Hooray for December! I find myself embracing the short days, the curl of my buttercream loveseat, the comfort of blankets and books.
Autumn is always so active, and we finished it off with a flourish–a trip to Cayo Costa, Florida for a week with our kids and their friends. The shelling was a never-ending treasure hunt! I want to drill little holes in the tiny mussel shells and make necklaces from them. They are so tiny and full of color. The smallest magenta scallop in the middle is my favorite. It’s just so cute and vibrant!
The sunsets were not to be missed. This was our first night there, and the sunlight reflected off the clouds onto the water in breathtakingly beautiful swirls of light.
I spent a good while fleshing out this sketch with my Micron pens. The beaches on Cayo Costa are undeveloped and wild, and the entire north end of the island is a state park. The rest of the island is wilderness as well, with a handful of solar-powered homes. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of wildlife, though I saw plenty: dolphins, stingrays, armadillos, a gopher tortoise, a bald eagle, and innumerable osprey. My daughter and her friends even saw a sea turtle! (By the way, the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports on their Instagram page that “Green seaturtles are the comeback story of 2013! There were 62 nests in 1979 and this year there were 35,000 nests!”)
Hooray for the sea turtles! Hooray for wild places and the state parks that protect them! Hooray for micron pens and vacations, sunset and shells! And really, hooray that Autumn is over and Winter is here. I am relishing in the quiet schedule, the Christmas songs on the piano, the warmth of the wood stove, and the sunset of 2013.
I think there are different kinds of funk. There’s Mud Funk, where you feel like you are stuck in thick, sticky mud and can’t get out, and there’s Gray Cloud Funk where you feel sad all the time regardless of the weather. My recent funk feels like Ball and Chain Funk. Like I’m dragging around a hunk of lead. I can move about and get things done, but by evening, I’m exhausted, and grumpy, because I’ve been dragging around a bunch of dead weight all day long.
I had been attributing my Ball and Chain Funk to lack of sleep. I recently added the Jawbone Up fitness band to my gadget repertoire, and have benefited from its capacity to track my activity. It can also track your sleep, and I’ve discovered that I’ve been operating on very little deep sleep, chronically, for at least since I got my Jawbone Up. Maybe it’s what is disturbing my sleep, though I think it is more likely that a.) my genetics predispose me to this problem and b.) the allergies that kick in every night make sleeping difficult. Imagine that.
Last night I took proactive measures. I took a Benadryl before bed, and I took off my Jawbone Up. Because really it sucks to wake up first thing and have a little device tell you that your deep sleep amounted to two hours. And just how does it know that, anyway? It’s a wrist band. Also it sucks to wake up repeatedly in the middle of the night with the complex irritations of allergies. So, yeah, I slept pretty good last night. Thank you, Benadryl.
But I still woke up with the funk. The Ball and Chain Funk. And I sat in my bed and frowned while I waited for my husband to bring me coffee. He did not bring me coffee so I had to go downstairs and get my own. Deeper frown. We started our morning conversation at the kitchen counter, but the growl that is me in a funk started to rumble and I said, “I need to write.” My husband, who knows nothing about the therapeutic qualities of writing but knows me said, “Go write.” In this way he could continue to smile and be happy and I would not tear him to bits for it. Although really I must point out that had he brought me coffee in the first place I would not have come downstairs until I had written. Ahem.
The curious blessing of a journal is that it is like a funhouse mirror. Parts of you come into focus more than other parts. So this morning I looked into that mirror and noticed how the voices in my head had become decidedly negative. Especially at the end of the day. Perhaps because of the particular way my pen moved across the page, determined to find the root cause of this Ball and Chain Funk, or perhaps because of my begging the Spirits for insight, I stumbled across an interesting observation about myself.
I feel like I have a tremendous amount of blocked energy. I say that because I was thinking about my sacred geometry embroidery kits [this fabulous idea], and how I’ve completely stopped doing them. Even though it would be an easy thing to do when I am otherwise tired. But I don’t, and if I’m honest with myself I think it’s because there’s a voice in my head telling me—what? Not to bother— or—there’s this general sense of defeat. With just about everything related to my creativity. Because really I engage—in my self-talk— with defeated energy rather than engage with energy that moves. Let’s face it. I’m a turtle. Big energy is scary.
As I wrote this, I had a strong image of a snapping turtle, and all the commencing warnings.Pay attention here! my inner voice said, Snapping turtle! Have you ever been in the presence of a snapping turtle? First off, they are HUGE. No box turtles here, honey. These mamas are big. But also they are SCARY because they BITE. And you know they will bite off your finger or toe because even if someone hasn’t told you that, you can see it in their eyes. They are turtles, ancient ones. River dwellers and old Earth women. Big energy!
I played with how it feels to say yes to something compared with that familiar defeated feeling. At once more hopeful and bright, as if the lead ball attached to my ankle shrank in the presence of my optimism. And in the spare moments of my day, which is often all that I have to make mine, I crafted these words, and began to sketch that snapping turtle. She is a fleshy and fearsome creature!
