Shifts in Urban Life and Beyond

We’ve got a friend visiting who owns a car. My lack of knowledge about how to navigate parking downtown, where we live, including meter boundaries and cost are practically nil. In less than a year since moving, and giving up my car, I’ve remained virtually locked into public transit and walking.

I felt helpless to answer questions and solve problems. “Just keep driving around” was almost wholly inadequate. It strikes me that humans—for all we talk about history repeating and not learning lessons—are still eminently adaptable. Circumstances around us may change, but most of us can melt into the new mold quickly.

When I think about new directions to take my work, new media to explore, and new situations that restrict what I might do, I don’t keep this in mind. I get frustrated trying to recreate circumstances and methods of the past. While that can sometimes work for a lifetime (Turner), it might not be possible for some (Stella), and I could be doing myself a disservice, wasting energy needlessly.

Maybe just melt into the new mold first and the rest takes care of itself.

Change Isn’t Good, Embracing Change Is

On its own, change isn’t good or bad. It’s just inevitable. Time does, indeed, march on, and the bell tolls for thee. We don’t have a say in whether there will be change, in the world or in us.

But our choice is how to approach that existential reality. We can despair and give up—or become apathetic—but we can learn to value changes that are coming. There’s something different that’s going to happen. It means there is always something new to work with and incorporate.

Getting Into the Spirit of It All, But Accepting Reality Just As It Is

I’ve been lamenting the weather here. It’s warm and sunny, and has been mostly so for the past couple of months. One of the reasons I wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest was weather, change of season, a break from constant hot and sunny. Wishing for change won’t make it so.

So it was that, after the third person chided me for being anxious to get into the rainy cold season, I sat for a minute and thought about what I was doing. I was rushing the moment, trying to affect transformation of reality instead of accepting and living in the moment. I know that must sound terribly mushy-headed or what used to be called airy-fairy, vague hand-waving near-mysticism. But there’s a usable, practical, real component to a lot of New Age type ideas: being present helps us live our lives more fully.

I noticed good things about having sunshine on these fall days above the 45th parallel. I can seen the colors of leaves turning gold, orange, and red more clearly. I can look up at the wonderful heights of the city around me without a face full of water to squint through. It’s easy to get around. Leaves are delightfully crunchy as I kick through them on my way to work. I accept what is, just as I’ll accept how the constant rain to come is renewing all this life around me.

And art? Art is the same. I have to be good at accepting how it is in the moment, and try not to spend too much energy and time wishing it were better. Everything in time.

Sick Day

I remember the last time I was sick. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick.

Most years I get one or two bouts of cold, the lingering, low-level kind. You know, the scratchy throat, the runny nose, the going to bed okay and waking up worse again, for lit’rally weeks.

But I can usually function, get around, go to work. That’s impossible with this thing. It’s a full-on flu, with attendant tight, phlegmy breathing and aches that have me staggering around like an eighty-year-old with a touch o’ the rheumatis’.

Something extra weird, though, that comes along with epic flu: the world seems surreal, dreamlike. It’s bizarre to have the universe wash over me like this, while I sort of watch in a stupor. It’s like being caught underneath a massive, transparent water balloon, things seem extra bright, but also muffled, sometimes a bit wavery.

I’m trying to understand how I feel, through the brain fog. I’d rather this wasn’t such a surprise next time.

Something positive to takeaway, gotta find something apropos to make a lesson out of, right? Um, maybe that everything doesn’t have to be a lesson. Sometimes observation is helpful and good.

Being the Moon

Reading Paul Klee’s diaries, I am regularly struck by his insight and seeming general imperturbability.

The evening is indescribable. And on top of everything else a full moon came up. Louis urged me to paint it. I said: it will be an exercise at best. Naturally I am not up to this kind of nature. Still, I know a bit more than I did before. I know the disparity between my inadequate resources and nature. This is an internal affair to keep me busy for the next few years. It doesn’t trouble me one bit. No use hurrying when you want so much.

The evening is deep inside me forever. Many a blond, northern moon rise, like a muted reflection, will softly remind me, and remind me again and again. It will be my bride, my alter ego. An incentive to find myself. I myself am the moonrise of the South.

The Diaries of Paul Klee: 1898–1918

Even when he was later drafted into the army during WWI, Klee kept this same clearheaded accepting mindset. Some things were out of his control, and always would be. He always had somewhere to climb in depicting his images. The work was always just a reflection of nature and thought.

Fear of Fear

Fear is almost always going to make a guest appearance now and then in your life. When you make a big change, start a new piece, finish an old piece, or put your work and yourself out into the world, in general.

What matters isn’t tamping down the emotion. It’s primal, and with us since long before we became mammals, even. The feeling comes, and it’s okay to feel it. But do more: embrace it, examine it, see what it does to you physically.

After that, you can more easily push it aside and do the thing you have to do. Denying it or avoiding it only turns it into something monstrous at the edge of your sight. But, it’s just fear, one emotion among many.

Fear can help us get moving or keep working. You can use the energy—the thrill, even—that rises up in it to your advantage and your work’s benefit. You don’t have to shove it aside, you can make it your ally. If it’s going to be there anyway—and it is, you’re only human—better to embrace it fully than try to ignore it. Like pre-performance stage jitters, a little nervous energy imbues your work with oomph.

Trying to run from fear is pointless—it’s attached to us like a kick-me sign taped to our backs. Try to get away from it and it flaps away with every step. Calmly reach around and accept it and you might be able to pull it off.