Category: finding balance

The Sycamore Tree

               The Sycamore Tree

There is a giant sycamore tree on my street. I can see it from my kitchen window. It was planted the year we moved into our house in a five-gallon bucket. Today it’s the tallest, widest, tree in our neighborhood. In the summer, it’s full of dark green leaves. In the fall, they turn to yellow then bright orange. Winter, magnificent bare branches are exposed where in the spring tiny yellow finches cover the tree. From my window in February the branches still look bare, but when I walk by close I can see tiny little leaves. So many things in my life have changed since that tree was planted.  Eight years ago, when I was training for my first Olympic triathlon I would ride my bike up our steep hill until I saw the sycamore tree, sweaty, legs weak, tree still small. The year after that I did my first IVF transfer, followed by disappointments, sadness, infertility treatments. The next year, pregnant I relaxed watching the tree, then my first miscarriage I recovered, watching the sycamore tree. Its leaves reach up into the fog this morning, air cool, a crow in the distance cawing. Clanging of recycling being dropped into the big yellow trucks. Jack and Fiona are still sleeping. When Jack and Fiona were born I set up blankets on the deck where we could see the sycamore. They laid down, two chubby babies, so tiny, compared to the giant tree. My studio downstairs, waiting for me. There are no windows in my studio but I can still feel the presence of the tree. The first fall Jack and Fiona were alive as the sycamore tree started to change I felt like I was missing my cue. I wasn’t registered for any art classes, I wasn’t starting any new programs like I had every year of my adult life. I was a new mom, the tree reminded me of the time passing, fall into winter into spring. Jack and Fiona were growing, the first several months were difficult. I needed my studio, I needed my creativity to grow like the tree. I started to get worn down after nights of constant feedings and diaper changes. I was missing my classes, my painting. I didn’t know how much I was changing and growing, or how much the experience of motherhood would affect my studio time.

The lifespan of Plantanus Occidentalis, the American Sycamore tree is more than 200 years. That tree will be there long after we are gone.  I think about that, our short time here. I first started back in my studio after the babies were six months old, it felt like a long time had passed. I started getting very depressed.  At first, I tried to get large chunks of time in my studio, like I was used to from my life before becoming a parent. It was difficult to get much time, I was frustrated. It took me several months to develop a new technique that worked. I learned that even if I only had an hour or thirty minutes it was worth it. I started working on my naptime notebooks and paintings. I focused on spontaneity. I left my critical mind out of the studio. I’ve grown as an artist this way, with these restrictions. I shed my leaves and grew back new ones, use what time I do have instead of thinking I don’t have enough time, inspired and grounded by the sycamore tree. Memories are imbedded in that tree, it is a keeper of the past and a beacon of years to come.

A Monday in June

“Peppa and George are fast asleep”, I hear from the kitchen T.V. 7:29 AM Monday morning mid-June. Fiona is on break this week, no school. Jack has a stuffy nose today, I keep him home from school too. Last week I receive an e-mail from Yoga Works, it’s an invitation to a “10 Day Yoga Challenge”. I’m excited, I set up my free online membership, I can do videos on-line Tuesday and Thursday morning at home. I imagine myself in the studio Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then I realize that Fiona doesn’t have school until the following week. I wonder if I could get away with bringing Fiona to class with me. It would be so inappropriate, everyone goes to the studio to get away from domestic responsibilities. Fiona is good at Yoga though, I think. Maybe she’s the one kid and I’m the one mom who could get away with it? No, not a good plan. Now, I sit in my living room Monday morning, Jack and Fiona watch Peppa Pig, then a Phonics video. I feed them juice boxes, crackers, fruit roll ups, blue berries, raisin bagels left untouched.  I decide in my mind, in my heart of hearts to do the online classes here with Jack and Fiona, or at least Fiona, Jack can play in the sandbox.  I’ll make it an activity we do as a family. Just need to have the will power. It’s a gorgeous morning, rays of sun shines through the blinds. Something Alan said as we were driving yesterday pops in my mind, “It’s been a crappy summer so far hasn’t it?” he says. I ask, what do you mean?  He explains the weather has been cold and windy. I feel like it’s always windy here in the summer, I say “No, I think it’s been a good summer so far.” But my glass is always half full. I hover on a plane of half full glasses ready to catch me when I fall, when I start drowning in the other half. I always have something pulling me back.

