Whatever my recent Cabin workshops Refilling Your Creative Well and Exploding Your Creativity (in progress) have been doing for participants, they've been doing a lot to shake up my creative perspective, open up new mental windows and shine light on doorways to unlock in spirit, heart, body, soul. I haven't been doing as much of the homework that I assign as the artists who signed up, but I've enjoyed taking part in our quick bursts of different kinds of making within the two-hour weekly sessions.
Below are a few first-starts I made in our Week One and Two sessions of Exploding Your Creative Well and a couple of the collages from the Refilling Your Creative Well workshops (in February/March and August/September/October 2022) that serve as compasses for the direction I want my life to be pointing at this moment.
Looking at these assembled in a row, I can see some of my tendencies and habits that could invite me to break out of those boxes (which will be the focus of Exploding Your Well, Week 4). There are words I'd like to cut, phrases I could revise and images I'd develop if I wanted to refine them further, but that's not the point. They're not meant to be finished products -- or products at all. Throwing together colorful messes helps me get out of my head and notice what I'm noticing, which helps when I'm gathering material for big new projects as I am now.
Whether or not you identify as an artist, may you find time, energy and materials this late fall and winter to scramble up text, images and colors (and then some). May that help you look at your world in different ways and surprise yourself.
He eyes me from bicycle seat
looking backward riding forward
startled with our eyes meeting.
He didn't expect me to catch him.
His pupils flame up.
His skin evaporates.
This is him disappearing,
the phantom on mountain bike pedaling from YMCA
trying to stare and nab me to spirit world.
I don't avert my glance.
He stops mid-track then veers away.
Brown hair whitening, black skullcap pixelating,
he fades on resumed path to ageless night, forever wandering.
No one else saw him.
He didn't want anyone else to see him.
He didn't know he wanted me to see him.
Now I can't unsee the flickering exit to another world,
dance blinking overhead.
He spirals into non-being
but all around others like him trace the sky,
little blips on earth's surface,
little suckers at the bottom.
They fly and as I watch them soar I feel sleepy
nodding off on my way to next life.
I entered the sun like getting on a bus
A flight to highest atmosphere
drop back down
This the daily practice:
Rocket up, aim for sea
This the job:
Train for sun ship
My first try I miss water
Hit sand's edge
My trainer doubts I'm ready
I prove her wrong
In transit now
These days we enter the screen itself to chat
3D conversations across solar system
Immersed in web like suffocating flies
But how else to connect?
Everything is now/then/next
I see forever at once
Our star flares, timelines unite
I wait on floor lying down
I ate our sun like a spoonful of potato leek
Light entered me
This was training
This was dream
This was real
through fingertips, toes
Everyone said I looked brighter in spirit
I felt heavy, bound
Sweating gold flame
This is tomorrow
The moon swallowed the sun
This never happened
This is happening right now
This is happening to you
I entered the sun
Entered a time when everything was love/kindness/truth
Entered a lie
Entered our future
Entered our dreams
earth's torso a hot beast in august
scorched and pregnant
her feet want rest
with ice packs underneath
but she's up over there in her garden
worrying over silver buffalo berry
and curlicue sage
her nursery hours never close
mother of a million young-old-ancient darlings
arctic whales who live beyond two hundred
thousand year old trees
flies who live an eye's blink
all on her watch
as nanny-mama-hospice worker
as we throw grass at her and stamp our feet
as we rip her apart
she's planting new green
her aching spine
scattering red hot pokers now
her cloud dreams pour floods
that drink are drunk and wipe us clean
so she might find a nap
but it's always sowing-washing-harvest season
as time rolls into ink on my fingers
betraying my eyes' dark spots
from lost sleep spinning on to-dos
so you too dear mother: be still
among your hummingbirds and mint
burnout's not worth your sweat
someday all of us will fly
to the middle of sun
we'll raise tired arms
and dive toward flame
someday I'll just be a playwright
someday a pile in the ground
ashes blowing all around
someday I'll grow up past my face
and be a stronger version of me
someday I'll carry a stack of books in prairie jeans
and drop half of them
and my little brothers
will help me restack
they'll do a messy job
and I'll throw their bindings up in a roar
and they'll build a castle of words
in a world with giants and small folk
some are magic
and we all need a timeout
In February, for the first Refilling Your Creative Well workshop at The Cabin, we created medals for ourselves, wrote the ceremony speeches and presented ourselves with our awards, as inspired by Andrew Simonet. Below is my medal and speech.
