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Reflections and Tea

I sit here drinking tea from the teapot my daughter made, pulling and turning clay with her own hands, learning in college a truth that artists need to hold dear, that the process is so important, if the process doesn’t enrich the artist the finished product doesn’t either. If the finished product ever comes to exist, that is.

pot by aislinn

I don’t, of course, mean that there’s no work in producing art—there’s a lot of it, sweat and frustration and sometimes just sheer slogging forward. But there’s more, though it’s really hard to pin it down and describe it, especially when you’re slogging. And that *more* is valuable and necessary.

It being January, I’m also thinking over the past year, which was full of slogging. I didn’t accomplish anywhere near as much as I’d planned, though I was busy with necessary things almost every day. There were just so many of them! I had been feeling bad about that as I pulled into Windycon, but then a friend asked about my year and I talked and talked and talked, finally walking away feeling like I’d overstayed my welcome (though she assured me I hadn’t).  Afterward, I realized how many things I had done but hadn’t mentioned.  It was a full and frustrating year.

I started out with simple goals, I thought. Make abundant room for creative pursuits in my house and in my life. Get me and My Angel healthier. Get the house in less of a state of deferred maintenance. Finish unfinished stories and start new ones.

I did a lot of work toward those goals, but finding that magic point where you say "it's done!" mostly eluded me.  I kept finding things that had to be done before the things I had my sights on—and then, things that had to be done so those things could get done.  In between, I found new, urgent things to spend time on, like getting the heat fixed (twice).

I had big dreams.  I knew I was tired when I left the law firm, but I didn’t realize how totally exhausted I was, nor did I plan on getting dreadfully sick right after that. It took weeks after I felt “better” to have energy to do stuff, even very simple stuff like painting walls and fixing plaster.  (In case you have any doubt, painting walls a single color and filling cracks in the wall with plaster take a lot less emotional and intellectual energy than telling a story, painting a picture, or singing a song.)

My Angel continued to be sick, even with the thyroid medication, and her doctor gave her a handicapped parking card. We’ve spent the year talking with her various doctors about shifting her medications, trying to find a better mix so she could be more active, fall down less, and feel better.  We have made some progress, but that tale still isn't done.

We are now in mid-renovation for both bathrooms, since the one that was in mostly-inactive status had to be swiftly moved to primary-bathroom status despite its incomplete renovation status, so we could fix toilet leaks and rotting flooring upstairs. We still have to take out the toilet downstairs and do similar repairs there, once we finish fixing the walls in the upstairs bathroom, which couldn't be reached without moving the bathtub.  And so it goes. (Gosh, these projects would be much easier if I could just hire a crew to do all the work.)

Health issues continue to require attention. Just recently, I went to pick up a friend to get the necessary snow shoveling done, and even that tiny, short exposure to the sub-zero cold moved me back from relying on the computer to remind me to take my daily minimum asthma medicines to my lungs reminding me rather insistently to take the maximum dosages. The allergies and asthma are also an issue with making room; I have to be careful handling dusty things or things that might be full of mold or other allergens.  And even if I had enough money to just hire workmen to do all the needed repairs, the work of sifting through things and throwing away or giving away the stuff that doesn't enrich my life can't be so easily delegated.

Looking forward, and remembering how sick I got after last year’s virus (the doctor didn’t actually give me a diagnosis, just strong pills, but given the symptoms I must have gone from a flu into either bronchitis or pneumonia), I have been very cautious about heading out to parties and other gatherings, and I sure hope that the flu epidemic will be over by next month, when I’m scheduled to be at Capricon.  I have to remind myself to eat healthy, sleep well, and claim the best health I can.

So, as I finish my tea, I remember that process matters in life too. The work of art that is my life isn’t finished, but I’m making progress. I remind myself of my sister, Dragon’s, chant—slow progress is still progress. And I think about how nice it is to take mint leaves from my garden and put them into a hand-made pot given to me by my now-adult child, thoughtfully made with a strainer built into the clay. That makes me think of the song by Elmer Beal, which honors the creators in the world, and says, in part, “…the future is more than the following day, it's fashioned securely in the clay.”

I take another sip, and look at the mug my tea is in.  I wanted a mug in suitable colors for the pot, since my daughter focused on making teapots; at the Restore (which sells furniture building materials and the like as a fund-raiser for Habitat for Humanity) I found a mug with a name written around it in Irish letters.

cup bottom restore cup

I was of course not so lucky as to find a mug with my name on it; this one was, instead, for Patricia. It feels right, however, since my Aunt was a Patricia, so that the herbs grown in the sacred earth of my garden are housed in a pot made of clay by the next generation, and a cup that I think was made in Ireland, where most of my ancestors lived, that commemorates the previous generation. Past, present, and future, heritage and dreams, earth, air, fire, water, and spirit—they’re all tangled together, no more separate than the different sides of a polyhedral die.

As I finish my tea, I resolve to be open to the processes needed for the new year, and to frame my goals in wide terms. More specificity might suit a different year better, but for this new year I think I need to be more alive to the possibilities of the moment. In general terms however, I resolve to continue my goal of making room, and very specifically add the intentional goal of staying healthy enough to do a lot more, both on the house and on the creative front. I plan to have a lot of fun (and doubtless lots of frustration) writing and arting and creating the best stories of my life, so far. I may fashion my bit of the future mostly in pixels, instead of clay, but in this modern world, that is just as real.

And I think I’ll drink more tea, from this pot and this mug, and from others, and remember that each act of creation is a measure of my faith in the future as well as my small part in creating it.

And so I tip my glass to all of you.  Slàinte!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 18th, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC)
I think the creative process is in itself a form of highly potent magic. It certainly can impact your life in many ways.

