field notes (April 1, 2017)

My daughter and I were talking about failure the other day. She is learning to sew and, as it is with learning new skills, she is  making a lot of mistakes. I told her that she must continue. Try, make a mistake, come up with a new plan, try again. Keep at it. Keep trying and failing. She said, “Does that mean that eventually, I won’t make any more mistakes?” I told her that she will always make mistakes, she will always fail. But the thing about trying and failing over and over again is this: once you  figure out that it’s not a personal failing, just a part of the learning curve, the time you spend face down on the ground between tries decreases. You get better at jumping back up on your feet. You get quicker. You aren’t as devastated for as long. Also, you’ll master all kinds of skills. But because we are naturally curious people, we will always be learning new skills and failing at them before we master them. Throughout our life. We will always try and fail and try again. The recovery time between efforts though, will decrease.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  – Winston Churchill

“Mistakes bring good.” – Maira Kalman

Reading: IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN by Grace Bonney (highly recommended)

Watching: EAMES: THE ARCHITECT AND THE PAINTER by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey and CHOCOLAT with Juliette Binoche

“Never delegate understanding.” – Charles Eames

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Starting to find a few niches where I may belong in my new town. And slowly, mindfully, attending meetings, saying hello, asking questions, following my nose, writing letters of introduction, making (I hope) lasting connections. I belong here.

A writing friend from Minnesota passed through town earlier this month and we had time to drink some coffee and share some book talk and our time together filled me up like nothing else. So wonderful to meet and talk with people face-to-face.

Considering ways to increase my visual literacy. Taking a helicopter view. Considering what I have here and now. Whom I can ask for help. How to do what I can with what I have. Making a giant mind map. So far: a daily drawing practice, a list of  visual artist friends to ask for help from, and an emerging idea of what I’m trying to do. I’m taking this slow because I’m not willing to ask for help or guidance until I know what it is I want. Things are still a bit murky. And that’s OK. A clear direction will emerge given time and patience.

I watched CHOCOLAT three times over the past two weekends. I wanted to watch it again and again and again. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. And I finally figured out why: that’s what I want. What Vianne has: To live in a town where I am part of its fabric. / To stay. To stay. To stay. / To be a true, get-in-the-mud friend across the years. / To create things (books & essays & stories) that make peoples’ lives better, richer, braver. / To live bravely, big-heartedly even when (especially when) it makes me less popular. / To share good food with people around my very own table. /  To do it all wearing great clothes.

Finally pegged down my essential intent for my writing!!! (Now to do so for the other arena in my life. Namely, my family and my health.)

field notes (2.1.17)

I think good fiction books (good art in general) create a deliberate emotion in the person experiencing it — ‘deliberate’ meaning i’s the emotion the author of the book set out to create…” from Cheryl B. Klein in SECOND SIGHT

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Reading: SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl B. Klein, LET MY PEOPLE GO FISHING by Yvon Chouinard, THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben, PARENTING by Paul David Tripp, TWO LITTLE SAVAGES by Ernest Thompson Seton, FOUR QUARTETS by T.S. Eliot, RAINWATER HARVESTING FOR DRYLANDS AND BEYOND by Brad Lancaster, HOW TO READ WATER by Tristan Gooley, KEEPING A NATURE JOURNAL by Clare Walker Leslie, CLOTH LULLABY by Amy Novesky, GEORGIA’S BONES by Jen Bryant and OUT OF THE WOODS by Rebecca Bond

Visiting my new, local bookstore weekly to discover and learn. Country Bookshelf is such a stellar place. Grateful to live in a place where an independent bookstore thrives.

Deep in hibernating mode. This year I am not fighting it. I am letting myself be consumed by it.

I am four days into my nature journaling practice. A combination of a driving urge to learn to better communicate via drawing, a desire to connect to my new landscape/home and fond memories of drawing detailed diagrams for biology and zoology courses in college are pushing me onward…oh, and very low expectations!

Creating a limited to-do list: When I have only 1-3 items on my to-do list, I focus on just those things. With a longer list, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to begin and doing the easiest instead of the most important work first. A short list helps me focus on what’s the most important, what really matters. It’s not about doing less work. It’s about doing the most important work.

Honing my essential intents. I have three areas of focus and I spent January building routines to support my efforts. It is so easy to let trivial, distracting details clog up my days. Must stay diligent.

Downloaded new music for my daily bike rides. New music = new thoughts. Also, let me declare my undying love for my fat bike. It is the best thing (object) in my life. I am grateful it found its way to me.

