I almost feel like I should come up with a snazzy title a la “Deep Thoughts” from SNL when I muse on things. I’m not sure who reads the entries where I delve into my psyche or the state of affairs of the world, but whomever you are? Thank you for sticking with me AND for bearing with my rambling.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the way of the world this year and especially this season. Everything is different for everyone, even this Thanksgiving. In my world, that means dramas abound, but I don’t want to talk about that. Not right now.
I know that today is going to be incredibly difficult for many of us. Some of us won’t be with family, even if they’re in the same town. Some of us will be alone because death has visited their lives in one shape or another. My heart goes out to all of you and my most fervent wish is to heal the world in SO many ways. Yet I am powerless to do so.
Isn’t that what a lot of things boil down to these days: powerless. We rage at the things we are powerless to change. We fear the disease we are powerless to stop. And the changes keep happening.
Just yesterday it was announced that we will bee doing another hunker down here that will last all of December because our hospitals are overwhelmed. And in Alaska, that’s a pretty big deal. We have small isolated communities that don’t have hospitals and everyone flies in to Anchorage. So this impacts the whole state really, especially in winter when the snow and dark lock us in.
BUT I digress. We’re all stuck in ruminating on these things. Today, I want to jump the train track. Today I want to invite you to join me for a moment of escape from fear and loneliness. Make a cup of your favorite hot beverage (tea, cocoa, other?) and join me for a few moments of warmth. Go on. I’ll wait.
Got one? Okay. First, let me share a moment of wonder with you. With all of the change that is occurring in our world, all of the chaos, drama and darkness, there can still be those tiny moments of wonder. The other day I was preparing a lesson on the winter migration of monarch butterflies for my kiddos and I ran across this video. I was lost in the moment. Watch it. Go on. I’ll wait.
Did you hear it? The sound of millions of fragile wings gently beating on the wind? How amazing was that sound? How amazing is it to think that somewhere in the world, butterflies are still doing their thing? Life goes on around us. I hope that amazes you as much as it did me.
Are you drinking your warm beverage? I hope you are. As it warms your bones, feel a virtual hug from me. These are difficult times but I truly believe that we will push through. Find your warmth and moments of wonder. Those are what help us to keep sane.
That’s what’s helping me. I rage, I despair, I cry and my emotions feel like a ping pong ball unlike ever before. Seriously. If you’re going through that too, you’re not alone. No one wants to admit all of that, but we need to. It’s uncomfortable to talk about the dark, but it’s there. You can’t ignore it. It’s as natural part of life as the daylight. And it’s absolutely okay to feel those negative emotions too.
I recently learned this for myself at a work training of all things. We are told that the negative emotions are bad and that’s what is holding back a lot of us from healing (because we’re trying to stop or avoid them). We are all experiencing grief. World wide. I was shocked to think of it this way. To know that others are experiencing these same things (waking up in the middle of the night almost nightly with my mind racing–others are doing that too?!), helped me so much. To know that it’s okay to go through the stages of grief (in no particular order and repeatedly) is also okay? SO helpful!
No, I’m not a basket case. Yes, I’m a stressed-out mess right now, but I’m keeping my head down. I’ve figured out a few things that have helped. I’m a writer and a creator. For me, I’ve found doing a daily sketch every night almost meditative. Then I thought, I’ll add in some daily writing too. Even if it’s just journaling in a composition book. It’s helped! And I’m VERY slowly reading Julia Cameron’s “Right to Write” to keep me going too.
Work has overwhelmed me more than I could have ever anticipated. Teaching online and some of the politics involved this school year have been SO stressful. It has impacted my creativity and I’ve struggled to produce. Yet, after months of this, I’ve found ways around it. Small ways that work for me.
Yesterday poets.org did a “gather in” live reading and I heard a poem that sparked a fire in me. I want to share it with you here because I think you may need it as much as I do, if you too are a writer and a creator.
On Gathering Artists
Who does a job well, and very well—
These are the artists, those curious
We are cobblers of the song
And barkers of the carnival word,
We are tailors of the light
And framers of the earth.
We fish among the elements
And hunt the elusive green in gray and blue.
