in life may be unto
you as a symbol of good for your soul's delight.
That sun-glories and star-glories, leaf-glories and bark-glories,
glories of mountains and oceans of the little streams of running waters;
glories of song, of poesy, of all the arts may be to you as sweet, abiding
influences that will illumine your life and make you glad.
That your soul may be as an alabaster cup, filled to overflowing
with the mystical wine of beauty and love.
That happiness may put her arms around you, and wisdom
make your soul serene.
This is my wish for you.
IN THE GRAVEL PARKING LOT OF A SOCCER FIELDSept. 11, 2001 During 911 I was an art teacher at Bluewater Elementary School teaching K - 5. I wasn't working on that Tuesday morning, but instead watched it all unfurl in front of my eyes on the TV screen. I had on the Morning Show with Katie Courac (low volume) as I talked on the phone to both my mother-and-father-in-law in New Jersey. As I hung up the phone, I turned up the volume, just in time to see the 1st plane hit the 1st Tower! I gasped, and immediately picked up the phone to call my in-laws back. The phone lines to the NE were jammed and I was unable to get through to them. My husband's older brother, Peter, worked in the Millennium tower, just adjacent to the World Trade Center. I couldn't get a hold of anybody . . . finally, I heard from my other brother-in-law that Peter had been able to send out an email AFTER the first tower collapsed and his building was being evacuated. We all watched in continued horror as the 2nd tower collapsed. As of the following morning, no one had heard from Peter and he had not returned to his home in suburban New Jersey (the ferries and subways off Manhattan island had been closed down). That afternoon I had to continue as if NOTHING WAS WRONG . . . the kids still had soccer practice. At the time we lived in Niceville, FL (just across the bridge from Destin, FL, and very near Eglin Air Force Base). We always knew when something was urgent with American security because the practice bombing and low fly-bys dramatically increased. On that day, it felt like we were in the midst of war - the windows shook and the china tinkled in the cabinet, and you could feel the bombs low vibration from your heels to your head. On the way to the soccer field I remember thinking/praying "please not here", "please not here" - my fearful thinking assumed that the No. 1 Air Force Base in the U.S. might just be the next target? We pulled into the play fields and parked. The kids were frantic and just as chatty as usual, but the adults were somber and kept looking up into the sky and down on the ground. Sometimes we would catch one another's eyes and just stare in understanding and shared agony. Many of the parents worked at the Air Force base or had spouses already deployed. We all knew - this was going to be something that would cause a huge change in the life of our Community, our Country, and our World. As I walked back to the van after delivering the kids to their coaches, I began quietly crying again . . . looking down at the gravel under my feet I saw an olive green toy soldier - it was broken. I picked it up and worried it in my hand the entire hour I waited for the children to finish practice. It later sat on my nightstand, then made its way into a box of treasures - and finally into an artwork - encapsulated in resin inside a toy capsule. The next day we finally heard that Peter had been evacuated between the collapses and he was one of the suited office workers dashing through the streets, ducking into doorways, trying to stay ahead of the raining debris. He finally caught a ride on the back of a firetruck heading away from GroundZero, but couldn't leave the island due to the shut down of the subway andferries. He spent several nights on Manhattan Island before being able to return home to Lawrenceville, NJ. To say the least, the experience LITERALLY changed his life forever. This is one example of my life being marked by items - reclaimed, found, manipulated - a visual timeline tracing backward and moving forward. Here is one more example:
WASHED UP ON A SANDY BEACH IN ATRANI, ITALYAfter a long 10 days of site seeing andtraveling in Sunny Italy in June of 2007, my husband and I retreated to a 5 day RELAXation in Amalfi, Italy. We took the days leisurely, sleeping in, eating, walking through the town, hiking along the Mediterranean and basically doing very little . . . one of our days included a kayak trip along the coastline . . . on our trip back we decided to rest on a beach just South of Amalfibefore we turned in the kayak. As we pulled it up onto the beach (which consisted of pebbly-gravel) of Atrani, we glanced at our feet andrealized we were walking on dozens of pottery shards. Picking them up, we saw they had been tumbled to smooth edges by the sea - just like the sea glass we would find on the Jersey Shores in the States. Upon further inspection we realized the shards were being dumped into the sea from the drainage of Atrani and washing back to shore, refined by the Sea. There were shards of true Majolica and pieces I could only imagine were decades and perhaps, in my romantic inclinations, centuries old. Many people never look up, nor down . . . if you take the extra time to embrace the moment of NOW, you never know what you will find - what meaning it will have, or, how special the items can be to you. Just as literature uses symbols, so does visual art. To the left is a box of items I have collected over time - as I work on pieces, I rummage through and find just the right EMOTION/item to include in assemblage work, collages, and sculptures. I feel using these found items evoke a remembrance of what the item may have been imbued with on its long journey into my possession - that just like myself, it may have been abandoned, abused, and discarded. What joy to be given the opportunity, as we each as human beings have, to reclaim and redefine our lives, our purposes, and - ultimately - our futures! What in your life do you treasure???
So that was all about 4 weeks ago. I am off the crutches and am down to braces and wraps for the ankle and can hobble almost anywhere. The worst part is trying to walk down stairs. (remember, my studio is down a very steep flight of stairs, I didn't see it for a whole week). If I have been on my feet too long I am exhausted . . . but, you know - it could have been so much worse. For a few days I had the perfect excuse to sit and talk and get giddy on painkillers. Not a bad way for the universe to inform me I better slow down OR ELSE! I found out what OR ELSE meant . . . just like the Fairygod Mother that swoops down and wacks Little Bunny Foo Foo on the head.
So that gives you a bit of the story of where I have been . . . not to mention the fact that I lost the information on how to access my very own blog for several weeks . . . I am back on track, back on my feet and there are NO MORE EXCUSES!
You can expect more updates, and the saga of how I am making it to Grand Rapids, MI in the near future!
|re·sil·ience [ ri zílly?nss ] or re·sil·ien·cy [ ri zílly?nssee ]|
|1. speedy recovery from problems: the ability to recover quickly from setbacks|
|2. elasticity: the ability of matter to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched, or deformed
It is amazing to me that a view of the tree's internal rings reveal it's entire biography - the year it was born, the travail of injury, the years of abundance and nurture. I am amazed at the individuality of each scar.
Not only the individuality, but the fact that these scars are the cause of so much beauty and the site of resilience and self-healing. In a way, these trees are my 'heroes' and nature is where I can instantly receive the succor and peace from everyday challenges. It is like an instant realignment of internal and external health. See, echophsycology posting, http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/01/essay-eco-psych.html (Eco-psychology and Inner-World Balance) as well as a previous posting http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/10/natures-gifts.html (Nature's Gifts)
Along the Natchez Trace I became lost. Lost, literally, but emotionally as well. This sojourn provided time to dwell in the bucolic world. I saw the way nature ate away at the attempted confinement of man. The trees were devouring the very man-made structures used to tame them.
As time passed, the con-finements were devoured, but the fact of them was left behind - the trees had continued to grow about the chains of man and left behind the visualization of their conquering spirits.
I, too, seek to be triumphant and to devour my oppression and create a beautiful outcome. Just like these trees, I hope to heal and transform my internal and external scars into marks of strength.
So, once again, my ruminations return to WHAT REMAINS? What we keep and why?
What will my story say at the end?
To learn more about the Life of a Tree, visit