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.
every weekday for four years is kind of a long time. we kicked off our mélange on february 12, 2018 with the intention to blog each day using a mutual image. we’d see where those images would take us: down backroads of memory, forays into wondering, dropping into the tiniest cracks of things that happen in our days. they would generate stories and pondering and poetry and a dedication to a practice we both love: writing.
1106 blogs later – in the context of the mélange – and we are just as committed now as we were then. in these tens of hundreds of posts, we have been both succinct and verbose, grateful and snarky, questioning and certain. mostly, we have sat next to each other – every single post – typed on laptops and read aloud to the other what the chosen image evoked. it has been an absolute gift.
from an analytical standpoint, we can see that people all over the world are reading. we marvel at the number of countries where someone has opened up what we have blathered. it is not without wonder that we -every so often- hear from someone from afar. and then, there are those days that the analytics suggest perhaps no one is interested and our writing is for naught. yet, we write anyway. because, we have discovered, this is for us – a gift we have given ourselves.
in the beginning our monday-friday topics included two cartoon days: chicken marsala monday and flawed cartoon wednesday. those days have since morphed and changed into merely-a-thought monday and not-so-flawed (and sometimes flawed) wednesday. in the beginning, too, every day had products i designed for that day. we had (actually, still have) five stores on society6 where people could purchase prints and canvases and tote bags, mugs and phone cases, throw pillows and leggings and shirts with our original work. hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of products. and so much fun to design. we have featured morsels of david’s paintings and youtubes or mp3s of my music, tiny snippets of color and texture and devoted artistry. we dove into the telling-the-tale of these pieces and we have shared the soul of our work.
soon it will be a year since we first added saturday morning smack-dab, our smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-middle-age cartoon. we’ll be setting up an additional separate page for smack-dab, the cartoon. some people want less words and that will be the place to go for the less-is-more approach. this cartoon is one of the delights of my week and the scripting, layout, colorizing, design work give me a distinct honor of co-cartoonist.
we have learned – in this practice – to photograph, to look, to listen – even more carefully and intently than before. so much to notice, to pay attention to. life is about how you take it in and respond to it all.
the learning curve on anything worthwhile can be steep. toughing out the vulnerability factor, finding your voice, using it to write, putting-it-out-there, brings a mélange of emotion. for us, it has been about 1106x joy.
i like fine-tipped pens, both regular ink and markers, though i do love the wrinkle sound and feel of a notebook page written on all lines on both sides with a medium-tip pen…the physical-fingertip bumpy-words-on-the-page and that crunchy sound it makes when you turn it over or flip to the next. so there is definitely merit in medium-point. but fine-tip? there’s a grace and allowance of white-space that fine-tip encourages.
this tall red pole installation at the chicago botanic garden makes me think of a ball jar i have holding an assortment of wooden paintbrushes. standing and waiting. because i’m not sure if these poles are part of the lightscape show or an art piece, i am drawing my own conclusions about its presence. somehow, this striking stand of red seems to communicate an invitation to the sky and, in its simplicity, was one of my favorite pieces on our walkabout. stark color, plain. i suspect ellsworth kelly would have loved them too, regardless of their context.
there were lots of people there on sunday, a picture-perfect fall day. our drive down and our return were on the back roads, keeping the lake close, past ravines and through beautiful neighborhoods filled with sprawling yards and wise old trees touting autumn. the trip there – for us, we agreed – is just as important as the time spent at the garden. we love the-back-way and never take the interstate down if we can help it. even to visit our son, we build in the time it takes to meander to his home. we’ve encountered magical snowfly on the return home at night, flakes illuminated by our headlights and sunday didn’t disappoint, as golden and crimson leaves fell around us as we drove this windy-back-road-route.
although i prefer to walk in the woods on some trail in the quiet with hardly anyone else around, our time with our dear friends at the crowded garden was the perfect early november gift-of-a-warm-day escape. we picnicked on a blanket, chatting. we wandered, chatting. we took pictures and googled interesting plants, chatting. we admired installations and gardens with themes, chatting. there are ornate sculptures and formal walled gardens. there are fantastically groomed flowers and trees. there are preparations for an intricate holiday light celebration.
