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Я – церковь без крестов
Лечу, раскинув руки.
Вдоль сонных берегов
Окаменевшей муки.
Я – вера без причин.
Я – правда без начала.
Ты слышишь, как вскричала
Душа среди осин.

-DDT

motherwell-retreat-22

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to an art photography workshop in Colorado. The leader of the workshop (artist Jennifer Thoreson) had held it there, at the Motherwell Ranch, for 4 years in a row. I had gone last year, and was very excited to go again. I had been feeling like the above image – a dry river bed – static, tired. I feel most days as if there’s a hive of disgruntled bees in my head, buzzing around causing a ruckus, making it very hard to do or think or be any one thing. Must do all the things, think all the things, be all the things all at once. It’s exhausting, and I lose myself in it so completely. This workshop, or retreat as I like to call it, is an escape. A way to force myself to slow down, breathe, empty out the angry bees and be left with an echoing silence.

motherwell-retreat-1

Truth time – I love doing what I do. I love documenting life for my clients – be it weddings, families, big and little things. I think it’s important, and I really enjoy getting into someone else’s head, their feelings and experiences, and translating that into images for them. BUT – what about me? Who’s going to do that for me? Well, I guess I need to. I went to art school, and I have a drive, a need, a desire to create. Out of my own heart, my own head, my own experiences, I want to speak. There’s almost never time for that in my real life – between work, family, home, etc, it’s so hard to give yourself time. To allow yourself the gift of space. The privilege to first and foremost – exist. And second, to create out of that existing. So, I have to go away for that. And so I went.

The first day, I felt an extreme anxiety. The bees were creating a deafening roar. I felt I must do, create, be exceptional. “You only have a short time here, so seize the opportunity! Make the most of it! Create something beautiful and different and exquisite right NOW”. Not exactly the rest I had envisioned. Towards the end of the allotted shooting time, I just had to stop. I was putting so much pressure on myself that I couldn’t even hear myself think. I was going through the withdrawal pains – pulling away from my normal “PRODUCE PRODUCE PRODUCE” way of life. This is not the way to make art. So I called it a day.

On my slow walk back to the lodge, I came across this:

motherwell-retreat-35

Something clicked into place. Like God just put his hand on my shoulder and said “wait. stop. listen. “

I can’t even look at this picture without getting chills.

There’s something about this place – the nature, the air, the specifically northern foliage that makes me feel HOME. In big, capital letters, in that cozy, satisfied way you climb into your favorite chair with your favorite person in front of an evening fire. I am pulled there, as if thin, unseen filaments beneath the earth tie me to the aspen trees – as if before I existed on this planet, I was in a place like this. I needed some time to settle in. That night I had a delicious meal, wine around the campfire, time to reconnect with friends from the previous year and make some new ones. I decided to take the weekend to play – just stretch my spiritual muscles, delve back into the art of making art. What do I want to say? How do I want to say it? What will it look like? Why? And focus more on the questions than the answers.

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In 4 days, I’m turning 30. This brings with it a whole host of thoughts and questions, and I am compelled to return to the almighty Blank Page to start processing. I’ve been in denial about being an adult for roughly 12 years now, and it’s a hard pill to swallow that at 30, I can no longer deny it. I am an adult. I have a husband, and a house and a dog. My life is pretty swell. Nevertheless, I’ve always worried about being ordinary, and just going with the flow, and I feel like that’s exactly what I end up doing. Every morning, I get up and do essentially the same thing. One of the perks of working from home is that I could, in theory, decide to take a morning and go on an epic hike in some park I’ve never been to. Or go find a new coffee shop. Hell, I could just decide to paint. If I was really craving a break, I could pack an overnight bag and drive out a different state for a couple of days. But do I do any of these things? No. Just because it’s not part of the routine. If our house was carpeted, there would be a path worn in from my bedroom to my computer. I am an odd duck that loves adventure but is tied to routine. I think it’s important to stop, every once in a while, and take stock. Look at your life and ask yourself – is this intentional? Is it on purpose? Or am I (fill in the blank here) just because of habit?

