Art IS the answer…

Today, one of my dearest friends forwarded a post by Devon Baker and her words resonated so much with me. At the end of the post you’re reading, I have reproduced the piece. So if you want to… scroll down and savour every word.

The story begins in 2006, with an English teacher’s idea. She had her class write letters to famous authors. They were to ask these paragons of literature for advice about their craft. Of the many missives sent, a single author replied.

Kurt Vonnegut was the only one who took the time and effort to respond. And the master advised the young acolytes:  

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reporting, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow… and do it for the rest of your lives.

I believe this is the most valuable counsel a young whipper-snapper, or a middle-aged fuddy-duddy, or a cranky old goat can ever receive. The act of “doing art” AKA “being creative” is the best gift you can give yourself and others around you.

Art makes you a better person. Art softens the edges of your hard-fast attitudes and allows your body, spirit and mind to stretch out and grow. It humbles you because to see improvement in your ability, you have to practice a lot. To me, the definition of “doing art” is the attempt to construct anything you can envision.

Your vision can be conventional or eccentric (or both at the same time) For example, you may want to cook a meal that you see on internet, paint the flowers in your garden, sing a song you absolutely love. Re-string a bunch of beads to make an exciting original piece, write a birthday greeting to someone special, or compose a eulogy that honours a deceased person you loved… redecorate your living room. ALL of this is “doing art” and “being creative”.

The second part of my friend’s message was about ayoung adult who was “doing art”. But she considered her efforts too inexpert to be considered as such. A person she admired found out about her interests and when she confessed to being very much a beginner, and “no good” he said:

I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.

This young person said that statement literally changed her life by altering her self-image and giving her the confidence to move onward and upward.

Regular readers of “Changes in our Lives” know that I “do art”, and that I am creative. The results of my attempts to produce what I initially set out to achieve, are rarely one in the same. But I LOVE what I do, even the not-quite-what-I-envisioned pieces. But I don’t care. I put it all out there anyways.

My friend that sent me the forward is someone you may know… Colleen Casey Leonard is her name. She is an artist and she has achieved a level of expertise I yet aspire to. But she has been working at art her whole life. When I met her she had only recently arrived to live in Yucatan and one of her greatest concerns was finding an art community and a place to work at her art.

I did some art while in school, but when I moved here, I didn’t know where to find supplies and so I stopped. I always felt there was something locked up inside me. But my son, Carlos found the key. Almost 15 years ago, at Christmas, he gave me an easel, some paints, brushes and canvases… with a note that read: I think it is time for you to take up painting again.

I had no confidence that I could “do art” but if my son gave me the tools, I figure I could not waste his gift and I began. I was shocked at what I could remember about form, perspective and colour. I was equally shocked at what I could not. But I plug away… and as I have already said… I love it, no matter how it comes out.

The same is true with my writing. I plug away and I love it.

If you are wondering how you could get started “doing art”, just pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and draw what you see, or write what you feel. If you still need help getting to the starting place (or even if you’ve already passed that initial step) I can highly recommend two books.

The first is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by   Betty Edwards. Both these books will rev´ you up.

I could also get into many recommendations for writers. Natalie Goldberg’s,“Writing Down the Bones” is my favourite

Cooking, Crafting, Decorating … the intrnet is full of great sites. Do a search and find one you love.

Singing, dancing, gardening, decorating and playing and instrument… Ditto

One other thing. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t create for a while. . I certainly do this far too regularly. I let life’s “stuff” take up my time for art. Big mistake, because I turn into the wicked witch of negativity. But then a miracle occurs… I remember my art. Then I close my door (literally and figuratively) and I… do art… I do what I love. I am far happier for it and Woo-oo- Baby, my loved ones are happier too.

This is the author of the post forwarded to me. Devon Baker can be read at: https://www.facebook.com/aurora.baker.96. Read, savour and repeat…

***

In 2006 a high school English teacher asked students to write a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond – and his response is magnificent: “Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.

U.S. Election Day Prayer

Yesterday I wrote this post and published it on facebook. Some of my friends don’t ue FB and asked me to post the poem on this blog. Please feel free to pass it on…

Thump, thump… thump, thump… thump-thump

Don’t you think its time to dump…

The oafish, uncouth lump…

The insufferable Donald Trump.

