Yesterday I reviewed my log of writing, reading and art-making since January, and was pleasantly surprised. My current projects are so much in their beginning stages that everything feels loose and mysterious, and I had wondered whether much had been accomplished at all. But there it is in black and white – scores of days of generative writing, mostly essays that can feed the projects, plus several months of reading (biographies) for research, and very recently, some summery days of plein air painting and collage. My studio is a chaotic, fertile mess. I flew to Seattle to soak up a writer’s conference. I pitched a lecture about Spiritualism and historic women in the San Jose area and landed a date at the Winchester Mystery House; I reviewed Marc Zegans’ haunting book of San Francisco poems, Lyon Street, and now the review lives in the summer print edition of Rain Taxi. What an honor! And poems I wrote about my Dad were published online in the summer edition of the excellent and tender Months to Years Literary Journal. That feels like a reasonable workload for six months. I am now my own boss, and my boss gives me Fridays off.
Late last fall we sadly learned of the death of my first husband, the painter, poet and cartoonist Momo. Father to my daughter and stepdaughters, Momo and I shared nearly thirteen years of art shows and escapades, first in the narrow alleyways of San Francisco’s North Beach, then in Eugene, Oregon, and finally in an outpost in pre-Google Mountain View. I’ve been reviewing those days, sifting through them. Nostalgia could come too easily – “those were the creative days.” But in fact, that’s not true. I was an active poet and performer when I met him, and had begun to paint and sculpt. When we met and married, through no real fault of his, I became a Shadow Artist, an important phrase by Julia Cameron. The spotlight was on Momo. I became his manager, curator, driver, dresser, and the one who paid the bills. I guess I needed all that experience – it grew me into a successful project manager and corporate communicator. But only after the marriage ended did I gain the energy to write books, and to create piles of collages for art shows. Some successful artistic couples collaborate to create a rich body of work – but it just didn’t work out that way for me.
Now I keep learning lessons over and over about how to stay a healthy and fully creative human being. For example, the writing and art won't happen unless I arrange conditions for the flow -- a place to work, the right tools, a time carved out on my calendar. And to say yes to my current projects means saying NO to so many other attractive things, especially in this "post-pandemic" summer when theaters, concerts and fairs are newly revived, and travel beckons, and friends want to gather. No complaints about this abundance, but I'm working on balance. There's a new biography underway, another how-to book, a memoir and more. Thank goodness for all those years learning project management! Enjoy your summer.