Two corals, pen and ink, 1976
On Saturday, the 20th, this blog will turn seven, which is rather hard to believe. I'll be in New York City, with friends from Montreal, visiting museums and friends from that place as well. And I'm strongly considering not taking my computer along, though I'll certainly have my camera and the recorder that runs in my head most of the time...
Lately I've been reflecting on the changes in my daily life since moving up here for good last summer. We've settled into a routine of rising at 7:30 or so, dressing quickly, and coming to our studio -- by bike, now -- where we make coffee and a light breakfast - steel-cut oats for me, with some fruit or yogurt. I spend the first hour checking email and the social networks, and then begin the day's work, which is sometimes professional design work, sometimes writing, and more often these days, various tasks for qarrtsiluni and Phoenicia Publishing. We make lunch here around noon, and then are back at it, often until 7:00 pm or even later. I usually break up my day with a walk and am trying to spend a couple of hours doing artwork of some sort, and if I can I play the piano for half an hour. You might think that working at home, as we did for 30 years, would be more productive but it's just the opposite. I miss being at home sometimes - it's easier to start dinner in the middle of the afternoon, and easier to take a walk and do the day's shopping - but in general this situation feels better. Home feels quiet and calm and slow; it's a meditative atmosphere for cooking, bathing, reading, and seeing friends.
Our upstairs neighbor, noticing our new routine and late hours, admonished me recently: "Don't work too hard!" I laughed and he said, "Yes, I know you love it." "A lot of it doesn't feel like work, I said. "This is just what I do."
Being involved with art again has made me think about a time in my life, long ago, when I had my first job after college. I was working as a naturalist in one of New York State's environmental education centers, and was in charge of their exhibits and trail guides. In the evenings I'd come home, make myself some dinner, and spend the next four hours drawing, painting, and doing calligraphy. It would be more accurate to say that I was teaching myself to paint illustrations from the natural world in watercolors, and practicing calligraphy so that I might be able to do it professionally. All that winter of 1975-76 I worked hard, night after night, listening to the public radio station from Syracuse, which is when I also learned to love opera. I remember it as a time of deep, quiet satisfaction. I enjoyed my daytime work and my colleagues there, who were every social people, but I knew I wouldn't stay indefinitely, and felt I was preparing for the future. My whole life stretched ahead of me, a bright ribbon of possibilities, and instead of feeling scared or lonely I looked forward to the solitude of those evenings with my paints and pens and music, searching for something beneath my fingers that I hoped would eventually take shape.
Did it? Not the way I expected, of course. I met a man and moved to New England, became a self-employed graphic designer and calligrapher, became a much more serious painter and left music behind for a long time. Then work and business and community became the primary focus, along with a long happy marriage to a very different man. Computers came along. Spiritual matters became a much greater focus, as did politics; painting was laid aside, music re-entered my life, and twenty years after those long nights in that makeshift studio I became, working each morning instead, the writer I had wanted to be all along.
So what's happening now, after nearly another twenty years? It feels like a weaving together of the many threads of my life, but in a different form: I'm no longer interested in doing skillful realistic drawings or paintings, for instance, and most of my attention has shifted from the finished product to the process itself. But once again, I don't know what will take shape or how I'll be changed. I do know that blogging has played, and will continue to play, a major part in that evolution, not only because it encourages my practice of writing, forming a space of solitude and concentration where the writing can take place, but because it takes me out of my own world into yours.