This medal is for Heidi, for enduring the little things.
For sustaining at her everyday job when she wasn't always sure she wanted to be there on campus, rules changing moment to moment, frozen bike rides, students absent more often than present, in two worlds at once: Zoom and in person, coworkers going maskless, policing students on safety, getting Covid and working from home while sick, exhausted, depleted.
For learning a new class, a new system, a new platform and modality every semester since spring 2020.
For showing up. To the email inbox. Oh that dreadful box of doom. What will today bring? A mini-heart attack with every open. And the eye twitches! Good gawd. After six months of online classes, she didn't think either eye would stay still again.
This medal is for Heidi getting students to laugh, cry, spend time with each other, offering every flexibility possible. And whenever she could, she gave herself time. To write. To be. And one Sunday every few months to do nothing at all but be human. She learned not to work or take meetings on Sundays. Learned from her panic attacks, from days she felt as much aversion going into the classroom as she did on her worst years in high school. She stopped checking email after 6pm. Started checking once a day, even -- at least the personal email.
So this medal is for Heidi. For learning to love herself a little more. Learning that she needs travel, creative well being and a supportive community to sustain her. And declaring that she's gonna make smaller steps to get to those bigger goals, dammit, because
a little something is possible
of forward movement can be made
toward giant impossible dreams.
So this medal is for Heidi. For going after joy.
This is Walter.
My partner/husband/love and I found Walter the Walnut bear in our recent trip to Oakland.
Walter wanted to join us on our return home through the Redwood Forest.
Here (above) is Walter enjoying the Sue-Meg Park campground.
Here (above) is Walter on the shorelines of Crescent City.
And in the Redwoods National and State Parks.
I/we look forward to future travels with Walter!
Experiencing new/favorite destinations through his eyes helps me look more closely.
Bye for now!
Valdez, Alaska was beyond renewing, revitalizing, refreshing, refilling.
The surroundings as much as (even more than?) the theater conference.
A great happening, Last Frontier Theatre Conference, don't get me wrong.
Plays and art day and night, giant peaks, glaciers, haunting blue tides...
All of it inspiring, but those snow caps and ice creatures staggering.
Every time I stepped outside, hard to breathe, all that beauty.
The outdoor landscape, seascape lifted up all we did.
Reminded us how much is bigger than ourselves.
Homecoming felt good but then rough with the news.
Rough -- too small a word.
Devastating. Squashing. Broiling.
It's all too overwhelming. Humanity.
Abortion is healthcare. Contraception is healthcare. Healthcare is a human right.
Womxn's rights are human rights.
Gonna go away a little while again.
Go be in bluer states, see ocean, redwoods.
Be around beings older than humans.
And try thinking, feeling more with my animal brain, my elemental heart.
Try and regrow my wings again.
So I can think about next steps again.
But thank you, Valdez, Prince William Sound.
Thank you Suacit, these ancestral lands of the Chugach Alutiiq and Sugpiaq people.
Thank you water and mountains and eagles and glaciers.
Stay with me, in me, strengthen my heart, grounding my feet.
Until next time.
The peaks jagged, barely visible behind mid-morning fog and clouds.
Ghost crests' pine green through grey drizzle.
We taste the air, misting droplets sizzling around.
Hard to know what direction they fall from, or jumping from below?
The conifers house ravens who shout to each other
across the street and amongst their branches.
We striding holding pack straps in our hands,
keeping as much weight off our backs as we can
on our trek to see Mendenhall's river of ice
before she disappears forever.
