I believe something magical happens when the right words/songs become imprinted in your mind. For the past few weeks, off and on, I have had Esperanza Spaulding & Algebra Blessett's "Black Gold" playing in the background of my mind. My own private cheering squad, they are ready to sing me through any trying moment.
Wednesday I had another head down, tears between my knees moment as I was getting ready for class. These moments, they keep coming. Thankfully, they are mild, mostly morose, and somewhat harmless. This time I was talking with E about life choices, school choices, etc. And again, I began doubting myself and my decisions. Ever patient, E let me talk through the doubts and eventually I asked him, "Why did I start this journey again?" He didn't need to tell me, but he reminded me of my thirst for knowledge and learning. He reminded me that it was a life goal.
"No." I told him.
That's all true, but I really started this journey for two reasons, I wanted an MFA to advanced my writing craft and for Granma. That's it.
Yesterday, I went to Lowes to buy some fruit trees for our garden. Oh the years I have been waiting to make this move and expand our garden. You see, fruit trees are fairly expensive, and they also require space and dedication/knowledge. Neither money, space, or knowledge we had for them. Until now. Not much, but enough.
While I was there I saw the most beautiful (late)-middle aged woman shopping for her garden. She reminded me of Granma. Her clay brown skin glistened in the sun. Her dress, a blue tank muu-muu, was starched and crisp. She looked like she had poured so much love into herself for this trip. I hadn't even ate a real meal yet (and it was after 1pm), let alone taken the time to oil my skin and press my clothes.
I loved on her for awhile. I watched her, wondered her name, and wondered what was growing in her garden. I wondered if her laugh would sound like Granma's or it she enjoyed entertaining like Granma did. She was so poised and content with life.
Watching her, in my mind, I began to quote Alice Walker,
"I went in search of the secret of what has fed that muzzled and often mutilated, but vibrant, creative spirit that the black woman has inherited, and that pops out in wild and unlikely places to this day."
"...an artist who left her mark in the only materials she could afford, and in the only medium her position in society allowed her to use."
"And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see: or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read."
-In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens
Yesterday, while watering my garden, an idea occurred to me--plant a garden in your mind.
I like to think my body has brought my lack of balance in my life to my attention. I don't "feel" the same as I did a year or so ago. My energy feels stagnant, my body feels more sensitive, and most days I feel like I am either in the process, or just got finished running myself into the ground.
With school, I've managed to excise all the creativity out of my life, of course, unintentionally, but nevertheless my creativity has been "ghost." The only creativity I've displayed regularly is the topics I choose to write my papers on.
But, I am listening...and this past week I spent a delicious nine or ten days focusing on getting my groove back. I'd like to say getting my creative groove back, but the truth is...I just spent the time doing the things I needed to do spiritually.
I planted my garden. I cooked some great meals. I cleaned up trouble zones in my home. I cleaned up my backyard. I slept in. I did very little checking of email. I took pictures. I braided the little lady's hair. I read a little poetry. And! I made three (!) art journals...and got the signatures ready for another meaty, painterly one.
More importantly, I resisted the urge to get started early in my upcoming summer classes, and I also didn't touch any of my CLEP study guides (not smart).
But, my spirit needed it.
I'm very excited about this new journey/adventure into art journaling that I'm sorta/kinda starting. The first two books I made, sneak peek pictures here, I really hate. The process of creating them was quite zen as I holed up in the studio and worked for hours...literally until E forced me to stop, rest, and eat. I didn't realize I hadn't changed positions much until I succumbed to his pressure and couldn't stand up straight without my back complaining. Apparently, I have really bad posture while art-making.
The process was freeing, but a day later I felt like I had an "art hangover" looking at the books. A "what happens in the studio, stays in the studio" moment. I laughed to myself, "How could I create something so ugly, when I was feeling so good while creating it?"
I blame it on trying to artfully be something I'm not. I had seen so many different art journals and had been so inspired that I must have channeled it all...ALL...into the mess I created. That's okay, I laugh today. It's all a part of the journey of (re)connecting with my own voice.
