Monthly Archives: June 2013

“You’ve Had the Power All Along, My Dear…”

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I am an artist struggling with where I belong in the world. I am an artist like Isabel is a witch in the movie “Bewitched”…like Vianne is a gypsy in Chocolat…like Sally in Practical Magic…it is no use pretending to be anything else. Of course, these are movie characters and I am not. It is much harder to actually try to live outside of your nature on a daily basis.

These movies are hilarious and poignant in their depiction of  women trying to fit into their surroundings – to be something they are not – because the world is afraid of their power. Every mature woman on this planet knows all too well what THAT feels like. This is why movies about witches are so successful…(that’s my working theory…)

I don’t remember drawing as a young child, but my Mother told me I began to draw as soon as I could hold a pencil…long before I started grade school…I entertained myself, my younger siblings…I explained my world.

But these days I struggle with everything: my health, my emotional intensity, my house on the market, my financial stress…I no longer know my place in the world. I don’t seem to know much anymore…(but I know everything you never wanted to know about moving as my house is for sale!) I am displacing my elderly Father who has become increasingly more difficult to live with. What made me think this could work? I couldn’t live with him growing up, and left home at fifteen – albeit to boarding school. That was an ultimatum that I presented my parents with, by the way. I announced one day that I WOULD BE leaving home now – they could help me with that, or I would simply disappear from their lives and make my own way in world (ha!) As it happened, I confided in my friend Laurie Miller about the abuse going on in my home, and asked if I could stay at her house for awhile…her parents took me with their family on vacation, and when we returned home to Trenton, her grandmother had scheduled me to take an entrance exam at Kingswood Cranbrook School for girls.

I started a few weeks later. I went to school twelve hours a day and took every art class I could, including any at the Cranbrook Academy of Art that the instructors would let me audit. It was HEAVEN to me, as close to Hogwarts as you can get in the real world. My parents agreed to send me if I would come home two weekends a month and TRY to get along…you see, I was the problem.

As it turns out, I have always BEEN the problem. But as Glinda informs Dorothy: “You had the power all along, my dear.” Finally – FINALLY – at the age of sixty, I’m done compromising. Pretending to “get along” was killing me. Too bad it seems to have come down to them or me! But so be it…

I’m going back to being an artist. I don’t know where I’ll live or how I’ll eat or pay the bills; apparently I don’t know how to play well with others, heck, maybe I’ll die…or maybe, the life I have left will become worth living. Ich habe genug.

For Anne-Marie.

A House is Not a Home…

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Shortly after the first of the year I began attending a class, a women artist’s support group really, based on Julia Cameron’s brilliant book, The Artist’s Way. When the twelve week program came to an end none of us wanted to stop, so we continue to study with the sequel, Walking In This World.

Any of us women – along with millions worldwide who have studied and worked through these lessons – will tell you, it is life-changing. In my case, it has been life saving.

We meet once a week. We discuss the chapter and our experiences as we work through the tasks, how we are effected by the insights. We offer ideas, support. And although we are careful not to problem solve for each other, problems do seem to resolve themselves mysteriously throughout the following week…it’s uncanny.

Of course, what we are really doing is showing up, being present, learning how to relate differently than the ways that let us down in the past. Somehow we know this is a great privilege, to be here together at this time, and that growing up is a lifelong process.

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Susan Steadman, oil on canvas by Lisa Perrine Brown

As we gathered for class last night I complimented Lisa – extraordinary woman and artist – on her choice to paint the living room ceiling of her Victorian home a luscious peacock blue. “Ceilings should always be a color”, I said…and then realized that most of mine are white. It is the first of my homes where I have not painted the ceilings. It is the first home I have never really made my own. My name is on the mortgage, but I’ve never “taken ownership”…it is a house to me. It has never really been my home.

Yesterday, cleaning out a basement shelf, I came upon a box I had never UNpacked since moving in 9 years ago. It was labeled “studio” and contained art supplies. What a metaphor! I had unwittingly packed up my own heart, taped it securely shut, and stored it neatly away on a faraway shelf…

Lucky for me, the heart waits through our slumber to awaken again like a child on Christmas morning. Every morning, Christmas, in our true home, our true heart…where the ceilings glow and the walls shine like diamonds.

Perhaps…

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So…continuing with the story of how I morphed into Mary Poppins…or, maybe, as my Mom used to tell me: “Learn to spell guru, and then you’ll never need one: G.U.R.U”…

She would take me shopping for Betsey Johnson dresses for my back-to-school wardrobe, then paint a paisley or flower on my face to match my dress before sending me off to school in the morning…the headmaster would send me home for lunch to wash it off, and she would take hold of my shoulders, rotate me, push me back out the door and get that headmaster on the phone!

And another thing she used to tell me:

For a woman with very limited resources, she knew how to get her point across.

