I Am Connected Therefore I AM

A restless wind stirs up the trees outside my studio. The night is thick with humid air, a prelude to the coming thunderstorm. My mood is neither thick, moody nor dark, but rather light and cavalier. I am drunk with conversation, filled with friendships far and near.

I am giddy with connection.

Not so long ago I stood outside the human circle, pained by loneliness, driven by a goal whose end could only be more suffering: mastery.

I drove myself unrelentingly, my skills improved, my output of art remarkable. Some accolades came my way, and recognition. I got the job I wanted (traveling calligrapher) and realized a dream or two from long ago. But I did not live happily ever after. In my quest for ME, I grew further from essentials bonds of family and friendship. Having crashed and burned (my psyche is so wise!) in a breakdown of sorts, I realized that making art could not be the WHOLE point of my life.

Ah, the awakening. The realization: LIVING is art. Artfully living is the deeply satisfying experience, not merely the solitary and isolating one of sweating over a canvas. Or even reveling in it. I don’t need to be alone to create, and I don’t have to suffer so much existential angst in the process of making art. Give me a good glass of Merlot (thanks, SIDEWAYS, for making Merlot so appealing to me!) friends, family-and especially my calligraphic tribe, and I am content. And I still make art -quite a lot of it-nd I enjoy it a whole lot more now that I am a part of an ongoing conversation with so many loved ones.

There is so much more to say, but the thunderstorm is gathering momentum. I must rush into the house before I get soaked so I can spend these next precious hours with my brilliant 12 year old Maeve who has many concerns about the environment and just admonished me to use canvas bags for shopping.

I am connected therefore I Am.
All is well in my world.

Sun and Snow

Snow on tulips, hail pelting on me in my friends’ Lake Oswego Garden on Sunday. Is this Ice Age II, or what?

A weekend in Portland, Oregon restored my spirits. As always, facilitating a group of talented and motivated artists leaves me invigorated and refreshed. I taught the class” The Journal is the Destination.”

It was snowing intermittently while we created art!

The week prior to the one in Portland was a bit different. I was in Scottsdale, Az, where the temperature climbed to the 90’s. Shorts and sandals were the order of the day. It was a challenge to re-pack my suitcase for Oregon, diving into my closet where I had already packed away all the winter stuff.

For anyone reading my blogs, please forgive me the mispelling of Senator Obama’s first name. For some reason, I want to leave out the c in Barack. I have since corrected my error, along with a few more. Having been a good speller in my time, I am mortified by these mistakes. Sigh.

And now for something completely different: bragging about Maeve. This Spring, Maeve won first place in a regional speech contest (modern oratory category), as well as first in vocabulary and second in spelling. All wins qualify her to compete at the State level. Ms. Richards is faced with a dilemma: compete at State at the speech tournament, or play with her volleyball team in a pre-scheduled tournament in Houston. Both are the same weekend. One is in Houston, one in Fort Worth. Upon careful reflection, Maeve has opted to play with her team, noting that “she doesn’t want to let them down.” I am very proud of her decision, difficult as it was. I might have been more selfish, choosing to compete in the speech tournament.

Maeve also won first place in painting in a regional art competition last weekend. None of us could attend the show because Maeve and Clark were in Dallas at a huge volleyball tournament, and I was braving snow and ice in Portland, Oregon. Besides this particular art win, Maeve also won a gold key award in the regional Scholastic Art Award competition. We are waiting to see if she places in the national level.

Maeve’s sister Jennifer is soon off on an exciting adventure: a three week trip to Senegal, Africa with her Evergreen State College class. Jennifer has become very interested in politics and world affairs since becoming a “born-again” student at the Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington.

And for me? No rest for the weary. A soiree tonight, visitors tomorrow, a gala on Friday, and teaching for my beloved guild on Saturday. Somewhere in the midst of all that is another volleyball tournament in San Antonio, Eyeore’s birthday, and an art show for our dear friend Tom Cronk.

My life could not be more full or interesting.