In the end, incredibly inspired by the amazing Pam Garrison (seriously, I have an art crush), I discovered Remains of the Day journals, paid for the class, and made myself some lovely journals. When I found ROTD journals it was like finding an answer to a riddle on a fortune cookie...I have so many keepsake paperbilia and things that I have collected, still collect, and don't know what to do with. I ended up loving the process of collecting, organizing, and making these little books (although it was an incredibly looooong process for me). The finish product is even better.
I wanted to add a little "Ki" to my books and make them more my own so I incorporated a few fabric signatures for me to stitch on. Some of them are cross-stitch fabrics, but most of them are PFD pieces of cotton I had gotten ready for painting long ago.
I finished the books a good five days or so ago, but I haven't used them yet. Shame on me. I'm fighting the "I don't want to mess these pretty things up" jitters. I need to just dig in.
I think the other issue is that I still haven't figured out exactly how or what I will art journal about. I want to use them as a tool to explore poetry and prose ideas or poem and story starts, but I also want to doodle/paint/draw. Not to mention I also want to keep a regular and gratitude diary.
With all that in mind, I tried to incorporate pages/signatures that would allow space to do all of those things...so we'll see. I know that all of those things can fit together, it's just a matter of putting it down--my way.
I think in the end, once again, I am reminded of how much I want to be in a creative writing program. I want time to explore and create with words and art.
And again, I am conflicted because I love learning the backdrop/background or science of literature. I guess that is it. Studying literature/English when you want to be a writer is like studying the science behind that which you desire to create.
My little guy loves food. Loves food. In some ways I think he wants to be a chef, but if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up he'll tell you "a food scientist." He wants to create flavors for Doritos chips and things of that nature...
Me? I'm changing my dreams..."I want to be poetry/prose scientist" when I grow up.
There. That feels incredibly authentic.
I keep crying tears that won't fall. Instead they ache my eyeballs and moisten my lids. I also keep rubbing my belly in a clock-wise, small, circular motion centered on my navel because my tummy, arguably the most sensitive piece of me, is acting up.
I have irritable viscera and eyes that refuse to cry when things get deep, personal, difficult and real.
It is like I'm hardened and overly sensitive at the same time. Fitting, I'm the overthinker, worry-wort, fantastical-thinker of my family brood.
I'm three days into my multicultural literature class, the class that I have waited fifteen months to take, and I can't read introductory material without feeling like my tear ducts are stopped up.
Everything is telling me, pushing me, encouraging me, calling me to write...creatively. Everything.
(Right now the tears are falling.)
But something keeps telling me now is not the time. Hold off. You still have literature to learn. You still have academic papers to write.
I love writing those kinds of paper. Academia.
But now, with fatty tears streaming down my cheeks I crave writing my heart. I imagine if I had the means and the knowledge to tattoo words down my arms I would.
What ever would I write, doesn't matter. I would make it up on the fly...a quilt of words, cursing my viscera for being sensitive and reflective, praising my eyes for finally letting the tears fall, thanking my hands for being warm and rubbing out the tears in my belly before painting my arms with the words.
This is me. This is what I do all day, everyday. Write words in me that I want to live.
When I let them out, I talk too much and I'm sure the receiver of those talks often ponders if they should continue friendship with me or if they are family...continue calling me.
I don't care.
If you eat garlic it gets into your pores and leaks out in your sweat, urine, breath. I used to take garlic cloves, chop them into quarters and swallow them for immunity. My tummy was stronger then. I hadn't birthed kids or been awakened to me yet. For a day or two I would smell garlic all over me and speak garlickly words.
These days words ooze out of me, but I rarely record them. I give them away in conversation, in class, in local-long-distance phone calls to my mother, brother, auntie, to text messages and iPhone to iPhone speaker calls to E while he balances failing school district budgets, to the kids while they still want to hear my life lessons, to class mates who probably wish I'd shut up...to everyone but the paper.
I talk everything but the prose and poetry I should be talk/writing on screen.
Truth to tell, it sucks and is wonderful all wrapped up in one. I am grateful and sad. Thankful and frustrated. I understand and am confused.
Family lore is that I didn't start talking till I was four, maybe five years old. No words. Granma would tell me often that she thought I was a "mute." (That's the old black way of saying deaf.) Auntie tells me I didn't say a sound. Nothing. I don't care that I talk so much, these days. I am quite fine with the over-talkative woman I've become, because I know one day I will just write.
