back a while ago – in 2018 – we were designing up a storm. we offered prints, throw pillows, tote bags, phone covers, shower curtains, coasters, leggings. i spent hours designing hundreds of products. it was a blast! one of our designs back then was “go with the flow” and you can still see (and purchase) items on society6.com.
because “go with the flow” still fits – and, i suspect, forever fits – when we passed these napkins at festival grocery store, it was on a day when they were the perfect companion to our happy hour. a reminder. a keep-perspective nudge.
i have learned that going with the flow is really an umbrella mantra. everything else can get neatly tucked in underneath the flowbrella. for what choice do we really have? pushing back causes undue stress and anxiety. hiding in a cave is just downright depressing. moving on – in the flow (picture yourself on an inner tube in a lazy river under a soft sun in 75 degrees with a gentle breeze) – is likely the best option.
having been raised in new york, i must say that goingwiththeflow doesn’t really come natural. there’s a little pushback in each o’ us and the older i get, the more i realize the uselessness of trying to dig in. my heels are not strong enough to withstand the force of the big river and it’s hard to curl my toes in the cold water to grip the riverbed (without getting a foot cramp, which is a whole ‘nother post).
in these days of getting older – and perhaps a tiny bit more sage but not too much but maybe a little – i have learned that the future comes – at least the next day – whether i agree with the present day or not, whether it’s my best day or not, whether i am wrong or right, whether i am blissfully happy or gutwrenchingly sad.
we are all kintsugi vessels. we keep our eyes peeled above the water, through the challenges of being human, and focus on whatever is our “go” lighthouse.
in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.
tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.
it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.
we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.
i had only turned on the white branches and the little trees last night when i stood for a moment in the darkened room and looked around. this place, this same place of so many christmases past, so many trees, so many twinkling lights, so many wrapped presents and stuffed stockings. the memories kaleidoscoped in my mind’s eye, made me a bit light-headed. in a time of upheaval, a time of nothing-is-the-same, love held me rooted to the wood floor beneath my feet and grounded me before i would fly off into the outer atmosphere where sadness breathes in and out, in and out.
tomorrow, somewhere in montana, there is a church that will be using my song the lights as a part of their christmas service. in spirit, i will be there with them, strangers in the mountains. it seems odd right now to think of this – a place across the country that wrote and asked for permission to play my music – while here, in this place i have called home for decades and in a community i have served for the last eight years, my music is now silenced. the root of love is not necessarily always right there; sometimes it is far away.
in this season of difficulty, we struggle alongside you. we fail to fully understand the enormity of this year – the changes, the challenges, the chaos, the devastation.
but in this season of hope and light, we have been reminded – by family and friends near and far – to root in love. anything is possible. everything is possible. i remember a sign i saw that said: every flower must grow through dirt.
we come in from a hike outside in the cold. we light the branches and trees in the living room. we light a few candles. we check the dirt at the tiny trunk of “ditch”, gently add a little water, and flick on the twinkling lights at the base of the old clay pot. we look out the window at the inky darkness and know that somewhere out there you must be looking into the night-of-nights too. and so, we are rooted together.
“the north texas food bank distributed more than 600,000 pounds of food for about 25,000 people on saturday.” (cnn.com) thousands of cars were lined up at the mobile food pantry. “54 million people in america face food insecurity during the pandemic.” (aamc.org) and we give thanks.
on november 23, at the noon hour, over 12,175,921 million americans had contracted covid-19. the omnipresent global pandemic has killed 255,958 americans since january 21, 2020. (covid.cdc.gov) with a gaping hole in leadership it continues to rage. and we give thanks.
“of the roughly 20 million americans now receiving some form of unemployment benefits, about half will lose those benefits when two federal programs expire at the end of the year.” (apnews.com) layoffs will likely accelerate in the next weeks and months. and we give thanks.
“gaslighting is deeply rooted in societal structure and social inequalities. women are more likely to experience gaslighting both in professional environments and in their personal lives due to these inequalities.” the term “racial gaslighting” is used “to describe a way of maintaining a pro-white/ anti-black balance in society by labeling those that challenge acts of racism as psychologically abnormal.” “racial gaslighting maintains a pro-white/anti-black balance in society.” “so many of the examples of racial gaslighting we’ve experienced and looked at are embedded in the structure, history and culture of the united states.” (bbc.com) the ugly truths. social injustice. where does a country go from here? and we give thanks.
