Monday, January 4, 2016

The Fabric of My Year

As I begin a new year, I take stock of the old. Throughout each year I maintain a list of the things I do that make up the fabric of my year. There is something telling in those things to which we pay attention. For me it is talks, paintings, exhibitions, blogs, websites and books. I have a deep need to be productive. Even in December, a month devoted to lying on the couch with a miserable cold, I wrote 8 blogs and read 10 books, activities that lent themselves to my sedentary state.

I've been told this is a little manic, but I've come to accept this need to produce. In recent years I've also learned of the need to gestate. Painting taught me that, an appreciation of the non-linear process that takes its time to find its way. I do not focus on production in my artwork, but rather meander and explore with spaces for silence and contemplation, letting things emerge when they are ready. I begin this new year with ideas for several paintings that are departures from my norm. The ideas came to me while driving, one of my best places for nascent thoughts. And so I enter the new year with some eagerness to explore these new directions.

Each year I try to take on some new challenge that is uncomfortable. Everything was once new and uncomfortable, now much of it fits like a pair of well worn shoes. I don't want to let myself get too comfortable as it is the new things that move me forward, like a tree branching. Then I practice, focusing on growing those existing limbs straight and true. Taking my writing into new venues and honing my skills is a continuing new challenge. It does not operate on a tidy one year schedule, but may represent more of a multi-year, perhaps lifetime challenge.

If I were a tree then 2015 would be the year you would have seen a disruption in my inner rings, much like from flooding or drought. The death of my mother on the 4th of July surely will be found in my core when I am cut down some day. The balance of the year flew by, my sense of time distorted. I am confused by the suddenness of the year end. When did that happen? I am actually quite amazed that life moved forward with me often on auto-pilot. How did I do so much when I felt frozen in time?

I've not been seeking out shows of my artwork as I've been developing a new series and I expect to be in a creating stage throughout this year. Since I work in series my focus is on completing a series so I can show a body of work. Nonetheless I've done smaller shows this year of past work or work in progress. I have continued to give at least one talk every month on a variety of subjects. Sometimes I partner with a friend who is a survivor and we speak about the Holocaust. Often I speak about genealogy or artwork. This year I've combined the two and done a series of talks and workshops for libraries on family history collage. Public speaking is one of those things I enjoy as long as I keep actively doing it. Stop for too long and unease creeps in.

One of my new involvements last year has been my participation in creating a local Jewish genealogy group. I've created a website for them and of course more blogs and talks are a natural outgrowth of this genealogy effort. 

Reading is a bit like eating for me. I do it for both nourishment and entertainment and with two book clubs it has its social aspects as well. It feeds my writing and speaking, giving me new inputs that energize my efforts. I read 64 books in 2015 of which about 40% were nonfiction. As in past years I will write a blog that culls out the books that stayed with me. That is one of my tests of the significance of a book. Do I remember it? Oddly enough how long ago I read it has less to do with that than you would think. The ones that remain have a staying power that has little to do with time.

Travel took a backseat last year to the life events that overtook my year. In 2016 we will spend much of the late winter and spring on the road. We begin the year in California where we will greet a new grandchild, then off to Israel with the Jewish Artists' Lab. This will be an arts focused trip which we look forward to with anticipation. We have tagged a trip to Paris on the backend of this journey which will also no doubt be filled with our usual museum explorations and a lot of walking and food. And of course you'll hear about these art infused travels here. 

This new year will represent the eighth year of this blog. I actually write this blog as well as one for the Jewish Artists' Lab. As with painting there is a gestational stage with writing and periodically I wonder if I'm blogged out. Is there anything new left to say? And yet I know I would miss it deeply if I were to cease writing. This blog has evolved with me and is a mix of my interests and ruminations. As I write what I live, I can only trust that living a life of engagement will continue to feed it.

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