I will be four again and go back into my shell, but with the ability to express what I observe. I sort of remember those days. I remember always watching. Always. Watching. Always trying to make sense and sort out life around me.
E would tell you not much has changed. I'd agree.
I spent a great portion of last night editing pictures to share. I'm excited to share with you wonderful, wonderful, women who so kindly shared with me yesterday that you are still here...reading my words. I have class this evening and a few assignments to turn in and end of school year schoolwork to turn in to the kids teacher. Oh, and some very needy squash plants that need an hour's worth of time watering every day. I hope to upload and post them tonight or tomorrow morning. They are of the new art journals I've made...and an update of my garden.
Until then, here is a sneak peak into the first art journal that I made. The outside cover is horrendous. I hate it. The second that I made is equally ugly. But this first spread, I love. It is honest and true. It is real. The next set of books that I made, which I spent almost the entirety of last week making are a lot better. They have not been written in yet. This post should have been written in there...but I wanted to share my heart here first.
Thank you for your continued friendship and love. I love you all back. ♥
This is me painting random words on the blank white page of my blog.
I've found that not blogging for a while creates a void that becomes a great white space of emptiness that is at once overwhelming and daunting to speak onto.
Where do I start? I've been living so much.
Am I even talking to anyone besides myself? I'm too irregular to create a "following."
How do I begin again? Is there a again, does the breaks really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Does blogging only work with regular, spaced entries? Only if you set rules.
I have to be honest. My life is too busy and crammed with "just get today's work done" for me to be the blogger I once was, or the blogger I imagine I could be. Instead, I'm accepting that I am just this woman here that can sometimes, and can't others.
The great thing is that in between these long breaks I am living.
I read something this morning by Tayari Jones that made my eyes sting with tears that were not strong enough to fall:
"While I do applaud those writers who have used their imagination to render in fiction the lost voices of generations past, I believe that African-American writers must also embrace contemporary narratives...we must not become so obsessed with filling the pages left blank by an incomplete historical record, that we leave no record of our own meaningful lives. I do not like to imagine my own granddaughter forced to rely on library archives to reconstruct my life because I exhausted my resources and talent pondering the past. At some point, serious writers must commint ourselves as fervently to transforming our own experiences into art."
I have been struggling with this very issue the past few months. To the point of exhaustion, I have questioned myself and tried to find where I fit between writing about the past or my own experience. Tayari's words were like validation, permission, and justification all rolled into one. I was so paralyzed with seeing my own reflection in the advice that I could not read much further and instantly tried to find her to say thank you. I found her blog, but was unable to leave a comment of gratitude. I'm tempted to rejoin twitter, just to tell her thank you.
I am scared.
I feel too old to make mistakes and misjudgements and dare I say, not know what it is I am doing. I turned 35 this Feb. and let it pass by with no recognition. Not that I wasn't happy or celebrating my day, but more so because I feel I have so many unanswered question about the 35 years of living I have done.
So much has happened. So much I want to say. So much I want to express and paint about. There was just not enough space here, or in my heart to dive into what 35 years of living has meant to me.
Anyway, so here I am. I have much more to say, share, etc. Lots of pictures on my CF card waiting to be processed and uploaded. I need time, school is in full swing for me, the kids, and E.
Before I end, and begin later today or tomorrow...I must set some rules. These are for me.
1. Never a need to "catch-up," always begin where you are.
2. Write because you need to, not because you have to...because you don't.
3. Write to yourself, because you are truest when looking in the mirror, talking to yourself. After all, this is your life.
4. You don't need pretty pictures in every post.
5. Two, three post in one day? Why not? Do you. Who cares about optimizing, etc., this is your record, your words, your life.
6. Ignore the word count. You can write as much as you like and feel is necessary to fully and adequately express yourself. You will read it, and that's all that matters.
7. You can be fully and uniquely you...I happen to like Kiandra...so don't change her.
8. It's okay to shut the world out and talk to yourself.
9. Smile, laugh, cry through your words.
Okay...now that I got that out, I'm happy and ready to move forward.