Thoughts in Isolation: 3

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

Monday, May 4, 2020

Wow, where’d you come from Taryn? Up before noon? Breakfast? Laundry? Feeling ambitious? Making plans? Yeah… getting yourself on a med taking schedule is kicking in fast. Days. Who knows how many doses you were flaking out on. That’s life managing mental health. You can slip so easy. Especially during times of crisis. When everyone is giving themselves permission to eat ice cream for breakfast, it’s easy to let things go. Forgetting you need structures to keep anxiety and depression and at bay. Oops. But we have a lifetime of experience to draw from. And know when things are getting weird upstairs. Imagine all the people out there who are going into this new world completely unprepared for dealing with their crazy? Be gentle with them. They are fresh at this.

Friday May 8, 2020

It snowed. The Upper Peninsula is a magical world of winter and water. People are expressing further frustration from the oppressive feelings a spring snow rains down on their heads. I think it’s beautiful. I’m on track to cement in a habit of getting up before noon and taking my meds. Getting to bed is challenged by my discovery of a new author. I’m riding the sci-fi adventure genre. Six books deep. Second series. Will they survive?

Also murder hornets have taken over pop culture and FB arguments. Along with the “plandemic” video. Will the wonders of 2020 never cease??? I can watch the riptides of information, misinformation and spin spread across social media. Mostly, I feel like people just don’t understand their own psychology.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

I’m sick of people.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Today was a good day. Up before noon. A solid art session. A good breakfast. A walk. Went for a ride yesterday for supplies. Things are looking up inside my brain.

Thursday, May 12, 2020

I was thinking.

I was thinking about all the places and things I experienced over the winter. And I feel so fulfilled. I got the experience of long term traveling and the freedom to create art. And I did it. And I saw many of the places I dreamed about, and more.

What a generous Universe.

Now is the time for rest.

Next is the unfolding of the next gift. Mine is blessed life.

Friday, May 13, 2020

Getting art supplies in the era of Covid-19… one must lower their expectations dramatically. I’m exercising a level of patience I didn’t know I had. But then, it’s nice to slow down.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Being an adult is far overrated. I’m glad I grew up to be an artist.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The feeling of watching people leave. The moment of separation. Wether planned, after a visit, or after a fight… I find that peeling away of their presence excruciating. I don’t mean when they leave to go to the store, I mean when they leave and there’s going to be hours and days between you. That moment. That sick sinking moment when they walk away from you. Your last hug (or in some cases not) and you don’t know when you’ll feel their mass again.

Tonight I sleep alone. And even though it’s temporary and planned and necessary and he’s a phone call away… That moment of peeling away. That last hug. I need my human with me.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Spring took so long to get here. Then overnight the trees opened up their wells of green and life sprouts from the earth in multitudes. At night frogs chorus and whip-poor-wills break through. Moving through the night calling here and there. The dawn moves fast on the night, there’s barely a touch of night. People are restless here this time of year. I think it’s having so much daylight. It’s only dark for a little over seven hours.

And I prepare for yet another strange new disruption in my life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

George Floyd. What terrors we’ve given power to. Little beasts with such ugly hearts to ignore the pleas of a fading man.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The country is on fire.

Michigan lifts the “Stay at home” order.

Thoughts in Isolation: 2

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I did not think I would experience any new emotions after posting the two week journal “Thoughts in Isolation.” I was wrong. Today. Today I ache inside. I am numb yet sad yet nauseous. I made a double batch of no-bake cookies after starting the last 15 pieces of the 100 Day Project. I feel weepy yet I don’t weep! I’m mad. I’m dissatisfied. I’m disappointed. From heart down to my stomach I feel bubbling emotions but I can’t identify them. They swirl and toss like a shipwreck. I’m relieved and angry. I’m sickened and disgusted. I’m empty. I’m a tempest.

Today people choked the capital of Michigan protesting governor Whitmer’s executive orders. They block emergency vehicles. They mingle. They are mad about seeds. Some of my Facebook friends support this. Most do not.

Today I skimmed Facebook trying to avoid all the conspiracy theories. I’m baffled by the ridiculous number of them. And everyone yelling at each other to “think for themselves.” I don’t know if I should be comforted by listening to an expert explain everywhere in the world comes up with conspiracies during outbreaks with convenient scapegoats particular to their corner of the world.

But what really breaks me is the normality of my Grandfather’s death amidst everything.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I’m trying to wrap my heart around the grieving process for my grandfather but it all feels so distant. In a different time I would of driven the forty minutes to see my family immediately after I was told. In this world that seems irresponsible. So I stay home. I hope that my grandmother is safe. I hope no one in the flurry of activity carried the virus with them to my grieving family. I hope they were able to keep him comfortable in his last hours.

My grandfather was kindness where my home life was chaos. He fixed up an old banana seat bike and spray painted it dark green for me. Remedying my lack of bike riding knowledge. He taught me some doodles I can still draw. Tried to teach me a line or two of French. I went with him walking at the ice rink. And fishing.

Grandpa was flannels and suspenders. Mint chocolate. Tomato thieving. Chipmunk taming. Garage tinkering. He was full of games and riddles. He was a collection of hematite rocks. Old westerns and baseball. He was ritually painting the deck brown. I watched him give up his raspberry patch, his truck, his boat, his sight. He was wit and charm.

Most of all he was Grandpa. When I was confused by my father’s side of the family and reproached by his wife, Lucille, not to call her grandmother. This Grandfather never made that distinction. Even though most of us weren’t his by blood.