Yes We Can

I am tired of being an armchair liberal, paralyzed by anger and disappointment, spewing the hackneyed vitriol so typical of frustrated democrats. Perhaps it is middle age, the keen awareness that my time on this planet is limited. Whatever the motivation, conscious or unconscious, I have made a commitment to something bigger than myself.

And I am not talking about religion.

I am talking about life here and now, in my own neighborhood and community.

Which leads me to politics. My Republican relatives invoke the “no politics or religion” rule whenever my Mother and I come around. Of course, I always refuse to comply with the rule, and there inevitably ensues a tense and heated discussion among us about current events. Indeed, in the spirit of my American heritage, our constitution, our Bill of Rights, I willingly, happily argue. I take a position, I don’t” go along to get along” in my political discussions. What does this accomplish?
I can live with myself and my conscience for having spoken out, for having declared my stance on an issue(s). I can proudly say I am engaging in a right afforded to me by virtue of being an American-the right of free speech. The right to engage in discourse, however uncomfortable it might be for me or for those with whom I am speaking/arguing with, to take a position and argue (loudly, even) for it. I also believe that one can argue (which I do) in a manner where one honors one’s own and the integrity of others.
If you read about our Founding Fathers, they argued vehemently among themselves as they hammered out a most precious document in human history, the Declaration of Independence-and later, the Constitution of the United States. It was through their heated dialogue and debate that something greater than the sum of their individual attitudes, opinions, beliefs, ideals was birthed.

Politics, current and historic. Constitutional law. The current and past administrations, Gore vs. Bush, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. These are the topics I am passionate about lately. I am revisiting my history books and accumulating new ones. My neighbor and I are starting a book club with a focus on politics and history. We are beginning with Abigail Adams and John Adams.

What, pray tell, has possessed me? I am becoming a political activist. Why now?

I am inspired.

It seems I have been a good citizen all along, voting, helping ( a bit) with campaigns here and there. I am married to the son of the late Ann Richards, former Texas State Governor, celebrity at large. Ann was a ray of hope for me (and many others) in an otherwise bleak landscape of “same old” ,”Good old boy” politics. She was-and is- an icon of hope and progress for women and minorities, and she inspired many to take up the fight for equal rights, among others. I wish she were here to talk to. To argue with, to listen to. But unlike Ann Richards, I have not put my time and commitment where my mouth is. Until now.

I have the integrity, intelligence, commitment and vision of Senator Barack Obama to thank for my new-found passion for political action. I am wise enough to know the folly of attributing rock star status to any mere mortal; but once in a great while, someone comes along who can ignite one’s own vision, one’s own capacity for integrity and “right action”. Senator Obama articulates so beautifully and honestly the vision of an America I can fight for: one where our constitition is upheld and respected, one where there is a restored balance of judicial, legistlative and executive powers ; one with a commitment to go even beyond Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal in offering protection and support to our most vulnerable citizens. As evidenced by my own precinct and its motley group of new voters, Senator Obama has rocked us out of complacency with a positive message of YES WE CAN.

I just returned from the Travis County Democratic Convention, a proud and enthusiastic delegate for Senator Barack Obama. My precint 332 was a model of good will and cooperation, neighborly comraderie and support. I felt one with all of them-Clinton, Obama delegates alike.
I listened with empathy and support to my Clinton-supporting neighbors who have worked for years on the political frontlines for women’s causes. We held our signs together (some crudely calligraphed by moi), alternately cheering for one candidate or the other. At the end of the day, after selecting our state delegates (one of whom is my husband Clark), there were more smiles than frowns among us, even hugs. I had made new acquaintences representing both candidates, and 78704 seems alive and well with talented, committed, intelligent people willing to take a stand for their candidates and their political beliefs. These are the folks I will continue to work with and among in the trenches as we trudge along in the political process of shaping and creating our vision of America.

My hope for myself and my fellow democrats working for a change in the White House is that whatever the outcome of the election, we come away with our integrity, dignity, compassion and humanity intact, and that we remain committed to the fight for fairness, equality and justice for all American citizens.

Am I Blue?