Part of today, I feel or think, is a free roaming, anything possible, (except if it requires leaving the house) kind of day. It’s just me and the babies until at least afternoon. I can make my own reality, as a mom. Yesterday, after our morning and lunch out, when we got home, Fiona wanted to take a nap and Jack wanted to play in the sand box. Alan took Jack and Fiona in the Jacuzzi, Fiona took a shower with Daddy. When she got out I put on her jammies, gave her the new book we got at TJ Max. I laugh because I’ve trained my kids to love going to TJ Max looking for cool discounted toys. It’s been a fun activity for us through the years! Consumerism, pleasure center. I let Alan know one person needs to read a book to Fiona and tuck her in, one person needs to bring Jack his clothes to the sand box and hang out. I go to the sandbox. It’s a beautiful afternoon. The sky is blue with a slight breeze that rustles the fig leaves. It’s quiet for a while. I can hear the birds singing, then the breeze comes. When the leaves of the fig trees trap air, I can hear what the airs looks like between the leaves. It vibrates through my body.  When it stops, contrast in the silence it leaves in its wake. “Jack did you hear that?” He acts like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. When the symphony starts again I ask him, “can you hear that?” he evades the question, he starts playing with an excavator, pushing an old battery.  I relish in this moment; the birds sing, the quiet play I am invited to with Jack. I feel I am in his private world.

Now Fiona watches the Wiggles in the kitchen and Jack watches Blippi on the i-pad. Clouds cover half the sky and a cold air comes in the house. I make a second cup of hot coffee I drink it now. The table is covered with everything, empty juice boxes, books, playdough, pens, games, I have two kids with only shirts on. I have two “screens” on, the words and music merge to create one constant background noise. The sun peers onto the deck, I want to go outside. Now Calliou is on, I have Jack and Fiona both in the kitchen. This will be the last show, I promise. When I was sick the other day I watched T.V. all day. I woke up Saturday morning, well I didn’t sleep very well. I had a severe allergy attack Friday night and bad cramps, then Saturday I woke up wiped. I missed my friend’s birthday brunch. Alan wasn’t too happy I was out of commission, I’m guessing. I’m inferring really, just by mood. He took Jack and Fiona to the bouncy house and a pancake and bacon breakfast. I did a twenty minute on the bike, showered, put on comfy clothes, ate a piece of pot chocolate (for the cramps), vacuum the living room, set up the couch with clean sheets and pillows, turn on the circulation fan, close all the blinds and windows and doors, turn on a sci fi movie and rest. I sat on that couch and watched the movie, then Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States.” Yesterday morning I took Billy on a walk up the trail, I feel well rested, It’s  so good to be up here. Billie’s leg is better. I have a euphoric moment, I think I found the Golden Ticket, resting! And not feeling guilty about it. To listen to my body and take care of it, not let outside influences affect my needs, not affect the way I care and love myself. These are goals.

Last sip of second cup of coffee. Still in Pajamas, Jack and Fiona are watching Blippi again on the i-pad. I start to feel guilty. I’m a bad mom. But I’m such a good mom. The past day I begin to teach Jack and Fiona to say, “No, don’t touch me, I don’t like that.” I teach them that they own their bodies. That their bodies are in their private space. I ask them every time I give them one of my automatic heard rubs or hugs or any automatic touch adults do to children to show affection, I ask them “is that ok?” I find out Jack only likes his back rubbed at night when he’s going to sleep, but my head hug is sometimes welcomed, especially if he can wipe his snotty nose on my shirt. So far Fiona says she does not like any of the automatic touches I give her on her arm. I am uncomfortable with most random touching too. I don’t like when people touch me or get too close to my face. I want Jack and Fiona to know they have the right not to be hugged or kissed or grabbed or held when they do not want it. The powerlessness small children must feel when a parent grabs them and holds them when they don’t want it must be freighting. Sometimes it’s necessary, to be strong held by an adult, of course, but maybe if they have the words to say, “I don’t like that”, even when it has to be that way, they will feel more powerful and confident, not helpless.

It’s soon time to start playdough, painting, playing outside, baths, lunch, and naps. Jack needs a nap today with his cold, to get better quicker. I hope I have time in my studio today. I hope I follow through with my Yoga plan. That’s all. Those are my only hopes for this Monday in June. It’s my reality. I can grow my day as I see fit under the circumstances. I take a nice breath, I feel relaxed and the bit of anxiety I felt about letting Jack and Fiona watch three hours of T.V. and eat junk this morning has dissipated. I  will join Jack and Fiona on their road of growth today, watch the sun shine through the clouds and fog, find small adventures to have in the garden together, enjoy our day together.