How do we mourn in this time of corona?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Everyone is getting their chain yanked by someone in country. And everyone thinks they are the ones “thinking for themselves.” Everyone is at each others throats on social media. Guilty. How does something so simple as staying home to save lives become so politicized? I have questions.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Many members of my family have posted on social media about the passing of our Grandfather. I can’t do it. I cannot bring myself to deal with the societal etiquette of public condolences and public thanks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

mitigation

social distancing

PPE

N95

corona

covid-19

ventilators

flattening the curve

Dr. Birx and Fauci

the scarf

Governor Coumo

fabric masks

Wuhan

isolation

quarantine

USS Comfort and Mercy

the cure cannot be worse than the disease

the invisible enemy

testing

false negatives/positives

supply chain

chloroquine

hot zone

that woman from Michigan

pandemic

Spanish Flu

1918

second wave

Chinese virus

contact tracing

exponential

two weeks

six feet

2%

0.1%

15%

asymptomatic carriers

shelter in place

So many words that have taken over our language in the last weeks and months. Our minds quickly pick up on and race away with a flurry of new vocabulary. Wielding them like knives against each other.

I wonder when life will feel normal. I guess society always fluxes. We never went back to pre- 9/11 life. We’ve been fighting that war since. I only knew the feeling of job and financial security during the last years of the Obama administration. Wiped away again by greed. Watching big businesses suck up bail outs while little micro-businesses are starved out. Watch them wink out one by one. Stranding families and once thriving communities.

The system only works by a thin thread of belief. There’s nothing real about the ant hill of capitalism. An engine that drives and consumes the planet for profit. But why? More electronic money. More. More. More. Not even paper anymore. Just numbers we believe in. To make our lives better? It’s NOT so! I witnessed two different America’s driving across this country. People living in towers overlooking people living in gutters.

What’s real? We have one life. Once it’s over… A company can be rebuilt. A country can recover from a recession or depression. We won’t get our people back if we send them off as sacrificial lambs for capitalism. No one needs a hair cut that badly. What we need is food, water, shelter and our tribe to be safe.

I’m just not willing to give up my mother, grandmother or husband because some people believe the economy is more important and some others believe the virus is a hoax.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

I was brutally awakened from a nap by a cascade of horns honking and a cacophony of dogs barking. When I tried to hush the dogs my husband yelled back “their having a parade.” Out here in the middle of the woods? with us as the only witness, they came out to their camp to have themselves a little birthday party for the wife. A nurse at a nearby hospital. Complete with children and the elderly. How sweet.

And…

The president suggested we disinfect our lungs. Inject cleaners.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I’m getting weird about things. I’m closing in around myself. I’m not going out. Not looking to leave the house. I don’t want to talk to many people. I’m not accomplishing much. I don’t feel sad. I’m ok. I think? I miss the desert. I miss the road. Although I’m not afraid, the current events prey on latent fears. If that makes sense. The current isolation mimics the times from before I was on medication. When stores were the enemy. Strangers. Contact. An invisible barrier. I at that time was getting weird about going into stores I wasn’t familiar with. About talking to anyone. Leaving the house got troubling. And it’s like that now I’m feeling, but a different cause. And I’m distant from people the same way I was then. Not out of social anxiety, but because of social safety. But it feels emotionally the same. The difference now is that I have a partner to lean on. At my worst with the social anxiety I was alone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking about my father and everything he’s missing. What would he make of this time? He was never one that could stand being still. He always wanted to go. How would he handle being asked to stay home? I cannot imagine it. I caught myself sitting in repose like him the other night. One arm swung over my head and fidgeting with the cuticles of my other hand. When I realized that was a piece of him inside my posture, I separated from space, time and body for a moment. Grief is like that, it comes at you like a freight train when you least expect it, years later. It’s him not seeing Star Wars or Dune. It’s not getting his opinion on politics. It’s walking through Family Video. It’s watching the places he once inhabited with his mass disappear from the world. Popping like little soap bubbles on a timeline.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I have not been taking care of myself. My husband asked me to go for a walk with him today and I felt a bit of panic at leaving the house. This is not a good sign. I took a shower. Changed my clothes. And swept the floor. Tomorrow I will do more to be human. Oops. I’m not all the way down the rabbit hole yet.

Monday, May 4, 2020

I’m annoyed by my dry skin. I was scraping at it on my face with my finger nails. Now I have a scab on my nose where I went to far. I thought the doldrums I experienced in Death Valley were bad. That was just preparation. ‘Twas just a fng precursor. I’m thinking bangs. Perhaps I’ve watched enough Asian woman successfully give themselves bangs on YouTube to manage. Or at least I’ll have a few minutes entertainment before meltdown.

My lack of consistent schedule may have resulted in some medication dose misses. I’m hitting the anxiety jackpot. And since I’m not seeing anyone or interacting with anyone, I can only guess that the current feeling of mild terror about leaving the house is where my brain is putting all that anxious energy. Light feelings of agoraphobia are not new anxiety symptoms for me, it’s just been awhile since it’s been expressed this way. And not exactly surprising since we’ve been asked not to leave the house for over a month now.

So. I’m working on getting myself righted a little every day. I finished one big art project and I’m working through the other I have going. I’m not unhappy. So I have that. Just a bit… off kilter, but then so is everyone else as far as I can tell. We’re going to be alright, just a bit damaged. And heartbroken. With terrible bangs. And picked over skin.