we took our time together, the four of us, promising to return again soon, and then d and i drove back on the roads through northern suburbs, wishing we had time to stop and sit at one of the tiny restaurant bistro tables we saw, spaced on sidewalks, against brick walls with the later afternoon sunlight warming the faces of many people who had chosen to dine al fresco.
when we spoke of our time at the garden, it wasn’t the intricacies i remembered, walking in beauty. it was the simplest stuff. the vertical slices of rock in a pondside rock garden. the candlepots on the rails in the lake. the lone rosebuds on a bush inviting fallow. golden grasses waving in the breeze. the evergreens up close. the past-waning bowed blooms on the hosta. the white birch calling out from the green. and the red fine-tipped pens reaching for the sky. there was definitely something about those.
though i – at first introduction – questioned his work, i guess there’s more ellsworth in me than i thought. we really never stop discovering. any.where.
the cold air was stinging my face. i pulled my scarf up further, to block the wind a bit more. as we rounded a curve in the trail, the breeze was biting. it seems early for this kind of cold. but it’s not.
it’s december and the official start of winter is right up around that bend in the trail. the cold is predictable. this is wisconsin.
i walked away from the stockpot of chicken soup i was stirring, waiting for a warming dinner. i sat on the steps in the hall, overwhelmed. i keep hearing and picturing the words of my firing, the non-explanation-explanation given to others. it may seem like it’s time to be over it. but it’s not.
it’s only been three weeks and even sitting on the steps doesn’t yield an explanation or comfort. it just creates more questions, more astonishment, more hurt. the distress is predictable. this is shock.
i look, again, at the christmas list in my hand, trying to summon up the energy to shop and wrap and ship. it seems like the time is going slowly. but it’s not.
the holiday is rapidly approaching and, like many of you, we face it alone, wondering how to celebrate without our loved ones. we grieve traditions set aside, normal ways we honor these holidays. we ponder what we might do anew. the sadness is predictable. this is loneliness.
the night sky is filled with stars, the cold air beckoning them. the moon out the window is steadfast. the vast universe is vast. our tiny world inside, away from the biting wind, down the hall from the steps, at a table with a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a tiny christmas tree, is tiny. it seems that real peace is somewhat elusive. but it’s not.
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:
frank made sure to bring us the dvd. our favorite of the hallmark christmas movies, a season for miracles was scheduled for tv viewing at a time we were not available. and he knows. frank knows how much we love this movie during this season. we, i have to admit, spend just a little bit of time watching hallmark christmas movies, despite their obvious indulgence to happy-endings-aficionados. a season for miracles is such a story, but there are these lovely lines spoken by patty duke toward the end, that inevitable-anticipated-yet-yearned-for end. she wisely advises one of the stars of the movie, giving him something to consider, “i forgive you. there’s a lot of power in those three words. they can change the world.”
yesterday i sang these lyrics, “all these pieces broken and scattered, in mercy gathered, mended and whole. empty handed but not forsaken. i’ve been set free, i’ve been set free.” (broken vessels – j. houston, j. myrin)
in true cliche, i would, indeed, say we are all broken by pieces we need to forgive, things for which we need forgiveness. we carry these burdens like heavy luggage, dragging them day by day, place to place. nary a moment goes by without our minds summoning up a reason to be dismayed or disgusted with someone, disappointed in ourselves. we are not free.
is it pollyanna-ish to believe that the world would be changed if forgiveness were paramount? is it an irrational, unreachable panacea for all the divisiveness and turmoil? is there just too much purity – too much hallmark – in those words, in that kind of peace-seeking?
if you could, who would share the third seat in a room with you and forgiveness? with whom would you seek forgiveness from? who would you forgive?
is it better to be mended and empty-handed than holding-on-tightly-burdened with sharp, broken pieces that pierce your heart? where is your free?
it is easy to have a list of things we wish for. a list of things we lack. a list of ways we aren’t enough. it is easy to perseverate over these things. things that make us different from someone else, things that make us less successful, less wealthy, less chic. it is easy to measure yourself against others. it is easy to fall short.
in those moments, it is easy for someone outside of you to remind you of what you do have, the ways ‘it could be worse’, the ways you are rich beyond compare. it is easy to push back against those words, against those admonishment-reminders. it is easy to stay in the lists. alone. to wallow.
