A windy fall afternoon, the ground adorned with large light tan fig leaves with rusty tops. Pink and magenta bougainvillea leaves, wispy sticks and thick sticks. Deep red wine. Long legged dark brown spider crawling across the floor in the morning. Yellow school bus, purple sage. Studio full of paint, paint drips, paint splatters, dark, dirty charcoal, paintings, drawings, frags, all contained. Work leaves my studio, graduates, becomes contained in a frame, hangs, is looked at, is bought, is re-hung in a new location. The cycle repeats, spreading an idea, a concept, a mistake, a masterpiece. I remain, for now, to create, to paint, to write, to care for, to love. I circle on through the Fall, through the Winter, through the Spring, through the Summer. One year leads to the next. One years’ worth of work contained in my series “Never Enough Time”. From Autumn to Autumn, from days before Trump was elected. My studio gave me a refuge, a place to react and deactivate my murky days. To bring me back into focus, to work though my feelings and emotions, to come back into being a homemaker, a mother an artist. Practicing becoming me, a full version of me. Artist and Mother and Wife. I look at my work for this show, all together as a group. I have worked hard. I see my growth as an artist, aesthetically, an esthetic that is uniquely me. It’s beautiful and scary simultaneously. It’s my whole self, my innards and outers exposed for everyone to consume. It’s a glass of deep red wine on a late fall afternoon
Today we woke up to a surprise blue sky. I was expecting the worst, all the air quality reports said today would be the worst. The fires are still burning, the wind must have taken the smoke somewhere else for the day? Jack, Fiona, Billy, and I walked to the park. It was a wonderful thing to breath fresh air. Jack and Fiona were so excited to play outside. When we got back there was a band tailed pigeon on the front stairs. He appeared to be injured, he just hopped up and down the stairs. I gave him some bird food and went inside. When I checked on him again he was huddled between the garbage cans so Jack and I took him to Wild Care, a wild animal rescue center. I realized the flock of birds I’ve been seeing recently are Band Tailed Pigeons. This was the first year I’ve seen them here. I enjoy watching them sitting in the trees.
Without the smoke it’s easy to forget about the fires. Alan is playing with Jack, tickling him, Fiona is eating a snack next to me. I want them to know how lucky we are. I want them to know every meal we eat is precious. It would be easy for Jack and Fiona to grow up and not understand that things don’t come easy to everyone. That all kids don’t have healthy food available all-day long. That some places in the world have air as bad as ours was yesterday every day of the year. Do kids still play outside in those places? I watched a Frontline last night about Scott Pruitt the head of the EPA. It was scary, he’s not in the job to protect the environment. It’s sad. With all the historic natural disasters I haven’t heard anything about Global Warming and its effects from the administration. Extreme weather is our reality, people are losing their homes, jobs, loved ones, livelihood. It breaks my heart. I want Jack and Fiona to know how lucky we are.
Armageddon. I’m not feeling very comfortable with the thick, light grey, low lying, cool, eerie smoke-filled sky outside. Not one bit at all. It’s almost like in a movie, when everything gets still and then a catastrophic event happens. No one’s safe anymore. The hills look like they could ignite, like they are living creatures. I don’t hear anything right now except the kettle and the circulation fan. A few birds fly by and the trees start to rustle. I pour boiling water over coffee grounds. I think about how my personal, internal filter is completely gone. I’m exhausted after so many tragedies week after week. Jack and Fiona know about floods, hurricanes, white supremacists, gun violence, fires, smoke in the air, Trump, North Korea, sexism. I can’t protect them from all this information, and haven’t tried that hard. This is their reality, this is what they are growing up in. This is the world that they live in. I must lock them in the house today when they get home. They can’t play outside in the smoke. I don’t want them to watch T.V. either. It’s seeming stupider and stupider, those shows they watch. Especially Jack, his taste in shows is way too mature for his age. He’s starting to act like a teenager already and he’s only three and a half.
The shadows today are very strange. Muted shadows and reflections, almost an orange glow. Sun peers out through smoke, hit a book on my table. Still, I enjoy the quiet, the before every other minute I hear Mommy. I walk away for one minute, I tell Jack and Fiona where I am going, what I am doing and the minute I get there I hear Mommy. It’s an annoying phenomenon. Ten minutes. Shit that went by fast. I need more time before facing reality. Or should I say more time to not face reality, like time to go work in my studio! That is what I need today. Painting time.
