Listening was my natural state as a child. Listening to the adults tell stories to me, or talk to each other above me. I became a writer with my storehouse of listening.
Stratoz and I had a Christmas commission to create a sign with the word Listening for a spiritual director. Listening had become a gift of her vocation, when her natural state was talking.
I was introduced to spiritual direction at the University of Scranton in the early 1990s, where I had my first librarian job. The University had a contemplative spirituality program, and I started seeing an Ignatian nun(as she called herself) once a week. She asked me about my experiences that week, and asked me where I found God in this. Then she would listen. It was as if she was handling a treasure, gently holding it in her hands.
Winding my way around the letters of listening many years later, I am grateful for the listeners in my life who encouraged me, recognized me, loved me, and my desire is to stay true to my listening nature, and in turn encourage, recognize, and love.
July 2014 is the 4th Anniversary of my Independence. My employer closed the library in which I worked and let me go. I am thinking about that phrase, “Let me go.” They let me go, and I went. I was scared, anxious and sad. I worried about money. I felt unnecessary, obsolete and hurt. They let me go, and I decided to let them go, and work for myself as an artist.
Now, I can’t imagine working for someone else. It is both scary and exhilarating to choose my own path, knowing that each month I start again with the balance sheet.
Stratoz and I were on vacation in 2010 when the list of those who were laid off was announced(and which thankfully I did not know until I got back). This photo is from our 2014 vacation trip to Rochester, NY, with the sculpture at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery by Beverly Pepper. I read a story about the artist which I admire:
Turning from painting to sculpture in 1960, Pepper first carved in wood, a plentiful and inexpensive material. Instead of hand chisels, she preferred power tools as appropriate to the modern Machine Age. In 1962 the organizer of the music and art festival at Spoleto, Italy, invited ten sculptors to use local steel factories as their studios for a month. Of the three Americans, two were well-established masters of abstract metal constructions: Alexander Calder and David Smith. The third was Pepper, who did not yet even know how to weld. So she apprenticed herself to an ironmonger and shortly thereafter made her first steel sculpture, nearly eighteen feet tall. Thereafter, Pepper sculpted only in metal on a monumental scale, preferably for installation outdoors in urban spaces.
Beverly Pepper | Landmarks.
I admire Pepper’s confidence. She didn’t know how to weld, but she wanted to weld, and onward she went. Another independent spirit!
What is independence for you?
When I started making mosaics, I felt an intrusive guilt that I wasn’t making collages anymore. Collage was my first step into art, my first furtive kindness to myself in allowing myself to make art. When I started making collages, I felt anxiety because I believed I should be writing poems instead. I had been a poet since I was 12. I was good at writing poems. I won awards; I had poems in magazines; I was a Poet and had no room for any other self.
There is a fierceness in kindness, protecting the unfurling heart.
The stepping stones were practical. Stratoz and I had bought a rowhouse with a long narrow backyard, and I decided to make pebble mosaic stepping stones for our garden. A stepping stone allows a firm footing for walking through mud, and can define a space, guide a path.
As a child, stepping stones were magical, jumping from one to the next, each a self-contained world. Stepping stones are human scale. I had an anxious mind demanding superhuman scale, a speedway, a leap through time, tessering. When I took a small step, there were large repercussions in my fearfulness: what if I am choosing the wrong thing? What if I am meant to write poetry and I displease God, and vanish from the earth? What if I am moving too slowly? Or too fast?
I had given myself a year to explore different mediums of artmaking, and it took all my grit to continue exploring. When mosaics spoke to my heart, I felt both joy and fear, because to enjoy making mosaics stirred up the the thoughts of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and the fear of never ridding myself of the fear. That I continued on, one pebble at a time, is grace.
There is a fierceness in kindness, protecting the unfurling heart.
What kindness will you give yourself?
I made it through the 2014 A to Z blogging challenge and this is a good time to take care of my blog. There exists in me a desire to do things on my own, by myself, but also the desire to make art, and the art wins out. I went searching for someone to maintain my margaretalmon.com blog as well as the nutmegdesignsart.com site. Wordpress has made it possible for me to create the Nutmeg Designs site, but the nuances of keeping it in good technical shape is an art in itself. I admit I was swayed by a goat. When I finally formulated the phrase, “WordPress Maintenance Services,” GoatCloud came up and I had to check it out. Cliff Rohde, Chief Executive Goat, donates a portion of his net profits to those who provide goats to those in need of, as he puts it, these remarkably sturdy animals. GoatCloud is moving my sites about and consolidating them with hopefully minimal downtime. Goats have an unfettered sense of play and exploration, and I am swayed into my studio.
Thanks to Instagram I discovered International Colour Day, which was created in by the AIC ~ International Colour Association. I am still charmed by color spelled with a “u” since I grew up in Canada, and it took me awhile to unlearn the spelling when I moved to the United States.
The AIC chose the Spring Equinox to celebrate color because of the equal balance of light and dark, day and night. Color draws me into the studio, and is the fuel for my art. I watch how people respond to my work, how color can draw them like a magnet. The blue-green people are particularly sensitive to those tones, lit up from within, as are the lovers of the spectrum of visible light.
For my celebration, check out my Color Wheel Pinterest Board.
The day after Christmas is Boxing Day in Canada. The 26th of December was the day of let-down after the fervor of Christmas, but I did like the sound of the phrase Boxing Day. The origin of the holiday was murky in my mind as a child, though I remember the part about British gentlefolk giving their servants the day off and boxes of gifts. Cats understand Boxing Day instinctively, and only require the box, with nothing but themselves in it.
I didn’t realize that the 26th is also the feast day of St. Stephen, who gave alms to the poor, and makes Boxing Day part of a much older tradition. I wonder about the history embedded in our lives that we do not notice, a deep well of unheard stories. The carol Good King Wenceslas is also connected to this day, and I never noticed that Christmas is not mentioned. My favorite lines:
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even
The rhythm in these words pleased me as a child, the emphasis for each of deep, crisp, even. That king Wenceslas was actually a Duke, retroactively named a King by Emperor Otto is another bit of history buried in the snow. The Good King sees a poor man out in the snow, and gives him food and fuel. Fr. James Martin talks of the version by The Roches, and the pause they take before the final line, “Ye who now shall bless the poor shall yourself find blessing.”
The word “alms” intrigued me because it reminds me of my last name, Almon. Alms comes in part from the Greek “eleemon” meaning compassionate.
For an unusual version of the carol, I found this one sung by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, illustrated by DC comics. Look for the shadow of Batman at the end. http://youtu.be/A47qu7deSyY
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer, or the look, the lake in the eye that knows, for the despair that flows down in widest rivers, cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace, all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves. The word of nourishment passes through the women, soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations, white towers, eyes of children: saying in time of war What shall we feed? I cannot say the end. Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed. This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love. Years over wars and an imagining of peace. Or the expiation journey toward peace which is many wishes flaming together, fierce pure life, the many-living home. Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all new techniques for the healing of the wound, and the unknown world. One life, or the faring stars.
Originally published by New Directions Press in 1949.