Chagrin River

What happens inside me when I visit a landscape of my youth?

The trees that embraced me as I cried, the water that soothed me as I dreamed.

The river bank may not remember me, but within it I keep eroding memories, 

of feeling alone in what I felt,

having all the time to wonder and walk,

drowning in time,

in fantasies of the future, in anxieties of then...

Now following trails that no longer hold my teenage footprints, those adolescent emotions fade in and out of focus,

tumbling and merging with ones inside me now, leaving me to question the authenticity of the flashback.

I remember standing on top of this ridge, surrounded by rows of trees.

I remember feeling unbearably content, not wanting to walk back to my car, only hearing the sound of the river below and the sun pulsing through the forest canopy.

I remember smiling manically, not caring who stumbled upon me,

actually hoping someone would, so I could say:

How’s it going?! What a beautiful day! Do you feel what I feel? Are you glowing too?

 The Chagrin River

The Chagrin River

Walking

The following poem is inspired by musings on my practice of making and readings by Anthropologist Tim Ingold such as The Textility of Making

 

———————— Walking is like making

The next step

because of the one before it, the way it is.

and before,

and before…


A process of following and becoming


Always varied, like an open line,

no beginning or end,

just moving, simply being


There isn’t A or B:

It’s the inbetween.


This is it


The path widens, curves

Can you see it through the fog?

Today, mud

Tomorrow, dust

Wind in your eyes, diffused sun

or sunburnt and breezy?

Up, down, repeat


It may look the same,

but never is —————————————

 Image from  Being Alive  by Tim Ingold

Image from Being Alive by Tim Ingold

Vital Materiality: A Train Ride

“I believe in one matter-energy, the maker of things seen and unseen. I believe that this pluriverse is traversed by heterogeneities that are continually doing things. I believe that it is wrong to deny vitality to nonhuman bodies, forces, and forms, and that a careful course of anthropomorphization can help reveal that vitality, even though it resists full translation and exceeds my comprehensive grasp. I believe that encounters with lively matter can chasten my fantasies of human mastery, highlight the common materiality of all that is, expose a wider distribution of agency, and reshape the self and it's interests.” - Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

I recently was on a long train ride through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. I was hypnotized by the odd landscape that unfolded on the other side of the scratched and bruised glass window. The land oscillated between small towns littered with corroding cars, half-frozen rivers that meandered lazily alongside the train, and mysterious naked forests scattered with abandoned tents. The screech of the wheels was a whistled lullaby as a young Mennonite couple attentively cared for their newborn baby; we all collectively swayed back and forth on the rails in a dizzy peace. 

I watched the light transform from crisp early morning blue, through half-awake momentary glances, to late afternoon gold, with wide eyed attention and admiration. I watched others sleep beside rocky hillsides, wrapped up in makeshift blankets made of winter jackets. I watched them wake up and experience that moment when they had to remind themselves where they were.

At moments the trip seemed like a monotonous drag; impatience would make me restless and achy. But then the sun would begin to vibrate in the gaps between the trees. It would illuminate the objects and things on the train at an irregular and unpredictable rhythm: my opaque blue water bottle, a man's wool sweater, the youthful skin on my hands. They were unified as coexisting and cooperative matter, together on an overnight quest from here to there. 

A compilation of observations from the trip

Stretch

How my body stretches

to turn and whisper

 

Is quenched into

loose and fluid

 

Soaked in dense smoke and

waxy steel

 

How it strengthens gradually,

A humble growth

 

How my body stretches

Best when telepathic with soft glass

 

Another organ that forms

to then be frozen

 

City Life for a Nature Lover

I deeply miss open areas of nonhuman life: breathing, moving, growing, multiplying, reproducing, dying, decomposing, communally operating, and ecologically diverse. This absence makes me more in awe of these places now. 

These were the only spaces I knew as a child. Now I am surrounded by architecture and pavement; the smell of exhaust and garbage are mixed in the autumn breeze.

There are things about the city that I love: it stimulates me as a young creative person with its anthropological history and diversity. But the city is purely a product of human creation. It is measured, calculated, controlled, and strategically designed.  

