Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: photography

Daydream Believer

I’ll be honest, in some ways I feel like a lot of these Quest prompts are simply reframing the same question using slightly different words (and sometimes using the same words). And yet, I find myself having to acknowledge that sometimes the subtlest shift is all that’s needed to break the whole thing open.

Take yesterday’s prompt for example. When I first read it, all I saw was “business as unusual”–the same words that tripped me up two prompts ago. But this time, after letting the sentence steep for a day, I pushed those somehow halting words aside and focused on the part of the question I could find a way into.

Daydream

Visionary: Scott Barry Kaufman

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What recurring daydream for 2016 inspires you to do business as unusual like never before?

Recurring daydreams… yes, that’s entryway. As I try not to trip over “for 2016” which may make this room too shallow to hold them. These dreams will require a space at least as big as Carlsbad Caverns’ Big Room…

Cave Goddess

The Goddess of the cave agrees.

————————————————————————–

It begins with a longing for twining vines, with broad heart-shaped leaves. Perhaps I have been too long in the desert, because this lush tangle of opulent  fecundity greets me every time I close my eyes against the dust colored walls, the blinding cerulean sky, the hot white sun than still burns even as  its angle to this part of the world diminishes.

In the verdant world behind closed lids, my felt wall holds a fabric wasteland with words stitched over its every pale color of absence. Yet in the foreground the colors start to change. The earth takes on a richer shade. Soon green begins to appear at the margins. Each day new growing things begin to sprout and curl, inching in, slowly at first, then with increasing urgency and abandon–reclaiming that barren place as their own.

On a table across the narrow alcove, tree-plundered pages describe a young prince wandering through a medieval forest thick with underbrush. He catches the sharp scent of wood smoke and moves toward it. Not far in the distance a grail-shaped girl, sensing his approach, backs away from her fire trying her best to disappear into the trees hoping to avoid his wanting gaze. Still, despite her efforts, in a few moments he will materialize from the shadow of the twilight woods and find her.

And somewhere in the distance, perhaps beyond the passing of this coming year, there is a cottage just far enough from the bustling world to remain unseen from the nearby roads. It is the garden that hides it. The garden dripping with dark falls of newly ripe currants, with its carpet of wintergreen and thyme, with its climbing, obscuring vines–honeysuckle and boysenberry, hops and scarlet runner beans. It keeps itself hidden, waiting for a woman with butterscotch hair to find the key that fits its single lock. For her to open the door and sleep within its polished walls. To take its green into her bones, finally finding the magic that heals her. That heals them both.

————————————————————————–

I have already begun culling my possessions and preparing for a journey. Carefully calculating what I can carry. Scouring the dusty shelves of dim shops for treasure maps and magic beans and a compass aligned with a subtler force than magnetic north. A force that knows, while home may already be inside me, there is a place where that seed will blossom more radiantly, more powerfully than in this parched place  where I currently live (both without and within)–and it may be closer than I imagine. #daydream

  • The quilt/s
  • The story
  • The journey (with journal and camera at the ready)
  • The garden and its reclaiming

 

Read more from some of my fellow Questers:

And there are so many more inspiring answers that have only been shared in the private Quest Facebook group. It’s not too late to Join the Quest.

Mixing Things Up

There are times in our lives when the usual forms of expression feel lost to us. The past 5 weeks have been one of those times. At the end of March I stepped away from the sewing machine, and struggled through April trying to write poetry every day. On May 1, I put down the pen as well.

I am not going to go into the reasons, but there are reasons–the most important of which, with regards especially to sewing, is that I believe that what we feel while making art becomes embodied within the work we create. I’ve always considered making a quilt akin to weaving a spell. Each stitch draws the energy down through the fabric as you sew. Healing, love, hope, connection–these are all good things that help wrap the recipient of the quilt as though in our very own arms. But what happens when the artist is battling grief, loss, deep sadness? What about anxiety? A quilt made from places like those are not something I want anyone to have to sleep under. And poetry created from those places? Every once in a great while, you get something raw and exposed and deep, but usually not. At least not in my case.

