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Post #2 Reluctant Gardener

Works Cited

Flint, Mary Louise, Docent; Galls on the Valley Oaks of Effie Yeaw; October 11, 2018     https://sacnaturecenter.net/visit-us/nature-blog/news.html?NewsID=56742

Sousa, Marcy; What are Oak Galls? Here’s what you need to know about these insect breeding grounds; Home and Garden September 16, 2021,

https://www.recordnet.com/story/lifestyle/home-garden/2021/09/16/what-oak-galls-what-know-these-insect-breeding-grounds/8368800002/

When I Find It

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Aaugh!

Bristol board, white as white can get for paper.

I can’t do this. I don’t have the talent. It has dripped off my fingers to sully the floor instead of inking this paper.

Dang, it’s dusty in here. Where’s the broom?

I forgot to wash the dishes.

I need to wash clothes for tomorrow…

…I don’t have the time to do this right now.

Time. What else do I have? I live alone with no one to attend but myself, I retired from twenty-four years of teaching one year ago precisely to make more time for projects like this…I have time.

I need another excuse to avoid this impenitent white.

I’ve accomplished a lot this year avoiding this project: published a novel, finished another. I maintain a blog site, I have created two book covers for projects not mine, taught art lessons, voice lessons, drawn 36 portraits. I have done all kinds of things that have ousted the premier project I promised to do, a project of the heart, a project for and with a writer whom I love, my son.

Why?

I ask my body, listening to the senses given to navigate this dimension. What does it have to say when I think about this project? I imagine the heroine, Colenso, and all the people with whom she connects. I start to feel hollow, constricted…saddened.

Tears start flowing from my eyes.

Aaaugh. There is so much pain here.

She is beautiful. She is brave. She is creative. She has the energy of a younger woman desperate to follow her purpose on Earth. Where will it take her?

Abandoned by parents, raised by a grandmother who committed suicide to escape untenable lower class working conditions, and burdened by magical gifts that drive her to right impossible wrongs…I…I feel…I feel trapped by her. I do not know how to express a grief that closely matches the vibrational magnitude of my own pain, the pain of a single mother raising two fatherless children, another layer of generational abandonment heaped upon generations behind us, so much suffering.

Will Colenso find peace before she ages and becomes inexorably tired? Will the monsters that hunt her catch up before the Old Ones bring her to her proper place?

Only if I can forget that I am the old, tired one.

There must be a way to reclaim my youthful strength, an ability to put myself in her shoes, to jump ship and put myself in the shoes of the other characters, to face the evil with her, and not flinch from my ego who warns me of my own reflections, “Don’t go there.”

I will go there…when I find the strength…when the dishes and floor are clean and I find enough self-love for both of us. I will go there. I will.

I will go there….

Mother’s Gift

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 Ana had to get out. Erupting, Mt. Shasta incarnate, she ran past the staleness of cigarettes and coffee on her mother’s breath and clothes, the sickly sweet Jean Nate she used to cover them up.

Bang! Hurtful words followed through the back door that slammed against the sill as if shot from a slingshot. They didn’t stop her. She jumped down all four steps off the porch, dashed out the back gate, and hit the pavement running. The slap, slap of her tennis shoes echoed like buckshot fired across the river.

Her mother called her name, once, twice, but Ana was too far along her escape route for the sharpness of her mother’s voice to pin her in place. Stares from three blocks of curious neighbors goose bumped the hair on her arms. She ran until she reached the field. There she crumbled, resting shaky and sweaty palms upon the pricks of the barbed wire. Somehow, the pain felt right.

He nickered when he looked up from grazing in the middle of the pasture. Green drooled from his mouth as he lipped a wad of succulent grass past his teeth. He shook flies from his sides, and his earthy scent beckoned.

She pulled open the wire gate and slipped through.

He took three lazy steps toward her and stopped.

She stopped and gazed at him.

He lowered his head, unsure of her intent.

She whispered his name.

He shook his head. His ears flopped from side to side. He licked his lips.

