to be with form, but from formless
to be a sky in a cloud
an ocean in a drop of rain
a tree inside a seed
a laugh inside a cry
to be firm and soft like tofu
is to be a poet
firmament and dirt; fire, wind and water prayer
to be a poet
is to believe in what is not seen
as firmly as you know your own body exists
and as softly as the breath that keeps it so
All that was left was a lonely puddle in a dark attic, one candle lit and a leaking roof. I was the lonely puddle, naturally, forever the metaphor. But by the way, since I am the lonely puddle, I am also the sun shining in the window after the storm breaks. I am also the window. I am also the storm that breaks.
To create is to channel. We are all born a vessel made for the liquid universe to pour through. But humans hoard and with time we collect weighted narratives about ourselves, true or false, in the same way plaque collects in our arteries. Caught in a web of narratives, we spend years stuck in our own mud or attempting to scrub it away. We wash windows, declutter corridors, dust the mantle — attempting to clear the channel so ‘someday soon’ we can get to where we want to be or get that 'liquid universe' moving through us. But we fixate on the mess and get fooled into believing we only have time to clean and creating must be saved for later when we are more ready, more pure or more whole.
Creativity is a trickster, she hides in plain sight. Our channel opens not when we have done all the right things in all the right ways, but when we accept our blockages and openings equally. Like, um, self-love basically. We are always standing right on top of our own beginning, yes, 'beginning' is found exactly where we are, because it is who we are—as we are. And that is how she hides in plain sight—the trickster—the muse—the spirit of the liquid universe.
She shows up for us, when we show up for ourselves.
In 2009, after years of creative stagnation and a bad habit of standing in the shadow of other people’s creative success, I started a blog, with a little prompting from some friends, called, Drunk Love Heart. My angel/friends had a hunch that if I shared myself with the world, something fun might come of it. Something did.
My words and sketches were not fancy, clumsy even, but my readers responded with enthusiasm to a quality of playful accessibility and wanted more. I was having fun, so I gave them more.
Blogging became the gateway to live poetry events and in my small, magical hometown, the literary scene had been pretty sleepy, so timing was ripe to shake things up and to me that meant making events three-dimensional. I wanted to dust poetry off and let it dance through people's hearts. I wanted it to do what it does in its finest form—create connection. So I invited people who didn’t read poems to read poems and had folks write and call in their musings from all over the world. We had music and sound affects, candles and fire pits built inside our local indoor/outdoor bookstore. It was weird. It was fun. It ignited curiosity. It made people want to speak.
Then came the invitations. I was invited to show up at a variety of functions: fundraisers, schools, networking groups, workshops and literary events. I didn't know what I was doing, but I just kept doing it. I was driven by something in me that needed to show up over and over again, no matter how exhausting and how unprepared I felt. Friends helped me assemble a video called, HOW TO MAKE A POEM, and I got invited to speak at the first TEDx Women in our town. I wasn’t even making great poetry, not consistently at any rate, but that was never my prompt. What motivated me was inviting people in to the awkward willingness to arrive and bear witness to breakthrough, struggle, vulnerability and every once in a while, that lovely harmonious planet called, landing with your truth in present time.
It was outrageously fun and entirely exhausting.
I learned a lot of lessons about balance and self-care, but not very quickly. Life delivered a few personal wallops as life tends to do and I dropped into a time of intense personal work, self-reflection and frequent waves of debilitating depression.
So I scaled back the blog until eventually I phased it out. Chose events selectively and basically gave myself time to walk through the valley of the shadows of my doubt.
To be in doubt is part of being an artist of any kind, or a human for that matter. I questioned everything I was and everything I was doing and how and why I was doing it. It took time. I went from a phase of jumping into life vigorously, to wearing a blindfold and walking backwards downhill.
This is poetry. Reclamation. I had to reabsorb the "akka" I had created for the world and walk her back inside myself. It's October 2017, as I begin my walk back out, strengthened and rejuvenated, I bring my insides with me, but I walk for myself this time. Yes, me, a microcosm of the macrocosm of this this messy genius world.
It was a hobby. I started taking pictures about 10-years ago as another way to find my voice, to document what moved me and help me understand my context in the world. I used photos in my blog and took pictures of things I found on walks; faces in trees, rock formations, plant life, my growing kid and myself, but never had I considered being a photographer.
Sometimes the 'graces' intervene and life gifts you a mentor. If that mentor is respectable and decides you are a seed worthy of watering, for goodness sake, let them. GUY WEBSTER has been such a gardener in my life and I am grateful beyond. He’s legendary in his field and has shot rock n’ roll and celebrity icons for 50+ years. As a true master does, he nursed my hobby without me noticing at first. We sorted, cropped, cleaned, edited and organized thousands of old and new images; digital, film and slides. I set him up for his photo shoots; he taught me how to handle equipment, wrangle studio lights and yield to natural light. It wasn't long before he had me shooting for him while he directed the shot and somewhere in the mix of all that, he told me I was a photographer, always had been, that I would make it my business and I would be successful. And so of course, I refused.
I refuse most things before I accept them. Don’t get me wrong, I relish everything I have learned (and am learning still) from Mr. Webster, noted rapid improvement in the quality of my photographs and the joy it brings me to ‘nail the shot’, but still, I hesitated to commit professionally, because, well, first, I had to work through some deep-seeded self-worth falsehoods about why I would never be good enough to be professional, and second, I had to connect how this medium could be a catalyst for what I know for sure I am committed to: personal transformation.
My mentor recognized my talent before I did and patiently waited for me to catch up to what he had known all along. Once I realized what was happening, I was better able to understand the real art possible in this modern craft.
To be witnessed by someone you trust and held accountable to your true nature, as you unravel it and return to it, is a rare and precious gift. To photograph and be photographed is the art of seeing and being seen. In this way, photography is not unlike poetry; I use my eyes, instinct and camera to access the emotional undercurrents of my subject. Similarly, as a poet, I use my heart, ears and 'feels' to distill a poem from the kaleidoscope of human experience. It's not always a comfortable process, mind you, to let yourself be held through someone else's vision can provoke huge feelings of vulnerability, but over time it can also nurture self-acceptance, build confidence and promote self-awareness.
It's a big deal to be seen. It is my honor to bear witness to such magnificent unfolding.