Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: poetry (page 1 of 2)

Epiphanies

In times of change it can be easy to blame whatever life event caused that change for knocking us off path–which is exactly what I’ve been doing since the end of March. If only things had stayed the same, I tell myself, I wouldn’t have needed to put everything on hold. Imagine how much farther along I’d be by now. But of course, that’s just an excuse. Because the truth is, I was already floundering. Had been for months. Sure, I talked a good game, especially here on this blog, but some deep part of me knew that something was wrong.

The beautiful thing about a life coming completely undone, is that it forces us to look at every part of everything we do–not to figure out where everything went sideways, but to figure out which projects, people, passions are worth carrying forward into the new life that begins when each old one ends.

Some epiphanies come like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. Others take a village. My clarity arrived through the words and work of others–specifically fellow Questers Marisa Goudy, Brenna Layne, and a Northern Indian man named Jadav “Molai” Payeng. Through them I’ve realized that it’s not what I’ve been doing that’s off, it’s how.

Of course there have been signs–let’s call them breadcrumbs–along the way. Small reminders that where I was wasn’t where I was supposed to be. That I was off course and needed to find my way home. And lately, those reminders have been getting larger. And louder.

Marisa’s post was the one that finally broke through, completing the arrow begun by the other two–pointing me back in the right direction.

When every day you spend as an entrepreneur is measured against some dream of growing beyond yourself when all you really want to do is be who you are, you’re poisoning yourself.  — Marisa Goudy

In my case it wasn’t just poisoning myself, it was crippling my work. I had been trying to force my passions into an entrepreneurial mold for years now–years filled with fits and starts, with derailments and roadblocks, with soul searching and second guessing, all because that mold didn’t fit.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable, and not particularly risky to run.Seth Godin

Risks make the artist. And I found myself so focused on how to streamline and monetize that is sucked the joy out of the most important part of being an artist–making wild, courageous, meaningful art.

Which pointed me back to Brenna’s post which is outwardly about ambition, but inwardly speaks to why we bother doing anything as insane as creating art in the first place.

But I am ambitious. I want to make a living as a novelist. This is a ridiculously ambitious goal, but it doesn’t stop there. I don’t want to hit the NYT Bestseller List so much as I want to make a difference. I want to write stories that crack people open, that make them laugh-cry, that offer up the moments of transcendence that the best stories have given me. Books saved my life. I want to pay it forward.  — Brenna Layne

The point of creation, at least for me, was never about earning a sizable income and gaining notoriety. It was about exactly what Brenna describes–the moments of transcendence that can crack people open in the best and most life-changing ways, the way others have done for me.

Creating work like that doesn’t happen up against a deadline or when driven by revenue goals. It bubbles up from the deep well inside, sometimes after decades of allowing it to rest while it builds effervescence, and sometimes after a lifetime of tiny, daily steps which may have begun with a small glimmer of an idea that built itself into a life’s work.

Which led me back, once again, this time to an article about Majuli islander, Jadav Payeng, who 30 years ago started planting seeds along a barren stretch of beach. Through his dedicated work, it has since  grown into a jungle.

Reading the article, watching the film I find myself wondering, like the filmmaker, “what 10 Payengs, or 100, or 1000 Payengs could do.” And more importantly, how can I awaken my own inner Payeng.

One tiny positive act a day, repeated with dedication and persistence, can change everything–be it words or art or trees.

And so from this unexpected clean slate, I will refocus my attention on recognizing and cultivating the one small thing I have to give, with the reminders of those times in the past when I have felt most fully awake, alive, and radiant with purpose to guide me.

GRETEL

Crack open the shell you have
built for yourself.
Follow the path the birds
have left
Not the sodden track
of mildewed bread.
It’s the trail of seeds
scattered by beaks.
Their tiny green sprouts will
show you the way.

Lauren McLean Ayer

What might your one small thing be?

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.

Not All Poetry is Pretty

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, during which I managed to write at least one poem a day–32 in all. Some were free writes, some written from prompts.

I’d like to say that is was an inspiring creative experience, but the truth is, I struggled with every single word and got almost nothing in return beyond being able to say I finished. Someday I may be able to look back at these slithering creatures I’ve written and find hidden gold, but for now, I am just unbelievably grateful to be able to put the pen down for as long as it takes for the process to transform from torture back to joy.