At first it doesn’t seem like the snapping turtle is an animal that embodies the word yes. One might think of the graceful leaping deer, or the confident bear. The snapping turtle is an ornery old woman! But like the skunk and the porcupine, her defenses are not in movement but gifted to her through her body. She moves at her own pace.
Still, more honesty. Who knows if I’ve severed the chains of the Ball and Chain Funk? Rather than smash the links of the chain for the short term, I’d rather do the deeper work of finding the key for the lock. I know that key is inscribed with the word yes, and that may mean saying yes to things that are quite simply the harder parts of my life right now. But also making room for yes to the things that invigorate and inspire me, the things that nourish and support me. Like the snapping turtle snuggled in the stones of a river, waiting for the slip of a fish, there may be long periods of nothing exciting. But she waits, patiently, for her moment. And she knows, too, how to stretch out her legs and scoot across the land. She is
I have this sense that if we say no too often in our lives—no to the rushing, no to the chores, no to all the little nuts and bolts that line up to make the gears of our everyday living—then we run the grave risk of the soul—that part of us that connects to the Holy Wonderful of being alive in this world— falling asleep. And more than anything, I think that’s what makes a funk—any funk. A mind awake, a soul, asleep.
Tonight I walked out on my deck long past moonrise. The sky was that brilliant velvet blue, the Moon rapt in light. Autumn is moving quick into its last days, and the air was cold but not bitter, the wind brisk but not biting. For a long moment I stood in my pajamas and watched the clouds roll and wisp in the moonlight. They seemed to be engaged in the Holy Wonderful. I stood in the light and said yes.
In doing a little research about the lovely tree that is the focus of this painting, I discovered that the Magnolia genus is ancient, dating back to 95 million years ago. They are an angiosperm (flowering plant) that appeared before bees. So perhaps, in a way, the magnolias are one of the plants that called bees into existence. Thinking about this gets my poetic juices flowing. Perhaps there is a poem in the ether to accompany this painting.
Anyway, this little photo is a pretty rough rendition of the painting. Once I get a quality photo of it I’ll be able to make prints of it for my etsy shop. Enjoy!
I am getting excited because I am nearly done with this painting that I started way back in May. I work very slowly, in part because I absorbed deep into my being my role as the tortoise in my fourth grade school play. The homestretch is a peculiar mixture of triumph and relief, even when you m o v e v e r y s l o w l y.
septagram mandala, detail of new work in progress
When I am done I will jump (turtle-like) into another piece that already has most of its prepwork done. This next piece has been in the ether for years now (as is the case for most of my paintings). And it has a septagram mandala in it. That mandala of sevens was pretty tricky to construct, and still needs to be painted. I’m anticipating, with some anxiety, the fulfillment of its promise! At some point I will surely think it is a failure, as always happens, but usually by the homestretch I’m satisfied.
The months of September and October are always challenging for me. There are lots of activities. I hate activities. I love my kids. So I love going to their soccer games. But they exhaust me. And I love the many homeschool communities in which we participate, with beautiful and inspiring friends. But when I get home, I’m a bitch. It’s the curse of the introvert. The homeschooling introvert.
Or maybe I’m simply deficient in kidney chi. All activity drains kidney chi. That is, at least, what an herbalist told me at an herb conference I attended last year. She also told me bone broth nourishes kidney chi. So I’ve wondered if I should bone up on the bone broth, to shore up my limping chi. But that would require actually making bone broth, which is an activity, and since my energy is tied up in other activities, I decide to pass on making bone broth. Maybe I’m just lazy.
Really, what I am is a lover of solitude. I’m an INFP, after all, and as such I need so much solitary time that my number one career choice was hermit, deep in the woods. I missed the opportunity for that career path, for which I am immeasurably thankful, because that would have meant doing things like chopping wood and eating rabbits. Also, I would not have my family if I had taken that career path, and I love my family passionately and dearly. So much so that I chose to homeschool my kids. Which has been awesome. Except for all the activity in September and October.
And this is where I should discuss some of my strategies for regaining my energy, or managing the tasks of homeschooling while also taking care of myself. Only, I’m tired of even trying to do that. Like getting up early so I can have some studio time. Bah. Good luck with that. Or I could talk about priorities. Mine are like this:
It’s pretty straightforward (see photo). Only if Kids eat up all the kidney chi then Marriage and/or Creative Life begin to stumble about and knock things over. And then things can get gnarly. (Also, I get the whole idea that one’s marriage should come before one’s kids. Because your partner is there for life, and your kids will fledge. But my marriage is thankfully healthy, and obviously takes less time and energy than my kids. So we can discuss the finer details of this, but I think I’m just being honest about responsibility and time commitments here. Though a date night would be nice).
For the past two days I’ve just limped about hanging up laundry and washing dishes. Also I played a lot of piano and a lot of Tetris. And today I’m feeling like I might do something. Something creative. Something quiet. Something deliciously solitary and wholly for myself.
Pastel artist and writer. Unschooling mom. INFP. Lover of spring ephemerals, millinery, and colored glass. Student of sacred geometry. Matriarch of a blended family. Still practicing Brahms' Intermezzi. Maybe someday I'll get the piano tuned.
Hear Stephanie read her sonnet Catbird. You can listen to more readings on the Audio Recordings page.