Field Notes In/On Transition
Everything Old Is New Again
The classic show tune “Everything Old Is New Again,” written by Peter Allen, has been running through my head as I have been cogitating what to post next here on my transition blog. I am making what I feel is a very sincere effort not to dwell too long in the dark places my hormone levels, and real, so very real moments of depression take me. I have been trying hard to only post positive and or funny, clever things on my facebook page, to not get too outraged at our ever more frightening world.
My editing of my sci-fi novel has dropped to minimal levels, and I am doing less review writing than I had been the last few months. My focus the last few weeks since I returned from my too brief vacation in Victoria, has been the instability of my work/income generating life. My store is trying new and innovative things that will hopefully pull our socks up a bit. But there is the real possibility that I need to leave retail, not just because business isn’t what it was. I also am not who I was.
Through all this I have had a lot of great support from friends and family, and have decided to try and slowly if possible hoist myself out of full time retail, and into part time something else, by applying for a job as a shelver at the Vancouver Public Library. It’s the entry level position for non librarians. Just shelving books, but there are opportunities to do other things too once you get yourself known and seen as reliable, capable. I had the help of some Library folk that I know, in crafting a resume and cover letter that I sent off yesterday.
My experience with running a video store with a pretty darned big catalogue, (easily more than 15,000 titles) I think will give me a leg up; as well as a lot of the various skills I have developed over the years: not just from Clerking, Managing, but from Teaching, being a Poet, and reasonably successful Self Publisher, and more simply, someone who has a broad knowledge of all media, be it digital, or analog format.
Interestingly it has not been my writing, or movie making (despite making a couple of my best films recently), or photography that has been the most calming, and meditative thing that I have been doing. My link to the divine, my meditation, my yoga, is my art. All my poems are Psalms of a sort, all my artwork is reverent to itself, to art.
I have always struggled with the longer narrative as I tend to write all the symbology out, the core , the guts of whatever thing it is that is gnawing at me. And if I talk about my project at all while doing it, I lose a bit of the joy. My photos of things often celebrate their disintegration, flowers wilting, past their peak of beauty. My writing I think often celebrates that same impulse of accepting the inevitable end of things, and rebirth out of those ashes of the ‘new thing’ whatever that might be.
My latest meditative practice is ‘painting’ using an app on my ipad, in fact. Heretical? Not for me. I paid five bucks for the app ‘Art Set’ (link) I have some few art materials, but have never really considered getting some actual paint happening, as my place is small, though has nice light in the mornings. Also I can’t really afford to buy the acrylics I am kind of dying to work with again. The app lets me have a wide variety of faux materials, that reproduce the real life textures very convincingly. Especially versatile, are the paint brush and oil paints. there are several different sized, shaped brushes, and you can control how much paint you have on the brush with a real degree of accuracy. I use a stylus I bought when I got the ipad, and forgot about. And there is no clean up!
As a kid I was a ravenous comic book reader, and I still am. Graphic storytelling to me, is just as important as any of the other media forms that I spend most of my non-work time absorbing. I have already talked at length on this blog about how reading novels, especially sci-fi and fantasy has really invigorated my own writing, and makes me feel more engaged than movies, or comics at the moment. I still watch some movies, TV, and read (too many) comics. I am taking photos and making little movies regularly, still. My writing has fallen off, but I am reading more and more, and the urge to paint strikes me every day.
Usually after work, I come home reheat the left overs, or cook whatever I have in the fridge. I play around on facebook and so on for a while. Do the dishes, then I settle in front of the TV, occasionally looking up, while I open the Art Set app and just start dabbing, sketching until i get something that I like. the first few, I wouldn’t let myself start over, even if I couldn’t get the effect I wanted. lately though, I have had a few false starts, and then come up with some imagery that I really dig. I spend at most, an hour on this meditative practice. Then I post the picture to my facebook album ‘@ipaintings’ for my friends and family to see. Its like putting your art on the fridge.
I have no ego that I am now going to become the artist I thought I was going to be when I was a little kid, and a teacher told me I had to pick a real profession when picking your ‘What I want to be when I grow up.’ I spent so much time as a kid copying cartoons from the newspaper (I drew a mean Hagar the Horrible) and comic books. Art class in High School was easily the only class I loved in School.