but in the new tide that follows the overwhelmed sobs, the tears that cleanse but don’t solve, the grief of wishing-it-were-different, there are deep breaths of renewal. there are realizations. there are glimpses of beauty, the seeing of kindnesses, winks of hope.
there were rocks planted along one of the trails we hike on, positive messages painted on them. each one made us smile, made us wonder, made us look for the next. life-giving.
gratitude is like that. in a time swirling with negativity, personal challenges, darkness overtaking the sun, we offer these gratitude cards. print and cut them out (PDF link below), write your thoughts, hide them somewhere as a surprise, tuck them into a nook or cranny, or give them to people who are unsuspecting, people who maybe need the spark of your expression of gratitude.
the more grateful you are, the more grateful you are. it’s an amazing, wondrous cycle.
jen pulled the sliding glass door open for the fourth time (within a short visit of potlucking time around the kitchen island) and we all laughed. sweet henry and chester wanted out. wanted in. wanted out. wanted in. this is a familiar tune. dogdog finds it irresistible to demand to go out and then not want to miss anything and want back in. on repeat.
andrea and scott have two golden retrievers. impeccably trained, they wait for a sign or a word to do most anything. they are not the in-and-out-ers that dogga and henry and chester are. i remember them as calm and happy and i vowed that one day i would have a dog as well-behaved. this is not that day.
but dogdog is, yes, dogdog-ish. his sweet face watches our every move, trying to anticipate to which room we might be moving, trying to assess why we are feeling what he knows we are feeling. he doesn’t like conflict; he doesn’t like the sound of metal touching metal. it took him a while to warm up to the ukulele (which he now loves and wishes he could play) and the piano draws him into the studio. he won’t touch food on the counter or the table or really anywhere unless given permission, but his direct eye contact begs for a bite every breakfast. he destroyed very few things as a puppy (well, the kitchen cabinet door and the table legs count) but de-heads every toy he is given and un-stuffings them. he bows to all things babycat, yet loves to drag him around and taunts him until babycat asserts his ruling paw. his aussie-ness makes him intuitively try to keep track of all people and animals in the house, a tiresome and difficult chore when one is peculiarly averse to going upstairs or downstairs. he is quirky.
on island he was quiet. here at home he is a barker. i guess he knew the littlehouse wasn’t his. he loves errands both places. he ecstatically runs miles in circles in the backyard and certain names will make his eyes wide and his australian-shepherd-jumping-bean-dog-heart jump with glee. he clocks out of all responsibility late at night, content to quietly languish in whatever room we are in, happy to have pets and go sleepynightnight. sweet, sweet dogdog emerges from constant-motion dog.
i don’t remember the story we were talking about around jen and brad’s island. i’m sure it was one of tripper’s many idiosyncratic tales. we rolled our eyes and laughed. and brad said, “you should be proud that you raised an independent dog!”
on an unusual foray into facebook-scrolling, i came across a post by a friend that quoted tom petty. “the waiting is the hardest part,” it read. yes. the hardest part.
i remember d telling me that arnie’s mom had an addition to the adage that when one door closes, another one will surely open. she said, “it’s the waiting in the hall that’s hell.”
i feel like i am waiting. just like this sunrise, there is a division of light and dark – a line you can see. the hall. it’s not still dark. it’s not quite light. it’s the in-between zone of co-existence.
i suppose we can co-exist with waiting. we can co-exist with not-knowing. not-knowing about tomorrow. not-knowing where it goes. not-knowing what will happen. not-knowing if dark will linger or if light will overtake the dark. not-knowing how the story turns out.
questions on the keys. answers somewhere in-between the notes. quarter tones of ambiguity. i stand an arm’s length from creating. i wait. there is no sign, there is no clear indicator of any return-on-my-creative-investment. the hall doesn’t provide a reason to write. it is not a door. it is full of question. it is a gathering storm of hope. it is a waiting place.
the hall is just for me. jumbled and clear, both. a stew of hearing all the old notes floating – thousands of them – and seeking the new ones. lyric snatches appear on scraps of paper, waiting. melodic gestures fall from my hands as yearning to keep-on-keeping-on falls from my eyes.
i’m trying to be patient in it. to reconcile all the other mysteries and issues and complexities before i step closer. to do the ‘other work’ first. to be solvent and steady. for the time on the bench to be worthy.
why does a composer compose? why does a composer wait?