“the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of millions of people around the world.” (who.int) “capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation.” (adaa.org) the struggle is real. and we give thanks.
there is so much. so much overwhelm. we look to the stars. we reel, we grieve, we ponder. we wonder how we can withstand any more.
and we are resilient. more than we can ever really know.
we surround our brutalized hearts with the love of family and friends, with memories of times past and wishes for times to come. we keep on keeping on, just as our intrepid ancestors did. we recognize the utter fragility of the moment, the immense journey we are on and the tiny bit of space we actually have on that journey. we stand tall, in the waning sun of late autumn. together. we are grateful. and we give thanks.
this world will never be the same. we need to ponder, we need to dream, we need to imagine:
a better place, a more fair place, a place that is based on equity and equality, kindness and compassion. a place that assumes virtue and intends the same. a place that protects its peoples, that encourages individuals to care for each other. a place that doesn’t incite rancor, celebrate the weapons of violence, or create enmity and spite. a place where the downtrodden are lifted up and those with excess are generous. a place where inhabitants don’t self-aggrandize or strategize to find ways for more-more-more, ways that take from those with less, ways that undermine those in need. a place that doesn’t normalize language of vitriol, hatred, and antagonism. a place where all races are equivalent, all genders are respected, all ethnicities are indistinguishably included. a place where the environment counts and sustaining it beyond our own time on this good earth is a priority. a place that recognizes the sacred in the out-of-doors, the borrowing of this dirt, this water, this air for the short span of time we are here. a place where we are always seeking ways to better life for each other, to enhance daily living, health, happiness. a place of truth. a place of goodness.
yes. this world needs your good imagination. or we will never get there.
blind faith. every day. dare i say that is the way we live?
live (verb): to be alive or have life. we rise, we go about our day, never really certain what or who will cross our path, never absolute about any single thing we might encounter or be challenged by or be gifted with. we make plans, we have hopes, we dream of freely checking off that which is on our list-of-things-to-do and our bucket list.
in this moment now, we cannot see the moment of the past or the moment of the future, but we know that they are there; they exist. there is much we cannot see. words that elicit emotional response but nothing you can see as a thing with your eyes – love, grace, forgiveness, freedom. you can see evidence of them but not an actual thing, like the simplicity of a table or a chair. faith is one of those amorphous things. present as a gentle reassurance, zealous as a fire in your heart. you can no sooner lasso faith as you can lasso love. both are omnipotent; both are invincible.
“well i will walk by faith, even when i cannot see.”(walk by faith – jeremy camp)
and so we keep walking, never really knowing anything for sure. we trust. we trust the next day will come. we trust we understand these words that capture that which we cannot see; we embrace them. we trust we have life and that #allwillbewell.
but it suggests giving over to something bigger than us. it suggests belief in a universe where we are aligned with each of the stars in the milky way, where we are equally important – each of us, where we are held and richly loved and granted grace and forgiveness. where we lay our heads down to sleep and rest, believing, blindly, that next will come with the sun.
none of it is easy – our lives are not pre-scripted for ease. but we have been gifted with big hearts, thinking minds and the ability to keep on, despite all of life’s ambiguity.
my sweet momma loved these words, “breathe in faith. exhale fear.” no real proof. unless of course you count all those around you who love you, who have loved you and who will love you. the grace you have been granted with each day. that new day that comes.
“none of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. because we trust. because we have faith.” (paulo coelho)
sometimes it takes a little practice. one foot in front of the other. stepping lightly.
nine. i have nine fingers i can use right now. and, like chicken marsala, i am putting them on the keys and following the music. two weeks after breaking my wrists i was back playing and directing. who needs wrists anyway? who needs all ten fingers?
music can’t be stopped. it’s in the sound of the sunrise, the sound of your baby waking up, the sound of the clink of coffee cups. it’s humming as you ready for your day, singing along in the car, laughter shared over the phone. it’s in the hug you give your children as you drop them at school and the help you give your aging parents. it’s in dinner you prepare for loved ones, and in the volunteering you do for a local service organization. it’s in the walk in the woods, a stroll by the water’s edge. it’s in the quiet weary at the end of the evening, the sighs of a life-day done well. it’s in dreams and in hope. and it can’t be stopped.
we will always turn to the arts for comfort, for meaning, in joy and in sorrow. the music follows us; it surrounds us. it waits silently, ready to volume-up when necessary, hush-down when needed. it’s background. it’s foreground.
the sun lights our room early in the morning. we don’t have room-darkening shades so if artificial measures haven’t been used (read: obnoxious alarm clocks) we wake with the light.
thoughts stream in with the light in this just-past-the-dark-hour. our quiet as we sip coffee, like jiffy-pop starting to pop on a hot stovetop, is punctuated by bits of conversation. the dreams we are climbing out of, the babycat’s snoring through the night, dogdog’s sweet need for early pets, what the weather looks like out our window peering into the backyard, projects we are working on, what is on the docket for the day. ideas, reminiscences patter through. we stretch into the day yawning in front of us, putting on, and trying to keep on, caps of making-good-assumptions. today is a good day to have a good day, as the saying goes.