One of my biggest fears has always been that I will “come to”, as if out of a coma, most of the way through my life, only to find that not only do I not know who I am, but I haven’t lived the way I had wanted to, and it’s too late to do anything differently. That I’ll find myself, at 60, with kids I didn’t really want, in a house I can’t afford, with a lifetime of memories of meaningless days spent at a desk. I know, pretty bleak, and of course in reality it’s never that black and white. But the point is, if I’m going to spend the day, say, sitting at my computer in a coffee shop writing blog posts, I want to do it on purpose, intentionally, not just because “that’s what people do”.

30 is still quite young. Unless I meet some unfortunate end, I have the bulk of my life still ahead of me. But it is a milestone, for sure. A division bell, as it were (thanks pink floyd). You have to start asking yourself some serious questions. Where do you want to live? How do you want to spend your days? What makes you feel full and alive, and what makes you feel empty and dead? What can you do to have more of the former and less of the latter? And even straightforward things like – what about kids?

I’ve been thinking over these things off and on for years, but especially, diligently, overwhelmingly, this past month. First, I noticed rather poignantly, that I had a very hard time finding time to even think about it. And boy, that says something about my current life that is just not set up for mental and spiritual health. When, to really take stock of myself and my life, I have to sneak in moments of contemplation between work, housework, visitations, exercises, and all manner of busy-ness. It took most of the month for me to figure out what my questions were, never mind finding out the answers. Here are some thoughts, in as concise a manner as I can manage at the moment.

– Where do I want to live? Well, there are just too many answers. One of the things that makes me sad, thinking about the finite-ness of life, is that I can’t possibly live everywhere. Or even, every type of place. I can’t live in a small town on the mediterranean, in a cabin in maine, in africa and europe and alaska and also san jose and colorado. There aren’t enough years, and I don’t want to spend my life moving around. But what I do think is that I need to be somewhere quiet but friendly. A place where I can breathe deeply of fresh air and be surrounded by trees and fields and flowers and dirt, and yet friends can come visit without too much effort. A home base, from which to bounce out into the world on many adventures, but always to come back to. Maybe the Santa Cruz mountains. Maybe Colorado. Maybe Maine or Alaska, but certainly not all of these places at once. The thought of moving from the Bay Area is terrifying, but I don’t want to stay just because I’m scared to leave.

-How do I want to spend my days? Mainly, not in the same way every day. Diversity is key. I want to take photos, create art, write and read, spend lots of time outdoors, and be active. I want to see new places, meet new people, and have reasonable amounts of time to sit on the porch and drink tea and ponder about things. I don’t mind editing photos or watching movies or chatting online, but I don’t want this to be the bulk, the focus of my life.

– What makes me feel alive? Traveling, being outside, being active, meeting new people, reading books, writing things, creating something beautiful, connecting with friends, communicating. What makes me feel dead? Doing the same thing, day in and day out. Uninterrupted hours in front of a screen, interacting with demanding people, doing things out of obligation, not creating anything new, being busy.

-And the hardest – what can I change to have more of the former and less of the latter? So many things come to mind. Firstly, some things I’ve already been working on – trying to wake up early, and do some healthy tasks before getting to work. Play with the dog, do some gardening, read the Bible, journal, a bit of yoga. Secondly – set aside time for art and exploration. It feels “unproductive” so it’s usually the first thing to go. And man, that can kill my soul over time. Be intentional and set aside the time. Travel. Do random things just because I can. Go to new places. Hike, camp, bike. Watch less TV. Create limits for when I’m on social media or working. Limits for work! Such a crazy idea, but so necessary.

– Finally, kids. The biggest question without an answer. I don’t want them, have no real desire for them. But I’m scared of regretting not having them, or of deciding I want them after it’s too late. I’m scared of being alone in my later years – being disconnected and lonely floating through the world waiting to die. I do worry about that. And the ticking clock – that I have about 5, at most 10 years to change my mind – terrifying. Above all, inevitability terrifies me. Each passing year seems to cross off opportunities for life – things I could have done that are no longer practical to do. I can still learn to dance, but I’ll never be a ballerina. I can travel, but I can’t give summer camp another try. It’s a daily challenge – to focus on all of the options I have instead of the ones that are gone. But even that can sometimes be overwhelming – I put so much pressure on myself to make the right choice all the time, and feel so disappointed in myself when I don’t. A little more peace, a little more grace with myself, while not giving up entirely to laziness – this balance I continually have to seek.