I’m having anxiety lately. It’s hard to just sit here and not worry. Are other people feeling this way too? I am worried about the people getting hammered by hurricane season. I am worried about the Trump administration. The horrible things I worried about when president Trump became the Republican nominee are coming true. The worst things I thought he would do are happening. Thank god for our judicial system, at least things can be slowed down a little. I worry about the Earth and Global Warming. I worry about nuclear war. I worry. The furrow between my eyes becoming deeper. The lines around my lips. We all die someday. Will I be alive to see the collapse of the world as we know it? What future is there for Jack and Fiona? I live in the moment when we are together, like it is the most important time in the world. My worries slip away when I am with my children. I cherish those moments, even the annoying ones.
I am forcing myself not to turn on the news again today. I must force myself. I am consumed by the bad news, the fires, the racism, all of it. I need to not watch the news and not look up facts about places and weather systems and wars. This morning when I was walking Billy, passing the Mission, I read the Church Services Schedule. I noticed there was a Haitian service, one Sunday a month at 6:00 PM. I thought about taking Jack and Fiona. I imagined the Haitian Priest conducting the service in French, and how beautiful it would be. Then imagined Jack and Fiona making too much noise and maybe the church goers would be mad at us and think we were rude. It felt good to know there is a Haitian community in San Rafael.
Outside, a sea of noises. Dogs barking, Blue Jays cawing, the Sycamore tree leaves rustling. The chimes-chiming. I finally take a deep breath. Fiona and Jack will be home from preschool soon. Older and wiser than when they left this morning. I’m going to try not to worry this afternoon. I’m going to give myself a break. Drink a glass of Sake, take my sign language class, take care of the kids and go to bed early. I want to turn on the T.V. so bad. I should unplug all of the T.V.’s. Turn off my phone. Let it all go. Except my sign language class. It’s a webinar!
A bra is part of a costume. I see it now so clear. Mama, mama, mama. I understand now. We use it for our armor. We use it on our bodies. Protecting us. Protecting them. We use it all the time. It’s so tight and suffocating. Suffocating. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama. What do you want this time? I’m telling you the answers, no I’m shouting. Oh, babies, babies, babies Can you hear me? You say mama mama, mama, mama, mama. To ask me something. But I have a question for you. Do you think that your body is your own? Do you think you need to hide it from the world? Do I tell you that’s just the rules? Don’t show your vagina in public. Don’t show your penis. And when you get breasts, don’t show those either. That’s just the rules here. Obey and fall in line.
I tell this rule and that rule. The rule the world before them told me. The world I sift through, sometimes on quick sand, sometimes on ice, sometimes on green grass. I look around my studio. Drawings and marks, paint. The real world. My best world. No questions being asked of me, no roles to play or armor to wear. Or is my armor my paint? My paint brush armed with green, yellow, dark blue, palette knife white. Scraping and staining, forming a protective mesh between me and the outside world? It doesn’t matter. I just do it. I work and experiment and ruin. I have time. Time to layer and scrape. Time to mash and spread. All the time in the world. Just as the moments pass away they come just as quickly, one day running out. There’s still the same amount of moments each day until that last day. We have all the time in our world to make a mess, make a masterpiece, make a statement, make nothing, make everything.
The doorway to nowhere but the big blue ocean. That always open doorway. The crevices I crawl in and out of. Again, I crawl into the crevice that says women must cover their breasts while in public. Why? I think it’s an outdated law. If men are allowed women are allowed.
Mendocino. I love it here, the sea air, birds, foggy skies, I want to live here. The tall cypress trees, ocean cliffs, sea lions, it’s the best. I can see a life for Alan, Jack, Fiona, and me here. A peaceful life, no more long commutes, no more traffic jams, no heart attack at fifty, leave the rat race once and for all. That’s my goal. Today we will go to Russian Gulch state park, which I did a little research and found out that this spot was partly named in honor of the Russian Fur trappers from early 1800’s who founded Fort Ross (up the road ways)
|“This settlement [Ross] has been organized through the initiative of the Company. Its purpose is to establish a [Russian] settlement there or in some other place not occupied by Europeans, and to introduce agriculture there by planting hemp, flax and all manner of garden produce; they also wish to introduce livestock breeding in the outlying areas, both horses and cattle, hoping that the favorable climate, which is almost identical to the rest of California, and the friendly reception on the part of the indigenous people, will assist in its success.” (Wikipedia)|
|— From an 1813 report to Emperor Alexander from the Russian American Company Council, concerning trade with California and the establishment of Fort Ross
I found this bit of history so interesting, especially considering our relationship with Russia, Europe, and settlers in general. I’ve been trying to convince Alan that we should sell everything and relocate to Mendocino. I can write and paint, he can work for the fire department. Kids can learn about the land.
