“Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” – Terence McKenna
Two years ago I put my little Florida life into storage and moved home to Vermont for the summer. My mother and step-dad were traveling to Alaska for four months and their picturesque country home on a hilltop in the capitol city would be empty, save for my dear friend, Murray, who would be housesitting and tending to the upkeep of the old home. I signed myself up for the outdoor weekly art market I had participated in years past and made my way north at the end of May that year. I would treat my time like it was my own personal artist residency. My heart told me to go home and rest. To find my north. To sink into the natural world and allow it to show me my rhythm and routine. I wanted to know what it felt like to truly be an artist.
Quickly, routine began. I rose early after deep sleeps. For the first hour after waking, I read, wrote and meditated quietly. After, I plugged in upbeat music and hit the road for a wog, some walking, some jogging, depending on how I felt that day. Upon my returns, I was energized. I ate, yogaed, danced, showered and started my work day painting. I was working on new ideas, painting images of nature and animals onto trucker hats in acrylic paint, and exploring watercolor and illustration for the first time. Within a month, as I wogged the dirt roads below the hill, ideas came easily to me. They flooded in and would escape just as quickly if I didn’t find some way to capture them. Words, stories and images came effortlessly; like I had my finger on the pulse of the earth and the trees were speaking to me. It felt exquisite and almost too good to be true, like I was opening up to a new way of thinking, but not ready to trust it. There was doubt, worry and insecurity mixed into the joy of discipline and routine towards something I loved. At times, I wondered if I was wasting time and money on fruitless efforts and I questioned why I was still alone in this life. However, something urged me on and those two brief months of my self-designed artist residency have stuck with me since. To me, it allowed me to feel what my “impossible dream” felt like. To sample something outside the realities of my circumstances that only my imagination could dream up.
Last night, I read through my sketchbook/journal from that time. Some goals I wrote about consistently included:
- To live in a house in Gulfport
- To paint large canvases inspired by Florida skies and water
- To travel
- To teach
- To get a cat
Today I live in Gulfport. As I type this my new-to-me 8 month old kitten, Zeus, is purring ferociously on the floor by my feet. I’m surrounded by the calls of birds and quarreling squirrels. I occupy a sweet 2 bedroom home on a quiet dead end street surrounded by various trees just steps away from a park with a path along a creek. I teach art in several places and will soon start teaching yoga again at a church. It is the beginning of my dream, my impossible dream really, because 5 years ago I didn’t know this existed for me. Over time, it has slowly revealed itself. And there are many, many parts to the dream that either have not been known by me yet or have not become reality. Our dreams take all the time they need. So if they’re impossible or unknown, how do we come to know them? By tuning in. Because there is no roadmap to the life beyond the practical. We are each one hundred percent unique, with our very own purpose. The only way to know what is possible is through faith. And how do we get closer to our faith? Through practice. Through making time to be still, to clear the mind to listen to the heart. To show up every single day and practice whatever way gets us there: meditation, prayer, movement, etc. Faith is the only place where the solutions are revealed. To slow down is to open the window to better feel the extraordinary in the ordinary. And that is why I paint.
There was a party going on at a neighbor’s house several weeks ago on a Monday night, probably around the time I learned of my receiving this grant. At 11 pm an urge came over me to get a closer look, so I ventured out for a walk. Latin pop rippled throughout the neighborhood. As I walked past the party house, I saw people inside and out talking, laughing and playing games. Contented, I walked on. Soon images in the cool night air were revealed to me: street light-lit white flowers against an indigo sky and a palmetto palm spreading its fingers in many shades of grey green. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Before I knew it, I had the beginning of the work I will do for this grant. It is the 19th year of this century. I live off exit 19 in Gulfport, FL. I was born on the 19th day of June (more 19’s but this summary is adequate). Something about all of this feels very aligned and so I dedicate this unborn series to this time and space off Exit 19.
I feel so so lucky to get to share this grant journey with you. I love that I will be writing about the process throughout the summer months. Perhaps as you get to know me, you’ll appreciate what makes us different and find peace in what makes us similar.