It's easy for me to become negative in civilization with its obsessive consumption and selfishness. I try to find comfort in the ways the uncontrollable and mysterious forces of nature (which i love) infiltrate these urban environments. Tree roots moving and cracking concrete sidewalks from underneath, sun bouncing between glassy buildings, and spiders spinning webs around abandoned bicycles. 

It reminds me of human's interwoven existence with the natural world. It allows me to view the city as yet another natural landscape. It is a landscape that was built by extreme exploitation of Mother Nature's resources, but nonetheless it is the human's bizarre and twisted version of a natural landscape.

I find the city simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. I now more than ever crave lakes, rivers, trees, mountains, plants, insects, and the solitude found within these environments. Even while in these places I can still see the effects of humans with pollution, the weather, and within the management of parks/forests/nature reserves. 

Instead of being crippled with anger I try to simply observe this moment of interaction between body and land, and I do what I can to work against the destruction of the Earth through education and action.

I spent time this weekend in one of these awesome (in the true sense of the word) landscapes I knew intimately as a child; bellow is a short poem I wrote while there.

IMG_4556.JPG

Lochloosa Lake

My brother fished minnows out of the lake.

He grabbed one in between his dirty fingers, its gills flapped open and closed

"You're gonna die motherf******," he said.

I watched him pierce the hook through the minnow's 

glassy black eye and

cast out a line

Rolling: The Highs and Lows of Art Making

The process of making art is a constant roller coaster. Sometimes I feel deeply inspired, energized by a crystal clarity. But this moment of clarity doesn't typically last for long. It comes in waves; I can go in and out of this epiphany-like feeling throughout the day.

I'll be in the studio working away on something new, headphones in my ears listening to some groovy jams, and I'll feel bottomless focus. My mind becomes calm, thoughts are positive, and I feel I have a deeper understanding of what the f*** I am doing. Even alone in my studio I am able to feel connected to the world around me and can more clearly see the complexities of the human experience.

Then an hour later I'll be distracted, unsure, confused, and insecure. I'll stumble around on a walk in the hot sun, lost in the loneliness inside my skull, thinking "well is any of this important at all?"

Then 10 minutes later I'll be having a conversation with someone and I'll float at ease back into the rich sea of knowledge I had found myself in earlier.

I used to have these dreams as a little girl that I was on a roller coaster. I'd being going up this hill and intensity would build and build and build. My dream-heart (and maybe even my real-life heart) would beat faster and faster, and all my dream-muscles would tense and suffocate my bones.

As I peered over the top of the climb I would hold my dream-breath.

All the muscles in my body would completely let go. I would feel incredibly light, easy and free. I was floating on air, blissful.

Then before I knew it there was another hill ahead of me; the anxious panic would start building again.

Then down again, back into the heavy calm.

I would ride up and down these hills until eventually would find myself awake in my mother's arms drenched in tears from the exhausting effects of the emotional roller coaster nightmare.

I can't help but recall this childhood reoccurring dream when I think about the roller coaster of a dedicated studio art practice.

The emotions are different, but both in the dream and in my practice, I cannot control when there are highs and when there are lows.

The highs are what motivate me to create, but they unfortunately aren't possible without the lows. It's tiring, just as the dreams were as a child, but this is a dream I cannot and do not want to wake up from. 

 Part of a series I am working on of altered photographs of hands in motion

Part of a series I am working on of altered photographs of hands in motion

Consciousness is Only Possible Through Change

The Art of Seeing by Aldous Huxley, written in 1942, is a book about an alternative way of correcting vision impairment through odd movement meditations developed by William Bates. This method has been proven ineffective except for a few subjective cases (including Huxley himself), but the exercises employed in this alternative method bring up interesting concepts about visual perception.

I was reading the book earlier this summer, and it got me thinking about a myriad of topics, such as the history and use of eyeglasses, the difference between sensing and perceiving, meditational movements that are psychologically beneficial even if not physically, and afterimages (i.e. when you stare at the sun too long, and then when you look away you see spots).

We’ll see if any of these ideas appear in my future work; what made me think about The Art of Seeing was a short passage early on in the book.

