November 25, 2010

Slow Dancing by David Michalek

On this Thanksgiving morning, I'd like to share with you a beautiful video. Please follow the links to learn more about this artist, David Michalek.

I spent ages 6 through 11 immersed in dance, like many little girls. I wasn't particularly good at it, but it felt magical. To me, this video is a grown-up, perfected image of that feeling and every other moment of physical strength and ability I've ever had in life... and it was so wonderful to discover it this morning.

Slow Dancing by David Michalek: Nejla Y. Yatkin from Moving Portrait on Vimeo.

"William Carlos Williams said that poets write for a single reason—to give witness to splendor. This is also why, I think, dancers dance. Susan Sontag once pointed out that “no art lends itself so aptly as dance does to metaphors borrowed from the spiritual life (grace, elevation)…” But I also believe that certain harder and rougher metaphors borrowed from the life here below (gravity, striving, failing, falling) are equally important to what dance is and whom dancers are. To paraphrase Simone Weil, grace is also the law of the descending movement—some people fall to the heights." David Michalek at "Slow Dancing" on Ancora Imparo.

November 10, 2010

My NaNoWriMo Novel Is Coming Together!

Dear Writing Friends and Readers,

I'm experiencing something I'm sure you can relate to. I've been "butt in the chair" each morning, words pouring out of my fingertips as I engage in National Novel Writing Month's 30-day challenge. When I was asked to name a title, I wrote "The Memory Tree" even though I had no idea what that was or how it would fit into my story. I just liked it and went with it.

Then, lots of writing, up to 16,000 + words yesterday. Yesterday morning, I finalize realized (okay, "they" told me) how the various characters would connect with each other and what the Memory Tree was. It sits on The Ridges, a hill which is the main narrator of the book.

Here's a description of what the Memory Tree is (not the novel, but the tree)...

In the woods here on my ridge there is always one tree older than any other; once a sapling, then a young tree that bends in the tornadoes that whip across Ohio; never breaking, never uprooting, growing wider and taller with each passing year, home to all sorts of wildlife, feathered and four-footed. Then, as its branches thicken and its trunk widens and the roots of its being push deeper, past the soil and wrapping around the rocks that make up this ridge, the tree begins to store memories.

Like a human being retains memories for only a season, trees hold the warm-weather memories in their leaves, to float to the ground in the autumn, wiping the surface of near-time clean. But some leaves are so infused with memories that something -- sound or sight or spirit -- seeps into the branches, the small ones first then into the large ones. When the leaves fall to the ground the spirit of these memories infuses the soil and seeps to the roots. Up from the ground and down from the sky, these memories journey, meeting in the trunk, the center of a tree's wisdom, where rings measure not only years but seasons of memory.

If man could devise a machine to measure a tree's memory, he would learn a history unlike that told in any printed book. The tale of everything wild and natural, mentioning man from the unbiased view of observer. A history such as I can share with you, as all these trees on my shoulders have whispered to me their memories with each gust of wind blowing through their branches.

In the winter, dark lines against the gray sky form a calligraphy of testimony, as the trees themselves reveal the shorthand of their time on earth. Time that spans the generations of men, of government, of weather. Some of the trees on my ridge are two hundred, three hundred, years old. If you sit under these trees long enough, you might sense their memories too. I wonder sometimes if Bugaboo did. Perhaps that's why he felt little guilt about what he did to Lester Dixtin. No guilt whatsoever, not even for a minute. He replaced any thought of the man he'd killed with a focus on the nurse who was like a mother to him, his brother and best friend, and the plants that were his children.

November 4, 2010

Things I Found Not To Be True

This article was originally posted online, April 2005.


Way back, decades ago ... how can that be? I was facing a panel of "Real Life Working Artists" also known as my professors, waiting for their verdict on my Senior Project. The project consisted of a one-person art show in the university. Unfortunately, I'd failed my first one. The renderings were accurate enough, but they were too illustrative for my avant garde, non-representational loving mentors who, I realize now, did me a favor. They thought so at the time, because when I returned months later with my second show, I passed hands down, grabbed my BFA and, having honed that starving artists, dark-eyed appearance down pat, promptly started . . . planning a wedding.

"We know you are getting married," they'd said. "Don't you get busy and forget about your art. Don't you forget to paint, or you'll lose your talent," they warned.
I nodded, "Of course, I won't stop painting."

But I did.

I fell into someone else's life, and before I knew it all I wanted to be able to do was keep the house clean enough and raise children unscathed by a difficult marriage.

Slowly though, like tiny plants under the snow in winter, ideas, images, colors, sounds, rumbled around quietly in the depths of my personality. A book idea here . . . a sculptured figure there . . . a life drawing class . . . a painting trip to North Carolina . . . a box of pastels . . . a watercolor of nothing but water. I started to keep notebooks: "Drawings," "Dolls," "Writings." I registered copyrights and started to learn piano.

Weaving in and out of the day-to-day life of a mother, I pulled along a ribbon of creativity and it lightly swished past my face and through the memories of my children. I held onto it after my divorce, and wiped my tears with it more than once.

I didn't forget and I didn't lose my talent. They were wrong. Everything I experienced as a young wife and mother fell into the pockets of my invisible painting smock and waited there, patiently, for me to gain the wisdom to view them anew. When I did, creation turned out to be so much easier than it had been in my twenties. I only had to please myself, and I became free to try anything. I also was free to fail. Free not to be "the best." Free to enjoy the process. Free of the fear that I would never be an Artist.

Today, I was in the grocery store. "Put that down, now!" exclaimed the young mother behind me in line, in that tired mother voice that is so often heard in grocery stores. My first impulse was to be critical. Does she know how angry she sounds? I thought. Then I turned around. She had a baby in the front of the cart and a young boy of about three was trying his best not to touch the brightly colored impulse items hanging at his eye level. My heart softened.

"They are the same age difference as my boys are," I said, smiling. She replied in a much kinder voice as well, and stated her son was usually well behaved.

"It's hard not to touch these things, they are irresistable." I told her that my children were now in their twenties, and how fast it went. I also said I remembered what it was like to be so tired and have so many demands as a mother of young kids.

I paid for my groceries, wished her a good day and moved along. Home. Home to my business where I draw, paint, design, write, edit and make a living doing what I love. And, being a mother. How great is that?

The professors were wrong. The talent doesn't leave. The creativity doesn't leave. There is time in life for each phase of life and there are ways to keep creativity alive during the fallow years. I wish they had told me that instead. I would have had more hope in the future.