Spring is here. Can you feel it’s renewing energy?

Thoughts in Isolation

Art Journal, Self Reflection

Friday, March 27, 2020

Day 1: I cried yesterday. Somewhere in Minnesota we reached the boreal forest and it felt like being suffocated. I dreamed so long of traveling (without the means of doing so). My heart irrational. I cried “I know all these trees!”

On the other hand I have a home to come to. Both physically and geographical. When times were difficult before, when I had no where to go, or no money, or the relationship was over; I had that in my father’s land. And I have that now. An imperfect home in the woods. Walls, roof and heat.

Today we unpack. Do laundry. Assess the winter damage: one bedroom, the drywall of the ceiling partially collapsed and water damage to the floor. Something wrong with the stink stack. The kitchen faucet is partially broke. The shower head is completely shattered and the pipes are damaged in the wall. Somehow the wood shed is still standing, against expectations. The dishwasher isn’t quite right. Something in the switch. I found thistle seed stashes. Somebody (or somebodies) small and furry is living in my home.

News: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Covid-19 positive with mild symptoms.

News: Our President is making it personal with the Governor of Michigan. Suppliers are being told not to send supplies, even when the President stated governors should procure their own.

I am afraid now, more than ever. I am more angry than I’ve ever been. I am helpless. I took a long bath, my first in eight months. I can’t get calm. I’m going to go for a nap. To try to get out from these overwhelming feelings. I have too many people working in nursing. I am breaking down. I cry, seeing their faces. Terrified for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 2: The cat doesn’t stop crying. He bellows in empty rooms. He may be channeling my feelings. I was weepy and I’m now hollowed out. I can’t even go out to escape. There’s no escape. My body escapes for me. Drowsiness comes down often. This is the life of the damaged. My brain takes care of me by putting me to sleep.

News: the President declares a state of emergency for Michigan. They send 1000 N95 Masks. It’s a hysterically low number. I take solace in governor Coumo’s daily briefings. He’s the leader in this crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day 3: Anger. I’ve always despised Sundays and Holidays because of the limits put on what you can and cannot go and do. But now every day feels like a Sunday. If I could sleep through till this was over I would, but I can’t and I shouldn’t. I’ve already slid too far into the comforts of sleep. Instead I’m going to try to set some daily expectations for myself.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Clean Something

Read

Art

Today I cleaned one area in the kitchen. Which led to some open shelves. Good enough. More than I set out to do.

News: the President accused New York hospitals of nefarious activity with PPE in the corona task force news conference. Every day I listen to that and to Governor Coumo. Thank the stars for Fauci and Coumo.

Monday March 30, 2020

Day 4: Hope is a tender thing. Hope is a small newborn babe. Hope is a fire in night. Hope. My husband had an interview this morning. It sounds like a job offer is coming, for after the Covid-19 crisis. There’s hope in this darkness. Hope can crush a human under its enormous weight. Hope can be dashed. I wait in the wilderness with hope in my heart.

News: Yesterday the President announced 30 more days of Social Distancing.

Coffee and failed attempt at 100 Day Project

News

Got internet access

Cleaned out bookcase and purged books

Napped

Tried to watch Pet Cemetery

Ran away and worked on The Painting, it goes well

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 5: More overcast days than sunny moments, the weather is concurrent with my oppressed mood. The cat continues to cry. Yowls if he cannot see me. Sometimes I drug him with catnip to get it to stop. He is unhappy.

People are expressing feelings of derealization on social media. Welcome to the world of trauma my friends. Only, we are just getting started. My trauma responses are in full gear. Numbness. Sleeping long hours. Fatigue. Loss of interest. Derealization. The only way is through. The way through is to try a little every day to be human until the fog lifts. Go through the motions until they aren’t motions. Set little attainable goals.

News: The administration “believes” the peak of cases will hit in two weeks.

Coffee and the motions of the 100 Day Project

Forced myself to clean a couple walls and two shelves. That’s enough of that.

Bath

Reading

Weight of drowsiness overtook me: nap

Coumo and then Trump news briefings

Staring at a wall

Cut paper for Polaroid project

April 1, 2020

Day 6: My mental health is unraveling. It is a chore to get myself to do things. I let off Instagram and my Charley Lakes Studio Facebook page . Fine. I am trying to get the fortitude to work on the Polaroid project. I’m barely putting effort forth into the 100 Day Project. I’m sleeping in and napping. I know this headspace well. And it is not a good place. This is not where I thought I’d be last week. I’m fighting my way through.

News: Florida finally has a “stay at home” order. Kurt fixed the shower.

Coffee and 100 Day Project (posted last weeks blog) while listening to NPR updates.

Leftover pancakes and Coumo briefing. Which I turned off. I felt my body descend into drowsiness. That’s enough.

Read

Nap

Cleaned off kitchen cupboard fronts: literally the least I could commit to

Stare out the window

Watch “Witcher” and cut paper. I have no idea what is going on. What is the plot?

April 2, 2020

Day 7: The sun shines. I feel lighter. I drink coffee and explore social media. I am appalled at the ridiculous conspiracy theories on tap. Like the time I read a thick book on why atheists were right (I turned agnostic), I come out of this time absolutely sure conspiracy theorists are dead wrong. I’ve had enough. Everyone seems to have their favorite. As though the reality of this world isn’t fantastic enough. Reality is far more amazing than given credit. Maybe we need more arts and sciences. To sit in wonder of the mundane without need of some spectacular shadowy double truth.

