Sunday, April 19, 2020

“The willingness to consider possibility requires a tolerance of uncertainty.”

― Rachel Naomi Remen

In the midst of this pandemic, I just did something wild and simple and true: I packed up all my painting supplies and put them in my studio closet.

For the last several months, my unfilled canvases and untouched brushes and paints have been looming over my shoulder, every time I sat down to think about writing a few words. “This blog is about painting,” they seemed to say, “and you aren’t painting, so what business do you have writing, either?”

I am not painting, it’s true. What’s also true is that I am mothering, and working from home, and learning how to co-exist 24/7 with my immediate people while the world as we know it slips into a chaos from which we may or may not emerge better, stronger, with more reasonable priorities and values, but from which I am personally determined to emerge a little more clear about what matters most to me and how to organize myself thusly.

I may or may not paint again. Maybe in a few months or years or maybe in retirement. I no longer need to paint to find myself; I know where I am.

I felt a little sad packing everything up, but now that I’m done, I feel liberated. There’s power in choosing my priorities.

Painting was, for me, always about process. Learning process through painting served me, served what I was trying to find and uncover and trust, but it was never ultimately about paint, at least not only about paint. Paint was the vehicle for lessons about process, and it carried me well.

Process is messy, involves starting over and embracing destruction and changing it up. So I honor all those years of learning process through the vehicle of painting by making a choice my paints would, I trust, understand–stop painting, and give myself to the next apprenticeship in process: living and loving well, and parenting with the full presence my little guy deserves and requires.

Who knows where this process will take me next?

No idea.

I’m grateful for the privilege to wonder.


  • john

    Hi Sara.

    First of all, I can’t know what mothering is in virtual reality. Vicariously. I wish I’d been fortunate enough to find a female who wanted to “Do the work with me” but I didn’t. I was on the road too much, jumping from frying pan to frying pan. Didn’t work out that way.
    2nd: Thanks for helping out at the old Gestalt Center. Paul Wheeler was such a dope. If I hadn’t intervened my mother would have gone back to anybody’s livingroom. Even Paul said he was a bad choice for a landlord.
    Whole is whole. It’s how we’re born. It was a constant thread at GCG – we live in such a wannabe society – everyone trying to be what they’re not. Achieve. Consume. Buy something.
    “The Paradoxical Theory of Change” (Beisser was a paraplegic if I recall).
    And everything is Change.
    And “I imagine” was how we started every meeting group. People use their imaginations every day and I feel hopeless to even find a way to make that obvious.
    I was really only trying to create some kind of dialogue. Get off social media. I’m not an Isolationist. Too much art is isolation and very lonely and dysfunctional: “I imagine” was always first.
    “At first we see through a glass darkly, then face to face.” “Meeting” and Martin Buber.

    Andy Griffith. Dumb, but it has good values.
    I also like a show called ‘Leverage’. Earlier episodes. Intelligent grownup writing.
    This isn’t what I thought “Retired” was going to be.
    I thought I’d get my first vacation.

  • john again

    For ten years I had a painting in my studio. Big. 3 x 5′. Ambitious. Five portraits in the act of singing! Started after my mother died. Punctuated with periods of salaried employment and unemployment. And every time I entered my little “me” space/studio, there it sat – mocking me at the other end of the room. Such a nice easel. I think I traded someone a painting for it. “Why aren’t you painting?” it said. “I dunno,” I answered. I’ve always painted. Why aren’t I painting now? There must be something wrong with me! Why aren’t I inspired? What does “inspiration” mean? Maybe someone has some input on that? The feeling stuck thing.
    I even know the etymology of “inspire”. It’s from the French. “Breathe in.” What am I breathing in? Here-and-now -wise.
    There are two versions of the story’s end: One, I sand the painting down with 80 grit and paint it over with clouds and sky. I like clouds and sky. Maybe if I’m bored and want to paint some more I’ll paint some clouds and skies? And two, if you’d been a plumber 60 years, what would be exciting about pipe fittings? All my friends are plumbers. Their blood runs with hot and cold faucet washers. They love it. Conventions with crackers and dip discussing auger innovations. Rene’ Magritte under a sink expounding “This is not a pipe!”
    There’s really nothing wrong with me at all. I’m not crazy. Plumbing would be crazy!
    Anyway, I’ve thrown paintings in a closet and finished them years later. The painting’s done when I’m done with it. But who’s to say if it’s a period or a comma or a chapter or a masterpiece of Folly.
    I just got sick and tired of plumbing. And that’s the truth.

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