Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘self doubt’ Category

Fear as the Dark Mother of Moving

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Yes, I am moving to Texas – the land of big hair and blue eyeshadow. I know, I know. But it’s my fear after spending ten of my formative years in Alabama feeling under made-up and under poufy-haired.

I keep thinking about fear, fear of moving, fear of my friends forgetting me, fear of loneliness from a general incompetence in making new friends, fear of the heat in Texas, fear that I am throwing out something important. The list goes on and on.

So, I went for a walk last night around Five Points late in the evening when the scraggly trees blend with the night sky. Total patches of the earth are black and vision-proof. I kept wandering the streets, shuffling my way along pavements occasionally stubbing a toe or tripping, bouncing off tree branches, feeling the spiders from said branches land in my hair, and working my way into a panic attack.

Like most Scots, when I’m worried, I walk and walk for a while, late at night, regulating my breath so the fear coalesces, snaking back into the dark edges to lay in waiting for the next time that it can grab me.

I can’t remember ever being freaked out about walking at night. I’ve walked this area for almost 20 years. I’ve survived the night of Dropping Spiders (one April evening I found three had dropped down crowning me with 24 legs – still makes me shiver). I have listened to the trains go past with the chug-a-lug sound, never changing in these two decades, and wondered about where I was going in life. I’ve sat on the swings in the park, surrounded by the toys of happily innocent kids and speculated if the wisdom gained is worth the innocence lost. In the dark, I have admitted my failures, where I’ve been mean or thoughtless, ignored then stared in the face my aging with the creeping vista of finitude, death. I’ve cursed and cried, laughed and said “I love you” where no one can hear me.

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I’ve met Kali, the dark mother, twice in one weekend walking these streets. During yoga teacher training, I walked my beagle-dachshund mix, PooPet, at 11:30 one Friday night. My doggie loved the darks holes, where the light had disappeared with the dipping sun and would scamper into places that looked fit for Moray Eels or Jack the Ripper. Nothing stopped her thirty pounds of courageous canine, but that night, we tromped along, meandering an uneven sidewalk when a silhouette stepped into the road. In a long robe, features obliterated, with a croak she whispered, “Don’t be afraid.” I remember opening my eyes wide, struggling to remain upright as PooPet jerked the chain to run behind my legs. When I gained my balance, the street was dark, leaves slithered in the breeze, and we were alone in the darkness. I didn’t think too much of it beyond, “Holy moly, we have weird ass people in this neighborhood.” But then the next night, walking the dog, another woman stepped into the light in the middle of the road. Even backlit I could tell that she was not the same woman. She lifted her arms toward the trees, and PooPet let out a bark that morphed into a whimper. The air stopped moving. I couldn’t breathe. Now I was seriously freaked out. PooPet was still, and for a moment, I could feel my blood move through my body, like I was being watered from the inside.

This Kali was formal, “There is no need to be frightened.” I think I said, “Uh, yeah, Okay.” At that point I was scared as fuck, running down that road to the safety of my townhouse. It didn’t stop me from returning to the training class the next day, but I was really, really, very alert between yoga poses.

Maybe that’s the way this is supposed to be. I am aware, actually frightened, that things could go wrong in a big way. But. I’m still going to move to Texas. My friends, come along for the ride but hold on. This will shake us up! Anyone up for a walk?

Om Kali Ma

 

Live Nude Art

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“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”     – Andy Warhol

I know you are wondering what I am doing. In my most honest moments, I wonder too.

The photography shoot was an adventure, a challenge, and a chance to see naked people up close. Working with an artist whose medium is photography, we created a series of quite lovely, interesting, and at times, disturbing images. Some of the images are based on very loose ideas or story fragments and some arose organically within the photo shoot. I will write proper, interesting choice of word, stories for the images.

Overall, the models were exquisite. Every one of them perfect in some way, usually unexpected. We attempted to capture or hint at the elusive perfection.

Each day, up would drive a perfectly normal looking and behaving person asking where to park.

“Around back. You don’t want your car towed.”

“Okay,” and with a trusting nod, they would follow me around the back of the building to park behind my car. They would walk into the building. I would make sure doors were locked.

“Wow, thanks it’s not too cold,” models would say. They signed a model’s release and showed us their license, which I photographed and emailed to us. We explained what we were looking to do. Got their input. Then they would say, “Ready?”

I would take a big breath and think, “Here we go. Don’t stare.” And they’d take off their clothes. Trying to look busy elsewhere as this was happening, I forced myself to exhale, practiced a noncommittal smile.

Then we went to work. After the first ten minutes, it was fine. We put in some hours, broke a sweat, strained our eyes, hearts, and brains. There were a couple of dicey moments, more about artistic choices than about nudity.

“Did you see that?”

“Yeah, we can’t have that.”

So I walked over to the model and said, “I’m going to clamp some fabric around your butt. Strange shadow … “

Without blinking an eye she said, “Sure.”

Clamp, clamp, clamp went the fabric. The model smiled. I was the uncomfortable one.

Things were better by the second day. I felt maternally protective – walking them out to their car, asking if they needed water or felt dizzy and needed to come down from the stool.

But the third day was confusing, trying, a major leap of artistic faith. We photographed two models. Together. I kept repeating the mantra,

Thisisart. This is art. THIS … IS … ART.

Periodically, I would check in with my collaborator.

“Can they do that?”

“Sure.”

“Will we go to jail?”

“No.”

“I’m not sure this will fly in Raleigh … “

He’d smile at me and tell me to do something. Pick up a stool. Gather some clothes. I would suggest things – the placement of a hand, drape of a fabric, choice of a prop – and the models were game. It was a wonderful collaboration.