Many good wishes for luck, success, and happiness your way!
Jan. 19th, 2015 01:37 am (UTC)
Thank you, and to you also!
Robyn McIntyre
Jan. 18th, 2015 06:42 pm (UTC)
I recently read a short piece on Medium where the author ranted about the process journey, complaining that people should stop saying that it was not about the destination, but about the journey. In his mind, it was all about the destination. But I no longer subscribe to either/or thinking. In *my* mind, it is always about both. One hopes to make the destination, but one should enjoy the journey as best as possible.

Really, we have control over neither journey or destination. We know that things can happen along the way, but we often forget that the destination we arrive it may not be precisely the one we envisioned.

As for the time involved: "That went a lot faster than I thought it would" is something probably no artist has ever said.

While I have not given up setting goals - indeed, I have begun setting bigger goals - I no longer judge myself by how many of the boxes on my list have been checked off. As long as I have not procrastinated my way out of working to achieve those goals, I consider myself to have moved forward toward the destination. And I spend time nearly every day in reviewing that progress and where I should place my next step (sometimes sideways is a necessary part of moving forward, even if it doesn't look like it).
Jan. 19th, 2015 01:36 am (UTC)
Re: Process
I certainly wouldn't say I value process over the end result, but without the process, there is no result. So looking only at the end result doesn't work either. I figure we are essentially in agreement, really.

I have had a couple of short stories and songs that were written a lot faster than I expected, but not nearly as many as took a lot longer than expected. Which is a totally different question than whether more time passed than I was really aware of at the time, which happens a lot when I'm writing.

Yeah, those sideways steps...ya gotta do what ya gotta do. But it would sure feel better to be making forward steps!

Jan. 18th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC)
I hate to seem demanding,
but I, for one, would be very pleased if you'd post more often.
Jan. 19th, 2015 01:06 am (UTC)
That's good to hear!
Jan. 19th, 2015 09:13 pm (UTC)
Your post resonated with me on several levels. I went through a bout of pneumonia last January, and found it a humbling experience. When walking down the hall to the bathroom leaves one winded, something is definitely Very Wrong. Fortunately, with timely diagnosis and double antibiotics, I got better in about two weeks.

I'm currently helping my sweetie as he sorts through the decades of stuff at his parents' house, which he has inherited. This often involves dust, mildew, etc. We've found that a portable, room-size HEPA filter makes a *huge* difference in keeping the allergens down and our breathing regular. I get that money is tight, but if you can beg, borrow, or rent one, please do. I think you'll find it makes a lot of difference, and can help you toward the goals of clearing your space *and* staying healthy.

Jan. 20th, 2015 12:25 am (UTC)
With the CPAP machine, I sleep behind a HEPA filter every night. The clean, humidified air makes a huge difference.

In contrast, I've never been impressed by the room air filters. They do trap some of the air in the filter, but they also get the air moving more so there's more in the air. Maybe I never had the right one, or maybe the house is just too large and airy to let them do what they need to do. Do you have a brand and model that works well for you?
Jan. 20th, 2015 10:12 am (UTC)
Warm fuzzies and wishing you and Angel both better health.
Jan. 20th, 2015 10:31 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Good health to you too.
Jan. 25th, 2015 07:53 am (UTC)
How did you choose where or how to start your sorting & going through your stuff? I want to look at decluttering some stuff but feel overwhelmed as where to start. I had also semi-recently gone through some of my stuff but want to do more, go through it all again and be more ruthless. I need to learn to let go of stuff.
Jan. 25th, 2015 09:45 am (UTC)
Where to start?
You can start anywhere. Picking a place you have a motive to clear out can help, or picking a small enough spot that you can hope to be finished in an hour or two, so you build up to the larger projects (and have more space to sort stuff when you get to them)).

As to the criteria, the best criteria I've found is, "Does this bring you joy?" If not, it doesn't feel so bad to let it go.

Edited at 2015-01-25 09:46 am (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Where to start?
I have my stuff I want to clear out and there is also household places to do (like the linen closet & cooking utensils cupboard I mentioned below). I think I will need to make a start today on a small drawer I keep some writing & some misc stuff in.

I do need to look at it as "does this bring me joy" because usually I think "I might need this" or "I am going to use this sometime for XYZ project". I do want to get more ruthless but cutting the emotional ties is sometimes the hardest part.

Editted to add: Sometimes I also keep things because I can't bear to throw it away but it isn't in good enough shape to give to a second hand store or to anyone else. That is the hardest part to overcome.

Edited at 2015-01-25 08:55 pm (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2015 03:19 pm (UTC)
I wanted something manageable, so we started with the linen closet. It quickly looked like we were college students, especially after getting rid of the towels we'd had since college. ;)

Good luck!
Jan. 25th, 2015 08:52 pm (UTC)
The linen closet is definitely one of the Must Do places. I also Must Do a cupboard we have our pots, pans, baking things & misc cooking things in. Our house is tiny, that one cupboard (with 2 shelves) holds almost all of our cooking gear. We have another one like it that holds glass bowls & the slow cooker, but that one is mostly under control.

What did you do with your give-away towels? I have a bag of some I pulled out at random to go to our local SPCA but they are about a 40 minute drive away in an area we just don't go to, so will have to stash the give away ones until we make a trip there.
Jan. 25th, 2015 09:04 pm (UTC)
We donated them to the local thrift store. A few months later, with typical dad timing, my dad the contractor came meeping to us for old towels to use for buffing tile [after it's grouted]. He was a bit late; we referred him to the thrift store. ;)

Contractors, painters, animal shelters, possibly hand-crafters; have you asked on craigslist or freecycle?
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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