Feet sore, dressed in layers,
glasses, hats, fingerless gloves for me
in hooded sweatshirt and windbreaker,
a hat and sweatshirt for Thomas,
yellow rainjacket stuffed in his pack, sweat on his brow.
Or is it rain?
Side by side down the road.
We don't talk much to keep our breath,
except noticing aloud what we see.
My legs ache from so much walking.
I know Thomas is in pain beside me.
Highway pines and deciduous leaves reach up.
Bald eagle soars overhead, who Thomas points out
as the raptor shines in front of emerald giants.
Our skin chills and perspires in humid damp.
Mountains, mountains, everywhere, but also wet
throughout the greenhouse of Juneau's west side.
Our focus on the triangular summits ahead,
between which we glimpse a wedge
of white and blue -- a segment of glacier miles ahead.
My hood up over hat, glasses rain speckled.
We tread forward on the roadside.
I found the reminders below from summer 2016, written before the world changed and changed and changed again. Are these still my commitments as a writer? What is different, new? What can I lean into more? What can I reexamine?
(This is self-inquiry -- you can answer in the comments but the questions are really for me.)
What are your commitments? (This you can definitely answer.)
In my writing,
I'm committed to aiming for big global topics and intimate, human connection.
To cultivating empathy and discovering how to open up my own vulnerable truth in order to allow that from others. My audience, my collaborators.
I'm committed to creating in a way that speaks to the silent and opens up a platform to allow the disenfranchised to speak. That offers opportunity for the empowered to listen.
I'm committed to using my points of privilege and my experience as ways to advocate for others, for the outsiders, minorities, for targeted groups.
I'm committed to listening more/deeper to the stories I intend to represent or leave space for others to represent.
I'm committed to reaching higher every time,
paying specific attention to the needs of each project.
In my process, I'm committed to write every day, whatever that means.
I'm committed to spending good time on one thing at a time, one pursuit, one project. When my focus isn't split, I feel better, the work goes better.
I'm committed to taking my time.
I'm committed to making the change I want to see in the world through what I write and how.
I'm committed to self care, to kindness.
To moving/loving my body. To taking walks and baths. And naps.
To waiting. Not-doing. Un-doing. Wandering. Meditation.
I'm committed to being a playwright first but continuing my exploration of
poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenwriting, writing for radio, even television.
I'm committed to free falling.
I am a person who can go deeply into a thing.
I don't scan the surface, though I have a broad range of interests and abilities.
I know where I want to focus, where I intend my attention with intention.
I'm committed to being committed to my art. To going big. Turning pro.
To learning and teaching and doing.
To speaking truth and each time trying to get truer, more specific, more scary.
I'm committed to learning how to say the hard thing well, to working with difficult material and making each story more global, more intimate.
I'm committed to getting really exact and personal in my work
so that I can speak what happened to me
and what I deal with in my brain,
so I can reckon with it by sharing,
and so that others may be more willing to open, share and be human together.
I've written and made art for survival.
And look here now I've survived I'm surviving.
How do I take that privilege and turn it into change?
What do I do in my art to respond, to quake, to bellow?
How do I stay strong, vigilant, healthy, mentally and physically--
and be a lookout, a safe keeper, be kind with big heart
and help care for the oppressed and the silenced?
Been in the midst of a big rabbit hole project this year I never anticipated with this cycle of centuries. What is a century? Most basically, a list.
This collection of lists is becoming a novella of a book, a shadow box, a podcast. Learn more about the process through the MFA at CIIS Artifact Podcast where this month they devoted an episode to my process completing this series and trying to represent that visually with a shadow box.
This weekend on Sunday (May 1) at MING Studios in Boise, I'll be reading from this series for the first time. If you're in Boise and want to hear, I will begin at 7pm through MING Studio's 7o'clock series. Sometimes they lock the doors right at 7, so get there on time :) It's $7 if you're not a member (and if you're an artist, you can be a member for $13 a year!). A lot of the stuff will be raw and vulnerable, freshly typed, so friendly faces please, for this work-in-progress reading. Thank you!
Maybe I'll see you there. If not, you can check out some of my process below and the podcast to learn more.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: