What? Me Retired?

Last week when a friend asked me if I was making visual art or writing, I caught myself saying, “No, I’m retired.” Even though I haven’t been painting or writing much these days, I haven’t considered myself retired. I’m still busy as a bee and can’t seem to tell you where the days go. Since then I’ve found myself using that word more often, especially when it’s time to get up in the morning and I tell myself, “Oh, there’s plenty of time. After all, you are retired.”

Interestingly, I’ve recently talked to two artist friends my age or a bit older, and they tell me they aren’t making art either. They, like me are simply letting the days unfold before them and are enjoying things they haven’t done in a long while, like sleep in, travel, and not worry about tomorrow.

So I’m beginning to think that maybe I really am retired. I’m taking it easy, working on getting the kinks worked out of my stiff body, and enjoying extra sleep time. It’s time for lots of reading, writing in my journal, and eating foods grown on the lush farms all around me. Virginia Peaches are just coming in and their sweet juiciness is what summer is all about. Our farmer’s market is the place to go early on Saturday mornings if you want to fill your frig with the best veggies. It’s also where I often catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

As a way of testing whether or not I’m retired, I’m taking some time off here and blogging only when I have something important or inspiring to say. Though we’re mostly at home this summer, we’re eyeing a lovely cruise up the New England and Canadian coast, then down the St. Lawrence Seaway in the fall. And who knows what else will present itself? I’m opening up my life and my days by leaning into the breeze and seeing where it takes me. I’m not giving up the visual art and writing ghosts at all. I’m simply allowing my muse the extra time and space she needs to fly.

See you next time! And have a wonderful summer!

PAREIDOLIA

One of my favorite things to do on a warm, breezy summer day, is lie down in the grass and watch clouds pass overhead. I watch for those that remind me of animals. Sometimes a turtle, an elephant, or dragon. They change quickly as they move across the sky and it’s interesting how the things I see dissolve into something else or nothing at all.

I’m not alone in being a person who sees images and especially faces in inanimate objects. There are many of us  and it’s called Pareidolia. This capability has been with me since I was a child. My mother also saw these images and I suppose it could be that I learned it from her or it might have been passed down to me genetically. A new study in Japan found that those you see faces like the ones I see in the photo above are neurotic.

What? Me neurotic? Well, maybe. Aren’t most of us? If you look up the definition of neurosis you’ll find that it’s defined as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.” So maybe it’s true that I am neurotic. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, after all. But thankfully I’m in recovery. I’ve slowed my pace and do a lot of self-care … taking naps, meditating, writing, walking, gardening, reading, and listening to music. My stress levels have greatly diminished and I’m feeling like a new woman.

Do you see the rabbit in this one?

But thankfully those creatures and faces I see in the tiles on my shower wall are still with me. I think of them as my “shower friends” and have always enjoyed seeing them. They remind me of cartoon characters and I see them as happy and funny.

I’ve always attributed this ability of mine to my creative bent and what helps to make me an artist. I’m a very visual person. Give me written directions on how to do something, and it will take me forever to figure it out. Show me how to do something, and I’m there with you, ready to go. That’s how I learned to knit, weave, spin sheep’s wool into yarn, paint, and cook delicious food, among other things.

So, neurotic or not, I’m glad for whatever causes me to be able to do this. How about you? Do you see faces or animals in inanimate objects? What do you see in photographs of the tiles I’ve included here?

Relearning How To Rest

Over the last few years whenever I’ve gone away to take a break, I’ve taken all kinds of work to do with me. Last week was no exception. Bill and I spent four nights in one of our favorite places listening to waves rushing the shore, watching Pelicans flying overhead and eating delicious seafood. I had my to-do list with me. I planned on getting ahead by writing a few blog posts in advance, and catch up on reading the blog posts of those I follow and haven’t had time to get to in a few weeks. There were also a host of things on my computer desktop that I needed to file away.