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Two Years

I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since I’ve written. The whole layout of this website has changed. And my life has changed a fair bit, too. It’s something about this time of year that always gets me thinking. I start to feel nostalgic, i think abut the past and future…dreams and regrets. I could go on for a while about everything that’s happened on the past two years, but that doesn’t seem necessary. I looked at my list of things I’d like to accomplish in my 28th year, and I felt better knowing that I had accomplished a fair number of them. Still no trip to Russia, though…and my art is still at a standstill. It’s like this wall I just can’t break through.

It makes me a little sad to look at this blog and see all the awesome stuff we did before, because I feel so stagnant now. Immobile. I injured my knee this past May running a marathon, and while it’s very slowly gotten better, it still aches a little most days and I feel unmotivated to get back to exercise. It’s become an incessant voice of worry in my head – what if it never fully heals? What if I can never really run again? What if it’ll ache every time i go hiking or biking for the REST OF MY LIFE. So I’m scared to even try, thinking that the longer I wait, the longer it has to heal. And meanwhile, my inactivity is having a negative impact on my life. Feeling tired and restless at the same time, bored and stressed. My outdoor time, my running time, was my spirit-filling time, and I miss it so much. I have to break through that wall, too. So many walls that I built up myself.

So I’m thinking about goals, dreams. For my life in general, for the rest of the year, for next year. But I preface everything with “if God wills”….because more than ever I am aware of how fickle, how flimsy our control over our own lives is.

Stay tuned.

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ring

Engagement ring!

engagement ring

engagement ring

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Well, here I am. Nearly delirious from exhaustion and lack of sleep, in our closet-sized cozy B and B room in London. Sean has suddenly and without warning passed out beside me, and I am seriously considering doing the same. He is tightly hugging the London tourguide book we have, and the laptop is balanced precariously on his belly. It’s just so darn endearing.

Point being, I will try to make this brief but coherent – don’t judge me too harshly if I fail at both. We stayed up too late after Lauren’s wedding (more on that in a later post, once I wade through some pictures) on Saturday, and got up earlyish on Sunday to get last minute things together and finish packing. I went to Jess’s bridal shower, Sean went to lunch with extended family, and, unbelievably, the whole day went without a hitch. We got to the airport in plenty of time, got through security swiftly, and on the plane just as hassle-free.

10 hour flights are strange. I always expect it to be this long, tedious, arduous chunk of time which I will struggle to fill with something not entirely mind-numbing. Usually, it’s entirely different. the time flies by, you never get a single one of the tasks you had planned to accomplish accomplished, and you are in agonizing, unbelievable discomfort the entire time. I don’t know if it was because I’ve been running more and my body still hasn’t adjusted, but my legs were quite literally in pain throughout most of the flight. I faded in an our of dozing, watched a movie and a half, went through a few hundred wedding pictures, and the whole thing went by quickly (though, my legs would argue, not quickly enough).

Finally, the flight was over. And I was airsick and tired and so darned uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sean was probably worse off, though – he woke up that day either with extreme allergies, or some sort of flu, but he was sniffling and feverish throughout the entire thing. The there was customs, getting luggage, and wandering around the cavernous space that is Heathrow with our ridiculously over0packed backpacks. Our hotel happens to be about half  mile from a tube stop which is on the same line as the airport, so we just got on the train and sat through over an hour more of swaying back and forth. I napped, and at least we didn’t have to transfer or anything.

Ah, London. What can I say? I am already in love. It’s cool and drizzly and grey, and everything is as it aught to be. Our hotel is a tiny little BandB which clearly is privately owned and very….snug. There are towels on the line in the back yard, and rooftops and rooftops that go on for miles. Sean and I decided not to do anything much this evening, but we walked around the neighborhood (a middle-eastern-Mediterranean sort of neighborhood) and got umbrellas (for 15pounds each!?) and ate kabobs for dinner. I did manage to snag a couple pictures, so here is one, before I collapse.

view out of out of our window (click to see a big version):

will upload more tomorrow :0)

and now, for the sleepage.

-liza

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This is my first blog in a new place. I have over 900 posts…elsewhere…and it’s awkward starting a new blog. Like moving my brain into a new place that doesn’t feel quite right. I want to get the first post out of the way so I can get to getting with my bloggity blogging.

welcome to my life.

peace,

liZard

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