I don’t know about y’all, but I feel rode hard and put away wet after this last week or so. That statement may seem like an uber-use of the vernacular, but I am after all, an Appalachian. I’ve always known this to be true, as my kin hail from Breathett County Kentucky, but today I read it in the paper. And during tough times, I look to my tough heritage for strength.
The mountains are burning. And some days it seems, if we are to believe the bright screens we cling to, so is the world at large. Naively I thought the end of the election would bring about some solace. But hateful things do not always recede. At times, if they are repeated and retweeted, they become the reality only a small few desired.
And so, each day, I attempt to fathom the next step. Not only for our nation necessarily, but for me. As an artist. As a maker. As a purveyor of whimsy and (I hope) beauty in this big ol’ goofy world of ours.
I have read here and there that social media took a high profile part in the election of this new reich and I do not doubt it. We live in a vastly different world than even just at the last election. These platforms are part of our lives, whether we wanted them to be or not. It is up to us to determine how much of it gets into our inner sphere. It’s not as simple as turning off the television anymore. We must be vigilant, especially as artists who trade in the visual, to closely monitor what reaches the inner sanctums of our minds and hearts.
In the perhaps misguided attempt to find an answer to ‘How Did We Get Here?’, I have recently instigated conversations with Trump supporters in my own network of family and life-acquaintances. I have looked at surveys on what makes our society tick. (Please, please, please. Watch this documentary. It’s important.) And I am still without an answer, and alas, with some serious tensions in relationships of old.
I’ve deleted and retreated a bit, I’ll admit. In the interest of my own sanity and my policy of ‘Only Light In, Only Light Out’ (which lets face it, paying attention to the news causes to slip a bit), I’ve taken to seeking out my fellow artists and thinkers for comfort. My critics would call this my ‘echo chamber’. But I would counter, I have work to do. And I am finding it hard to do the work I am called to do in a culture of hatred and speedy, snarky commentary that I cannot even read in real time, let alone respond to.
So how to navigate this? ‘Find your tribe’. While I am fortunate enough to have real, live, fellow artists to gather with and seek support from in my ‘real world’ here, I am also eternally grateful for my online community who live all over the globe. I can reach out and seek out the very words I need to get into a hopeful, studio-friendly, art-making state of mind. The Instagram platform of social media is especially powerful in this way and today especially, it did not disappoint. The lovely Pixie Lighthorse spoke on her Instagram page on how the acts of stirring soup and tending to home fires can be as powerful as those of outer activism. And photographer Morgan Wade provided the pep-talk I needed this morning asking the vital questions we must answer as makers….
What wakes me up? Coffee. (still working on the deeper more philosophical question here.) Music, beauty, a brisk walk. Time with loved ones.
What and who am I fighting for? My people. This includes myself, my children, my family, my neighborhood, my community, my nation. (that is the who). The what? Kindness, civility. A slowing down/backing up of all the awful. I think my work tends to these tasks in some way.
What kind of world do I want to live in and pass onto our children? One in which we mustn’t constantly walk in fear. One in which we can be ourselves. One in which judgement doesn’t play such a deep role in our sense of self.
What softens me to myself? Letting go. Of judgement. Of fear. Playing music and making pictures.
So this recent in(sta)sanity, combined with music played with friends at the local session, and before that, a Brazilian Jazz Combo show by my oldest and his jazz mates….
…. further combined with the doodling of my own set of characters…..
….has me feeling, for the moment at least, a bit more on an even keel.
Here is the thing. I doodle. And usually those doodles amount to nothing more than putting little creatures into people-like clothing, and creating little stories with the pictures. It seems so simple. But at the heart of it, it is not simple. At the heart of things, I make drawings of small, vulnerable creatures who try to make sense of a world that is so much bigger than they are. In this way I think I speak to everyone just trying to get along in this big, overwhelming world and not become prey to the likes of our president-elect.
I have a number of other little ‘rodent-in-clothing’ drawings that I can’t yet share but know that I am at the drawing board daily, between spells of tears, and that I am desperately biting back the desire to run away in a caravan or high-powered zeppelin.