I saw a cluster of bluebonnets in a yard on (yes) Bluebonnet Street today. I am convinced that my upbeat mood is in part the result of being surprised by the vivid shock of blue of these resilient and remarkable Texas blooms, which to me officially announce the arrival of Spring. I had just walked away from the front of Zilker Elementary School, which was cluttered with Obama and Hillary signs, and teeming with a gaggle of campaign supporters-and a reporter from a local news station trolling among them for something newsworthy.

Blue was on my mind as I continued to walk towards my house. I thought: What an odd turn of events it is that the Blue among us-the liberal democrats-would be so pitted against each other in the primary election. Who knew that we would have two brilliant and able candidates (more, actually, because John Edwards was certainly worthy) to choose from. Who knew how difficult it would be to make a decision to vote for one and not the other?

Ah, shades of blue, I thought, as I arrived at my door.

I made my choice of Blue last week. Alas, choosing one worthy candidate for president over another equally worthy one seems to come down to instinct, to gut feeling, to what or who inspires hope; it comes down to what my vision is and who I think can best support that vision for the GREATER GOOD.

I am not feeling blue, I am BLUE and upbeat. I am not into polarization, one side pitted against the other,; I choose all shades of blue. I am caucusing tonight for the candidate who I believe will ignite our electorate to get involved in our democracy, to help our country heal from gaping and profound wounds (spiritual, environmental, emotional, economic). I am at peace with my choice and excited about it.

When I go back to the caucus tonight I will see those lovely flowers in the yard on Bluebonnet street-first of the season-and I will think of the beauty of shades of blue (bluebonnets have a sprinkling of red, too!). I will hug both Obama and Hillary supporters, and I will be proud to be among them all.

I am excited to be part of a great awakening in our country.

Blue is such a lovely color.

In Between Time

I blink and it is next year.
My body, mind and spirit have been out to lunch these past few months, and I have flitted away many an hour looking at People magazine, obsessing about what I am not doing, feeling flat, vacant, checked out. The inspiration which has guided me and determined my direction in art eludes me now, and I plod along with lack of clarity and purpose.

Ah, the doldrums. Is this middle age? Middle ground? Flatland? Wasteland?

Maybe it is simply February on the cusp of Spring, mired in the memory of long flu days in Winter.

I have long believed that our lives are lived in cycles rather than one long linear march towards the grand finale. Like walking a labyrinth, our Way is sometimes convoluted and sometimes clear, but always involves walking in circles. Having spent the last ten years of my own personal labyrinthian “Way”devoted to the study and practice of calligraphy, I have arrived at a plateau. More like the perimeter of the labyrinth rather than the center, it feels like a wait-station, a liminal “in-between” space, a place, in the words of the Talking Heads, “Where nothing ever really happens.”

By no means have I mastered anything in my calligraphic quest, I have simply become more skilled, more confidant. I have explored and experimented and created things which surprise, fascinate and sometimes even scare me. Most certainly I could spend another ten years tweaking my skills, mastering this hand or that, but at present, this prospect does not make my heart sing.

No doubt this disenchanted liminal space I am experiencing is a predictable (and necessary?) stage in one’s Way as an artist. One can tolerate only so much intensity and frenzied activity before needing rest and contemplative space. Indeed, after a very fruitful creative period, it seems important to take time to reflect on what one has done, to clear things away to create space for something new to emerge. When I view my experience from the perspective of “letting the fields lie fallow” for a while, it feels more positive.

I of all people should know to trust the wisdom of one’s psyche.

So I wait and move more slowly. I don’t rush through Central Market, but take time to sip the French Roast samples and smell the fresh mint I have rubbed on my fingers. I pause to breathe more deeply the scent of all the herbs, the coffees, the baked goods. I don’t deny a taste of freshly baked bread, exquisite in smell and taste after dipping it into a small vat of extra virgin olive oil.

When one is waiting, one has time to observe. One’s senses are heightened and one notices the details that are lost when one is moving too hastily.

My cat just stretched herself against my studio door in a perfect (and ironically named) “downward facing dog” position. She lazes in the sun in the backyard, and it seems like the next right thing to do to go join her.