I went to rural Oregon. My brother lives in a small town, and I missed Christmas with him this year, so this was the next nearest thing. It was beautiful, if an exhausting road trip, with some time to reflect on where I am to go and what I am to do with this artificially shiny new year.
Christmas is, essentially, a celebration of new birth, whether adopting pagan solstice traditions or touting the arrival of a savior.
It’s a good thing to have these divisions of the year. Without seasons and change, we wouldn’t have such visceral cues upon which to hang our expectations and our resolve. Precious few of us are so self-motivated as to be able to begin anew, regardless of the day or month or year.
But anew we shall proceed. Here’s to auld lang syne. and to new days, unknown adventures, too.
It’s completely artificial, the demarcation of the new year. We’ve already passed the actual renewal by the time Christmas Eve hits. But it echoes what I’ve said before here, that every day is a potential chance to start again, so why not?
The newsletter is coming, a weekly publication if I can manage such a thing. I haven’t figured how to treat the subs, but I think it’s only fair to let you have the opt-in if you’re a current subscriber to this blog. Image posts will commence quite soon, and we’ll see where it goes.
Thanks so much for ringing through the past couple years, it’s almost faux new year’s!
I’m still thinking about change and renewal. There’s so often a desire for artists to do more than they’ve done before, to top themselves or shift into more challenging evolutions. The end of a year offers a natural prompt for that kind of thinking, and here I am, taking it on.
I’ll notify everyone through this site, of course, of changes and updates. Things are afoot, it’s mostly a matter of expense and organized time. Happy nearly Christmas!
Is it even worth it? The thing is, if it isn’t, how would I know? All I can tell is that I do—or don’t—enjoy the moment of creating something, and decide if I want to keep going. That might be all we can ask of life.
With that in mind, I’m figuring out where to go in the coming year, what plan to chart up and start, how best to make my way. The planning stage of anything is exciting, and a little unnerving, but it’s often the only way to avoid random floundering or too much time wasting. A little is good. A lot is fine, but not fulfilling. Given a choice, I’d rather work on a long hike with a spectacular view than an easy trail that circles back to the same place.
Halloween never lasts long enough. I’m not much of a horror movie fan, but I like the idea of them, and am always up for a good one. More than that, I love the shift of light and life, when everything, well, falls.
Amidst the magic and spookiness that is the general tenor of autumn, I get restless, as if creating has kept pushing me forward, and I don’t quite know where I am.
The cusp of Thanksgiving (in the US) is a good time to look back a bit, to see where you’ve been and if you’re still on the path you should be. Art is tricky business. It’s holding onto water, trying to capture hints of smells on the street, stopping shadows and colors that change by the second. I always hope to keep moving, but nonetheless take time to look at the big picture. Focus can be isolating.
Just a periodic reminder and pep talk, here, to say you can get started on your thing at any time without judgment or expectation. Your art is your own, and starting work is the hardest bit. Once you’re going, it gets easier.
Give it a solid five minutes, that’s all. Anyone can do five minutes on a project. The trick is that five minutes is hard to cut off. Once you’re even a little into the work, you can often keep at it for an hour.
But any creation is good. The important thing is to start.
It’s not the easiest thing, these days. Most of our attention—most of us, most of the time—is pulled a dozen different ways every second. We have our phones, we have high speed internet connections, TV, podcasts, and friends who are deeply connected to those things, even if we aren’t.
But I’ve been trying to take time, whenever I think of it, to do two things: 5 deep breaths, and just noticing the view.
For the latter, “noticing” means stopping whatever is occupying my time and looking & listening in a single direction for a few minutes. I watch what moves, what the colors are like, how it sounds, and if I’m really present, what is not there.
Taking these moments is a way to pull out of the neverending algorithmic tendrils that yank on our attention every moment. Break those bonds when you can.
It does seem like the cycles of life are unsteady, randomly faster and slower. The days are indeed long, and the years are, truly, short. One of the consequences of growing older is a sense of perspective. Looking back is a vast open field of texture and color. Looking forward is a shrinking window of potential.
A regular patron at my work place was on his way home this evening, when I happened to notice him collapse onto the sidewalk as he was being helped across the street. The shift lead on duty, expected to deal with emergencies of this kind went to see about helping him while I took care of the shop, though I’d have rushed along without hesitation. The man is someone I’ve know since coming to Portland. He’s quite old, rather frail, and I know his name and what he likes to eat and drink. I still don’t know if he made it. After the paramedics came, there was nothing else either of us could do.
These incidents remind us of life’s fragility. We will all die some day. If we’re lucky, it’ll be later rather than sooner, excepting some incapacitating or degenerative condition. The time we have, though, is all we have. Even granting reincarnation means a new cycle wipes the slate of memory—and along with it, experience, knowledge, and that hard-won sense of perspective.
It can sometimes seem art is not so important, given our tiny lives, burning through a spark of existence on a little blue marble swirling through the void. But it’s part of our attempts to make sense of the world, of death, of our search for meaning. It is, in the end, as important as everything else.
There it is. I was hoping, when I found the booklet with all my classmates’ drawings alongside mine, there’d be something I could point to and say, “see? It was obvious I should be making art from the beginning.
But I look at that mass of scribbled black and have to say I don’t think it’s particularly telling. It’s weird, I suppose there’s that. But here’s something else: it goes to show that very few of us start any creative path with any shred of expertise. We learn, we try, we fail, we slowly slowly slowly improve.