I sat down to write about the positives and negatives of moving to a new place, and the following quote popped into my head. Huxley quotes The Psychology of Attention by Théodule Ribot:

“Without motor elements perception is impossible. If the eye be kept fixed upon a given object without moving, perception after a while grows dim, and then disappears. Rest the tips of the fingers upon a table without pressing, and the contact at the end of a few minutes will no longer be felt. But a motion of the eye or of the finger, be it ever so slight, will re-arouse perception. Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement...Where there is no movement, there is no perception.”

Although Ribot gives the example of perception as simply looking at an object or resting your fingers on a table, one can use this example as a metaphor for something much broader and deeper. Without movement, without change, perception is stagnant.

When you drive the same route everyday, watch the same TV show every week, drink the same beer every night, go to the same grocery store every month, you grow numb; there's nothing new to ‘re-arouse perception’. Getting away from what you know, are used to, or comfortable with, has the ability to open your perception.

Movement and change in a routine, whether it be a daily or lifelong routine, is powerful; it can also be difficult and provoke negative emotions like anxiety and fear. My recent life-change was met with having to pack up all my belongings into a 6’ x 12’ trailer, a cockroach infested apartment, and 82% humidity. However I now have a whole new vibrant city to explore, creative and beautiful people to get to know, and a new studio to develop my art practice in. The good would not be as powerfully wonderful if there weren’t the tears and frustration.

I'm not saying routine is all bad; ritual and routine can be positive and healing, especially sometimes when everything else in the world seems chaotic and f****d up. I simply encourage a questioning of routines, and the welcoming of new experiences. 

I am a creature of trying to break habit. I get restless easy and desire new experiences to energize my senses. In my life at the moment I am trying to embrace all this newness, reminding myself that the bad is only temporary, and focus on soaking up all of the good. Grateful for this opportunity to stimulate my perception, I am going to continue moving and changing day-to-day within the larger move I have just made.

 Image from  The Art of Seeing

Image from The Art of Seeing

Enlightenment, Insanity, Embrace: A Reflection

Enlightenment

Salt water seeps from my pores, an exhale of deep release. Hands above my head as I regain control of each breath, feeling the beat of life in forehead veins. I take steady, slow inhales as I rest at the top of the climb. I am high; gained elevation and endless oxygen like a tsunami to my blood, an advanced state of euphoria. All the complex organic shapes of the forest are glowing in clarity, and chlorophyll drips into my eyes from the dense canopy above. I can’t tell if I’m radiating from a new found incandescence, or if I’m strung out, soaking up the final fumes of exhaustion.

Insanity

Internal heat rises to meet my sticky face; insides boiling with unconscious nerves like bugs crawling towards my slick skin (I’m afraid I won’t feel their tiny legs as they creep up my own and make a home under my skin). I suppress the hunger, the tired tendons, the fear of getting lost in a world I do not know how to live in. Inside the trees, isolated and helpless, among mysterious fungi and disease carrying parasites. The fear of slow death slithers around like a worm in my gut, but I bury it with light, with the peace I find in solitude, in health, in my youthful stride.

Embrace

As the trail hugs the hillside I narrow my focus on the sensation of boot on earth, the way my foot takes the contour of roots and rocks. Breathing and walking, basking in this simple and temporary life. I deny my gut-fear the ability to cast a shadow on the light I feel as an animal, with one purpose, walking to the rhythm of my long breath and the slow movement of the rugged forest.

Neighbor Observations

Throwing a faded tie-dye foam football across

a rusted fence, intertwined with overgrown and untamed summer-city foliage.

Everyone's cutting their grass after work at

golden hour.

The kids next door throw rocks, and I sip my warm beer as

shaky, rattling cars drive past.

The neighbor's dog is in heat and the neighbor girl fingers grass blades with

fleeting attention.

There's an old man on his front porch drinking a

blood-red beverage full of beets, vinegar, and turmeric,

and an American flag is twisting, wrapping itself around the post.

Across the street girls with colorful hair and sweatpants smoke cigarettes, mumbling.

 

Never silence, never dull, the sound of another can of beer opening…

 

I am still, I stay silent.

Observing all the subtleties of movement and sound, bathed in a

blinding evening light.

I notice the complexities of existing so close to other humans.

These people I don’t know,

they don’t know me,

but we breathe, think, sleep, and dream 100 feet apart.

 

Yet there's a fence, there’s a wall,

there’s somewhere else to look other than into each other's face.

The distance that brings comfort, security,

but creates isolation, disconnection, loneliness.

Flood

The valley behind my house flooded from

three days of ceaseless rain.

A pond of thick mud-water,

out of place in the residential landscape.

The smell of wet dog hair lingers in my nose and

a slimy layer of oil coats my forehead.

I wonder if I waded out for an earth bath

if the liquid would weigh heavy around my shoulders,

slowly soaking my neck, eyes, and lungs,

covering my bare body in icy mud, sinking in the depths of the flood.

Eyes of curiosity are fixed on the expanding pool,

quenched by heavy drops spilling from iridescent grey above.

 

How deep does the water flow?

Deeper than the wrinkles in my hands,

than the dirt under my fingernails?

May I soak my calloused skin?

Soothe my scars and heal my burns,

a rejuvenative juice,

nature’s cure for the abuse of time.

 

Unlike the flowing rivers of my youth, smooth and

fed with spring clarity,

bouncing over rocks of play,

(ah, the blissful spontaneity),

this pool of now is dense with silt,

exhausted and heavy, heavy.

 

Branches above droop with saturation, lazy droplets slide to join the opaque lake that

captivates my full attention.

But I stay in the comfort of shelter, and

refrain from shedding my cotton skin to

soak in the dark bath of my visions.

From afar I obsess over this temporary pool, and

dream for the duration of its existence

about the weight of its waters,

imagining my body, afloat on density, submerged in murky depths,

immersing my ears to silently listen to the echo of earth.

Hands

I’ve always thought I’ve had too many wrinkles in my hands for my age. Deep lines cut through the meat of my palm, telling a mysterious narrative about my past and future; I can see my father’s wide, short palm and my mother’s narrow, long fingers. I’ve abused them in the past few years: letting oil paint soak into my skin, accidentally sanding off my nails, carelessly slicing through my fingertips, burning my knuckles on hot glass tools. As I learn the languages of materials through the sensation of touch, I feel my hands becoming tough like leather in order to bear this physical knowledge. The layers of skin hold memory in thick calluses, pale scars, strengthened muscles, and aching tendons. It’s a strange progression from soft, round, and clean to rough, chiseled, and dirty; hands must adapt to the labor of touch in order to endure the abuse. The craftsman is able to react to physical sensations with ease from a hypersensitivity to pressure, heat, weight, and form. The result is a confident and wise elegance.

What if you could touch everything in your life? From the sheep to sweater, seed to vegetable, and tree to home. A deep connection to the objects around you, for they would not be in the world if it weren’t for your two hands. Everything in your life would have an imprint of you inside of it, a pure and unique individuality. This fingerprint can be shared with others who in turn give something of their own creation to you. This is one of the oldest concepts of civilization; to dream of this today is completely idealist. However in today’s virtual, sterile, and untouching world there is a lesson to be learned from this primitive utopia. Touch is the most primal of the senses; without it we become completely disconnected from our bodies. A mindfulness of the sense of touch leads to an understanding of the origin of objects, and an awareness of the material things that surround you. I promote and encourage the act of touch in not only my art practice but my daily routine in order to come one step closer to truly feeling everything in my life.

 

Practicing the act of touching in the glass studio

Language Spreads Like a Patch of Oil

Describing my sensations (daily):

Dry water to loosin’ joints and invigorate lips,

hands tremble, vibrations echo in the blood of the beholder.

Shaking in breath, bones, tremors of stimulation,

the flux between zen and anxiety (it’s perpetual).

 

Hands,

lingering scent of garlic on fingertips,

prints engraved with oil

metal shavings,

scummy scalp,

and greasy hair rests of forehead like sweet exhaustion.

Gas fills the air as sparks fly,

unsafe while touching, moving,

turning and spinning and twisting

bending, burning,

and finally,

sleep.

 

Dreams swirl like honey, thick relaxation,

but sometimes they poke, aggravate

deep rooted neurosis,

manifested in repetitious motions

of the day,

over and over

a sharp pain in the spine

over and over.

Is this everything, eternity?

 

Awaking to sweet beans, an energizing elixir

to tighten up and speed through.

 

Electrified heat,

melting into spontaneous forms,

unnatural bliss,

connection is necessary for production,

producing moments of pure intuition

understanding: I can control lightning.