As you may have noticed if you know me, or have read my blog, sometimes I take things really hard. I was really proud of my grade 12 art portfolio, which in the crazy talented class I was in, wasn’t really that great. When I went to pick it up after classes had ended and we were in exams, it was gone. Just one ugly melted crayon landscape was left on my shelf. This kind of devastated me. A few months later I went to University and took a film class, and had my mind blown. I ended up not studying Art, or History (the other class I liked in High School) or art History. I majored in Film, and because most of my new friends were doing so, I got into Theatre as a minor. There was a lot of overlap in these departments, all really sub levels of the English department.
I kept drawing and doodling through the 80’s and early 90’s, still mostly drawing superheroes, or other nerdy things like Dragons and Spaceships. My doodling was often very post modern, modern art-ish. But so many people I knew were so much better artists than me, and still couldn’t ‘make it’ that I ended up distracted and sidetracked again, by a creative writing class I took on a whim. I was able to occupy that same meditative creative state as drawing, by writing poems. I tried longer things, fiction, non fiction. But like my best drawings, my best poems were small one page creations that maybe didn’t take me that much time. I became a much more patient, and thus more successful writer than I had been, an artist.
I always wanted my drawings to happen faster than I could make happen; given my level of talent and skill. As my need to draw ( I never painted much at all after high school) waned and my literary ambitions waxed I still kept a sketchbook, but mostly it was text and drawings, doodles. I posted some of my ‘Josie pages’ here, in the past.
In the mid nineties, at the same time as I was trying and failing to transition, I was co-creating and doing most of the drawing on a self published black and white indie comic book, called “Somewhere,” with a friend. I ended up having no time to finish it, at least our first story, as I also decided to go back to school and learn computers. I feel bad about that failure, maybe more than failing to transition at that time. I wasn’t ready to transition, but I was ready to be an Indie Comic Book artist. I spent a lot of time hanging out with other comic artists, all of whom poo pooed my ‘Local Poet’ status pretty hard. I was not nearly as driven to make comics as these folks, and I had other obsessions that were not comic related. These are some of the times, as well as the plays I worked on, and poetry nights I hosted, created, that I have most like I was actually both a part of and even, doing something important.
Now as my life is in upheaval, Art is saving me yet again. I will end this with another anecdote about how reading has changed my life, in a way that echoes is how I have come to rely on my daily ‘art therapy,’ as I call my primitive/beginner/outsider ‘art.’
I am currently reading Patrick Rothfuss’ Gigantic Fantasy novel “The Name Of The Wind.” And not to spoil it too much, the main character who has been through some real hardship as a young person, is finally getting his shit together, and at University, learning magic. He realizes that he needs to bring music back into his life, there is a penultimate scene where he goes to an open mic night and performs for the first time in a long time (after weeks of practicing). He gets on stage, and makes a go of it, his fears of rust, and a shabby Lute on his mind at first, but then he finds the music. I wept. I cried like a baby with a new tooth.
That connection to art, music, whatever creative endeavour, for me, is where most of my joy comes from. I rejoice to hear my friends’ poems, or read their stories, or see their paintings, films or dance. These are my friends: Artists, Writers, Musicians, Poets, creators, all. People who make things, or things that you experience like a song, or a poem, I am much more interested in being someone who makes things, than someone who sells things. I will never have nor have any children, I can’t even have a pet in my place right now. My art is my children, my pets. And I have a lot of neighbourhood kitty friends, and dog friends at work, though.
So, what am I getting at? I’m not even that sure myself. But you know, I really am finding a lot of joy in things that haven’t given me joy in a long time. In my new life my ‘Rocks’ are not just the new modern things like facebook, and this blog, that have made my transition as successful as it has been. There are also the old things, my joy at creating images, and also reading a story, especially Epic multi volume stories, and roleplaying, but more than playing, the D&D game I run is a long story that I am telling, with the help of some friends.
This is my joy, telling stories, sharing information, connecting with people through talking, and telling our stories to each other, often as they happen. Like we are narrating our life. For me this is what brings order to the chaos of our world, and all the things that we seem not to be able to control. In our stories, we can have some modicum of power, and it’s something that is more easily shared, though online ‘pollution’ is becoming a bit of a problem. :p
Recently I have rediscovered painting, drawing as a way of venting, expressing my feelings, and creative urges. Painting is like digital photography and film making, and poetry , and all the other media I like to use for my alchemy. I only have immaculate conception options.
I have become cautiously optimistic about my future, and in large part this is due to having so many options at my disposal to discuss my stuff, or even better to funnel it into some art. That is living, as far as I’m concerned, all the rest is room and board.