Paints

Paints

But when creating art is how you process, what’s a creative girl to do? Try something new. Or in today’s case, something I used to do a long time ago: paint.

It started when a friend suggested that if I didn’t want to create objects that would forever hold the less than empowered things I’ve been feeling, perhaps I should create objects to be destroyed. Doing so would get the bad stuff out of my head, plus give me a way to release it forever. So today, I decided to give it a try.

And because, up until a couple of hours ago, today was not a good day, I started by painting a black hole. I mean, what would be better to release and let go than a gravity suck so powerful that even light can’t escape?

Gravity

Gravity

Except that as I painted I noticed something–in addition to the swirls of color and the scattering of stars at the outer rings, at the very center of the blackest part, there was a glimmer of light. And no matter how much I wanted it to reflect the absolute absence of light, I just couldn’t fill it in. Which just goes to show, no matter how dark things seem, art gives us the power to transform it. It reminds us that there are things in this world that we cannot control, maybe cannot even know. The act of creating can help us find our way through the dark–and out the other side of the wormhole.

And since I already had the paints out, I painted something more cheerful as well.

Iris in Rain

Iris in Rain

Iris

Iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly I have some room to improve.

Late Snow

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here–so long, in fact that I had to go back and re-read my last post to try and figure out where I was when I was last here. Excited. Optimistic. Full of energy.

It seems a lifetime ago. In some ways it is. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes we get derailed. Sometimes we need to stop everything until we find our footing again. Sometimes that takes longer than we think it should, but it takes as long as it takes, and it does no good to try and muscle through.

What does do good:

  • Paring down to the barest essentials
  • Focusing on just what’s in front of us
  • Writing it out

For the last near-month, I have cut all but the barest essentials–work, food, simplifying my small space. I have continued to keep up with my #365 photo project and on April 1, I started writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, prodded by amazing poet MJ Iuppa. And I have kept those up, too. What I haven’t kept up are my blogs, but here I am, at least for the moment, and hoping that this post will create some momentum to get back in the groove.

Some days we we are surrounded by the glorious colors and scents of apple blossoms and lilacs. Some days we get sub-freezing temperatures and snow. We just have to have faith when the sun comes out again, that the trees are resilient enough to still bear fruit come summer.

Apple Blossoms, April 18, 2015

Apple Blossoms, April 18, 2015

 

Publish

Change is afoot.

Have you ever gone on a  trip only to return and feel like you may never catch up? That’s where I am right now, having just returned from a week in California to attend the fifth annual FOGcon spec fiction writers’ conference. The event itself only took up three of those days, but since I had to get on a plane anyway, I decided to pad my trip with a little extra time to see family and friends. Which was great, but a bit of a whirlwind. And the con? It turned out to be one of those experiences that has incited me to question everything. To review, rethink, re-imagine. And not just the specific projects, but my whole direction, my mission, what I want to achieve and how I go about achieving it.

In addition to that game changer (which I hope to post about soon, either here or on my apocalypse blog), my work schedule is about to change dramatically–evolving from something approximating 1.5 days per week plus intermittent freelance work, to 5 days per week, likely starting at the end of the month. After so many years drifting around employment, it’s going to be a serious adjustment. Then again, I have hopes that a more rigorous schedule might help me better manage my personal work time as well. But either way, a girl’s gotta pay her rent. And between now and then, I will be working hard to get my space, tasks, and time streamlined and organized, and revisiting my post about which things I need to #stop. Otherwise, I could be looking at a pretty rough transition.

Among the things that need catching up on: Quest posts.

#LiveTheQuest question 9:
What indicators of growth can you celebrate? #celebrations

Look back on your second month as well as at your reflections with prompt 5, #growth. What small indicators can you identify and celebrate that you have changed something positively in Month 2 or that you are moving the direction you need? For instance, are you acting differently? Are you thinking differently? Are you speaking about yourself as a business artist and your best work differently?

Probably the most important growth indicator has been giving up the Big Picture for Lent. I have always struggled with the project equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach. I load my plate with everything it can hold and then some, all the while envisioning the even more extravagant feasts I will create in my future. But the truth is, I can’t even decide which delicacy to put in my mouth first, so I try a bite here and another one there, until I’m too full and queasy to think about cooking ever again.