She softened and slowly walked toward him. When she reached him, she slipped her fingers under his thick mane. The soft warmth of his new, coppery, spring coat underneath the long, black, stranded curtain soothed her in ways she had yet to define, wouldn’t define, could not define. His salty scent spoke of dark woody roots, freshly turned fertile Earth, hugs, and safety.

He took another step, offering himself.

She wrapped her fingers around a handful of mane, jumped, and threw her leg over his broad back.

He sighed, lowered his head, and continued to graze. Muscles on his shoulder twitched, releasing tension between them.

She leaned back until his round rump became a welcome pillow.

The blue, Spring sky was all she could see. For a long time he rocked her with his gentle search across the field for the choicest clumps of grass.

Her heartbeat slowed. Flies buzzed. His tail swished, and flies scattered. A flock of tiny, brown birds landed in the arms of the big oak beside them, chittering from branch to branch, appearing in sunlight and then disappearing into shadow. Traffic rolled down the main road. Neighborhood boys played a rollicking game of dodgeball in the church parking lot down the street.

It seemed like just yesterday that she used to play too, not as one of the guys but not separate either. That had all changed with this awful, crushing metamorphosis.

For a moment, anger rose its ugly head like a rattler coiled at the base of a rock, daring her to come closer. But the clouds were so fluffy, so starkly white against the blue. They rolled into passing sailing vessels, which sent her dreaming about faraway places. An ostrich rose up, then melted just as fast. A wave of rolling boulders tumbled toward the Sierra Nevadas. Anger gave her up and slithered back under its rock. Beneath her, her horse shifted his weight as he grazed, swaying her back to sanity.

As the sun slipped behind a bank of heavy clouds, her thoughts turned to “mother.” Mother took bits of Ana’s soul with her words of warning: You have to watch your weight. We have to do something with that stringy hair. Must you sniff like that? Boys won’t like it. Your belly is getting too round. Put on that bra.

Why was her body betraying her? Why did her mother constantly point it out?

Her horse jerked, raising his head to watch a dog snooping around the edges of the field. For a moment, Ana’s mind blanked as she prepared for the possibility that her horse would chase the dog. But, the dog moseyed on, and her horse lowered his head to graze. She settled back onto the pillow of his rump.

Hadn’t “mother” also given her this refuge? Hadn’t she insisted upon it, even after the first mare died of extreme old age, and the second one met her fate in a tragic, heartbreaking, trailering accident? Hadn’t Mother brought the Goddess into herself to fight for this union of girl and horse?

Maybe the bits she stole were nothing more than unneeded facsimiles of self, little girl bits that would no longer serve who Ana was to become. Could that be true?

Her horse snorted. He stamped his back left foot, shaking her off the center of his back.

She scooted back into place.

Maybe this was truth, right here, on this warm, rocking back with cool breezes gentling past her under a clear, blue, Spring sky. Maybe this was all she needed. Nothing more.

The sweet scent of freshly broken grass under his feet that sent a warm, welcome rush of pleasure through her body was a portent to womanhood. Nothing more.

The awful burden of budding Goddess scared the desperate little girl living inside. Nothing more.

Her steady companion, who swayed beneath her, was a fearless steed who could carry her away from the mischief-maker of puberty for one more day.

Maybe this was all she needed. Her steed was a Mother’s gift. 

Nothing more…nothing less.

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Endless Question

As I sit here avoiding the work I have to do on an illustration for a graphic novel I am working on, I try to figure out why I am so afraid of starting it. I have such confidence in other areas of my work and my life, but not this. Drawing terrifies me. As I grapple with “why,” my thoughts turn toward a question that came up in one of my illustration classes and again in a life studio class while I was in college.

What is the difference between a work of art and an illustration? When I was young, I argued that there was no difference. My fellow students disagreed with me. They were of the mind that there were two camps: those that were artists and therefore creators, and the others, those that were mere renderers.  

The argument was that an artist portrays the soul while an illustrator merely depicts what is seen.

