Existential Loneliness

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This painting had an evolution…it started off as three women disco dancers, then two polar bears, then a single polar bear with a different landscape and now this rendition.  Finally, I wrote the following sonnet on the canvas as a part of the background in the meadow.  It’s not meant to be legible, only a design element.

One cold night at the beginning of another long winter in the mountains of northern California, I fell into that state of existential loneliness.  I happened to have this painting in process on the wall in front of me.  My own loneliness expanded to include the polar bear at the north pole.  I considered his solitary life, that his habitat is dissolving due to global warming.  There is the real possibility of his extinction.  In writing this sonnet, I connected to the polar bear and as a result, I felt less lonely.
Is that the secret to existential loneliness–to expand our circle to include more of the life that is?

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© by Christine O’Brien

It’s cold and I’m alone again, at night.
The stars, so far away, no comfort there.
Is the polar bear aware of its plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Across the tundra the northern lights dance;
radiant colors blast the starry sky.
If we change our ways, would he have a chance?
“Global warming; couldn’t be helped,” we sigh.

We’re safe in our cozy habitats, home.
The borders of our lives within these walls.
The far arctic circle, his place to roam
outside of our range, his frozen cry falls.

What’s it to us, a whole species demise?
Could it have gone better if we’d been wise?

“Water Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink…”

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he was surrounded by an ocean of undrinkable water.

The upcoming art show at Siskiyou Art Museum in Dunsmuir, California has the theme of EBB AND FLOW.  It is an open call to artists of any ilk to create something to do with water–“celebrating water in all its forms.”  We have come to call water our most precious resource.  There are those in the world who deny global warming.  There are others who are ready to prove that global warming is without a doubt something we need to face –yesterday!

Drinking tea in the morning is the way I begin my day.  I do like my tea…and a cup in the afternoon or at the end of the day is a pleasant ritual.  What would I do without my tea…I began this painting a few years ago before this art show was conceived.  Now, it has become timely and I think I’ve finished it.  Just a few touches and then it’s ready for the show in July of 2019.  And I am calling it “water, water everywhere…”  Doesn’t she look a bit parched?

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Photos Are Evocative

A flat tire over the weekend with no possibility of repair until Monday, I was on foot.  I recommend it…not the flat tire, but walking through your neighborhood.  When I spied this “doggie in the window,” I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and took a few photos.  This one tugged at my heart.  I could certainly make up a story around it.  Would I write it from the dog’s perspective?  The owner’s?  My own?  Hmmm.  It’s really all my own, no matter which perspective I choose.  Or, I could paint it…

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There is nothing like a visual to evoke a memory, a feeling or some other emotional response.

Writing Prompt:
If you were going to use this image as inspiration for your writing today, how would you begin?  Does it inspire a poem, perhaps?  Write it!

Painting as a Personal Process Facilitator

I received one of those dreaded phone calls.  My ex-husband had a stroke!  It wasn’t looking good.  A surge of helplessness arose in me.  And fear.  I live a distance from where he lives.  I needed to do something while waiting for news.  This painting is by no means a work of art.  However, this is what I was prompted to paint.  I call it “Prayer.”

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When I first began painting in 2014, it was all about following my intuition.  As I added marks to the canvas, I noticed images.  I defined some of those images.  My expertise at drawing, combining colors and making a painting cohesive didn’t exist.  However, intuitive painting was a good way for me to begin this artistic journey.

I quickly discovered, that like poetry and journal writing, painting facilitated my personal process.  In this particular instance, painting helped me to handle the big emotions and the feelings of helplessness.  (It has been a long road for my ex-husband, but he did recover from the stroke.)

Contemplation:
Have you noticed how your creative practice facilitates your personal life process?  Can you think of specific instances where you turned to your creative practice to support you in some way?

Appreciate your art-making.

Grieve Deeply, Laugh Loudly

pic2We’ve heard this, right?  In order to feel the joy, you have to feel the sorrow.  If you shut off one part of yourself, you are shutting off being fully alive.  How you relate to your emotional life is going to affect your writing and creativity.

Poetry has been the greatest facilitator of the big emotions for me.  Journal writing and painting are close seconds.  I’ve learned that as I’m able to be present with an emotion, I then pass through that territory.  I come out the other side intact and a bit more integrated.

To be an effective writer, finding a way to say “I feel sad” without explicitly stating “I feel sad,” comes with practice.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011.  My parents had died six months apart following several years of their decline and concurrent family disruption.

“I stopped at Burger Express.  It seemed like a burger was called for.  Single patty with cheese, no special sauce, no onions.  Yes to catsup.  Yes to small fries.  No book to read.  Waiting for my order.  Staring out at the falling snowflakes.  Staring out at nothing.  Squinting and staring at signs across the street.  Staring.  The wait person calls my number.  I take the red tray and head towards a little tucked-away table.  A man sitting at the counter asks “Are you going to share half of that with me?”  I recognize an acquaintance’s warm voice.  I stop to say hello and tell him that my Mom died last week.  I am telling everyone it seems.  Now, the cook, cashier and waitperson at Burger Express know too.  He is sorry.  His Dad died a year ago.  His Mom, 84, lives an hour south of here.  Everything is so tentative.  He gives me a big hug in his bear arms.  “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” He adds “Seriously.”  I thank him.  How I’d like to be held in strong arms for half a day.  I think that would really help.  It gets old, this wrapping my own arms around myself all the time.”

In this short excerpt, do you get a sense of my grief?  Did writing about this help me?  In some odd way, yes.  I wasn’t in denial of these feelings and I found refuge through writing these words.

WRITING PROMPT:
How do you write about the feeling of sadness?  Typically, this type of writing is only for you.  Do you allow yourself to fully express your sadness in writing, poetry or painting or any other creative outlet?

 

 

Engaging the Fantasy

Date Night2Worlds emerge through our art-making.  Though they aren’t necessarily the agreed upon reality, they exist somewhere–perhaps–outside of the conscious in the unconscious, your personal or the greater unconscious.

What an interesting territory to explore and bring into form through writing and art.

For me, it is most accessible through painting.  I tap into it when I allow something to show and reveal itself to me.  I engage the conversation and follow the lead I receive through inquiry–“what is showing itself to me?”

It is the territory of the imaginal realm…

As defined by Mary Harrell, Ph.D.,

“As a first definition of the imaginal realm, I’ll borrow from Iranologist and scholar Henry Corbin (1997) who said that the imaginal realm is a subtle world, which exists in a field between matter and mind.”

And I like this one from Wikipedia:

“Coleridge distinguished imagination, which expresses realities of an imaginal realm transcending any personal existence, and ‘fancy’, or fantasy, which expresses the creativity of the artistic soul. For him, ‘imagination is the condition for cognitive participation in a sacramental universe’.”

Finally, this one by C. S. Lewis:

C.S. Lewis considered that “reason is the organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.

Creative Prompt:
Where have you gone lately, in your imagination?  Through your writing or through your art-making?  What’s your favored vehicle for visiting the imaginal realm?