This is day six of the Artfully Wild Blog Along. You can find out more here.
I. For context, you should know that 95% of our conversations happen over text.
I was wobbly, and there was a catastrophe just waiting to happen, so I did what I do and I named it before it could blindside me. I said “I fear the ebb, but I understand it. I expect that the status quo is easier, and so you will, eventually, wander away.”
He replied with “I don’t ebb.”
I said “No? Doesn’t everybody ebb? I mean, especially when things are this complicated?”
He said “Nope. Unless it stops being reciprocated. And even then, it takes a long time.”
This is why.
II. A day later, I said, completely out of context, and in the middle of a totally unrelated conversation, “FYI, I never ebb either.”
He said “Did you just go to a conversation we had yesterday?”
I said “Yes.” I could feel him chuckling at me from way over here.
He said “Did I just remember that we had this conversation yesterday?”
I wish you could hear his voice in your head like I do. It would make you laugh, because it is, indeed, a small miracle that he remembered we had this conversation yesterday.
I said “Yes.” And followed up with “Like you, I give up after a very fucking long while if things aren’t reciprocated, but otherwise, I am a little bit like a pit bull with lip gloss.” *
He said “Bwahahahahahahaha. I just pictured that.”
This is why.
III. When I am with him, when he is holding my hand, or swiping a tear off my cheek (I cry a lot.), or gazing into my eyes while I wax poetic about whatever the fuck has me feeling poetic that day, my bones forget my age. They align in such a way that I can no longer even feel them. All is straight within me, and I am held, like love’s marionette, by a silken thread attached to the crown of my head.
Sure, my knees still creak, and I can’t see a fucking thing without my glasses. I still bump into things and end up with mystery bruises. I am still a bull in the china shop of my own experience, and I am also probably half deaf (ah, fifty), but I feel fluid as mercury, and as quick to ascend.
When I am with him, all is right with the world, and my bones remember when I had wings.
This is why.
IV. You know that thing that happens when you have had a headache for so long that you’ve become almost numb to it, but your brow is furrowed, and everyone around you can see how much you’re suffering, but you just plough on through whatever you need to plough through because you have no choice, and then one day the sun comes out and the birds are singing and you realize the headache is gone? You know how you feel when you realize it, and all the hair on your body rises, and your muscles relax and your forehead melts into a softer version of itself?
That’s how it is when the things that grip me let go. Exactly like that. If I could bottle that feeling, I’d be addicted, because it is the best feeling in the world.
V. On Thursday, my middle kid came over, did five loads of laundry for me (I folded), and bought me dinner (Swiss Chalet. I swear, there’s crack in the sauce!). Stacey, my casserole person, came over at around six, and the three of us sat around in the studio swilling wine and sharing stories. At nine, my friend, Snow, popped in with a gift for Stacey and a back cracking hug for me (he always cracks my back when he hugs me. It’s glorious), and he joined us the studio for a couple of hours of more sharing stories.
In the midst of all this, and as though we’d conjured him (we’d just mentioned him not a half hour earlier) my eldest son PM’d, and we had a really good talk after months of radio silence. I was able to act as a bridge between he and my middle son (they have stuff to work out), and we ended the conversation with promises to be better in touch. There’s also the possibility of a trip to the far north to visit once I get my ducks in a row, which I would *love* because I’ve never seen the north as an artist. I am curious to know what that would be like, to be there with a sketchbook, taking the long look, bringing it home.
Before my middle son’s arrival, I’d had a fucking day. Technology, bumping into things, stubbing my toe, tripping over a dog, dropping a carton of cream on the floor, therapy, which left me reeling, a letter from my tax rep, which made my head spin into a panic, and required me to confront my book keeper with “Um, wtf is all of this and can you please fix it?”.
It was, truly, a fucking day. If I were a beach, I’d look like the wreckage after a stormy spring break – a total mess of broken bottles and seaweed, tangled fishing line, abandoned beach umbrellas, and hooks just waiting to be stepped on.
And then my people rolled in like the tide, one after the other, bringing softness, bringing ears to hear, bringing hugs, nourishment, acts of service, and exquisite care, and when the tide rolled out again, I felt like clean, white sand studded with starfish, turquoise water lapping gently at the shore, smooth edges, and clear skies to the horizon.
Other care, man. It is so important. Self-care is awesome, too, but other care is golden.
VI. I had a ‘spilling over the edges’ day last Tuesday, and had to cancel a live video gathering in one of my classes (Moonshine, which is my most intimate offering). It’s not that there was anything ‘wrong’ or that I was in the middle of some kind of drama. It was that I was exhausted for no good reason (except for that whole recovering from trauma thing), and could not get my weeping for no good reason under control. I went ‘face to face’ with them in the class group so I could tell them exactly why I was rescheduling – and of course, they were deeply kind, and of course, that made me weep even more. It was good, though, because I got a huge hit of compassion, and I got to touch base with them so they’d know that even though I’m quiet lately, I am okay.
See, we really care about one another in this class that is more coven, and that is priceless.
One of my students wrote a poem afterwards, which she dedicated to me, about the gift of tears. I want you to read it, so I’ve put it right here.
VII. One of the things my people have come to expect of me is that I will model being a real person. That doesn’t mean I’m constantly revealing every damned thing about myself to everyone all the time (we’ve already discussed how ‘fine’ is my default presentation), but it does mean that I will say “I want to show up as my whole self, and right now, I can’t, and this is why.” They *value* this, because, as they’ve expressed to me, it gives them permission to operate within their own limitations as well, to acknowledge that they have limitations, to say out loud that they have needs, and that they are worthy of having those needs met.
We do this thing where if we need one another, we put COVEN UP in all caps at the beginning of our post, and then we spill whatever needs spilling. Within mere moments, people start to gather around the ‘art witch in need’ with witnessing, empathy, solidarity.
It’s virtual, but still. We circle round.
The importance of this part of what we do has become evident in the year and a half that I’ve been facilitating this space. People get free – of abusive relationships, of addictions, of ruts and stuckness, of fear. They leave bad jobs. They find better ones. They discover their desires, and then go after them with gusto. They get free, and they get a handle on their *own power*, and that is fucking amazing to witness.
It is not your average art journaling class. Not by a long shot. And I made it. And it’s a beautiful thing.
VIII. This comment on my Elephants and Birds post made me sob into my coffee cup. Can I tell you why?
Knowing that this thing I do *serves you* redeems my life in ways I can’t even begin to express. The Gods gave me some capacity for writing, and that capacity for writing allows me to translate my experiences in ways that move people, that mirror people, and that makes the more thorn-than-rose days bearable.
Barbara, thank you.
IX. Tonight I will sleep in the cradle he makes when he tucks his knees up behind mine. I will grasp his hand in sleep, and we will dream our dreams together. In the morning, I will kiss all nine of the lines that I can see around his smiling eyes before I send him back out into his life.
X. And that is *everything right now*.
I’ll be here tomorrow with something from the archives, because Sunday is for silence.
P.S. I’m blogging every day in April as part of my semi-annual “Artfully Wild Blog Along”. If you’d like to blog along, too, you can join me here. The rules are simple: read and comment on three blog posts for every blog post you share in our Facebook Group. Easy peasy.
Speaking of Facebook Groups, I recently dusted off one of my alumni groups, spiffed it up and re-envisioned it as a hub for all my students, past and present, as well as those who just want to hang out with me on the regular in a cosy virtual space. The Wilderhood is a lovely place to be if you enjoy weekly challenges, sharing your art journal spreads, and seeing my face pop up live on the regular. Please join us here.