good assumptions. apparently, they are a high ticket item. for we all are, in the world, surrounded by those who do not make good assumptions. my sweet momma would tell me, “don’t jump to conclusions.” “ask questions,” she would admonish. a difficult lesson worth oft-repeating.
we would sit on the couch at the end of the day, sipping tea and eating chips ahoy cookies. we’d talk about the day, bitter jabs by classmates or exclusionary moments i had endured. “try to find something good,” she’d remind me, while at the same time not underplaying the hurtful behaviors. “make good assumptions.” this is the same woman who, on the emergency room table in the wee hours of the night, in great pain and fearing a broken hip, looked up at a cranky and tired nurse and remarked, “you have a beautiful smile.” it changed the moment; i suspect it changed the rest of the nurse’s day; perhaps it changed all those who she interacted with thereafter and so forth. those undeniable concentric circles.
in early days with david, clearly in the beaky-beaky school of thought, one of the most-oft-repeated things i remember him saying is “ask questions.” don’t assume you know. don’t assume anything. ask. listen.
quite some time ago, mike stated, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” watch, ask questions and listen, he advised. don’t make assumptions. the best way to learn, the best way to collaborate, the best way to approach challenge, the best way to move in the world.
momma would smile and look at me, facing down adversity or standing tall on a personal summit, and say, “wowee!”
i can practically hear her now, her eyes dancing, saying, “see? if you ARE going to assume anything, assume awe.”
i distinctly remember designing this. for over a year i spent tons of time designing products: pillows, tote bags, cellphone covers, prints, beach towels, cutting boards, mugs, travel cups, coasters, cards, shower curtains, side tables, leggings. i would study david’s paintings and extract morsels and execute the process – with great joy – of the choosing of the product lines i wished to represent and the designing of those. it was our intention to sell these pieces. i would have absolutely loved to fill a brick and mortar store with these pillows and mugs and journals and tote bags, but the sheer outlay for merchandise and stock and the overhead for a physical store made that impossible. but online – at an online storefront called society6.com, which would manufacture the pieces as they were ordered – it was possible. it was a good premise. so we opened five storefronts online (listed below in case you want to stop by with a cup of coffee) to represent each day of our studio melange postings.
only it didn’t really work.
hundreds, literally hundreds, of designs and thousands of products later, we decided it was time to stop putting the hours of effort into these designs. we had some sales and it is truly a delight to see someone carrying a tote bag i designed or a laptop cover or to hear from someone who is enjoying their purchase. the sales trickle in still, $4 here, $2.10 there. the mark-up, as you would expect, lists mightily to the side of the host company, but we dreamed of great volume – so many pillows that earning a few dollars for each-one-of-many would be a big help to our working budget.
only it didn’t really work.
every now and then i visit these sites and am astounded at how actually cool the products are. the designs aren’t so bad either, if i do say so myself. (tee-hee) there are some really beautiful pieces out there, like this PEACE. EARTH. PEACE ON EARTH. morsel. simple and profound. timely. if you click here, you can see it as a pillow. if you scroll way down on that linked page, you can see all the other products that we designed and made available with this image. it was within the painting INSTRUMENT OF PEACE that i found this morsel.
even though it didn’t really work, i suppose it worked. because i can’t begin to tell you how much i learned. maybe that’s the point. maybe that’s always the point.
for more morsels of david’s paintings, click here:
i had no idea how much i would love designing. through the first ten years or so of album covers, i watched. i sat with my dear friend 20 as he designed so many of my CD jackets and tray cards. i learned a lot. not about how to use photoshop or illustrator or quark but i learned about balance and clean design and how to “see”. so when we started designing for THE MELANGE, that part came more easily. the photoshop part? well, that had a bigger learning curve (as does website designing.) manipulating images and navigating programs without real directions can be a challenge, but i was up for it. lots of learning.
the thing that really surprised us was when we looked at each of our society6.com stores this week and literally counted our product lines. there are 187! 187 lines created across the five stores.
i asked david if he knew how many blogposts there had been in this MELANGE year. he had already done the math. we each posted 260 posts, totalling 520. that’s more than a few words, more than a few thoughts, more than a little heart.
immeasurable energy has been devoted to these designs, these blogs, to this MELANGE. here – at the one-year-old mark – we are astounded by the amount of time and effort this has all taken. and we look back in wonder.
what has been the reward?
there is no way to underestimate the power of i/we-can-do-this. the sisu of sticking it out, meeting the challenge, staying in the game, learning.
THE MELANGE is celebrating one year. but we are celebrating so much more than that. we look forward in wonder.