The first day went by and I didn’t get any of that done. The day was dark, with rain showers, and very humid. The famous Outer Banks Midgies, small, gross, flying insects, were everywhere. They don’t bite but they arrive on days when there is a land breeze. When the wind shifts to an ocean breeze they quickly find shelter elsewhere. I’m not one of those people who absolutely hates insects freaking out when I see a spider or stinkbug coming my way, but these guys really got to me. At one point there were so many of them on the screen doors to our deck, that they obstructed our view of the ocean. And they covered almost every square inch of the deck chairs. Really! I took a brief walk on the beach, did some reading, and slept. We went out to dinner and tucked ourselves in early.

It’s been a crazy few months at our house with Bill’s hugely successful production of Death of a Salesman, my unsuccessful attempt to clean out my studio, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I’d really been looking forward to getting away … no phones ringing, no meals to cook, no place to be. But I felt restless. I didn’t feel like doing anything, yet part of me wanted to be busy. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things on my to-do list or doing much of anything else either. I read some more, watched some of the daily insanity on cable news, and slept.

On day two I was still restless. Over the last few years while I was engaged in getting my book ready for publication there was always something that had to be done, keeping me from spending time simply being. When I did take a nap, or sit in the garden and to simply enjoy the day, I felt guilty and overwhelmed by what was waiting to be done. Back to work I’d go.

Over the last year, especially, I’ve found myself longing for time to just be without a list of things I had to accomplish. And there I was last week at the beach, suddenly realizing that I was there to just BE … to REST … and to let the world take care of itself without my needing to help. I had forgotten how important it is to have days when I don’t have to do anything. And I’d forgotten how to do that.

In this strange world we’re living in we rush around hoping to get what we need to do done and living in angst over where this country of ours is going. For many of us self-care flies out the window and we forget that in order to help bring about the change we want to see in our world, we need to slow down and really, really rest. We can’t help bring about that change unless we take care of ourselves first. I’m taking time for that now. Are you?

Taking A Break

I’m taking a break at the beach. The sound of the ocean rushing the shore … pelicans flying by …  just being.  Till then enjoy where you are, doing what you’re doing.

The Fabulous Gaithersburg Book Festival

 

Betty Hafner, Seema Reza and myself.

All I can say is, WOW!
I’m home and thrilled that I was chosen to participate in the 8th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Here in Charlottesville we have the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, a four-day program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. It’s a lovely event that brings in book-people from all over the country, including authors, those in the process of writing a book, those who aspire to become writers, and those who  read voraciously. I attend every year and it’s where I first met the woman who became my publicist, Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who was here as part of a panel discussing the role of publicists in the book-marketing process.

Me, Mayor Jud Ashman, and Betty Hafner

But the Gaithersburg Book Festival is a celebration of a different stripe. Set up in tents in the park surrounding City Hall, it is a one day event run by the city of Gaithersburg, in Maryland, and a host of local volunteers of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, from kids to elders. Mayor Jud Ashman, also the Founder and Chair of the festival, was there greeting and welcoming everyone. It was wonderful! I felt like I was part of a huge family celebration with attendees, authors, and those who did all of the work to bring the festival to fruition. It was an amazing event illustrating deep love and appreciation for books and those who write them

I wasn’t able to stay all day as we had to get back to C’ville for the show, Death of a Salesman, which Bill directed for Live Arts. My sweet man missed opening night on Friday to accompany me and lend me his support. What more can this woman ask for proof of true love?!?

Had I been able to stay around until the end of the day, one of things I would have loved to attend among many others, was a MULTILINGUAL STORY TIME, that ran all day long. For twenty minutes children of all ages could listen to stories read to them in Spanish, Portuguese, Farsi, Amharic, French, and English.

The panel that I participated in was moderated by Larry Matthews, also an author. It was a wonderful opportunity to sit with two other woman writers, Betty Hafner and Seema Reza, who have also written memoirs and to talk about the why, how, and importance of telling personal stories.

I’m told that last years festival was held on a day of torrential rain and was attended by 15,000 people. This years attendance on a gray, cool day, was expected to be between 22,000 to 25,000 with a rough guess of 23,000 people there at the time I was given these figures.

I’m thinking of going back next year just for the fun of it!!