Here is the list:

  • 4/1: Impatience (prompt)
  • 4/2: Night (no prompt)
  • 4/3: Desperate Atrophy (prompt)
  • 4/4: Pause (no prompt)
  • 4/5: Younger Then, Older Now (prompt)
  • 4/6: Another Selfie (prompt) two different poems
  • 4/7: Natural Resources (prompt)
  • 4/8: Relentless Pursuit (prompt)
  • 4/9: Not Here (prompt)
  • 4/10: Chance Metting (prompt)
  • 4/11: After the Fall (prompt)
  • 4/12: Carnivorous Air (prompt)
  • 4/13: Another Response (prompt)
  • 4/14: Where I’m Going (prompt)
  • 4/15: Obvious Secrets (prompt)
  • 4/16: Depth Perception (no prompt)
  • 4/17: 2017 (prompt)–apocalypse poem
  • 4/18: Awkward Moment (prompt)
  • 4/19: Night Light (prompt)
  • 4/20: Second Language (prompt)
  • 4/21: Endangered Animal (prompt)
  • 4/22: A Conversation with My Destroyer (prompt)
  • 4/23: The Way Home (prompt)
  • 4/24: No Right Answer (prompt)
  • 4/25: Diaspora (prompt)
  • 4/26: Another Grey Santa Fe Day (no prompt) and Lest We Forget / Act As If (no prompts)
  • 4/27: Last Leg (prompt)
  • 4/28: Middle of the Road (prompt)
  • 4/29: Animate and Inanimate (prompt)
  • 4/30: Mull (no prompt)

 

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

 

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.

 

Growth

Welcome to week five of continuing to #livethequest. Yesterday’s prompt is a checkpoint for the progress we made during the first month of 2015.

What indicators of growth can you celebrate? #growth
Look back on your first month. What small indicators can you identify that you have changed something positively in Month 1 or that you are moving in 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?

If Jeffrey had asked this question one day earlier I’m not sure I would have known how to answer it, but something shifted for me between the first and second days of February, shedding light on progress made but unseen. Which is only fitting, because February 2, a celebration called Imbolc by the Celts (also known as St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas) marks the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it, the return of the light to the world.

And that’s how it felt. Like a veil was lifted and what had been clouded was now clear. Or at least clearer. Clear enough to see where progress has been made.

  • A clearer space and mind–After a month of struggling with clutter I am finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, in my space, in my daily life, and in projects I have been struggling with–like my #oneproject which finally has a theme, a Quest vision quilt.
  • Routines that support more than just getting my dishes washed and laundry done–I have begun to integrate small habits that support my larger priorities into my daily routines, things like turning off my computer at 9:30pm so I can get to sleep earlier, and reading poetry every morning to help inspire my own words.
  • Commitments to daily making–On January 18th I started my second 365 project (my first was in 2010/11) and on January 26th I joined a small circle of friends posting one sentence  a day from something we’ve written that same day.
  • New unfurling seeds of bravery–Perhaps it is all my recent exposure to posts and stories and books urging us not to wait until a project is perfect before we deliver, but yesterday morning I thought to myself, “why wait until I have a solid plan for starting my online art and literary journal? Why not just put out a call for submissions and a short guidelines page and see what happens?” I still need to do a little more research, but once I get answers to a couple of important questions, I’m going to get it done. Let’s say, by February 23rd.

Making commitments to something scary on the fly in front of the world? It’s either really stupid or really brave. But either way, for the girl who took six years to start a blog she’d been dreaming of even longer, that’s growth.

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.

Stop

Yesterday’s Quest2015 prompt from visionary Charlie Gilkey, asks us to think, not about what we want to take on next, but about what we need to stop.

“Pursue knowledge, daily gain. Pursue Tao (wisdom), daily loss.” – Tao Te Ching*

We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things.

What do you need to STOP doing in 2015?

And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?

Attribution: Derek Lin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

Interestingly, it was the stress of being too busy to answer this question yesterday when it first posted, that led me to wake up with the answers:

In 2013, with the intention of jump-starting my quilting career, I did three crazy things: I signed up to do a solo quilt show and started two holiday craft fairs, one in my community and one online. All three happened in November. Because I had no real idea what I was getting into, I figured I had all kinds of time, and wound up nearly killing myself in October and November trying to get everything done. At the end of that month, I swore that next year (this year) I would do things differently. I would start earlier so I wouldn’t be sewing at the 11th hour. I would clear my schedule starting in September so I could focus more fully on getting everything done without stress. But alas, not only did I procrastinate the making, I added a ton more to my plate (National Novel Writing Month, daily blogging at the Apocalypse Garden, increased hours at work, and not one, not two, but three quilt commissions). Suffice it to say, it hasn’t gone so well. 

So what do I need to ‪#‎stop‬?

  • I need to stop procrastinating, thinking I’ll have more time later (NTS: I won’t)
  • I need to stop putting my art last and do a better job of integrating it into my daily life, both to minimize stress and to enable myself to take better advantage of opportunities
  • I need to stop wasting my time on low-return projects–financial, emotional, creative, and/or spiritual
  • I need to stop saying yes to every commission–only a select few are worth the work and stress
  • I need to stop taking on every fun project that piques my interest, especially at this time of year
  • I need to stop refusing to invest in my art and business–business cards, a $20 webinar on the slow stitching movement, a website plug-in that will allow people to contact me via form not email, none of these cost that much and could make a big difference in my ability to transform this hobby into something more

And how will I make that stopping more than an intention? By committing to taking a close look at everything on my plate within the next 30 days and really discerning what matters most (including empty space for myself) and what needs to be cut (both projects and physical stuff). Quilt making stays. Poetry stays. That November novel, the daily blogging, the five websites, commission work, the two craft fairs and annual solo show… we shall see.