News: Michigan officially suspends the K-12 school year. The Democratic National Convention moved to August.

Coffee & 100 Day Project & NPR podcasts: productive

Can’t get the Coumo briefing to play.

Read

Nap

Polaroid Project

Witcher… finished it. I think I get it. Maybe.

April 3, 2020

Day 8: The days blur. Woke up well after noon. Oops. I watch people on social media, who weren’t taking the situation serious, change their tune. I hate cleaning. And I hate having a messy house. Conundrums.

News: Etsy sent out a request asking for its makers to make masks.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Stare out the window

Polaroid project

Refuse to nap… sort of watch a movie and start a tv show: “the expanse”

Life is becoming so small…

April 4, 2020

Day 9: My vessel facilitates anger. I vibrate with it. I am nobody. I, and everyone I know, we are acceptable losses to the capitalist gods of greed. What a better world this would be if we weren’t tethered to live in an expansion economy. There must be other ways we can live? Surely???

News: no news intake, need mental space today

Coffee & slow simmering anger

100 Day Project

Polaroid Project

Thought long and hard about cleaning… not today!

Binge watching “The Expanse” (don’t judge me. I’ve not watched anything since October)

April 5, 2020

Day 10: The snow is going away fast. When we arrived home, our house was snowed in. We had to break a trail through deep snow to haul necessities in. Now? The driveway is mud.

News: Texas issues “stay at home order”

Coffee & 100 Day Project

A walk

getting fancy… have the easel in the house for the painting now

more “the expanse”

Monday, April 6, 2020

Day 11: I realized I was checking out of reality. I put NPR on this morning and I couldn’t even finish my coffee before I was back in bed. So check out of reality it’s going to have to be if I want to be awake. Or save news for a bedtime snack.

News: prime minister Boris Johnson in the ICU and the Queen gives a rare speech. A tiger in a zoo is infected.

Coffee and 100 Day Project

Nap

Painting

TV

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Day 12: It rains.

Coffee

Sleep

100 Day Project

TV

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 13: The sun shines. The cat cries.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Read

Sleep

Read

Sleep

TV

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Day 14: Hope. A year after my husband lost his job. A year of stress and worry and adventure. Good news today. Fragile news amongst the sea of uncertainty. News that could evaporate as the world continues to be tossed upside down by a virus.

Coffee…

The Road: Part 8, The Long Road Home

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, Self Reflection, The Road, Thoughts

Monday, March 16: Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

I was approached on the beach by a middle age woman with the gift of gab and some painful ideas. She regurgitated ideas from memes like the virus would disappear one day and come back in ten years. I tried to keep my space and assist her in reality. My husband had his own conversation with a teacher where he learned that the local population holds beliefs about this being a part of God’s plan and the end times. There being excitement in the religious population to embrace current events and little desire to change habits.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020: Clear Lake State Park, California

The first night. We changed direction and pace to make our way home, traveling by mostly interstate instead of scenic backroads. We had to drive south to go east because a winter storm was sweeping through the Rocky Mountains, Plains and Midwest. We found this state park about an hour from where we stopped for supplies. Restaurants were starting to move to take out only by force in some places and by choice in others. It was dark and late when my phone, blue-toothed into the radio, blasted out the warning declaring a shelter-in-place order for Sonoma County. Then mid-morning a park employee accompanied by California Park Police came through to inform us they were closing the State Parks and to give us advice about where to try to stay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Rabbit Island, California

Rabbit Island, a familiar camping spot for us in a National Forest, we stopped at before going to the Sequoia National Forest. Again we rolled in well after dark. And in the morning there were no cows to greet us. The news? Pennsylvania was shutting down rest stops. Someone else traveling from Florida to Michigan reported on Facebook finding hotels closing up behind and ahead of them. The Canadian/American border is closed to unnecessary travel.

Thursday, March 19, 2020: Mojave Desert Preserve, California

We stopped before dark. Finding resting spots on wild lands is too challenging after dark. Part of me was happy to see the desert again, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. A spring rain storm swept through. In the morning President Trump announces closing the southern border and sending asylum seekers back to their countries. I weep for the cruelty.

Friday, March 20, 2020: Thirty Minutes Outside Kingman, Arizona

Supplies. We’ve carried minimum supplies. After the troubles in Death Valley I started stocking up on dry foods (that was traumatic, food deserts are real), but we still kept minimal dog food and paper supplies because of the minimal space. Now we cannot find toilet paper (three states later). Getting dog food and meds filled just over the Arizona border. Getting pet food. Errands take time, checking for toilet paper and some groceries while we wait for the scripts to fill.

Illinois under stay-at-home order beginning tomorrow at 5:00pm.

Made it about thirty minutes south of Kingman, Arizona. We originally planned to cross Arizona at Flagstaff, but that city was getting cold and snow so we are going the more southern route and swinging past Phoenix. Between Phoenix and Flagstaff are mountains and twisty roads we don’t want to get tangled in right now. I’ll get to say hello to the Saguaros for a brief moment.

Saturday, March 21, 2020: Navajo National Monument

Home is probably still snowed in. Can’t stay here. Can’t get there. One day at a time. Uncertainty rocks the world. Humanity is in crisis. May we walk through this fire and come out better for it. Here, now, communities rally together finding creative ways to support each other, while our governments make cruel decisions and we let them.