It vibrates with caffeinated blood,

the power in dirt-fingers (I can see my ancestors through my fingertips).

Dancing in rhythm with steel and gas and heat

the mysterious inner workings of machines.

In the air the taste of rust,

feeling micro particles graze skin, abrasive

but craving the itch of heat, the pain of the push,

the satisfaction of seeing.

 

I wonder about the things I do not know,

they tumble around inside the skull,

gather and form into a landscape of

fantastic visions.

 

Aware of the air movements of ghosts

melt in a silent tension,

stretch in relaxed, smoky air.

Bugs

I cannot remember the bugs I killed    

without

feeling the pain

I caused them.

Burning innocent    

insects

with the end of my

cigarette,

chopping them in                 

quarters

with my

pocket knife

ant,

beetle,

spider,

ran in panicked patterns through     

backyard forests

littered with

juvenile beer cans.

I did not hate the bugs;

in fact I loved them.

They did not have the         

burden of knowing,

the burden of the fucked-up

labyrinth inside the skull,

pure and perfect with         

complex

evolutionary skills

able to perceive

tiny beauties of the             

world;

antennas and

microscopic ganglia

Envious of their             

simplicity,

I would repress

tears

as I crushed their            

exoskeleton

with the bottom of my

boot,

taking a long drag of the        

cigarette hanging

from my

mouth,

suspending the             

smoke in my lungs,

closing my eyes and                            

exhaling

a cloud of             

pain,

comforted in the

toxicity.

Sometimes I could see my         

father

in the reflection of their

tiny bug-eyes,

I would watch his image transform into     

myself,

skin marred with

perfect round and straight scars,

the abuse of alienation,

attempts to escape

humanity,

(I felt its evils).

I want to live with the bugs!

to crawl

along the dead carcasses

of trees,

to carry food with my

strong mandibles

for my friends,

humble in my servitude,

intrinsic to the

ecosystem.

I would perish,

unnoticed,

a pale, thin kid

in all black,

jaw tight,

burdened by knowing,

squishes me with the

tip of his finger.

A Glaze Over the Eyes

Far away from the Marlboro scent of childhood,

feeling comforted, disoriented

by fleeting glimpses of rural Pennsylvania:

nausea caused by reading,

thirty three grams of carbs.

 

 

Stretching across sticky leather seats,

feeling the movement of memories:

first tastes of mom’s cheap wine, dad’s piss-beer,

dipping finger tips in burning vanilla candles,

headphone dreams while staring out windows.

 

Spiraling like a whirlpool,

gazing through the layer of dead bugs on the window;

a rapid breeze, a slap on the cheek

(mom’s smoking a cigarette).

 

Aggressive wind sucks the cheap smoke from

stale car interior.

Dilapidated billboards for ‘King of Beers’ passes by

in a grassy sea of

deja vu.

Pressure building behind ears releases from waxy caverns;

a relief and a headache.

 

At Subway a short elderly man with a ball cap and

light

blue jeans conversed about

where he came from and where he was going:

he too noticed the rainbow through the clouds.

Biting into tuna sandwich

tasting

diesel fuel and

rubber gloves.

Disgustedly hungry, finishing the meal in seven swift bites.

 

The rolling hills reminiscent of

dreams

on a perpetual roller coaster

(a beloved adolescent machine)

velocities and altitudes constantly changing,

inescapable fear of the

heart exploding

from the not-so-amusing ride of unconscious anxiety.

Crying under the sheets of mom’s bed;

the smell of her

sweat

and flashing light of the TV.

A road trip through

dry, November cornfields,

swaying with yesterday.

Ode to Nostalgia

Vertigo memories

materialize, slowly coming into focus;

transparent memories with

vibrant gut-feelings.

A sensory soup of yesterday,

that time I began feeling in

overwhelming waves,

when all I wanted to do

was live in the moody sphere

of my verdant visions.

 

Standing here, now

in the same body, but with

light-pink scars and

chiseled with experience,

I look out an open window,

silently observing patterns of city movement.

My bones ooze melancholic joy of

adolescent hours spent

looking at tall country pines sway in the gentle wind;

how I imagined looking through the hole

I gaze through now.

 

I relish in the vibrations,

they echo in the mucus between brain and skull,

reflections unveil the

truth of my own fibers.

I wonder about future crystal visions,

as my bones re-absorb their

nostalgia juice.

Here’s to the

distortion of time, the

naive self beneath my skin and to the

the ache of feeling now and then

as one.

Listening to Ginsberg

I am levitating in my bedroom, swimming in the air as if it were a liquid; gooey, golden, and slow-moving, like honey. Vibrations from the sound of Ginsberg’s vintage voice causing ripples and waves that crash at the shore of my body. The tactility of the recording, the noise in the silence, how it takes form and density creating a heavy, gravitational presence in my room. I watch a bug nearly invisible fly to each corner of the pale yellow walls. A completely unpredictable pattern of flight, I relish in watching the spastic movements of this tiny creature. I float above my bed, feeling the caress of nothing. Mind buzzing with liquid beauty, simmering. I can taste it on my tongue, the words I hear, I can touch them with my tired fingers (they are as tangible as belly hair). How they enter my ears and drip through my body, slowly filtering through the tissues of my organs. How everything in my mind is calm and alive with transparent bliss, bliss that you can jump into and never touch the bottom. I am outside of time, and all of history is a clear tube fashioned into a spiral. I can feel the room Ginsberg wrote the poem in, how it too had yellow walls, how it was filled with this viscous magic, and how he too could see through the spiral tube of history.

Spine Negligence

The burden of gravity:

A constant pressure, always down

on the crooked spine,

how dense the body’s

membrane, tissue, marrow

feel under the skin.

Heavy, heavy body

exhausted by laws of physics.

Shoulders slant, weary

neck strains, leaning right

off balance, the hips tighten

brain pushes on skull,

aching tendons scream,

knees crumble, creek

tongue rub roof of mouth,

arches of feet worn flat,

dry leather skin of hands,

broken toes, never healed,

vibrating, nauseous,

pulled down, a magnet in the gut,

a magnet in the ground,

a weight tied to the rib cage,

hunched, fetal,

negligent of the muscles and blood movement.

Disintegrate the spirit of gravity,

fly, align, connect

free the body from the pull of the earth,

and the oppressive laws of physics.

Words for Skin

 

Itchy bumps grow. My irritated pores beg for me to scratch, leaving streaks from chewed sharp fingernails. Irrational thought urges me, ‘Please don’t stop!” The relief is addicting and of deepest satisfaction. But it is cheap and temporary satisfaction, a rough caress of dirty fingers and wrinkled hands, over and over the same area of skin, begging for something more, like a child before it can speak crying tears of desperation. How did I erupt in such burning discomfort? Eczema, allergies, bug bites, hives or my own delusion? As I examine my body further I wonder: am imagining the sensation crawling over my legs, up my arms and to neck? Is my constant abrading only spreading and intensifying the burn? And is my stress and deep worry only perpetuating the pain? Please, I cry like the child, Alleviate my self-induced suffering! Soak me in cool wet kisses. Exfoliate and moisturize my abused, damaged skin in a bath of fresh, smooth, thick comfort. Gently heal my body back from its red, bumpy anger to its light pink, brown, yellow glowing glory so I can one day learn to not lose sleep picking and prodding over something that is not there.

Clarity (How Fleeting)

I observe with

the fringes of the peripheral illuminated.

 

Studying in depth:

the curve of each blade of grass

(overgrown and wild),

 

the movement of each branch

(orchestrated with the rest in an intuitive dance),

 

the unique and unifying texture of each brick in the building

(raw evidence of the hands that laid them),

 

the organized pattern of the ants on the sidewalk

(one by one carrying and marching),

 

Oh, the unifying breath of the world!

(I want to breathe with you).

 

Complex combinations of sounds, mysterious and layered infinitely:

midday highway with flowing fountain

echoed by hushed voices and

my own gentle noises

(a humbling reminder of the systems of the body).

 

Understanding the macro and micro,

their homogeneous existence

(my momentary enlightenment mirroring the power of the sun).

The halcyon view agitated with energy

vibrates my retina

and leaves me inspired, in awe.

 

For only a momentary glance I experience this beauty

(it happens all the time).

The world becomes more flat, hazy, desaturated with every blink

but I can feel the truth lingering in my bones.