*

Americans… oh how we pray

You will send him completely away

For if he’s given a chance to stay

We will forever, pay and pay…

*

His vanity is The Wall.

Which demeans and hurts us all.

If voters don’t heed this call

The orange bully might not fall.

*

Climate change, health care, human rights…

In trouncing all this, MAGA delights.

He smiles when his Base snarls and fights

To ensure a win on Election Night.

*

To the whole world one thing is clear

Only US citizens can vote this year

If they don’t step up, we do fear

History will curse this horrible year…

*

In 2020, they’ll say hope died.

In part because Trump cheated and lied

And from our hands, he pulled and pried

Freedom… mankind’s dearest prize.

***

Humpty Dumpty

I still have not come to terms with the pandemic. During my siesta a week ago, I dreamed I had been felled by COVID 19. The nightmare felt so real, and half an hour later, I still questioned whether or not it had actually been true.

The total number of days between Wednesday, March 11th, and Saturday, October 24, 2020 is 227.

This is equal to 7 months and 14 days. And unless you’ve been in a coma, you realise I’m referring to the length of time since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization. These are the stats compiled yesterday, Friday October 23, 2020:

Worldwide number of persons infected with COVID 19             42.2 millions

Worldwide number of deaths:                                                               1.14 million 

These look like scary numbers – that’s because they are scary numbers – and they’ll get scarier and scarier until a vaccine is developed.

From time to time, my hopes are raised by reports of positive clinical test results and I fantasise with visions of myself waiting in line with my sleeves rolled up, my butt cheek exposed, or my mouth wide open to receive the miraculous elixir that will be the first step towards reclaiming my life.

But nothing is a sure thing. We do not know when (if ever) the vaccine will be ready for safe, fair, wide-scale distribution. My best guess is that this is still at least a year away. And if this is true, I just have to get my act together.

For the past 227 days, the performance approval rating I give myself is somewhere around 5. That is to say that half my days have been what I would term, productive. The rest of them have been varying degrees of wasted. And as a member of the seniors’ population, I should not let any days slip through my fingers. I need to fully appreciate every one of them. After all these are my “golden years”, right? 

No they are not. That is a myth we’ve all been fed. I think my best years were between 40 and 60. Then I was old enough to have some sense and experience, but still young enough to have plenty of up-and-at-it.

Since the BIG – 6-OH, my life has not been all I wish it was. Fatigue at the end of the day is pretty-much assured. The energy to complete many tasks that once seemed easy, has dwindled.

I do what I can to rally the troops (AKA my different body parts and systems) But really, I’ve had just about enough of this domino effect. My patience is running out with the mutinous members of My Body. They seem to think it’s OK to sluff off. Both the knees continue to be the Number One offenders. Sleep patterns are off. And with the high humidity and heat indexes, my ability to keep my body and my temper cool is severely taxed.

My Brain must also accept that her performance is less than stellar: What is with this forgetfulness and this inability to force My Body to keep on keeping on? My willpower has reached an all-time low. All the positivity I summoned at the beginning of the pandemic seems to be depleted.

All this non-optimal functioning weighs on My Mind. COVID 19 is going to be our undoing, it warns. The Mind is tired of watching so much negativity unfold, internally and externally. Politicians are not Leaders. Good Deeds seem to expect immediate pay-back. We have meddled so much with Mother Nature that she has come unglued. Come on – we need to get back on track – enough is enough.

Whine, whine, and whine some more: As already mentioned, I have got to get a grip. So I am going to put myself on structured plan. I have a list of all I MUST force myself to finish by the end of the year. The procrastinating has to end.

I do give thanks that I have been spared a lot of the huge problems many others face. I am relieved not to have little children whose distance learning I have to supervise. I don’t have to work from home. I have no mortgage or car payments that must be met. I feel so sad for those who have lost their job and can’t find a new one. So many people are working at reduced salary, and they are getting desperate.

And how are YOU doing? Is being shut in all day and all night getting to you too? And when you do venture forth (with your mask on and other precautions) do you feel paranoid? After 227 days, is your self-discipline crumbling? Or did it do that a while back?

How are you managing to keep Humpty Dumpty from falling off the wall?