For What It’s Worth

It’s not everyday you look back over your life and try to string the dots together to make sense of the mess but today, it seems, is such a day.

This kind of thing happens at the end of any year I suppose, the reflecting, collecting, sifting through what happened, what you did or didn’t do with the time you had.

So much waste. So much treasure. And in the end what is it all for? Where have you come from and where have you gone?

The trees in the field are soft and strong and standing naked and alone under a blank pale sky. Winter is a part of everything now. In the icy running stream, in the sharp invisible air current beneath the tiny bird who soars silently into a bush of holly for shelter.

It is possible for a year to be stolen from you, you know that now in a way you hadn’t before. The rich and powerful will use what they have to bury you alive. Annihilation of the mind. Did you not know evil was a kind of intelligence or did you just forget?

It is a strange thing to wrap what’s left of your sanity around and an even stranger thing to fold into your heart in order never to forget. We make choices, we make selections, and we watch as chunks of our former selves float off far and away.

There is a new year coming around the corner, I can smell it like a wood fire burning, burning, as I pull on my boots and step out into the cold December air. I can feel it in my bones as shivers spike down my spine.

When the snow begins to fall, I duck under my hood and turn away from the wind.

All this time I have been given crowds and bursts in my chest like a flower desperate to bloom. I bite my tongue and close my eyes just to feel my skin without the noise.

It is the middle of the holiday week and all is quiet and still inside and all around. There is a certain kind of mood that is twinkle lights switched off and dead holiday decorations scattered on front lawns. Some kind of party is over that never quite began. It is the morning after and we are clutching our breasts on the wet walk home.

But there is beauty in the wreckage in our veins. There is a flicker of warmth in wide open sky.

How full of stories we seem to be but yet who dares to tell theirs out loud? Even to the bed sheets, even to the laptop screen. Who wants to see herself up that close and if she does what does that say about her.

Neurotic or adventurer? Poet or circus freak?

How much of what you worry about ever comes true? Has it been worth it to hang on or are you ready to just cut loose, come clean, break free?

As I make my way back along a side street, the purple evening sky begins her quiet descent over the white frozen hills. I can hear the geese cry out as their thick black bodies fly together in a V over head.

How this life comes at you screaming even as it’s drifting away.

All this churning in our souls as we decide how much we’ll say.

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Photo by Taylor Harding

My Greatest Wish for Disillusioned Artists at the End of 2020

 

When I came across this passage in my readings the other day, it stopped me in my tracks. I re-read these particular lines a few times, letting them sink in. It was the first time I read something about exactly what I have been feeling for a few years now, most especially this year:

“I have written a lot of articles and several books about Russia’s transformation under Vladimir Putin, but the experience I’ve always found hardest to describe is one of feeling as if creativity and imagination were sucked out of society after he came to power. The reason is not so much censorship or even intimidation as it is indifference. When the state took over television, for example, it wasn’t just that the news was censored: it was that the new bosses didn’t care about the quality of the visuals or the writing. The same thing happened in other media, in architecture, in filmmaking. Life in an autocracy is, among other things, dull.” – Masha Gessen, for the The New Yorker

One of the insidious cruelties of living through an attempted coup by a sadistic psychopathic wanna-be dictator and his fellow goons is one that goes unspoken but not unnoticed by the artist.

When you are made to be constantly on alert for the next crazed dangerous act against the dignity of humanity, you enter into survival mode. What to watch for? How to know when it’s “really bad”? If it is really bad, what even do you do to protect yourself, the ones you love?

You become obsessed with understanding the new hell hole you find yourself in suddenly. At some point, and you can never quite put your finger on that point, it all becomes life or death. Sink or swim. Put up or shut up.

And all the while, a numbness toward your own writing, your own art, your own creativity, seems to have permanently lodged itself within your own spirit. You feel as if access to your very soul has been hijacked.

It becomes impossible to create the way you used to because you used to be able to detach yourself from the world entirely in order to touch the freedom inside of you, the wilderness. How that wilderness would welcome you readily into her beautiful dark.

When a leader disregards all life and crushes the pursuit of liberty and freedom for all every five seconds, a cloud of hopelessness, numbness, uselessness, descends into your body little by little. And because you are so disoriented by the noise and the chaos and the shock and the anger, you do not seem to realize what is happening to you.

Until you want to create something and find exhaustion where vitality used to be.

Indifference where curiosity once thrived.

I haven’t talked about this with anyone, but this is what I have been experiencing for a long time now. I haven’t told anyone because until I read the above passage, I didn’t really even know what I was feeling.

There will be a push for us to forget, to sweep all of the brutality of the past four years under the rug and just move on. Pretend it never happened.

But if you forfeit your opportunity to name what happened, to understand the depths of the wounds you have at the hands of a lunatic with a lust for death and destruction, how will you ever recover your creativity?

There has to be a clearing, or perhaps more precisely, a clarity. A clear awareness of what you have endured, what it felt like, why it felt that way.

Because you are never going back to the way it was before. Now you have experienced the madness and the shock of the realization that blunt viciousness can also cause a dullness within. Abuse causes a dulling of the senses without your even realizing it because your nerves are too busy fraying at the edges over and over and over again.

The next twelve days are holidays for me. I’m planning to close out this terrible year with a great deal of quietude, soul searching, reading, poetry, journaling, and time in nature.

I love the winter. The solace of the silence of the snowy cold and endless white-blanketed fields.

With all my heart I hope that we artists are not buried for good, but slumbering.

That in the darkness we learn again to thaw, again to melt, again to let go.

Again to dream.

 

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Photo by Hannah Gullixson

Spacetrash (my new podcast)

It’s been a gruesome year to say the least and stress is running high, especially now in the U.S. as we approach what is arguably The Most Consequential Election in history. But all that angsty jazz aside, I started a new creative thing with my cousin and dear friend, Mark, and I wanted to share it here with you.

Way back in June of this year, Mark and I were hanging out at a beach rental, drinking and staring up at the stars from the wide open rooftop deck overlooking the ocean, and we traded ideas about creating a podcast where we chat about modern day culture and how we maintain our creativity during the chaotic mess that is 2020.

In our first episode of *Spacetrash* (to be fair, a satellite drifted by as we were discussing things upon that rooftop deck, and also, as I just said, we were drinking well into that beautiful starry night) we laugh, we lament, we pontificate, and philosophize and hope and despair, and just generally riff on all manner of creative timely topics from writing to screenwriting to reality tv, to space junk, to long distance relationships, and so much more.

This is a completely new project for me in the sense that my writing has been generally ethereal and melancholy of late, but this podcast? This is just me having fun with someone I love so very dearly, getting to know each other’s perspectives on art and culture and modern life in general.

You can listen in on Spotify, click here.

I hope you enjoy it! If for no other reason than the world is shit right now, but we can still find joy and revel in it wherever and whenever we can. Or we can just make it up as we go.

Because I will be straight with you, I have not been able to write or think or create or communicate in the same ways ever since March of 2020. Literally everything feels up for grabs right now. Like everything.

My emotions are all over the place at any given moment. My worldview warps and changes and collapses and rebuilds itself over and over on the daily. It is maddening and maybe because of that, I am clinging tight to those I love, hoping against hope we all come out okay on the other side.

Whatever that means.

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Photo by Billy Huynh