Doing My Art is Integrity

April’s chapter in my Artist’s Way group is Recovering a Sense of Integrity. These chapters are meant to be gone through in a week, but in our group we are taking a month to focus on them and complete their exercises. I must say that I am loving the heck out of this! Each time that I completed the Artist’s Way course, I did it in 12 weeks as it is designed, but feel like I needed to keep going back because it is hard for me to really make a life change in such a short amount of time. I have been super enthusiastic about each chapter until I realized the implications of April’s. 

One of the exercises that she has you do for the chapter is called “reading deprivation.” This means that you are not to read AT ALL for the entire week. I can’t even begin to tell you the resistance that I experienced while even contemplating what this kind of a commitment could mean for an entire month! That is when I had to get to the spirit of her challenge. 

She asserts that artists are very often reading addicts. She warns to be careful when depriving oneself of reading not to fill in that time with TV, movies, internet, gossipy conversations, etc. When reading is gone we truly are left with ourself. Our mind. Our boredom. 

So, for April, i have committed that my reading deprivation will include cutting out the reading that I do for distraction, for learning, and for pleasure. The first week that I did this I felt as though I was coming out of my skin. My dreams were more vivid. My emotions surfaced. I felt uncomfortable. This all turned me to my art. I longed to get busy. That first week I had more fun thinking about what I would create. Reading deprivation, though painful is actually a gift–one that I may use more often. Now that I realize how powerful this tool is, I commit to having integrity in my own dreams to develop my art with the time that I truly have available because this is what I found. I have more time than I previously was aware of. 

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This journaling piece was inspired by, Mt. St. Helens, the mountain in my back yard. She reminds me of the magic of the earth’s secrets. The legends tell us that she has witnessed communities before our own. She is a presence that grounds us and shelters the remaining wild. It is as if she even knows our deepest secrets and longings. 

Lyrics from Oh Land’s The Wolf & I

Whispers from the Past

MARCH: Artist’s Dates & Walks

March started out a struggle for me to get out on my Artist’s Dates (AD) and Artist’s Walks (AW). I had a very hard time sticking with the rules for the first couple of weeks and one week even took my husband with me. Though it was nice having time with him, I really wasn’t at ease to go at my normal snail’s pace. AWs have become a time for exploration and noticing details…. ADs about connecting with the people past and present.

My husband had been telling me that I would want to see the Oregon City Falls, so when our daughters were in a Saturday jazz competition at the college there, I asked him if he wanted to go as well. We stopped to walk along the sidewalk above the river and took pictures of the water below. I took the opportunity to grill him with questions about the mills on the riverbank and the industry there. He said that as far as he knew they are a big producer of toilet paper.

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Next we went to their museum. I tried not to get caught up in the worry about him getting bored, but that was a challenge for me. Museums are great because you see what the people of the area valued enough to preserve. They had a wonderful section of Native American artifacts and information. Another favorite was reading about notable, Ralph Eddy, photographer to their area, and I saw first hand how he was able to preserve their history through his beautiful work. His cameras were saved spanning his 50 plus year career right there in the museum. I did get some pictures of my own and made the decision that there was a lot more to Oregon City that I need to explore in the future.

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Museum of the Oregon Territory

For my next notable AD, I went to a little city called Kalama in southwest Washington. I had been antique hunting several times before a couple years back and brought home many finds. This time I also learned that the high school in their town was the high school used in the Twighlight films. Even with this attention, the town remains relatively unchanged since the last time I was there seven plus years ago. I did eat in the little deli (the only restaurant in the antique mall), and had the most delicious sandwich made on home made bread. I bought fresh cookies for my family as well. I walked through many of the antique shops and one of my favorite shops was a mix of the old and the new. They had new things that looked like old things. This particular shop also had a big section just devoted to Native American finds. I saw a rattle that was carved out of wood for $200. I had no way of knowing if it was actually authentic, but I got to thinking that antique stores in a way are little museums for people who want to take things from the past home with them. I found a bunch of cool things, but bought a Ladies’ Home Journal from 1910 that I planned on using in my mixed media journaling artwork.  Image

For my AW, I asked about local parks or walking trails and was directed to their park, but didn’t make it to the location that I wanted to. I later read that their park has the world’s talest standing Native American totem pole that Chief Lelooska carved for the World’s Fair in 1962. He did not finish in time, but these were made from wood and still are beautiful today. The park that I did make it to was very small, but I went up on the hill for a great view of the river. Like many of the towns that I have visited, timber is the most visible industry. Factories and piles of tree trunks lined the river as well as a rail line. Driving under the freeway underpass also had clues of the past with a mural of Native Americans, white settlers, and a ship, but I did not find the written history of Native Americans living there before the settlers.

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Since I can remember, I have had a strong connection with Mt. St. Helens (the little active volcano in my back yard). I was only 9 years old when she erupted. At the time we lived pretty close to the south side of the mountain so we felt the earthquakes pretty strongly leading up to the eruption and experienced the blackout from the ash from the eruption itself. Maybe the year before that I met Chief Lelooska (a school field trip that I would never forget). He told many stories, but the one that I remembered was of Mt. St. Helens.

As the spring came on this year, I felt a strong draw to the mountain. I know that the observatory is still closed, so for my last AD in March, I took my own approach from the area that I know I love on the south side of the mountain. I planned on going up to Speelyai Bay. I drove through Woodland set my odometer to zero. I needed to stay on the highway for 14 miles to find the bay. As I drove past Merwin Dam, the roads got narrower and windy, but I could see the gorgeous water below. At 15 miles, I knew that I passed the bay, but honestly had no clue which road to follow to get there. I passed three to four huge log trucks in route. I was pretty stressed at the point when a deer made its way into the road in front of my car. I slowed hoping that the animal didn’t double back and hit my car (deer are funny that way sometimes.. they run up the bank and come back into the road causing an accident). Making it safely back to Merwin Dam, I decided to stop at the Lelooska Lodge to check for upcoming events. I then went down to the lake with my journal and camera. After my walk, I spent the rest of my time there pondering the presence of the mountain. The park was almost deserted, but it was a gorgeous sunny day. The wind had a low howl that was a little spooky, and being alone up there felt exciting and also a little unnerving. It was a spiritual experience as well though. I closed my eyes and felt the stillness of what it is like to be close to the wilderness. I feel like this is an experience that I long for. I imagined what it would have been like to live off of the land. The park’s education board said that the early people who lived in the valley below hunted deer and ate berries.

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On my way back through Woodland, I made one more stop at an antique store that was in an old house which gave it a charming feel. Again this store had some other trinkets that they were selling along with the older antique items. My favorite area was with the baby dolls with what my daughters would call creepy because of their eyes.  Image

Speranza Antiques, Decor and Everlastings

My longing for connection with the earth only gets stronger as I explore the different sites around my community–one that I find difficult to express in words. I want to learn more about the native people who lived in this area before the European settlers came. I also want to feel the spirit of the land.. there is a connection there that I need to discover for myself. My ADs are bringing me closer to this realization and inner desire. It is something that I accept about myself, but I also discount to a certain extent. How many of us feel these intuitive pulls, but aren’t sure where they lead us?