I always took offense to this. At the time, I was preparing to become a scientific illustrator, eventually focusing on botanical illustration. When I studied a plant, was I less of an artist because I strove to capture the reality of it instead of its essence? Or did I capture both with my intense scrutiny of its architecture?

What is architecture? Everything in this three-dimensional world is built with arranged atoms, electro-magnetic force, and desire to hold a shape, the tao of becoming, if you will. Eventually, energy dissipates, chaos wins, and the physical form dissolves. However, for that moment in time when all is organized and held together in perfect order, a miracle has transpired – in the case of my study, a plant shimmers in Light. At this point, it does indeed appear that Life is the artist, and I, the mere observer of its architecture.

However, what happens the moment a person captures that plant by pencil, ink, paint, three-dimensional or soft media, or even film? Is this a mere portrait of its architecture? Do we call it illustration or art? What if that plant is captured in the agony of dissolution as chaos overwhelms it? Is this then art because of a possible emotional component, or is it still mere illustration? If not art, what is the additional ingredient that makes it more than “mere.”

In my opinion, anyone who attempts to communicate by form or picture creates art. By the very act of attempting, that extra “something” occurs. The renderer adds Self in the act of observing and recording. No one can negate this factor.

Is every attempt to intentionally render order to be considered art? I found strength for this conviction decades after attending college for the first time, when I re-enrolled to work with clay. In class, the age-old argument was still taking place. What is the difference between a potter and a sculptor? One is utilitarian; the other creates. Really? The professor was lovely, stating that even though one threw a pot that conformed to size, shape, and utility, no two could ever be alike because each potter put his or her hands on the object, thereby changing it and making it uniquely precious.

Her words struck me.

The truth is: There is no difference. The instant a person picks up a lump of clay and squishes it into his or her hand, the mille-second a thought forms as to what that lump of clay will become, creation takes place. The holder of the clay ceases to be merely human and instead becomes creator, transferring essence from Self to object, thereby creating art.

It is the same with everything we do. When clothing is folded with care into a converted shape to accommodate placement into a drawer in such a manner that it won’t lose texture, art has taken place. When dishes are lovingly stacked in a rack to dry in an order specific to the person stacking them, art has taken place. When a shovel is shoved into the ground with the intent of the shoveler’s vision of change upon Earth, art has taken place. When (insert an activity, any activity) is done with intent, art has taken place.

Finally, when an illustrator puts pen to paper and creates an image where there was none – art is created. The question “what is the difference between art and illustration?” is ridiculous, because there is no difference.

I suppose professors will continue to allow the argument to zing around their classrooms, lovingly aware that each artist has to form a conclusion for him or herself.

Right now, it is time for me to stop worrying whether or not these illustrations are “art enough” and just become the artist that I am. 

It’s time to draw.

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From My Cave

(Author’s Note: The following is AV’s response to a meditative prompt offered on 1/18/2021, by a member of the writing group she belongs to. It is a 10-minute, raw (unedited) quick write, followed by a drawing she promised her writing Sisters at the Well. AV lives in California. Though it is a continent away from the US Capitol, the state of California is also prepared for upheaval. We are all trying to find our place of balance as the political world around us heaves like an earthquake.)

From the cave within, I see the ocean. The waves roll in…and out, matching my breath, washing away the detritus of anger from the glittering sand.

Why didn’t I think of coming here earlier?

This cave reminds me of life as Homo erectus, a time when hominids were territorial, before we became city builders. It seems we have returned to our brutish ways of late.

However, in this cave, I am safe. There is room for my family, which includes a tribe of people I love, people they love. There is room for any and all who need to come.

Here we have peace.

The ocean provides, in…out, in…out, bringing gifts, taking refuse. We’ve learned to be thankful for what it gives us. We’ve learned to be mindful of what we leave behind.

Sometimes I wish we could return to those simpler ways, to find a way to make life quiet, attuned to the world around us. Sometimes…I wish.

But, I must find a way to look forward, past contrived dates, to what is beyond the horizon. A vessel of change is blowing this way. I can feel it. I just don’t see it.

Yet.

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