Having taken a step back from that vicious cycle, I’ve noticed a couple of important things. It isn’t just about how much I load onto my plate, it’s what. It’s easy to be lured by sweets, but they don’t work for the long (or in my case even the short) haul. To help counteract that, in part inspired by a recent post by Saundra Goldman, I have started focusing again on questions, the most important of which has become:

What do you most want to build?

Followed by:

Will this help you build it?

These two questions work for pretty much everything, from what I eat and how much I sleep, to which books, projects, and other activities deserve my time. Some items have easy answers. Too much sugar, bad television, and/or excess social media not only won’t help me build anything, they will pretty much unbuild everything.

The TowerBut other things aren’t so clear. And that’s because the answer to the first question hasn’t been so clear. And now that FOGcon has basically thrown a big fat Tower card onto the table, it’s even less so… except that, maybe, it’s not. Because there is nothing quite like having preconceived notions blown apart to reveal in stark relief, the inviolable things that remain standing. The foundation, of course… the west wall upon which I scribble incantations in invisible ink that only reveals itself when illuminated by a setting equinox sun… the outline of a once hidden box where years ago I buried my heart to keep it safe from harm…

Fire reveals the shape of things. What remains after we sift through the ash becomes the bones of a new beginning. Tonight the sifting begins. Soon after, I will draft a stronger plan on the foundation of the old. Which leads us to the next Quest prompt:

 #LiveTheQuest question 10:
How will you “publish” your project? #publish
Look back on your #burningquestion and #oneproject. How are you or could you get this project “out” into the hands and hearts of the people who ache for it? How will you publish it?

First, a reminder of my #burningquestion:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And then my #oneproject:

To create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

A few posts later, I decided this project would take the form of a quilt. And I may still make that quilt.  But re-reading what I wrote about my questions and projects in light of #publishing, I realized that even before this quest started I had begun creating a work that incorporates all of these things, as well as a companion burning question about prepping for the best instead of the worst. This is already out there in front of the world–online, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on my business cards. It’s my Apocalypse Garden–my home at the place where the roads converge. My own little Pantano Realty building (for those of you familiar with my hometown).

As for what impact my FOGcon experience may have on my little garden, that remains to be seen–perhaps a new tagline, a new posting schedule, improved content and social media plans–but the structure appears to be sound.

And in case you wonder why I referred to it as my little garden, I’ll just leave this here:  Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

Shaping Time

#LiveTheQuest question 7:

How can you change your relationship to time? #shapingtime
What one thing could you do this week to shift your relationship to time? Having too little time is largely a matter of perception. William James observed this over 100 years ago, and psychologists and anthropologists alike are confirming that sometimes depending upon our economic level, our nation of origin, our experience of awe, and more, we might perceive that we are busy or not.

What one thing could you do this week to shift your relationship to time for the better?

One thing? Of course I have a list, including things I have already been working on, but for this week, just one thing, I will focus on this:

I will prioritize my most cherished activities early in the day–write at least one sentence, read at least one page, take at least one photo–before I dig in to email, chores, or anyone else’s work.

I started today that way and already feel the weight of my to do list and deadlines slipping from my shoulders. It’s strange. I wrote a  poem about this years ago for a friend. Sometimes it takes a while for us to embrace what we already know for ourselves.

TO DO LIST

Put yourself first. At the top of the list. Cross off returning that phone call you didn’t want to make. It’s too early in that time zone to call anyway. And the laundry will still be there an hour from now, still lounging in its casual best, happy enough to delay its swim.

Instead walk out into the gold and coral dawn. Watch the sun paint the sky every imaginable glowing hue as clouds coast by like boys on downhill bicycles.

Take your favorite mug filled with your favorite tea—the one that smells of coconut and the sea—out to the wooden Adirondack chair, now grey with age and the harsh Santa Fe sun, to watch the tinted light stream by as birds sing and centipedes dance at your feet.

Pick up that pen, the one that felt so good in your hand that it practically flew across the page. Flew, yes, like those birds, like those clouds, like those colors slipping away to pale as the sun rises higher and the sky flashes blue.