 

Heart Leaps

Today’s Quest2015 prompt from author Pam Houston asks us to consider what makes our hearts leap.

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

The list is longer than I expected, which shouldn’t surprise me. I have a lot of different interests.

  • Holding the finished 7 Blessings quilt top up to the light and watching it glow like stained glass
  • Having a fellow quester compare 7 Blessings to an Australian Opal
  • Finding, watching, and sharing Apocalypse Rhyme on Apocalypse Garden and on Facebook
  • Dreaming the future shape of the Apocalypse Garden
  • My near perfect Apocalypse Garden blogging streak (only one day missed since I started the blog on 9/30/14)
  • The Friends of the Library book sale and all its treasures, especially finding a $1 copy of the Book Lover’s Journal and a mint condition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Discovering, browsing, holding, sharing, reading books of all kinds, but especially having them in my space–more than anything else, they are my security blanket, my inspiration, my solace, and my joy
  • Finishing CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (and sci-fi lit in general)
  • Watching some amazing, original, risk-taking movies, including Birdman, Twilight Angel, and an old favorite, Strictly Ballroom
  • Poetry class taught by Tony Hoagland (and his amazing reading last month)
  • Sharing and discussing poetry with my two poet cousins, MJ and Suzanne Marie. whose work and interests are uncannily similar to mine
  • Making connections with some amazing fellow questers
  • Napping in my casita’s only comfy chair with the man I love
  • The koala painting in my bathroom–every time I see it

So how can I arrange my life to get more heart leaps?

Spend more time in the bathroom? But seriously, the answer is simple–prioritize what’s important:

  • Quilting
  • Poetry
  • Books and writing (let’s just call this stories to keep it simple)
  • Movies (also stories)
  • Art
  • People
  • My blog (which is set to include all of the items on this list, plus prepping, my favorite OCD obsession)

And stop trying to second-guess what I’ve already decided to focus on in 2015–the Apocalypse Garden. Instead, I should spend my energy this month sorting out just how all that will manifest.

Unmake to Rebuild

A few minutes ago I opened today’s Quest 2015 prompt from Jason Silva, read it, and quickly closed it again.

In what ways might you artfully curate your life in 2015 to occasion serendipity, creativity and awe? 

Ontological designing says: We design our world and the world designs us back.

What are the linguistic and creative choices you can make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon you and transform you?

Improv II I don’t even know how to parse the sentences he used. Especially not at this moment. Not after journaling four new pages this morning that completely undo Monday’s post. Four pages that essentially boiled down to: what if I could just drop out? What if I could stop trying to design a livelihood and focus instead on living a life? What if I could unplug, strip down, and whittle every part of everything I own, and do, and am down to the essential?

I tried it once before when I first left my corporate tech job to move to Santa Fe and write. Back then (could it really have been only four years ago?) I was sick and exhausted and deeply unhappy and had to focus on building up instead of stripping down. Stronger now, might I finally be able to use that grit to polish myself down like a tumbled stone until every band of color, every thin thread of gold shined?

And isn’t that the point of curation vs collection? To mindfully, thoughtfully, poetically choose those few pieces that are most meaningful, most beautiful, most magical? To let one small piece of intricately designed fabric inspire the whole quilt. To let its colors, its luminosity be the door through which we invite the universe in to help us co-create our most joy-full, wonder-full, meaning-full life.

Because if I have learned anything since my first attempt to drop out–and perhaps this is only the continuation of that, not a new attempt at all–it’s that when we stop trying to control, to push through, to drive, when we stop trying to figure it all out on our own, when we open ourselves to letting things evolve, when we finally dare to name our dreams–our true dreams, not just the ones we are pretty sure we can manage to do without too much stress or trouble–the universe tends to meet us halfway. Or more than halfway.

Might 2015 be the year that I finally let it all go, give it all away, all but that one tiny seed at the core of me that must unmake itself to finally meet its destiny: a leaf, a stem, a blossom, a fruit, another seed.

So what linguistic and creative choices can I make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon me and transform me? To say no–to anything and everything that doesn’t feel deep, resonant, meaningful, and essential. And to say yes to what does: poetry, quilts, and finding/building the homestead I have dreamed of ever since I was a little girl. To drop out of the rat race of consumption and constant virtual connection, and replace it with creation and true connection. Without bludgeoning my dreams with boiling every decision I make down to the single question “but how are you going to pay for it?” Replacing it with “what might it cost if you don’t?”

Older posts