Why do I go on? and ON?

Was questioned recently by someone about why, considering my advancing senior age status, do I continue to go on – trying to learn and do and “find myself” as an artist given my near total lack of obvious fame, success, financial gain etc etc etc to date.

I was taken aback.  Why wouldn’t I? I had to pause and give it some thought over a few days.  Is it because I need to prove to myself that I can stamp out all the lemons of my life into vintage lemonade?  Some.  Maybe.  But there is a point that enough is enough, and I might be justified in just kicking back and enjoy a bit more.  Maybe.  Is it because that after 30+ years of Buddhist practice, I have become an embodiment of the Ho’nimyo spirit.  NOT.  Maybe a little.

As truth often strikes during the most mundane moment, I was walking through my quiet house seeking coffee when I paused to look at the print of a painting by Sylvester Urquhart, friend and talented artist.  It hangs directly at the end of my hall so I can’t miss it everyday.  Then there is the one by Gibby Perry in my bedroom.  It struck me that a large part of my art collection was done by dead friends.  I walked around.  Dead.  Dead.  Dead.  Her too.

The HIV epidemic barreled through my life starting in my mid-twenties and before retrovirals the swath it cut through the creative community was wide, relentless, and greeted AT BEST by the non artistic community by puzzled indifference.  By the time I was thirty, if I listed the top ten persons I knew, or was inspired by as an artist, most by then were dead.  Dead.  Dead.  Dead.  Him too.  One reason I didn’t return to Los Angeles was that most of the people I would have liked to touch base with were gone.  Gone gone gone.  (short apology to the few who are still here and want me to visit)  By the time I left LA in my early thirties, I was a practiced, if not professional, mourner.  It was like we had become artistic orphans, those of us young uns left.  Fewer opportunities to work along side, or follow, those who inspire.  Don’t get too close.  There has to be an untouched scrap of yourself to hold onto at the funeral.

I may have been more content to exist more to sidelines and admire and support, rather than do, had the HIV virus remained an animal-only disease.  I know a large part of my struggle is powered by my need to keep faith with those whom I have lost. I am reminded of the original story of Pyramus and Thisbee (Shakespeare’s inspiration for Romeo and Juliet).  What is rather forgotten about that story is the actual symbolic Metamorphosis of the mulberry bush.  It could be titled “How the Mulberry Got Its Color”.  It seems at one time the mulberry fruit was pure white.  After the two lovers talk through walls, etc, have the unfortunate encounter with the lion, bloody scarf, etc etc they sacrifice themselves, one before the other under the pure white mulberry bush.  The roots of the bush are so overwhelmed by their blood that it turns the dark mulberry red that we know today.  I, like many others for various tragic reasons, have been likewise transformed.  There is a part of the self that is indelibly marked by catastrophic loss.  The tricky trick is to learn to go forward as a red mulberry.

I also believe our society was marked by this anti-creative tsunami.  We just don’t realize it, as we continue living in a universe minus hundreds of former suns and are used to the dark. Some of our pale little stars may shine a little brighter now in comparison.   Perhaps.  I may not have “discovered myself”.  I may still be at sixty-plus years clueless as to what my “mission in life” may be.  But I still CAN go on.    I have to muddle on because they cannot. What  could I possibly say to them when we meet again if I did not?

Taking that Leap of Faith

Positively ages ago I put that quote from that guy whose name escapes me about following your bliss and opening doors – it wasn’t Rollo May. …. found it:
When you have seen the radiance of eternity . . . when you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean that deep sense of being in it and doing what the push is out of your own existence . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there were going to be doors.”—Joseph Campbell

I have been absolutely floored by an opportunity to work with an early childhood learning center that came about just because I signed up for the one day UVA Alumni volunteer day in the REad Aloud program. I have been absolutely terrified to contact the director and education coordinator again – it is that fear of leaving the comfort zone.

Today I shook that fear and bought some books. Tomorrow I am going to compose an email – if I wait for time at the college I get absolutey hugely depressed beyond words and become an inert immobile blob. Regardless how scary “something” different may be if I stay too much longer where I am, I will be spiritual toast. If not beginning to collect a folder of reprimands. Of which currently in 20 years I have “zero”.

I am going to do a flower based activity set to test the waters before I prepare my Nagual set. I found the most wonderful books on animals. Perfect for kindergarten.
I am just going to jump in and go. I am going to make my pink/orange volunteer apron (the reading volunteers wear blue). Part of me so longs to go back, and part of me is nearly paralyzed by anxiety.

Since returning from Montana, I have somehow come to the realization that I am really finished with architecture. I don’t want to discuss it in advising students, I am no longer interested in what is going on in the BArch schools. I am not interested in teaching some core courses in my program – I have thought about construction drawings and residential design as much as I really want to in this life time and I have had enough. I don’t care what the students pick out – not so much as I don’t care about their work, but I no longer can care about the subject. I don’t want to grade papers, because I don’t want to use up brain space and energy to think about the problems. It is finished for me.

The only subjects that still interest me are design -the exploration of ideas, drawing as a discipline and skill that can be perfected, and the ideas that relate building to culture and history. Who were those Anasazi people who built those irrigation systems? What were they thinking? How did they figure it out without formal mathematics – or maybe they did and just didn’t use any recorded symbol systems. What are the cultural and aesthetic values one invokes when they build a certain way in a certain location?

And since I was crawling around Borders Books looking for a flower story book, all of a sudden I feel energized and connected again, like I felt in NYC at Aole’s workshop. Talking about my authentic ideas, revealing my authentic self. Not my fake architect self who I never could embrace. Somehow I knew alll those years ago that this wasn’t anything more than a job for me – and my authentic self intervened in the only ways it could to prevent me from succeeding on the ARE. How else can you explain the mysterious high fever (102 degF) that just showed up the day I was to drive off to Pomona, to sit for the exam? I was so non-self aware then, that if I had become and RA (registered architect), I would have gone on and done all those things that I thought I would be “supposed to do”. I was a little more self-aware in the late 80s when I reached a sort of “do it – or lose it” situation with my documentation with the licensing boards. At the same time the opportunity arose to study flamenco, and work in the theater, which I had longed to do all my life. I knew at that time, I probably would be choosing one over the other. Everything I have done in investing in myself in the arts since 1991 is everything that has opened the current door. I have always been an artist. I was never raised to be permitted to consider myself one, or that I should permit myself that freedom.

Now this multidisciplinary creature I have become- competent enough to work with K-3 kids in singing, dancing, drawing, and now acting as well. With a strong “outsider artist” bent, and a committment to real multiculturism and cultural fusion in works.

I realized I didn’t have to figure it ALL out before I went back to St. Michaels Day school. Remember one of the most major lessons from Per Brahe. Life is a journey; if one is seeking – follow the path as it unfolds. My mind and spiritual wisdom can really embrace this. There are part of my wounded child spirit that believe that I am guaranteed to fall if I step off the path of the known.

It Is Because I Cannot Forget This:

“When you have seen the radiance of eternity . . . when you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean that deep sense of being in it and doing what the push is out of your own existence . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there were going to be doors.”—Joseph Campbell

and heretofore how so very very far from this I had been living for so long.