We traveled. Stopped in a small town for a couple staples, tried again for toilet paper: nope. Wanted to take a break from the road and reality by stopping at the Grand Canyon. There were more people than we anticipated and a young woman up on her soap box. She stood on a rock, all attitude in her cocked hip, yelling into her phone about the people not keeping six feet apart and everyone was going to die infecting her small village. Too much. When I realized she was filming, that’s when the panic attack set in. To be clear I was able to be there without being in anyone’s space. And it took some cognitive processing to manage it.

We headed SE on 64 (Desert View Dr.) into the Navajo Nation lands. All their roadside stands were vacant and scenic points closed.

We found a place to camp for the night just before sunset in the beautiful Navajo National Monument.

Sunday, March 22, 2020: Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

The night before we discussed staying a day or two to catch our breath, but in the morning (late morning) we both felt ready to go on. No sooner had I stepped out of the camper, then a park officer rolled up in his truck, decked out with a regular surgical mask, to inform me the park was closed and we had to leave. Not that it was closing, closed, note: there was no one to pay for the site last last night and the park was half full.

I’ve tempered my desires to stop for photographs in exchange for eating more pavement. This was harder driving through the harsh and beautiful Navajo lands of Arizona and New Mexico. Passing on Monument Valley and Shiprock. Along with local flavor like homemade signs; “I Eat Pilgrims” and “Tourist Go Home.” Also passed up (I believe) a Native mural depicting a face with respirator “Beware Covid-19.”

We thought we had found National Forest land to camp on twenty minutes outside of Taos, New Mexico. Found it gated and the road snowed in. I was tortured with the drive through Taos to get there. Knowing no matter how much I wanted to see the town, circumstances were out of my control.

New Mexico’s decision to close state parks became, clearly, more of a challenge than anticipated as the sun set. I made my husband pull over (despite his insistence the signs demanded a pass to park) to eat and stretch before we did this stretch of road in the dark (and hopefully find an easy place to stop for sleep off of I-25 or before. A rest stop, Cracker Barrel or Walmart would do.

Or… a wildlife refuge.

Monday, March 23, 2020: Stapleton, Nebraska

Morning came on slow and mild. The morning plan: north to Nebraska via Kansas to avoid the storm systems. Ever North and East.

Michigan, our destination: Stay Home, Stay Safe Order; in effect at midnight.

Rolled through the Kansas plains while the news cascaded on by the minute. What inevitable choices would our leaders make? I worry for us more now than I did after 9/11. As much as I’d dreamed of seeing this country and then maybe the world, now I want to curl up in the forgotten forests of the southern shores of Lake Superior. Where our winters are harsh, but the people are strong. Where the world can forget to send it’s problems and we can carry on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020: Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

Home was closer, but still too far away. Woke up to a cloud of starlings filling the air and spring fields with sound. Word came that the road to our home was narrowly plowed with tall crusty snow banks. Two hard days of travel or linger and hope for a melt? Linger and what new developments would occur in the country? Linger and be subjected to unknown tides. Or go on?

Thank you Nebraska gas station, finally scavenged a roll of toilet paper. Situation critical. By this measure, Tuesday was a good day. By others, I don’t know. On this day the United States President switched his rhetoric from being a war time president to seeing churches packed for Easter and reopening the economy while we crossed the American heartland.

Drove by a rural bar in South Dakota with a full parking lot. What will history sound like?

We had made reservations for a campground in Minnesota. I was stoked upon arrival to check out the showers. I practically skipped over to the building, to find each door locked.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

A great long deep breath and stood still while the world turned.

Hoped to shower. Dashed.

Hoped to do laundry. Failed to rally the effort and energy.

My husband went to procure supplies from the nearby town while I could barely keep my eyes open. The other camper left. We saw many campers and RV’s on the road this week, more than we had seen moving before.

News: Wisconsin: “Safer at Home” went into effect for 30 days. Waiting for news on the governments passing the relief bill. India locked down.

Thursday, March 26, 2020: Home, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

We left the campground before sunrise. Drove through fog and drizzle, I reflected on the desert. A place still relatively wild and free because of its harsh climate, like home.

News: Minnesota “Stay at Home Order” ordered and in effect Friday, March 27. We passed a huddle of smokers outside a pretzel factory and saw people sitting down to eat at a gas station diner. News about New York grows worse daily. New Orleans. Georgia. Washington state. Florida. San Francisco.

Home. I know these roads and trees. For hours now I’ve known these roads. We are going to pass near where we bought the camper soon. (It is coming apart again). The snow banks are still high. The trees are small and grow densely together. Boreal Forest. 35 degrees. No cactus. No Border Patrol. No surreal landscapes. No starfish. No whale plumes. To reach a big metropolitan area one has to drive at least six hours. To reach a major city, eight to nine hours.

News: the United States has surpassed Italy and China in Covid-19 cases.

Update: after crawling across the snow bank with a cat in my arm and sliding down into the dark recesses of my cold dark home, I waited while my husband hit the switches on the circuit breaker. Heat and hot water would be mine soon. My cat wandered the dark rooms calling. Light! Glorious light. Which dimmed… and flicked and died away. We are back in the camper for the night. Dreams of long hot showers without pressing buttons every thirty seconds will have to wait on the power company.

Essay: Understanding

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, Self Reflection, Thoughts

If you have followed along this far I’m sure it is clear I struggle with my identity as an artist. I’m using both my time traveling across country since October 30th and the 100 Day Project to focus on developing my artistic voice and understanding my motivations. And along the way completely muddling up my website. Your welcome reader.