Or choose your own road—a paintbrush, a trowel, a chapter from that gloriously long book—but choose it and write it down. At the top of that list. Because once you’ve had that gorgeous moment, that day is yours. And nothing else can touch you.

 

Shift

Something has been shifting out here in the snowy southwest, and it all started with a picture. This picture, actually…

Dreaming

 

… a young girl asleep in the back seat of the family car with her best friend Smokey Bear, dreaming the beauty of a world to come. The first photo in a series that will grow to at least 365 images deep. Perhaps more.

But actually it started with this post from fellow Quester Marisa Goudy: How a 365 Photo Project Makes You a Better Writer.

I’d done a 365 project before, starting Koru365 in December 2010, when my dissatisfaction with working in corporate tech was reaching its crescendo. At that time I had already begun to plan my escape, but needed something to both inspire and anchor me during the transition. And it did. So I  already knew that a 365 project could change a life. And since I had been longing for a little positive change again lately, when I read her second article, The 365 Project as a Creative Process, on my friend Saundra Goldman’s wonderful site, Creative Mix, I knew it was time to give a new 365 project a go–posting a daily photo from my life and work to my Facebook page.

Only 13 days in I am already feeling a shift. So far my photos have revealed dreams, distractions, the artistic lines of words on paper, major blocks to creativity, the beauty of what’s outside my windows, and more. The process has returned my attention to the world I inhabit and what truly matters, as I consider what I want this chronicle to reveal about my life this time next year.

And it has done something else. As promised, it has gotten me writing consistently again–a feat supported by a second very simple 365 project I’m doing with two friends, in which we share one sentence we’ve written that day with each other. Knowing that they are waiting, that they are also writing, makes me want to share something beautiful with them. And so every morning for the last five days, I have written either a poem (sometimes more than one) and/or a page or two in a novel that I started but didn’t finish this past November.

One sentence, one photo doesn’t seem like much, and maybe that’s why it works. Because it is so simple, almost stupidly simple, to complete, we complete it. And sometimes we do more. Sometimes a lot more. But even if we don’t, over time, these small bricks, stacked one on top of the other, combine to build something extraordinary–a castle, a bridge, a cathedral. A body of work. A life.

What will your bricks build this year?

 

One Project

Yesterday’s Quest-tion was this:

What one small project can you define to start creating into your burning question?

The thing is, that burning question (or rather the spiral of questions) that lead to what is essentially: “What if I existing art could help inspire the art to come, and what if together they could heal our communities, our world, and ourselves?” lead to another important question thread still burning:

What if I just make art and write as inspiration and daily practice move me instead of focusing on how to turn it into a business? What if I follow the path of fun and joy? Read the books I want to read, make the art I want to make, take the classes I want to take? Isn’t it possible, maybe even probable, that the rest will arise from there and my path will become clear?

And then to yet another, as I considered how my Apocalypse Garden project fits in with my path as a Poet | Artist | Optimist:

What if instead of preparing for the worst, I prepared for the best?

And sure, I could easily come up with a project that would fit each one, but what if I combined all three questions into one:

What if focusing on mining and making art instead of building a business gave me the freedom to find my own voice–the one that could eventually support my best work and my best life? And what might that look like?

Experimentation and play. Taking classes. Reading. Going to movies and galleries. Exposing myself to a broader range of thoughts and ideas. Going on Artist Dates, to conferences and lectures. Collaborating with other artists. Getting out of town with a sketchbook and camera. Whatever it takes to keep creativity awake and alive and whatever it takes to set aside daily time and space for creation. To actually create–a little bit every day, and a more than a little bit on some of those days. Which sounds exciting, but it’s not a small project. And then I realized that some of my greatest struggles for direction come from feeling like I have to choose–between writing and quilting and photography, between living life and preparing for the apocalypse, between poetry, novels, memoir, and my deep love of speculative fiction. Which brought me not just to an answer to my small project question, but to my biggest burning question of all:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And so, my small project will be to create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because I am beginning to believe that my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

I’ll let you know how it goes.