Studio Time Thursday, beginning of Non-ish naptime paintings(because you still get the suprise naps)

Studio called, helped me, cupped me, marked me. Studio welcomed me back, still work on New Work for my Fall show and possible inclusion on my new website and book. Work on colors, new, or deeper colors. Try to take my purples farther.  “Color is mood” someone said to me the other day.  I say this to myself as I work. I start on collages in my notebooks. Ripp up old drawings I worked on this week. 

Paint, add collage. Get excited. Print what is left on my plexiglass from yesterday when I did an art lesson on printmaking in Fionas class with the children. Again my true self emerged. I was my complete self teaching that class. Each kid made a beautiful print on nice paper. 

I was inspired today in my studio from the experiments yesterday in Fionas class.  

The house is quiet, Jack and Fiona are still sleeping. Its been a misty day. It’s 4:30pm, June 8th, 2017

Sounds of Sunday

Daisies; So many green stems, yellow and white flowers, crows and hawks talking to each other. Children’s voices in the distance. Jack wants to watch a show. Alan wants us all to be together in one location. I want to go with the ebb and flow of the children and my creativity. Sit outside, listen to the birds, chimes, and the slow rustle of the leaves in the wind. The gentle sky soft and blue. Sounds of Sunday. I bring outside to the deck for Alan, Jack, and Fiona, ice cold waters, gummies, and cheddar ducks. I go back in the house to get toilet paper from the garage, go pee, get my sun hat and shades, make a few marks in my studio. I hear Jack call my name. I go out, peek my head out the door, “What are you doing? Are you doing art?” I am questioned.  I lie to my husband, “No, I’m not doing art, I just need to do a few things, I’ll be out in a minute.” What a strange thing to lie about! “Jack was wondering where you were”. I think lots of things in my head, like, I can’t even step away for a minute, I don’t need to be tracked because I won’t even be gone for very long. I got everyone so many wonderful things, I needed to do the same for myself. Now those water bottles and glass of fresh cold water are still sitting outside, everyone is inside now. I just try to grab a few private moments to myself here and there when I can now. Without the naps and only one day off a week I need to use a different strategy to get my work done. It needs to be incorporated into my daily routine, like exercise or breakfast. I’m trying to teach the children how to entertain themselves for thirty minutes at a time. Most of that is letting them watch T.V. so I can do my things. Thank god for T.V.!

When I went into my studio today, I was excited. I worked fast. The first time I had seventeen minutes. I put on one show for Jack and Fiona. Alan was still working in the office. I worked in my notebooks with ripper canvas collage and journal entries, I painted over some canvases in white. The second time I went to my studio, after I had delivered waters and restocked the toilet paper, I added silver and charcoal. I want to go down again now to check and see what I did. To add or start some new ones. Everything is quiet in the house right now. Alan is reading his I-Phone on the couch, the babies are watching a show quietly in their room. The afternoon wind just blew the door shut. It’s 1:30 PM. I am going to sneak down to my studio one more time. I sit and contemplate how to do it, without needing an excuse or reason. Without being questioned. Without sneaking. I just need a few minutes here and there to myself. In my studio.

Getting Buzzed. Listening to Tears for Fears. Drinking Zin.

Blue, The Color, and the bridge I walked over Saturday night

I’m sitting in a black and white skull dress in front of a grouping of black and white drawings; A powerful portrait in charcoal by William Kentridge hangs on the wall in front of me. I think to myself, don’t need to rush, I can spend as much time as I need to. I stand in front of white canvases listening to the collage of footsteps, how they echo from the other side of the wall, no faces, only sound. Jasper Johns paintings, every time I see them I look at them in a new light. I recognize a piece of myself, understanding things in these paintings I hadn’t understood before. I have moments of memory flash through my being, remembering sitting in front of these giant Clifford Stills, on my lunch break, or after work on my way to Bart.  I spent so much time at MOMA I wonder how much influence these Abstract Expressionistic paintings had on my practice. The Rothko, Joan Mitchell, Jay Defeo, Guston, Lobell paintings I know. I feel like I’m with good old friends. I haven’t seen them in so long; I’ve only been once since they remodeled and that time was with kids. I miss my days in the MOMA, alone. Visiting galleries. I feel like I climbed back over a bridge to a part of myself deep down inside. Today I needed a break, a bath, studio time, writing time. So, Right when we got home today from preschool, I put the babies down for a nap. They fell asleep around 1:30PM. (An hour earlier than usual.) It was so hot and they were so tired and I needed what I needed. It worked out perfectly.  Today in my studio I paint in shades of blues, inspired by our meditation on water this morning. I feel like hanging them up in my house to cool things off. My note book entries are beauties too, and I closed the cover of one more note book for my show. I love the quiet right now. I only hear the fridge, the air conditioner and fan. It’s dead hot and quiet outside. Jack and Fiona will be waking from their nap soon. Time to go and make snack!

Daisy Flowers

Daisy Flowers. I love when Jack says those words. We went to hunt for wildflowers yesterday. Up a hill off Lucas Valley. Yellows covered the hillside like I’ve never seen before. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Wind blowing. “I’m cold” says Fiona. I dressed her in pants in the morning before school; she wanted to wear a little pair of white shorts with a pink bow we pulled out of the summer drawer last night for pajamas. “We’re going hiking, I don’t think you should, keep your pants on. “I say. But it’s too late, she already has her pants half off, trying to get them over her thick Keen sandals. “Let me help you” I say. On the hill, I hand her Jacks green and yellow thick plaid shirt from out of my backpack. She has me button it to the top; it’s so hip pared with her flower skorts, navy blue keens, beaded necklace, (she made herself) and short haircut. Which I often have to explain to the little boys at the park that she is a girl and girls have short haircuts too, in fact all the best super hero girls have short hair! Then I explain “What’s in her ears?” when they ask that next. “Her hearing aids” I say. I should add a fantastic story about them being part of her super hero status. I sit on the hillside watching the children, Jack, Fiona, and Valentina have the best time of their life. There is a small, trickling stream that turned into the softest, throwable, mud as the kids play in it. Jack and Fiona both say they want to go home and take a shower more than once, but immediately run back in the mud and stomp and laugh. “I love mud” Jack says. I take it all in. A dream come true. Heaven. Today I am able to work in my studio and go to yoga, where I find my pelvic floor. It is the strangest thing: I studied all about the pelvic floor, hip, internal organs, spine connection last night, then today I go to Yoga and the whole class is about what I had studied the night before. This made my yoga workout today extremely intense focusing on breath and proper alignment and which muscles to engage (instead of being on auto pilot). It was pure serendipity! Spring is bringing me a bounty of inspiration and intuition. My alone time is coming to an end now though. I certainly haven’t gotten enough of it lately. But I appreciate all the time I do get to be alone creating! Namaste.

Something Beautiful 

I have a Dream. I walk by the door of the Gallery, my show is being installed. I can see three small framed portraits being hung, the installers say, “not yet”, they don’t want me to see yet. I wake up. I want to clean my studio. Something inside is leading me, a part of me more certain than emotions or intellectualism. I clean, throw away, I paint all the paintings on board, on canvas, white. All the paintings I’m so-so about. I haven’t been able to work in my studio the past couple   Of weeks. I write and complain, it’s because my kids won’t take their naps anymore, its because they are being bad, its because they aren’t giving me any space. I throw away three bags of trash from my studio. I throw away paintings on paper that never worked, that scattered the floor, my press, under my table. I throw away junk left from frantic studio sessions, old yogurt containers with dried yogurt. I couldn’t work in my studio because it was too cluttered with the past. Not because of motherhood. Now there’s space here. I create a special corner for Fiona with her easel and her art supplies. I haven’t had a chance to paint yet; I have all my notebooks opened up to clean white pages, painting surface after painting surface gessoed with only ghosts showing from what was. Fiona tells me she wants to paint in her new spot; It’s after 5:00, I should be making dinner. Alan is playing with Jack in the house; Fiona and I go in my studio, she starts painting, cutting string, gluing, she is completly absorbed in the process. I start drawing, reacting with new lines and reacting with lines that connect with the ghosts of the past paintings. Jack comes in and says he wants to throw paint. I set him up with a canvas and black paint, he starts splattering the paint,  Jackson Pollock style. I continue to work, my head feels light and my body free from the neck work I did in yoga this morning. Fiona and I paint for almost two hours together.   Alan comes in and says he’s getting really hungry and it’s really late. I tell Fiona, we clean up. I go upstairs and make dinner. I have a dream last night: I’m re-writing a story to read out loud, I get up in front of a group of people and I can’t read myown  writing. Its so confusing, I can’t tell what happened to the words. I try to skim it and fill in the blanks, I’m so confused. I wake up and here I am.