“The conflict between man and nature seems to have been one of the bases of Western civilization. In Japan, on the other hand, man has usually lived as part of nature, being embraced by it and commingling with it…”
A downpour with no drama – no winds or thunder; all, silent and vertical. Dusk is misplaced today.
Browsing through my book collection of artist’s books, long before the Internet, my right and left brain(s) are rattled to life – together. Did they forget that they were a team during my day job of constant interaction? I fear so. I play with ideas on the assembly of parts, but nothing whole appeals to me. I go to bed with a trust I have not felt in a long time. A trust that “it” will work out.
This is a humbling experience. For as I regain my belief with this small act, there is the larger reminder that nothing is permanent. It is all for in the now in my life. Somehow this sense of impermanence brings a great relief as my eyes close, and the cat purrs.
Doing justice to the nature of the materials is my hope.
Oak, Hideyuli. How to wrap 5 more eggs: Traditional Japanese packaging. New York: Weatherhill, 1984. Print.
Is it hard to play?
This afternoon I plunged into art supplies scattered about me, slapping down paint and shapes – not much to my liking. Formerly, I have used pots of acrylic paint with my book arts, but for some reason this has shifted to pastel. I find the colors hard and garish. I acknowledge that this has a fuller existential meaning (this, for another day).
I pause to consider that which lay before me. Ugh. Whatever it is, it is clearly not working. My “head” is intruding and insisting a reliance on the past. Known medium. Familiar brushes. After washing out my brushes, and tenderly placing them on the drying rack, I stop again and pause. Throughout my years creating numerous artists books and two-dimensional commissioned pieces, these same, inexpensive brushes brought at a local hardware store have serve me faithfully, and well. I feel a tenderness toward these instruments which slide effortlessly into the curves of my hands. It is not the brushes, nor is it the paint.
Bundling myself in well-worn scarf – a gift from my youngest son years ago – and slipping into my simple midnight blue coat, and greeting the cold air and a sky the color of turtle doves’ downy feathers, I step into the winter light. I leave, so upon returning I may play.
I am not sure exactly the reason for this mashable detritus stored in my prodigious “art” cupboard, but it lives there. Believe me. Once I went through said cupboard in a ruthless “weeding” of materials accumulated throughout the twenty years as a working artist. Today, at least five years later I open these doors to begin a “small” book arts project, and I am amazed. It is chock full of materials! Not unlike the famous T.V. Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles, paper, pens, ink, paints, and sundry tchotchkes have reproduced.
This is leading somewhere in my hyperlinked brain. The new year. Yes, for the new year I am indulging myself with art. This is a timed, but fragmented plan as I am totally exhausted after a long day of librarianship. Instead of watching the news – which is so depressing – I will come up to my studio while the dear husband readies dinner – and ponder my materials; perhaps, I will even dare to paste something down.
Today I begin assembling materials in a spontaneous manner. Looking at the content, I see that I am drawn to pages from both my piano book, Italian Songs & Arias, and a discarded graphic novel of Tintin. Could this be the result of my overindulgence on too many MHz TV shows of Montalbano (and yes, I have read the books first!) and my immersion in spending ten hours a day, Monday through Friday, with pre-teens, tweens, and teens – all boys?
Regardless of reason, I am excited. Happy New Year, dear readers. I wish you much subdued excitement, too!
Printed matters used:
Star vicino. (1991). In J. Paton (Ed.), 26 Italian Songs and Arias: An Authoritive Edition Based on Authentic Sources. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing.
The Castafiore Emerald. (1992). In The Castafiore emerald ; Flight 714 ; Tintin and the Picaros. London: Methuen Children’s.
Baffled, she hits the END button on her phone, and gently places it upon the antique chest of drawers. With care and a deliberate slowness does she perform this act – as if she is in a trance. Although not privy to her thoughts during this mundane act on this quite typical evening, you know her thoughts are profound. Her body is still, except for the right arm, the hand cradling her phone. Her eyes focus to a distant point somewhere outside your view. Within the few seconds of the digital disconnection, she is reliving forty years down to the details of ritualized daily walks past tacky shops, and the sounds of tiny silver spoons against bone china cups, while dark coffee and white sugar kiss. One might question her reactions. “More visceral,” you say. Yes, I do believe this to be the case. Her breathing becomes irregular, her nostrils flare slightly, and it is only the deep, final sigh signaling that years shared – years coursing through her every fiber – are at an end.
She knows she has lost something of value. Turning away from the dresser, her body regains vitality: telltale eyes that are once again bright, and breathing that is calm. You think to yourself, “She will survive this.” Yes, but I tell you, too, that she will not forget.
The End & the Beginning
My sisters visited me a week ago.
This summer morning, thoughts take me through a winding path along the wordfilled avenue of “sibling.” Defined as “one who is of a kin to another,” according to the OED, I read through the etymology and variations. Boldy stated are references to “sibling rivalry” and to “1974 ‘J. Melville’ Nun’s Castle vii. 153 Siblings and kinsfolk did not have to be friends.” And yes, siblings are morphologically very similar” …I would add, sometimes.
Yet, there is nothing to indicate that “kin” are or should have emotional ties to each other – certainly not positive ones. Why is this? The closeness among my sisters and me is the legacy our parents handed down to their children – to their three girls. Living within this triangle of sisterhood for a lifetime, it is the bittersweet touchstone to my past and doorway to a joyous present. My Pamela, ten years the elder, with her love of the moment,- this moment – and her openness at inclusion; my Sandra, the middle one, with her sensitivity to everyone – her generous spirit.
Perhaps it is time to refer to “sibling harmony” or “siblings in accord,” rather than that singular noun with its negative connotation. Yes?
Somewhere, there is a Jungian therapist who has written an academic paper that analyzes the metaphor in the deconstruction of the book with aging.
Last summer, working on a long-distance collaborative art piece, I deconstructed an inexpensive poetry pamphlet. The pages and the words on those pages became elements in a “fresh” work.
Today, as I work toward completion of a small collage, I realize that I am repeating myself – or rather reliving those psychic forces in a concrete fashion. Over twenty years ago, I created and published an artist’s book, Sweet Potato, in an extensively large edition of 350! Needless to say, I never completed the complicated assembly required of all the folios, and do this only upon request.
This morning I have taken one folio and let it “rearrange” itself into something completely new. As I ponder this process my thoughts lead me here: both creative forces – creating something new from that which is “finished” and aging – require the willingness to face fear. Fear that the destruction a work of art is too inviolable to cut apart and re-imagine; fear that an aged life and eventual death are, in fact, the finished piece.
The beautiful circle in all that has occurred this bright, summer morning is that the artwork re-created is a wedding gift for a young couple. Rebirth.
A gracious gift to those who teach is summer. As each one cycles through my year in education, it is time to reconnect with my previous life as an artist. My expectations of artistic accomplishments during these brief months are quite simple – create one piece from the heart.
The artists are raising their eyebrows at this seemingly simple statement and thinking that this goal is, indeed, larger than I think. You are quite right. Being a working artist is a nine-to-five job like any other job, yet the work itself – well, I will leave that description to other artists.
This began as a most unsettling summer. I could not find a quiet center within myself regardless of books I read, visits with friends and family, or my love of gardening. Restlessness permeated my days and nights. It was not until I “turned my ankle” during my relentless drive to clean up the yard that put me where I belong. Sitting still.
More than twenty years ago I began to make a type of western “prayer flag” as a gift to those whose heart breaks or joys are difficult to contain or express with flowers and gifts. It was a tangible way to offer love beyond my small self – an offering for the other to the universe.
Sharing this art form with you is “my creative work from the heart” this summer. I hope it inspires those who are in need of a nudge, to adapt, improvise, and create.
Tina Hudak’s prayer flag
Collage or create your image according to your artistic style that holds meaning. Here, I use calligraphy, my photo scanned on handmade paper, print on handmade paper, stencils from my hand cut design. Spray with a workable fixative.
Summer. I dislike it. Nine o’clock this morning I am awake, but motionless. Our gentle, orange tabby taps my face with is velvet paw. Already humid with incessant sun, the insects are tedious with their constant presence. I take my morning coffee indoors. Entombed in my closed, cool studio, I feel uncomfortable. No, it is not a lack of comfort – too superfluous – it is loss.
A forty-year friendship was packed up carelessly today. Thrown willy-nilly into a small box to be abandoned at the curbside. Three decades of champagne toasts and Christmas treats, countless drives along the dull, Pennsylvania interstate to share in a “sisters’ visit”, belly laughs and silliness with midday trips pushing strollers laden with croissants and juice boxes along concrete sidewalks – now still. Then, a decade of letting go, “keeping in touch” insinuating itself between us. Stealing intimacy. Sharing an occasional cafe seated at your kitchen table. Bon mots sprinkled generously along with the sugar.
I am not blindsided, dear friend, clutching the box of memories against my heart. I am, simply, bereft.
He has what it takes to be a good teacher – compassion, a comfortable manner, humor, and the ability to zero in on what is important. goo.gl/pyYZnP
This was included in a reflection written about my “too-quick” judgement of a particular student I teach. This morning I am reflecting, once again, on my own teaching style. While this may be obvious to others, I have come to realize that teaching is an extension of one’s essential self. It changes spirally as one’s own development changes throughout the years. As the decades pass for me, and I observe the shifts in myself, and I ponder what I am offering to my students. I find that when I am thwarted in my efforts to offer what I think is my best, I plunge into a rejection of myself, as teacher. I am unable to look at myself as teacher, objectively – removed from the “academic” imprint from the educational system.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for seeing beyond a label – whether it is as a student or a teacher – to be grateful for the ability to change, grow, and to zero in on what is important in life.
Today, I realized while I was teaching my sixth grade students a lesson in short essay writing, that I needed to give them a personal example. The one I had chosen from a very good book was just too long. Below is what we will be looking at in class. For them it is about structure and form; for me, it is a sweet memory.
My Life Before Cats
The house always seemed a little too quiet for my tastes, as a child. We lived in, what were called back then, row houses. This is where one house is slammed against the other, as if they are trying to hold each other upright. What this also meant was that you and your next-door neighbor shared a wall. You also shared the sounds each house made, if it was close to the wall. It was important to BE quiet. Fortunately for our neighbors, my two sisters and I were fairly well behaved. Oh, this was not because we were born that way; rather, because my dad meant serious business if he told us to “quiet down” and we ignored him! We rarely had pets of any sort. Once, when my older sister was doing a science project, we kept the guinea pigs afterwards. But, my mom got asthma and they had to go even though they were fairly quiet. Then, my other sister brought home a stray dog. We kept him too, for awhile. That is, until my father found a home for him with the daughter of someone who he worked with at the steel mill. The man had a daughter who was not quite right; she was what we called back then, “simple-minded.” She did not have a lot of friends and she was lonely. So the dog went to her.
When I grew up and had my own family we bought a house – standing all by itself and surrounded by a big yard. It was living here when I finally got a cat. She was a tortoise-shell stray who just showed up and stayed. She was not terribly friendly or cuddly, but I liked the way she strutted around, talking incessantly. Next, my sons found an orange cat – a stray, too. He was very friendly and very talkative. Finally, the animal shelter called us to ask us if we wanted another homeless cat – a little black one. We took her. So there we were for many years in our house with the three stray cats. Until on an autumn night a fourth feral kitten came to our kitchen door. The following week we brought her in. It was never quiet after that! There was alot of meowing, howling, growling, and two boys fighting. Oh! did I mention the dogs? My life was no longer quiet at home…except at meal times.