She would have LOVED the other Mary Poppins, the Lady…

…if there was a better way then it would find me…it’s all about PERSPECTIVE!

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“I’m good at being uncomfortable so I can’t stop changin’ all the time…but he’s no good at being uncomfortable, SO, he can’t stop stayin’ exactly the same…”

Oh, she’s brilliant:

“Curious, you’re lookin’ down your nose at me…Courteous to try and help, but let me set your mind at ease…”

There is something to be said for being comfortable with being uncomfortable. “I can’t help it, the road just rolls out BEHIND me”…hahahha!  Your assistance is to no avail…and, by the way, I don’t want the bail…

You know who you are…

Mary Poppins Calling…

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Yesterday, I alluded to the nicknames Resourceress and Mary Poppins. They are both actually nicknames that two different friends have given to me over the years.

Now, as it happens, I have always been a huge Mary Poppins fan…my Pinterest board titled “the real Mary Poppins” is a reference to my personal belief that we wise and creative women are all good “witches”, or alchemists, spiritual midwives, healers…in fact, I believe that not for the intelligence of creative women throughout history…well…I doubt the race would have survived THIS long. After all, it seems pretty obvious that men are trying their very best to wipe us off the face of…another day…

Mary Poppins was magical…a good witch, even though Disney didn’t blatantly portray her as one. We recognize each other, don’t we…and I like myself for admiring her more than the other Disney heroines…!

Anyway…it is the metaphor – strong, strong, metaphor that she can PULL ANYTHING SHE NEEDS OUT OF HER BAG!!! that insinuates her as every woman…as any mother could certainly attest. But mother or not, few women in our culture have not had to make something out of nothing, pull off a seemingly impossible feat in the stress of the day, and dress up the mundane while entertaining the “children” of all ages. Take the lead, git ‘er done…and don’t break a sweat, or a heel, doing it!

My Mother – an angel like Lincoln’s (the man knew…) – set a great example of grace under pressure. Damn she had a hard life. Good, but I sure wouldn’t want to trade places. Her mother’s was harder…and I know that you see it in your own heritage.

They truly were “resourceresses”…a word that I think my friend, the artist Richard Schemm, made up. He likes to make up words, but also, he has extraordinary women to appreciate in his life. He will tell you: we resource. It’s what we do.

Once I drove from northern Michigan to northern California. I was staying with friends in San Fransisco, but never having been to their NEW home, they decided to meet me at the highway and lead me from there through the complicated streets…so, we stopped for dinner at one of the chain restaurants that congregate near the exits. We ate, and preparing to leave, Debi said, “I have to stop on the way to the house to buy one of those phone jacks that adapt a single jack to a double”…I reached into my purse and pulled one out. She smiled knowingly, and called me Mary Poppins. It just so happened to be the very last thing that I grabbed – along with the phone- as I was walking out on my deadbeat husband, heading off into the distant unknown…

For Danielle.

Doris the Resourceress…Mother of Mary Poppins

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I just watched an episode of Renovation Raiders on HGTV…and cried. My Mother, Doris, was THE original “renovation raider.” She was a homemaker with five – count ’em – FIVE children within eight years in age. When she got an idea to remodel, add on space, or redecorate…she did it herself, and pulled off the install within hours. She would plan everything out, from moving walls, electrical work, whatever the project called for, to the nth degree.

This was the 1950’s, folks – there was no such thing as a HOME IMPROVEMENT store!!! If you needed an electrical outlet, a window or door, flooring, drywall, etc…you went to the lumber yard and ORDERED it…and often waited weeks for it all to arrive…talk about planning!

My parents were by no means traditional in their roles, but my Dad did control the purse strings, and any home project had to pass his budget approval. This meant that she often pulled off miraculous makeovers with pennies she squirreled together out of her grocery pocketbook…

She once decided to turn an extra bedroom, located next to the kitchen, into a dining room by opening up the wall between the two rooms. Drywall, move electrical outlets, install a chandelier…Piece of cake! What no one (least of all my father!) knew at the time: she had simultaneously planned to knock out the back EXTERIOR (brick!) wall of the new dining room, remove the existing window and install a sliding door-wall out to the patio!

So, she secretly enlisted the help of her sister, had all the material delivery scheduled the morning OF the remodel…and waited for all five kids to leave for school, and my dad to leave for work… and we came home that afternoon to a beautiful new dining room and a yard full of cheering neighbors!

She’d put on her folk or country music (she also played the guitar and sang) and get to work…here’s her favorite song:

Tomorrow I will tell you about how those nicknames in the title came about…stay tuned!

No Wonder Some of My Best Songs Come to Me In the Shower…

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“Maybe we’re more than who we think we are”, she reminds me…

“What we know of other people

Is only the memory of the moments

During which we knew them,

And they have changed since then.”       -T.S. Eliot

My “senior quote”…Thank you rare and extraordinary friend Kelly Forrester, for having my back…and my heart.