Nepo, in his way with the most delicious of phrases, brings us to the very point when love is knowable.
"We're all born with a depth of heart that only unchecked love and care can open. We become of utmost use when we act on this opening of the heart. Once we act, we start to live a life that is tender and resilient." (Nepo)
We act when we offer our hand, but also when we accept a hand offered, hold it closely and allow our hearts to open. The reward - a tender and resilient life - can you imagine? I am heading in that direction. It is the right way to go.
"When the tangle of the daily has us forget how precious life is, we tend to keep what matters from what needs to be done. Somewhere in the press of our day, in the press of a conflict that we won't let go of, in the press of a fear that makes us forget the deeper order of things - suddenly there's this shift and we make what matters a reward for getting to the end of trouble. But trouble never ends. It comes and goes like clouds. That is why what matters needs to come first." (Nepo)
I wonder if Mark Nepo knows how often he slaps me in the head with his words.
Recently, I've begun to reverse the priority of things. What matters comes first. The "tangle of the daily" comes after. You might be wondering what this looks like....an often empty refrigerator, a pile of ironing waiting for attention, a hike before working, a snuggle before errands, chowder with my sister before art deadlines, a long phone call with a dear one instead of sleep, painting past meal times, porch sitting in the sun. You get the idea. The resulting mind shift is flabbergasting. True, I don't get as much stuff done. The old stuff, that is. Instead, I get this other stuff, the stuff that matters, fully completed and stuffed in my joy pockets until the task list isn't even on my mind.
For you, dear reader, this might be easy and done every day. For me, the one who always focused on "getting to the end of trouble" before sitting in the preciousness of life, this is monumental. I'll stay here awhile. You know where to find me. :)
After spending time with Rick Bartow's work, I am even more convinced that we must to keep our mitts off the painting and resist over defining. The incomplete body form of the woman in this painting, along with the shredded, ragged textures, hints at the parts beneath the skin. And that's what we're all gunning for - in art and in life - the parts beneath the skin where our hearts are open. I'll meet you there. :)
It is funny to me how the universe plunks a lesson down in front of me, and then proceeds to wrap everything else around that lesson.
Wonder Mike, on the other hand, tethered to my belt loop by a long rope which requires him to follow me everywhere and set his alpha dog aside, is quietly plotting to steal another ink pen and chew it on the rug. Ink pens, of course, become rocks to sit still among as I am scrubbing the carpet.
This piece, a little return to whimsy, was an experiment with the rich walnut ink used by artist Carl Stoveland in his recent series of work. Ink requires patience (rock sitting) while it dries, even when blended with gesso and acrylic paint. But the deep, murky darks it creates are worth the wait. Don't worry - the walnut ink is safely tucked away where my little troublemaker can't reach it. :)
The trickster archetype (our black-garbed avian) exists to question, to cause us to question and not accept things blindly. This meshes nicely with one of The Four Agreements - "don't make assumptions."
When a way of thinking becomes outmoded and needs to be torn down and rebuilt, trickster appears. If you're like me, the first response to the mere suggestion of tearing down and rebuilding the ways you are thinking is to dig in your heels and furrow your brows. I chuckle as I write this, because I'm learning that these responses are exactly the clue that says - yep, girl, this is what you need to dive into. - take a breath and get on with it already. Dropping the resistance makes everything easier.
I've been cultivating a delicious sort of solitude. It is heady, so much uninterrupted time. After a lifetime of raising children (and a grandchild), working for others, managing things and priorities not my own - this long stretch of unfettered days is a luxury of the sort not found on vacation. This only ends if I wish it to. Oliver puts it best: "And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes."
Not an easy feat in a world of enhanced images, carefully curated words, autocorrect and delete. It is so tempting...so easy to refine, polish, edit, enhance what we show to the world, just as we have difficulty letting the hand of the artist (that stray pencil mark, that dripping paint) remain uncovered in our work. But I am convinced, if we crave authentic connection, we must resist - mitts off! Let your own self shine.
And now, we return you to your regularly scheduled day. :)
This place help us grow both softer and stronger, says Nepo. Holding these opposing concepts in my two hands, I see the truth of it. As in the painting, strength and softness can (and must) co-exist for us to be ourselves in the world. Lifting the mask, unfiltered, knowing we are strong enough to be soft, and soft enough to feel the joy in everything.
In a chapter called "Everything Changes and Ends" (ACK! Stop showing me my life!) there is instruction for a two-handed practice in which you hold your fear in one hand and your commitment to no longer act in a fear-based way in the other. As in a Buddhist practice, you sit in your fear and breathe into it (not denying or pushing away) and then, simultaneously have awareness that you can handle whatever it is and get through it without becoming devastated. Richo says "One hand is serenely mindful; one is courageously working. When I hold both realities this way, I am agreeable to things as they are, and I am doing all I can to change them for the better as well." Relinquishing control and still doing your best. Saying "yes" to things as they are and holding hope they will be better. Reality plus hope = serenity and courage.
So I am practicing this holding of opposites in my thrice-daily walks (thank you, Wonder Mike, for keeping me moving). And I am watching the fear fall away as the self-empowerment grows. Yes to all the things. Yes to all the hope. Leaving a trail of cast-off control urges in the gutter with all the pretty red and yellow leaves.
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation