Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nature's a Mess?

The crows are in the pine forest, having a frenzied morning breakfast. Dozens of the black winged ones tearing up the rich smooth carpet of pine needles in a dazzling display of ruckus chaotic energy. Something so wild, I know what it is to be in the center of that noise and mayhem. In the midst of it all I sense a calm, even for the six legged ones being unveiled from the dark safe place nestled in the forest floor being plucked and eaten. I sense a peace within the nourishment and death of the moment. I notice a willingness in nature to give to the great cause. To eat and be eaten, to birth and to compost, it all seems just and honorable to die as it is to be born. This time of year with the fall and the long cold winter approaching, I have noticed a deer giving the gift of her self over to me. Usually the deer are so aware and shy, running away at the site or sound of me walking through the woods. But each year one deer just stands there, her side facing me allowing me to get within rock throwing distance, it seems as though she is giving herself to me so I may have her to sustain this life through another winter. As my food still comes from the garden or the market, I choose to speak to her, thank her for the offering, she walks off somewhat bewildered that her gift was not accepted. I walk off feeling blessed deep down in the primal place that still resides at my core.

Today as I walked in the woods I was really stuck by how messed up nature is. It’s not like the city parks of my youth when the economy allowed for all the trees to be perfectly groomed and trimmed, paths cleared and nature as the perfect vision of health. In this pine forest that I walk all these trees are so randomly placed, all the fallen ones scattered every which way no rhyme nor reason to any of it the only paths are where the deer walk and their so much shorter then I, I have to walk stooped over much of the time. Spider webs face high, climbing over fallen trees, slipping in the wet leaves, poison ivy, dangerous mushrooms why is this mess seem so right? I used to marvel at the perfect carpet of pine needles woven into an immaculate smooth pristine floor that my eyes just loved the order and perfection of. Then those crows came in and totally messed the one perfect thing that this part of the forest had to offer. Then walking into the hardwood forest with immense verities of trees leaning and twisting all vying for their best shot at the god they worship, the sun. Fallen trees broken trees rotting and diseased trees vines of poison ivy, Virginia creeper and wild grape larger then my arm climbing a hundred feet or more, winding their way up, I assume in search of the very same god to worship. Hardly ever do I come across a tree that looks perfect, healthy straight and not in competition with its neighbor.

As messed up as nature seems to be, it’s hard for me to say that there is something wrong with it. I for some reason think that nature must be perfect even if I can’t see it. The mere fact that nature exists conjures up a belief that it must be flawless. So why is it so difficult for me to take that same belief into human nature. Why is it I am so totally unforgiving, judgmental and down right cynical of what it is to be human. I do believe I am nature I can even prescribe to the idea we are all one. I just have such a hard time with the way we often treat each other, the land, the water and the air. Could it all be in perfect balance, like the over populated herd of deer that die off to find balance in their numbers, could we just simply be living in the creative perfection. If my art has taught me anything it is to trust the creative process, it is an unstoppable beautiful energy even when it appears to be ugly. I find some peace in the choice to trust and search for the acceptance of all that is. And like that Indian in the 1960’s TV commercial, I will look at our earth with an open heart and allow the tear of care to drop from my cheek.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wind Chill on the Mountain

As I enter my third winter on this mountain in Floyd Virginia. I am well aware that this is the season of the wind. It blows virtually constant in the winter months. Today it’s a warm wind and the leaves fall skyward like flocks of birds but in chaotic discourse, together released and each individual finding it’s own path to ultimate rest and compost through another season. This wind is a constant reminder of what’s really in charge here. Like water there is no stopping it, it moves at it’s own whim, I see personality in it, I fought it the first year, screamed at it, wrestled with it, hated it and cursed it. It took my shopping list away it took my hat and returned every emotion I gave it. Humbling this wind is. I have learned to respect it and it has returned the favor. Last year when I was deep in the dark night of my soul’s journey, hurting deep down in my core, it was that harsh wind that soothed my pain. Walking in the wind, tears streaming from my eyes, it was the wind that cleansed my soul. As difficult as the time was as tortured as I felt it was the constant companionship of the wind that carried the pain off as prayers into the wilds of where it is that the wind goes.

I grew up with a wind. There is a southern California wind called the Santana or the Santa Ana it’s a full blown big wind that comes from the east off the desert. Dry as a bone it parches the already dry landscape and with it comes the wildfires. They destroy everything in their path, flames rising well above tree lines houses bursting into memories, spectacular sunsets within the choking smoke and the falling ash. All this comes back deep in my experience as the now gusting Floydian wind assaults the loose corner of my metal roof. I can feel that sense of primal fear that knows if nature wants to take me down, I’m hers for the taking.

Ah, that primal fear the one that’s seems so real, as real as speaking in public as real as being attacked by a cave bear. Something about the humbling gut wrenching knot that tells us something needs to happen and it needs to happen now! Around the globe I sense we are all feeling that primal fear for existence, that fear that warns we are in danger and something needs to change now! We can’t buy our way out any longer, we’re out of money, and addictions of avoidance are beginning to loose their effect to distract us from the reality that is. The message is clear do we want to preserve life in this state or let it go in one final party of extravagance and individual separation. Perhaps just perhaps it is a good time to take a deeper look at what it is that sustains us, see if there might be some sense of joy in living in a world of clean air, water, food, basic shelter and health. Perhaps there could be happiness in the simplicity of existence rather than a life of extremes, excess and the constant want of more.

Perhaps this is all too simple coming from a simple Man choosing to be an artist in this world, or perhaps it is as simple as just living simply. Listening to our fear may be the first step into listening to our truest nature and as nature we know how to survive and in survival we can once again know true joy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's winter now

It’s winter now. The woodstove is sustaining life in the comfort zone. Bloging in the winter, sitting in the cabin late on a Saturday night. What’s a man nearly fifty an artist with no wife or family doing? Neither dog nor cat, is he lonely? Not really. Isolated? No, just having a solo experience. Some how or for some why I think this is good for me, that living like this is bringing me closer to God or the oneness I have been seeking longer than I’ve known I’ve been on a search. Tonight I feel as though I am in love, I have that teary, deep tender well in my heart, it feels like an opening. To who or what I wonder? The cold walk in the woods today found me with a smile that came from no thought, just the beauty of trees light shadow and color. I feel sad and tremendous gratitude at the same time. The sadness dose not have a reason behind it and the gratitude is coming from the same place. I have such gratitude to be and such sadness in my being.

Days go by between writings and all seems to change or at least shape shift in the perception of this so-called reality. I find my self again contemplating what this art that comes through me may actually be about. I am not a schooled artist so art speak is not my way of conveying what maybe the underlying motive. I am here deep in a nature preserve the world has not discovered / destroyed this little heaven on earth. I can still get lost walking from the studio back to the cabin in the dark. The dark so black I can only feel my way, the last tenant almost died one night lost in the blizzard disoriented and if not for his dog probably would have froze to his death that night. Different then I grew up in the milds of southern California, abundant streetlights, only the brightest of stars to be seen and most people searching for them on the movie and TV screens. Light, we are like moths always looking for the light, whether above or within and these days mostly in or on a screen. Like the shape of the earth, it was once said to be flat, we proved it to be round-ish and now it’s flat once again, safe and flat on that light filled screen.

So what is it I am doing here? Searching for meaning, reconnecting to my primal source of being. Finding something old and connected in the wilds of nature. I haul home rocks and branches, leaves and bark, the treasures of the woods, only there it is compost, the most precious material next to life. It’s all life and death out there, which constantly reminds me it’s all life and death in here as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Morning on the Mountain

There is something about sitting on a hale bale with the warmth of the morning sun warming the chest, A good cup of tea, views all around and a cemetery in the distance to keep it all in a perspective of impermanence. In this moment the question arises, what needs to be improved? I spend much of my life trying to make it better, better then what? Than this? Even when it seems so hard the hale bale just rots away in the field or becomes feed to the livestock, the cemetery plots with corps’s rotting as well feeding the continuum. It’s all alright I remind myself, nothing to improve nothing to solve, just to take it in, experience the moment and let it be.

There is something about sitting in a cabin on a blustery, cloudy day with the cold of winter approaching. The death of summer celebrated in the fires of reds gold’s oranges and the yellow leaves that surround, falling in their final act in the cycle of life and composted death. I am still saddened by endings; I have yet to fully grasp the concept that death is not loss, just a birth into something new. Relationships have ended, fathers have died, dreams have passed unmanifested and life just continues on, like a river, swirling thorough obstructions, slowing down, speeding up but never ceasing to flow continuously towards the sea of renewal.

Today my first east coast solo sculpture show dies. Today is take down day. It’s been a good show, some say the best this gallery has ever housed. This space and this show of art will never be again. Today the shift from the grandiosity of pedestals, track lighting, newspaper articles, radio interviews, videos, guestbook’s, receptions and ceremonies, to crates and bubble wrap, moving pads, packing of the trailer, loading the van, clamping the Burden Boat to the roof rack with hopes of no rain, all to find storage in hallways and bathrooms, high places in the studio and any nitch that has space for another sculpture. This is where trust in the material world and Art collide. Twenty-one rather ambitious sculptures a show created over two solid years plus works dating back nearly fourteen years, a big manifestation of physical labor, creative energy and time investment. The payoff ??? Well visitors to the gallery loved it, absolutely zero sales, a perverse satisfaction of taking on the universe and saying to it’s face “I showed up” and I’m back in the studio excited by the new works for the next show in January. I know in the soul of my being this is my mission now in life to make these objects, I do not really no why but something so alive happens during the process of making that just tells me so. I do trust, I trust the funding will arrive to keep this going, it always has and it always will. The rent is paid the firewood is stacked and the winter survival nuts are stored at least long enough to manifest the next show. Ah trust what a ride.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Home on this Mountain

Home again after a day in the outside realms of my little art world. Today was the day of “The Burden Boat Ceremony”, today all the burdens people laid down in the boat in the form of paper notes where burned as a ceremonial release. The ritual was beautiful the fire, awesome and the burden bags that hung over the boat to contain the energy where released as the fire burned through the strings and the bags fell into the earth to be buried in the ground in which they originated. This was a cremation a release and a burial of our individual burdens, I see every individual burden released as one less collective burden we all have to carry. Some art pieces have the potential to change the artist, this one has that, and will he allow it? Time will tell.

It’s been a couple days since the happening and much has settled into the past and the new version of the present is here. Today it’s a sunrise, the first light blazing pink in the cloud covered ceiling of a passing storm. Steam off a teacup and an open wondering what today may bring. There’s a fine line between allowing and directing. This life shows up as it dose, by directing intention it has a certain perception of continuity to a vision laid out ahead. Studio vs. Office? Two spaces one goal, such different energies and both necessary to achieve the intention to create as much art in this little lifetime as possible.

At times it feels like if I can just hang in there another day a month or a year I just might get through this life as an artist all the way to the end. What’s the point? Bring a little beauty, a bit of healing, perhaps some joy and a few tears, why not? I am convinced the universe wants creativity to happen. As I perceive it, when art is truly flowing through, the support is there the check arrives, time opens up and all seems right including the suffering and the joy.

Another morning and the crows wake me with their ritual gathering outside my door. First light, between day and night, between dream state and waking state, one seems no more or less real these days than the other. I was pleased to wake up feeling well today as I had Molina mushrooms for dinner last night. They like to grow under an old fallen oak tree. I never ate Molina’s before but I’ve heard they don’t agree with everyone, apparently they did with me and God did they taste delicious. Something about eating and drinking what originates on this property feels like I am and this land are morphing into one being.

The sun is rising as the moon is setting and another day here on the mountain begins to unfold revealing another speck of a grand mystery.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday in Floyd

So here I am, this artist / seeker of a meaningful life in the mountains of southwestern Virginia near a town called Floyd. Tonight is first Friday, night of the gallery openings and the Friday night jamboree that has been going on every Friday for some hundred plus years.

The town is packed with tourists, hippies and their offspring, the old timers down from the hills up from the hollers, moonshine still in their vanes and on their breath.

It’s the real deal here, these mountain musicians have played on the porches as youngens with there grand folks for generations. I gotta hand it to these folks there is a soul that is so deep and rich and it pours right out of those fingers and tongues in the form of heart felt mountain music.

Back a little further where my cabin sits, I have some neighbors down towards the river, I’ll call them Dig and Chi. Chi doesn’t wear shoes, doesn’t believe in them, lives close to the land, real close, grows or finds or catches his food makes candles for light, his fridge is a dug out room in the side of the hill, smart as all get out. Eyes as soft as a dear, a heart of gold with a fierce perspective of the human rat race. Dig well, he found me changing my flat tire yesterday asked if I needed a hand. I said I had the spare on and was taking the flat into town to get it fixed, he said “up here on the mountain by golly we fix em ourselves” and sure enough he grabbed his tools and gave me a couple of his hours and fixed that flat, no charge just the neighborly thing to do.

It gets pretty windy up here and there’s allot of trees. Today I actually saw an old pine tree fall and yes it did make a sound a starteling one at that. I’m always greatful when they don’t fall on my cabin as that would change my reality in a hurry. Back in Northern California when people heard I was a sculptor and worked in wood they would ask if I make those bears and dolphins, the ones that the amazing freewheeling chainsaw artist do. Well that’s not me in fact I never used a chainsaw until I landed here. Now I cut fallen trees out of the road or off the paths and wonder what my bear might be like. That tool opens up a whole forest full of potential. Yes! The power of steel and gas mixes well with my testosterone.

I like my solitude out here, I like that I see no other light at night other then the stars and the moon, the sounds are of animals mostly insects, I like the taste of the water the scent of the air and most my food is grown within a few miles or in my front yard. It was a good summer for mushrooms many meals found on my daily walks in the woods. Dig’s been showing me a bit of what’s eatable out there, I trust him most of the time but not all the time, that’s what I’m learning out here trust is good but blind trust can kill ya.

It used to be lonely real lonely, making friends with the insects kind of lonely. That was this time last year, something shifted and when loneliness became solitude, I found I was actually enjoying the time alone. My friendships with the bugs have sustained and do my best not to kill any of my friends. I am always honored when the bigger mammal types or the feathered ones show up to give me a view of their beautiful beingness.

Well it’s time for dreamtime it’s my form of relaxed visual entertainment, no TV up hear on the mountain just that fantastic inside screen with a profoundly mysterious projectionist.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


So now I have a blog on my hands, what to do with it? Write what’s up in this little but overflowing noggin of mine. As if I needed another ball to juggle but in the realm of the constant search for new ways of testing the creative process, I say what the heck, it gets me to the warmth of my desk space on the cold winter nights that are already here in Floyd Va.

A little introduction of my self to myself as I am my only reader I know of. A product of the 50’s but rose in the 60’s, my culture was trying to form me into another cog in the wheel of the societal life. A factory school churning us kids out in the southern California bliss of sunshine and easy living, suburban homes of safety and neighborhood barbeques, middle class white families all doing just “fine”. Something just didn’t take, I wasn’t applying myself to this reality, academically I wasn’t with the program those perfect families around me were filled with dysfunction and the paradigm was not working for this little innocent boy that had some wisdom and street sense that made up for that academic lack. I went along with the program on the surface (don’t make waves) but inside life retained wonder and mystery, I loved to make stuff and listen to music, play and frolic, well that kept me sane and brought me to this day.

Today I live in this rural place they call Floyd, it sits in the Blueridge mountains of Virginia, I’m nestled in a little cabin with hundreds of acres around me, my sculpture studio a garden and mountain characters as colorful as the autumn that is now coming on.

I landed here two years ago, I’m Californian, born raised and all my life, I love it but it was time to plop myself in a new enviroment and see what would happen. Well it’s been a journey for sure. I make my art walk in the woods and spend allot of time just being.

So what’s the intention here? To share this little perception of life from the viewpoint of a man who is living on his own edge, making art watching this crazy world from more the inside than out. To laugh and cry, to bitch moan and celebrate, to get down to the heart of the matter opposed to all that head stuff that never seemed to answer a thing for me any how.