This weekend, we reviewed the images. Plugging the camera into a TV, the images took on life. The images are stupendous. Beautiful, erotic, disturbing. Quite likely, the photographs and stories won’t fly in Raleigh or will have a limited flight.

But mostly, I am proud of us. We were true to our visions.

I kept my promise to see the beauty in each model – not getting bent out of shape over every little imperfection. (Maybe one day I will see my body with the same kindness.)

More ideas are percolating. The exhibit is starting to find a shape, probably not the final shape. We will continue to work within our visions as I gather my courage and sharpen my skills. It helps that I am reading Bayles and Orland’s Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING.

But it is imperative, however you evaluate the exhibit, we will keep making art.

Writing A Love Story

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Back at writing group, the consensus changed. I could write a love story but only one love story – my personal love story.

“You are lyrical when you write about loving Rod,” said one group member.
“It flows,” said another.
“This book isn’t Rod’s story,” I said.

They looked from one to another. I could feel my brow knotting, my throat tightening. An urge to hurl things through the glass table bubbled up. I pushed down the urge.

“What if you ran it as a parallel story to the main story?” one said.
“You could do it in Italics,” another said.
“Yeah. A bad example is the book Everything is Illuminated.’
“Hey, I liked that book but now I’m into magical realism. Shit. That’s tons of extra work,” I said.

Feeling overwhelmed and blue, I went to lunch with a friend who reads. She gave me a copy of Barnard’s Death of a Mystery Writer. How apropos.

Back at my computer, I thought, “Love is a mystery. What do I know about it? Can I, or anyone, only write about what one knows, literally?” I have loved, fiercely, loyally and with my whole heart. When I let myself sail in my sea of love memories, it was the little memories that would rise up again and again. The spontaneous, poignant beats of our hearts.

My husband was getting on my nerves. For weeks, he had been agitated about some computer problem at work. Mumbling to himself. Pacing. Absent to the dogs and me. The moment he sat down, the cat jumped on his lap purring, making biscuits.

“Get out of here. Grab some friends. Go to Atlanta,” I said.
“I don’t want to leave you,” he said.
“Leave me, leave me. I’ll be here when you come back,” I said handing him the phone.

That weekend, he piled a bunch of his friends into the van, checked an engine hose was properly connected with a towel and duct tape, and tootled off to Atlanta. I had the house to myself. Everyone settled down.

I thought, “Yes. I get the bathroom to myself.” Our house was a 1910 bungalow with one heated bathroom and a structurally unsound, basically unusable add-on bathroom in the back. We were afraid to use it. We could fall through the floor to the basement or some plumbing fixture could explode. We were convinced something bad had happened in there before we bought the house.

Rod complained about the main bathroom continually. He would say, “I sit down and my knees hit the tub. It’s ugly. It’s claustrophobic. Yada yada yada.” He was right. In the quiet of his trip, I saw the bathroom was ugly and claustrophobic. I had a brilliant idea and drove to the paint store (not a mistake). From there I went to the craft store (a mistake).

That weekend, I painted a sea mural on the bathroom walls. Working from sunup to sundown, I stenciled, yeah, stenciled, seashells on the bottom part of the walls, many types of fishes in a rainbow of colors with air bubbles working up to the surface, and waves capped with tugboats. To top it off, I painted clouds on the ceiling. I was impressed with my artistic abilities and intoxicated with paint fumes. Sitting in the living room, beaming like a Buddha who had missed his Lithium dose, I waited for my husband’s surprise and praise.

“Honey, I’m home,” he shouted bursting through the door. He took one look at me and said, “What have you done?”
“Nothing. A little something. Maybe it’s not that noticeable,” I said starting to feel foolish.

He lumbered through the house, peeking through a door before he stepped foot in the room, checking floor to ceiling. The animals followed discretely while I sat in the living room beyond foolish, now acutely embarrassed like the time I gave a presentation with my blouse unbuttoned in the seventh grade.

He opened the door to the bathroom. Gasped. Silence. More silence then he walked back to stand in front of me. “I love it. The seaside. When I take a crap, I will think of you painting the bathroom for me. I will want to go.”

He took my hand lifting me to my feet. We raced down the hall to the bathroom, pulling off each other’s clothes as we went.

After he died, I would go sit on the floor in the bathroom. Counting seashells. Tracing air bubbles. Even with the mural, the bathroom was still ugly and claustrophobic. Airplane sized really. But no matter how big or luxurious another bathroom, nothing could compare to the love knowable in each brushstroke and echo of praise.

I will let my characters create that love space without forcing, tweaking, paralleling, or massaging the manuscript. A love space no matter how tiny or silly. But I have the stencil – it will happen in its own time. My writing must be patient. Courageously waiting for the colors and shapes of love personal to each character and story.

Learning to Read

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One dark and stormy night, a few years back, an editor called me. “So we are going to publish your story but we want you to read at some events.”

“Okay.”

Rah-rah to being published but ‘okay’ is not a good negotiation tactic. A vague ‘okay’ can lead to all kinds of shenanigans. And it did.

“Do you want to read in New York?”

“Okay.”

Again, not so good a response. My writing group said I should have asked for more information. A phone call was placed.

“Uh, excited about reading in New York. But where exactly will I be reading?” I had dreams of exciting but small literary salons or at least an independent bookstore.

“At Madame X. The place holds ongoing book readings. We are so excited to get in there.”

Somewhere alarm bells went off. Madame X did not sound like an independent bookstore or a salon…

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