Russian Gulch beach sits under the Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge, an open-spandrel deck arch bridge. Jack, Fiona, Alan and I hike up a trail running on a bluff under the bridge. The structure is beautiful and strong. Jack and I walk ahead, Jack jumps over branches and watches out for poison oak. I am impressed, I’ve taught him well. We get down to our beach spot. The air is ice cold, the sky blue but the foggy wind still rips though us on the beach. Jack eats a bunch of chips, Fiona eats her sandwich. They want to play in the water, I tell them it’s too cold. I finally let them. They run to a trickling stream that runs out to the ocean, both get wet, come back, sit on chairs, cover up with beach towels. Jack and Fiona shiver and have goose bumps. They don’t last long before they need to go sit in the car, Alan takes the first shift. I put on my Irish sweater and sit on the beach, finish my glass of wine. Listen to the click of the tires, hum the rubber makes on the concrete on the bridge above. Shadows cast on the sand, dank and cold at the base of the supports. I imagine the rugged men and women trading on this shore, weathered hands and faces. On the rocks, little purple wild flowers grow, tiny perfect succulents. I take in as much as I can before I need to go back to the car and trade places with Alan.
We stay at the vacation home all day on July Fourth, no Mendocino parade this year, no fireworks. I haven’t read the news since we left on Friday. I need this. To escape. To watch wild turkeys and their babies eat bugs in the field and cross the street. To listen to the birds. To get away from the freeway, all the electricity. To get away from consumption of worries, toys, T.V., news, gas, arguments, stress, the hustle and bustle. Get away from the unimportant things. Consume the fresh air instead. Nature, doing less. Consuming less. Three-year olds are messy. They love to watch T.V. Jack says “Mommy” over and over until I say, “Yes Jack”. Even when I give him direct eye contact. Sea birds sing all morning, sky foggy and cold. Packing needs to be done. Trash needs to be picked up. Time to get back on the road and back the freeway. I want to get away from cars and freeways and airports and runways forever.
“I Love you” I say through the speaker phone to Jack and Fiona, they are driving in the truck with Alan. A sweet symphony of “I love yous” echos back through the phone. I hang up and cry. They are so sweet, I would die if anything happened to them. I feel so sad. I’m half way through Oliver Stones, “The Untold History of the United States” on Netflix. Maybe I shouldn’t have started watching it. I can’t stop crying. I feel so sad. It’s so depressing. I’m really, really, sad. All those people killed, all the little kids and babies. All the bombs, all the destruction. It’s almost too much pain to imagine. Too much suffering to comprehend. I hate it. I hate war. I hate bombs. When George Bush bombed Iraq that was the first bombs I remember seeing being dropped. I was disturbed and depressed. It was awful and depressing. To learn that, that was just another killing of innocent people in the world done by America in a history of killing and killing and killing of innocent people. It’s really hard to take. I just needed to reach out and express myself today. I am SO SORRY WORLD for what America has done to keep power. I am so very, deeply sorry and ashamed. I feel so sad. Maybe it’s not good for me to watch this show and learn about this awful history that keeps repeating itself over and over again. It makes me understand why a person would set themselves on fire in protest over the non stop killing. Or become a total pacifist, or join a strange cult. It’s hard to have my eyes peeled open and my heart torn from my chest and there’s nothing I can do to help Peace in the world or help anything. I can see why most of the world, those like myself with the luxuries of a safe place to live, money, a good quality of life want to wear rose colored glasses and ignore what’s happening, what’s happened, not want to watch or read about the terrible things that are happening or have happened. I understand as an American wanting to think we are the good ones, we save people, we help people, we can change the world, we can bring peace. But I think “the powers that be” are so engrained in our world, that the course our civilization has set itself on is really one of doom and gloom. I can only love my family, my neighbors, my community, animals, the earth, and try to make up for my countries terrible ways by showing compassion and helping people when I can. Doing the tiny things I may be able to do before I die. I won’t get over this phase of depression ever, not knowing what I know now, thanks Oliver Stone! It will be another sadness deep inside my soul that melds with my own personal tragedies I’ve experienced through my life that never disappear. My optimism will remain, my glass always half full, but I know the truth of things and the suffering of things. That will never change.