Today I had a breakthrough. It started two days ago really. I posted a piece of bird wing on Instagram. At first I was going to stop myself out of fear of losing my audience. Instead I went ahead. I decided I need to be authentically me and that includes sharing my inner world. I added a caption about how I saw beauty in life cycles.

That started it, but I didn’t know it.

I’ve been reading books about artists, following art blogs, going to galleries, museums and listening to art related podcasts. You know, immersing myself. Out of this came the idea that there is a thread in my life, specific to my experiences that can inform my work. Other artists could point to childhood memories that easily intertwined with their adult artworks.

I just could not see it.

I always felt like I had to make a choice. And each choice would be leaving behind an aspect of creating that I enjoyed. If I chose painting, I’d have to let go of blockprinting. If I chose drawing I’d never paint. If I did trees, I couldn’t do animals. If I tried a new medium it wouldn’t fit with the rest of my work.

I was missing what my work has been about entirely.

Entirely.

From dead trees, ravens, crows, up-cycling, cats, decaying buildings, dying saguaros, desert vistas, water, spiral symbols, animal bones, skulls, gardening, seasons, the mysteries of world religions, even attention to textures and certain aspects of Japanese culture it’s been about life cycles. And importantly life out of death.

But why?

Perhaps because the day I was born, October 30 (the same day we departed) was the one year anniversary of my Grandmother’s murder. I grew up with that as the dinner conversation for years. My father never got over it. My aunt wrote a fictionalized book inspired by it (absolutely worth reading: available here!). I’d say it was the single most defining event of my childhood.

Then during my twenties, when I most needed to lean on my father for support to go back to school, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He made poor life decisions, leaned on me, and I spent five years watching him die slowly before the real end when I watched him suffer for weeks and eternal days. He didn’t know where he was, let alone who I was. I had a complicated relationship with my Father. It took time to understand his imperfect humanity. When the time comes to say your final goodbyes to a parent or someone with a terminal illness, you too will find complex feelings hidden away to deal with.

After that I chose to work in home health for two years and a nursing home for over four years. (After college I felt no inspiration to do art, until the ink doodles started compulsively taking over and I couldn’t ignore my creative needs anymore). I wanted to give to others the peace I had from knowing my father was cared for. Being close to death was somehow being close to my father. Giving comfort and kindness to the sick and dying was giving it to him, in a way.

For a long time, unconsciously, my art work has been about life after death. Life from death. Beauty in death. I just didn’t know it. I don’t need to change what I’m doing. I just needed to understand it. I can accept and embrace the materials, media and subjects that speak to me. And know I’m giving something to the world uniquely mine that I can be proud of.

Essay: Letting Go

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

I’m in the middle of re-learning a life lesson about letting people go right out of my life who, when it comes down to it, are not adding value and quality to my existence. Invest in those who want to invest in you, right? Today a memory has come crawling out of the cobwebbed corner of my brain to resurface. It is time to share this tale and how it’s lessons relate to my art life. Gather round…

I have a sister. A partial sister. An older sister, eight years older. We share the same father. And for a short time she lived with us when I was a child of four or five. I’ll not name her and she doesn’t share my last name. She. She never could be nice to me for more than a few hours it seems. Her visits were few and far between. And I was always so excited to see her, this exotic woman from the west coast with colored hair and a musical voice. Yes she went to school on her voice and sometimes when she visited she’d sing, but not if I asked. How I just wanted a sisterly bond with her. Tragically I will seek that missing bond in all my female friendships (hint: I won’t find it, it is never there).

Years go on and I live my life in Michigan and She lives hers on the West Coast. I’ll try to reach out to her and it’ll fail. When our father becomes ill She comes to visit. Each visit is more contentious than the last. Once we had to be in a car for nine hours together to see our father who was flown to another hospital. I am surprised we made it. When I told her about going to college for fine art her retort was “what are you trying to prove.” I’ve been criticized for being too negative. Told even if I was the taller, my hips were wider. I had a crisis on my first trip by myself when I had everything stolen, She happened to live somewhat near, I asked advice and got “what do you want from me.” Well, we didn’t talk much. Years at a time go by so…

Imagine a beautiful perfect summer morning. I’m on my deck drinking coffee. I have finally adopted a group of artist friends. I have finally started making art again (about ten years out from art school). I am selling work. I am curating shows and doing social media promotions for this artist collective and for myself. This is huge for me. And my sister sends me a message after a year of no contact telling me I’m appropriating her Mother and Step-Father’s Art.

I didn’t mention they are all artists? Established artists, I had to look them up after the confrontation. Two very talented artists with rocking careers that have nothing to worry about from me.

That’s because I’ve never met them and it is so far outside of my reality that I needed that part of the story to kick you in the head the way that day kicked me in the head.

It was a long day. At the end of it I said my piece and severed all ties with my Sister. I have tended in my life to allow people to wipe their feet on me. I have allowed myself to be in borderline abusive relationships. I knowingly allowed myself to be used and conned.

However, attacking my art practice hit a nerve that I didn’t know I had. See, art is my god, worship and meditation. It has saved me from myself over and over. I’m afraid of where I’d be in life without creativity.

I have not missed my sister. She was never there.

