two interesting webthings

Polar vortexes mean more time on the (new!) computer than is absolutely necessary, though: I did actually kick out all the shock-delayed work commitments that had backed up during January, and even found two things I’d like to share.

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The first is a lovely look at the wonderful Jim Croft – and the video is captioned! Jim’s one of my favorite people on the planet; his partner Melody seems wonderful as well.  If I ever did make a bucket list, attending one of their Old Ways sessions in Idaho would be on it.

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This article from Penland’s blog seems to go hand in hand, or rather to begin to make a bridge between the old ways and the new planet. And this polar vortex session is finished; we’re above zero today. Though a long-range forecast says we’re due for another in a week or so: then, maybe, I’ll make myself get back on here and get to work on all those web site updates hanging over my head.

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Return to Sabbatical

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One thing that happens when a dear friend dies after you have attained your third score of years is a heightened confrontation with your own mortality; that’s been the subject of several recent conversations among my old friends, those of us who knew Bro.

However, my look at that began much earlier, not in morbid terms, but as a practical part of the shift in thinking that took place during the past year. I had the great fortune during the second half of 2013 to meet and have fertile, pivotal conversations with several artists who make their way and their living outside the academic sphere: some had been there and rejected it, some chose to dip in occasionally, carefully portioning their interaction, and some simply had never considered it to have any relevance to their lives or work.  These were artists from a wide range of ages, and all were thriving. Each conversation had its initial impact, but it wasn’t until the November peace at Ragdale that they coalesced, blended with other lines of thought, and culminated in some strong realizations.

One of those was the fact that, though I had consciously and actively rejected the results of the corporatization of academe in the arts, I had somehow internalized and at least partially had not questioned its markers of success, its dependence on acknowledgement bestowed by others. None of that has anything at all to do with the making of work, nor of living. And so I decided on this quiet year, to focus on what is essential, on questions and decisions: what do I want now, within the means I have, while I still have, with luck, a decade or more of health, mobility and – pun probably intended – faculty? Not a bucket list, by any means, but a honing.

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Not that I’m completely rejecting the outside world (at least not yet); I’ve spent the week working on details of some of the few 2014 events I’ve committed to.  There will be four or five invitational shows; here is the first. The vital exchange of teaching, I don’t think I’ll ever completely be able to give up, but I have cut it way back: just two classes, at two of my most beloved, home-like places.  Here is the first of those (with a nice blurb in italics that I can’t really say is true; I’m pretty sure I am at least second-generation in terms of artists who work with paper.) This class will fill very quickly, so if you are interested, reserve space now.

And out there in that world, I want to point you to this fantastic blog on medieval books, and this excellent new business, with great documentation of processes. (Go, Abby!)

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Oh, why the photos of Lupe? Because she’s important to me, and that fact led to my first decision.

small steps feel huge

My response to grief is to shut down. Then, when I can, to make my own private ritual. Though I did slowly begin to be able to get things done last week, it became apparent that I needed something more for Bro Frank; some sort of concrete line to be drawn in time.

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So, after a flurry of e-mails, our neighbors kindly took Lupe for the night, and Paul and I drove all day Friday to a retreat center near Dayton, Ohio, which is run by Bro Frank’s order. There was a viewing, a small private service for family (including us), a funeral mass, final prayers at the cemetery, and a dinner that was carefully stretched from an estimated 40 people to feed 88.  Bro’s other long-time friend (also mine, also named Paul) and I had a small part in the mass. These were not my rituals, nor familiar ones, but they were extremely important to Bro. Seeing him off within the community that meant so much to him, who warmly welcomed those of us from all the odd corners of his expansive life, was nothing but good. It was rich, dignified with room for laughter, and loving.

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The community put us up overnight, and we left before breakfast to try and outrun a snowstorm. It caught us just as we reached the last leg of the trip, and added a shaky hour to the drive, but we made it. I know that the rest of this process will be ongoing, and now I’m consciously trying first to make myself remain present, then to begin looking outward and forward again.

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I’ll see you again…

Maintaining balance is not a question of achieving a static condition, but rather the ability to make constant adjustments whether you are negotiating small tremors or a huge tidal wave. Just now, I begin to learn to navigate without the person who was my rudder for over 36 years.

Bro - Version 2

The Bro left us the morning of January 8. He slipped away peacefully at the home of another old friend (in fact, the person I met him through). Bro was one of the most singular personalities – with the most contagious laugh –  ever to bless this planet.

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‘Old friend / dear friend’ is what I’ve called him here, because there are no words in the conventional social lexicon to describe our relationship. We were not related by blood or DNA, but truly, he was my family: officially even my ‘next of kin’ and ‘contact in case of emergency’ person for many, many years, someone I could literally trust with my life. I could go on (and on ) but for now I’ll leave it at that.

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Bro Frank is fine, at peace, I know, because that is how he lived. When we grieve, it’s for ourselves, we mourn all that we will miss. I’ll need to step away while I continue through the early stages.

BroMe - Version 2After my MFA graduation ceremony in 1990; Bro had my family ticket for both degrees. 

(In a totally unrelated turn of events, my ‘project’ that was to begin today has been delayed at best till after January 31; at worst, it will need to begun over. That’s probably just as well).

Weather or not

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Don’t be fooled by the lovely sun; it’s currently 15 below, and Chicago is basically closed. I’m providing extra heat (and aroma) by roasting a butternut squash to use in a big pot of chili. We’re having a winter again, after being spoiled by two mild ones. Because of snow and cold, our extra winter holiday with a dear friend, scheduled to begin January 2nd and end today, was wisely postponed – until April! I’m finally feeling better again, and fine with it all.

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18 inch deep garage-roof wind sculpture

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, though I do usually name a new year with a theme, something I’d like to grow into. I just looked back, and during this season last year, I dubbed 2013 the year of breakthroughs and unlearning. Looking back, that is exactly what happened: a continuous series of smaller realizations during six months at home plus important conversations and experiences during my travels, all contributed to and culminated into some solid, freeing revelations at Ragdale: a breakthrough. I began to act on that in December. I’m calling 2014 productive balance. Friday, I begin a ‘project’ along those lines that might seem insignificant to some but is big for me.

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See you then, with photos. Now, back to the kitchen.  The house smells wonderful, and we’re warm and happy. I hope you are, too.