We drink forbidden waters
And eat an invisible food.
In this time of electronic-mail and facsimile
Conversation, we send as our voice
The poem, the bridge, the circuit, the cure
Whose electricity is made from dreams,
Whose song is sung in the colors yet unnamed
Drawn from the solitary études of the soul
And given up in tender to the world.
How easy to spend a day writing a poem,
How hard to spend a life writing a thousand.
A poem, a bridge, a story, a circuit,
Cures, laws, bowls—
The warp and weave and waft of iron
And paper and light and salt:
We labor for a lifetime
But take every day off.
Who knows what to make of us?
We are not the ribcage, but the legs;
We are not the steering wheel, but the headlamps.
We gather happily, if not often. We can’t
Sit still. We hurry off. Good-bye to us,
Hello to us, a tip of the hat
To us, as we go about
The drumming of our stars.
From A Small Story about the Sky, published by Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2015 by Alberto Ríos.
I love that. I hope you hear that as a call to arms. Whatever you create, take some time for yourself and do it. The world needs your words and your creations. So do you.
Which brings me to my last point. I think I’m officially giving up on Holidoodle. If not forever, then definitely this year. I’ve got too much on my plate right now to do anything with it. BUT I will share a few things instead. IF you’d like to art with me, you could do the prompt list I’m doing.
I’ve been doing a prompt a day since the beginning of October and interpreting it with babies. Why babies? Because people are hard for me to draw and I wanted to challenge myself (and for some reason babies are the least intimidating place for me to start). It makes people smile and it makes me happy; win, win. I will be doing this list next month:
I found doodlewash last month and did their prompt list for November, but I couldn’t find December’s list just yet. SO I went into the archives and found their 2019 list. That works! Feel free to join me if you want.
There was also an article in the SCBWI bulletin where agent Chad Beckerman challenged his agency’s illustrators to make a list of 100 things they like to draw. 100! That got me thinking about what my list would look like. I’m not sure if I can think of 100 separate things. Like animals? That could be a lot of things or just 1 item on the list. What would your 100 things be? I’m trying to do more drawing so I work on that list too!
I was challenged at a recent illustrator event by something illustrator Joe Sutphin said. He said that illustrators should be producing a LOT of work. Otherwise your few finished pieces become SO precious you don’t accept critiques to improve your work. This was a common mistake he saw beginning illustrators making. Ding, ding, ding! I NEED to be drawing daily.
Perhaps my current project will end up being 100 days. Perhaps it will continue on daily. I’m going to go for as long as I can and see where it takes me. I’m already seeing improvement, so there’s that too. There are also plenty of holiday illustrator challenges out there. I think my favorite is #illo_advent on Twitter. Whatever you do, I hope you’ll share it. I’d love to see what you’re creating.
And if you made it this far: kudos! I’m sorry if this blog seemed disjointed. I was interrupted 10 times in writing it! I hope your warm beverage of choice was tasty. I hope you feel warm, and possibly inspired. Most of all, I wish you well for the holidays.
5 thoughts on “Holiday ruminations, warmth, & Holidoodle cancellations”
Jena, a toast to you! Strong women keep the world turning.
Thank you Jane! <3
I feel largely powerless, too, and it makes me sad. And angry. I keep telling myself to use whatever little power I have. I have the power to be kind to someone, be helpful to someone, a neighbor, a friend, a stranger. I will shine as brightly as I can.
I have the power to comment on a blog and tell the blogger that I see her and hear her, and I care. Much love to you, JenaBanana. You ARE doing something powerful. I love seeing your babies, and I love the gentle nudge you give every day, urging me to create.
Thank you Jen. ❤️
Hi Jena, Things are looking up in the Land Down Under. As I sit with my glass of cordial (yes, Summer officially starts here 1st December), I would like to wish you all the best for the Festive Season. There is an illustration technique video by Alayne Kay Christian I highly recommend. https://alaynekaychristian.wordpress.com/2020/11/28/picture-book-illustrators-how-to-tell-your-own-visual-story/?fbclid=IwAR3C0VbhcZCxTMzOebMY85RQ04HweRcTRuYfCwkkhr1zgRKTp0duZ9xzh1g