It would be a long long long time later that I would realize with dismay the what ifs. What if my sister liked me? She may have had it in her power to introduce me to established artists, galleries and other art world gatekeepers. It never occurred to me all the people they could be connected to. It does now, perversely.

Oh well.

I’d rather have my small art practice and healthy boundaries. And remember to let people go that don’t want to be here and that are not enriching my journey.

Essay: Mental Health and the Artist

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

I asked a non-artist friend about their trip to the Met in New York, about their favorite artworks they saw; Van Gogh because of both his art and his mental health.

Of course.

It’s such a trope to correlate artists with poor mental health (not that my friend was doing this). I’ve read so many articles online of people in the art world trying to re-educate with the idea (the truth) that artists are not only not crazy, but also don’t have to starve (which is a different topic). Hot tip: artists are people. People accumalate damage. A good way to deal with that is by self expression: the arts. I strongly encourage anyone struggling with their head to try it.

I, like a great many people (both artists and non-artist), have struggled with my mental health. I still do. I clawed my way out of the worst of it by listening to other people describe what they were experiencing. From this I strongly believe that sharing my own story may help someone else through the dark (What does that have to do with being an artist? I’ll get there).

Overshare Warning: I’m going to tell you about me, a lot about me.

I once said something to the effect of our family being abnormal to my Father and he quickly corrected me. Our family was perfectly normal to him. I realize normality is subjective, but in this case normal is living with parents who are mentally stable, sober and supportive. I barely knew anyone on my Father’s side of the family and there was reason for that. A year before I was born my Grandmother was murdered and the residual anger settled in my Father for most of my early life.

I grew up the child of an angry withdrawn alcoholic. Papers came home from school telling my mother I was having trouble with math and showing signs of Dyslexia. I was a hyper child, prone to being impulsive. I had a horrible time learning to read. Analog clocks baffled me.

My mother doing her best (Mom I love you) did not seek help for anything I was having trouble with. Instead, fearing my father, I found work-arounds for all the things I couldn’t understand. I withdrew. To pay attention I learned to doodle on everything. The times failing that and I fell behind I’d sit down with the material and teach myself the text for tests. I couldn’t read the board they said my eyes were fine. I couldn’t handle distractions in the classroom. I got frustrated in a math class with a special needs student because I couldn’t focus past their tutor to get the lesson.

I was the target of bullying which by the time I got to junior high/high school I refused to put up with it. I couldn’t stand being in front of the class. Walking in front of people. People looking at me. I avoided having to do anything that required being in front of the class. Sometimes I just put my head down and cried. I felt like I was always the joke, sometimes I was (children and teens smell blood). On the weekends I slept. I’d sleep in for as long as it took to avoid my father. And I turned to art, which long fascinated me, but I could disappear in it. It’s going to be hard to say, hard to read. I had suicidal thoughts then. I felt worthless. I wanted to not be.

My home life deteriorated completely after I turned sixteen. My parents bought a bar. They fought. My mother became a different person. I was angry. A lot happened to me between sixteen to twenty-some years old. I tried to go to college and dropped out. The years were fuzzy. I made poor life decisions. Things happened that cannot un-happen. I accumulated more trauma, some from my own decisions.

It was my return to college I want to get to. I was sitting in my 3-D animation class and the professor wanted us to present our project to the class. IN. FRONT. OF. THE. CLASS. I wasn’t happy with my project, but I didn’t know how to ask for help. I never asked for help with any of the complex Adobe programs I was learning. I was just happy it animated. I don’t even know how I made it happen (remember finding work arounds for what I don’t understand). One by one each student was presenting their animation and they were all so good. I couldn’t breath. The walls were caving in on me. My vision was going tunnel like and the dark room was getting darker. My heart was pounding. THE WALLS WERE COMING FOR ME. I ran. I took my stuff and booked it out of there in a pure panic. That was how I was living. Going to class, going to work, speaking to someone I didn’t know, and even shopping brought on symptoms. But I didn’t know what was going on. On this day that I left class I did try to get help for the first time. I went to the student health something or another. I’m sure I was a mass of sloppy wet emotions. I always am when I try to ask for help. They said bipolar and wanted me to see a doctor.

I slept through that appointment. Because that was something else I did well. Sleep. Sleep through classes. Sleep through jury duty (got a nasty phone call informing me about those repercussions). Wake up to my boss asking me when I was going to come in to work (a pattern).

I didn’t get help then. It’ll be a few more years.

It’ll be when a friend of mine tells me about anxiety. And another friend makes me an appointment and I sit outside for an hour crying and shaking only to have the worst doctor ever. Then another friend recommends a doctor who is kind and gets me on some meds after an hour conversation in which I am a weepy mass of emotions triggered by talking about myself. I get treated for anxiety, more specifically social anxiety.

…and very slowly the clouds over my life lift. I notice the panic fight or flight feelings I feel just leaving the house lift. I can hold conversations with strangers and shop in new stores. I could make decisions. I was depressed most of my life and that also lifted.

Coming back around to tie this into a tidy bow, I realized when my friend said she liked the Van Gogh, that I may have freed myself to pursue art by getting help with my mental health. While pursuing my degree I was paralyzed to show my work despite the many opportunities, and now that the fog is lifted I am not afraid to pursue my goals. I’ve only been actively setting up my life as an artist for the last four years.

