Last week I told about my time of quiet and solitude on Madeline Island. This is the story of what happened after:
My husband was watching the radar screen to track my plane on the way home, as it went around a gigantic storm. That night we heard the loudest, deepest, reverberating roar of thunder ever. It was so imperative that it reminded me of Laurens van der Post's book, The Voice of the Thunder, where he describes thunder as"an urgent manifesto for renewal in the human spirit".
When we awoke the next morning, the water from our springs and streams had found a new way into our house– through the garage and down the stairs to my studio. The flood damage guys showed up with their water sucking machines and big fans. There was a second storm two days later and it flooded all over again. All this coincided with my Subaru blowing a head gasket, and the air conditioning failing.
This is where my background in stories helps me from sinking into despair. I ask myself: where am I in the story now? O yes, the repetition of things occurring in threes. Studio, car, air conditioning. We are going through the eye of the needle. We will get through this, and then I will get three wishes–
Part of the wonder is the helpers who show up. The flood guy brings his ten year old son, Daryl, who is an aspiring artist. Kevin (the father) explains to me that his job with his son is to help him to find and do what he is here (on this planet) to do. I turn to his son and say, "Do you have any idea how fortunate you are to have this man as your father?" Kevin says later (in the midst of the torn up carpet and walls, fans and furniture askew in my studio), "I like all my clients– but this place, this is a bright spot."
Jeanette shows up the next day to cut out the part of the wall that has been damaged. She is studying Suzanne Moore's work on the wall and tells me she is part Cherokee and part Mexican. She talks about her horses, and her gentle way of training them– and then offers "in another life you had straight black hair and Egyptian eyes". Yesterday some new guys came to put down a carpet pad. The younger one, Dalton, about 22, asks me about calligraphy pens. He is slightly built and has incredibly long dark eyelashes. I write his name for him with a Brause pen and send him off with two nibs and some ink.
There are, of course, moments of being overwhelmed. But the practice of having faith in what is grows in me. There is such freedom in not wasting energy on resisting what shows up. And gently adjusting my thought patterns when I begin down the road of woe is me. Ironically, this time of meditation in upheaval is giving me direction with my paintings, with my teaching. I see things that should be obvious: whatever the subject is that I am teaching, it means little if it is not guided by the practice of contemplation. Without this silence between activity, I cannot hear my inner voice, cannot know what I am here to do. This is the most important "technique" I have to offer my students, and it is a practice that needs renewal in each class, in every day. Without this dimension to our work as makers, how can we ever be happy? We are just making stuff. With this inner compass, we are not thrown off course by the inevitable changes that life brings.