Mental Health is not an end goal it is a lifelong work in progress. Understanding and treating my brain for social anxiety is a game changer for me, I also have some other “stuff” going on in there that I’d like to eventually try to understand more about; from trauma, to being the adult child of an alcoholic, to possible attention issues (see the end results of my cars, funny and not funny: I could die). Mostly I want to keep this mental health freedom I have going, I don’t want to go back. I prefer not being trapped by my brain in a panic state.

Feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments. Everyone has pain, and everyone can be a light in the dark for someone else.

New Years Intentions (Resolutions) For the Artist:

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, process, Self Reflection

Organize

One of the best things I did was organize for living on the road. I was sort of organized in my studio… sort of. But now everything is in repurposed tackle boxes and tool boxes and everything. goes. back. where. I. found. it. It has absolutely has to, and I hope these habits continue. I lie, I’m sprawling a little bit into one drawer in the main part of the trailer, but still organized!

Purge

We artists are always collecting materials. Now is a good time to let go of the supplies we know we are not going to use. Some communities have art swaps. Help an artist out?

Plan a body of work

Why not sit down and plan it out. A new body of work. Or try something like the 100 Day Project to get you started.

Write

Reflecting on your thoughts and working through them intentionally will help any artist to really articulate all the thought going into their work. Journal when you’re working and then use that to help with your artist statement.

Read

As artists, we need to know about business, trends, art and find inspiration. I say make it a point to read across the spectrum. Read something to develop you professionally then read something just because it is interesting. I am also on GoodReads. I like keeping track of all the books in my head.

Find Galleries/Venues for potential shows

If you are like me there is this wall here. Let’s make this the year we put together a new thoughtful body of work and while we are doing that let’s look for those venues our work will fit. It is easy with Instagram and LinkedIn to find galleries and get a feel for what they are about.

Above and beyond venues I dare you to dream? I challenge you to look into fueling your creative soul. Are there residencies out there for you? Further education? Destinations with workshops. Are there new skills you want to learn?

Attend Art Events

Just do it you social butterfly you. Opportunities come to those who are present.

Social Media

Figure out how social media can benefit you. Choose your platform, or whittle down platforms and focus on putting quality content out there. It’s free advertising that can bring people back to your website or even generate sales.

Website

It isn’t as bad as you think it is. They make it easy now with tools like WordPress. It’ll be a learning curve, but I promise it’ll be fine. If you have a website this is your reminder to update it.

Get it Together Checklist

  • Bio
  • CV
  • Artist Statement
  • Business Cards
  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Current Body of Work: Documented for Web & Portfolio Use

Do you have any intentions set for yourself as an artist for the coming year or decade? Is there something you think I can add?

Thoughts from the Road: Self Reflection

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, process, Self Reflection, The Road, Thoughts

The question is does travel change you?

We were thrust into a situation where our options were all less than appetizing so we went all in on the idea of traveling. Go West to find some future, like so many people before us. In the beginning it felt like we were merely fleeing the brutal winters of home. Then it felt like an extended vacation. Now I’ve reached a tipping point.

I go West. I go West in search of something more than. At the crest of this tipping point I find my head and heart. The true being in my form sizzles at my skin longing for its release from the long prison. Somewhere in this life I put away my truer self. I put her away. I contained that wild artist child. I tried to be many different people. I put on different masks hoping to blend into environments I never quite understood.

As a child I was wild. And creative. I ran unsupervised in a pink dress and sparkly jelly shoes. I trashed clothes because my whims decided My-Little-Ponies needed outfits. I drew cats with long tails and white tips. But I hid that child away. I grew up in a home where alcoholism and anger reigned hand-in-hand. I took that wonderful wild child and hid her away because I wanted to fade into the background. Instead I quietly continued to grow stronger in my creative abilities.

Long term travel by truck and travel trailer is slow. Well, we (my husband, two dogs, a cat and I) are slow. We stop for the dogs. We stop for the sights. We stop for lunch. We stop because we want to spend a few days somewhere. We decide to see half of Texas when we didn’t even want to go there in the first place. Instead of a vast dangerous wilderness filled with indigenous tribes; I’ve found reservations marked on maps, old roads, weathered abandoned houses, rusted cars, forgotten towns, endless fences, rampaging cities, tourist holes, scenic campgrounds with all the modern conveniences and whispers of the wild and savage past trampled by docile tourists.

I also find myself with this time. Finally, the time to think. Throughout the years I always wanted to take time off of work to just think, if I could just take those days I could figure it out. IT. Whatever it was. What I wanted? What I was thinking? There was this something I needed time for. Hours, days and apparently even weeks were not enough for me. I needed to be removed entirely from my life.

Wherever you go there you are.

Finally…

There I am

A complex damaged resilient creature with a drive to create….

What have I learned about myself in these weeks?

I feel a budding inside of the artist. She’s almost ready. Almost done cooking. The elements are all there stewing. I’ve seen works in small galleries, big galleries, and museums. I’m feeling more confident that there is something particular to me. My artist voice is about to mature. This time of travel and reflection is a gift I cannot ignore.

Subjects/Themes/Topics coming into sharp focus:

  • Melancholy over what the earth has lost to human inhabitation and the perpetual growth economy
  • Celebration of nature reclaiming man’s work
  • Appreciation of nature: wonder, joy, awe
  • Sadness over human sprawl across the landscape and a yearning for freedom from modern human artifacts
  • Enjoyment of the living creatures around me plant and animal
  • Capturing the essence of my subject in medium/media available (photography, acrylic, ink, color pencil etc.)

The answer:

Everything changes us. I came West to be changed.