Steady on with two manuscripts I’m working on…

In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.” from Antoine de Saint-Exupery in THE LITTLE PRINCE

We bought some land in mid-January. Now, we are working, working, working on designing a house, finding contractors, making materials decisions, deciding on placement of the buildings. It’s exciting and demanding.

Until next month…

field notes (10.28.16)

Two quotes are pin-balling around my head these days:

“He carried a country of his own in his mind, and was able to unfold it like a tent in any wilderness.” – Willa Cather

“Listen to me. You need to be a home for yourself and your work. You need to be the safe place to present things to be admired and loved.” – Elizabeth Berg

field notes (10.21.16)

Fitting in my writing in the spaces between all my other responsibilities. Even though I yearn for large blocks of time to submerge myself in, I am grateful for the time I’m given. (Also, It’s remarkable how much all the little bits and pieces and scraps of time add up.) Steady on, steady on.

Overdue for a conversation with my writing/accountability partner.

Catching up on my sleep! (Don’t laugh!) Being well-rested is a huge part of my creative process. I don’t do anything well if I don’t sleep enough.

Rebounding after learning that I was not awarded a grant I’d set my heart on.  Initially, I tried to distract myself from the disappointment I felt. But then I decided that I’d just allow myself to be sad without trying to fix it. I did other things that helped to soothe me: went to a local art gallery, drank extra peppermint tea, got an adjustment at the chiropractor and did some reading. And I worked to change my negative internal dialogue.

Reading: a story by Willa Cather called OLD MRS. HARRIS and SWALLOWDALE by Arthur Ransome

field notes (10.7.16)

My latest column: HOW TO HARVEST WILD RICE

Just finished road tripping around Lake Superior. 1,602 miles from Duluth, Minn. to Duluth, Minn.! Discovered Paddle-to-the-Sea Park in Nipigon, the Winnie-the-Pooh Park in White River and Apostle Islands Booksellers and so much more.

Reading: WINTERING by Peter Geye, WRITING TOOLS by Roy Peter Clark, KEEPING A NATURE JOURNAL by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E Roth

 

field notes (9.30.16)

A gem of a quote from Tobias Wolff via Mary Karr’s book, LIT: A MEMOIR

“Don’t approach your history as something to be shaken for its cautionary fruit…Tell your stories, and your story will be revealed. Don’t be afraid of appearing angry, small-minded, mean, immoral, amoral, calculating, or anything else. Take no care for your dignity. These were hard things for me to come by and I offer them to you for what they may be worth.”

field notes (9.23.16)

I found this quote from Bowdoin College’s web site and have not been able to determine the author beyond the fact that s/he is an instructor or professor at that college. But, I’ve got to share this. I’ve been going round and round with keeping a journal and this quote is so helpful:

“The function of a research journal is to set down your thoughts about the primary and secondary source material you are reading. It is a record of your questions about the materials you read, and provides a place to record the questions this material raises. The object of the journal is to record your thoughts about the primary and secondary material at hand. You want to do this as close to the moment of having the thought as possible, and you want to minimize anything that hampers this objective. Make your journal accessible and easy to use. Use a special computer file devoted to the purpose, or a spiral-bound notebook, or whatever device works best for you. Don’t worry about correct spelling or punctuation. The journal is not for anyone’s eyes but your own.”

In short, your research journal is a record of wondering.

Now, I’m off to read HARRIET THE SPY  by Louise Fitzhugh (again).

field notes (9.9.16)

(slowly) transitioning to early morning writing again and realizing that this isn’t just a quick habit, but a choice that I need to build my life around

my latest column in the Bemidji Pioneer published BRAVE-HEARTED CHOICES

doing research and wondering about the practice of keeping a research/reflection/inspiration/purge/character/etc. journal

noticing abundant signs of autumn’s arrival: leaves beginning to change color, increased wild animal activity, temperatures dropping, geese flying south, and craving steaming cups of hot chocolate

writing against a grant application deadline (grant writing is difficult for me, but ultimately such a beautiful way to clarify my vision and goals)

preparing for a research road trip

reading: FEATHERS: NOT JUST FOR FLYING by Melissa Stewart, THE YEAR AT MAPLE HILL FARM by Alice & Martin Provensen, THE PRINCESS AND THE CURDIE by George MacDonald

field notes (8.26.16)

Attended the Tall Ships Duluth festival and it was heartbreaking in two ways: the ships were heartbreakingly beautiful and the crowds were heartbreakingly enormous. (It was absolutely worth the headaches and long lines of waiting once, but I will not be back.)

Enjoyed a backcountry wilderness trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and it was amazing and beautiful and restorative. Grateful for the opportunity to return to one of my favorite places. Grateful for a safe trip. Grateful for all the stillness, hiking, paddling, exploring, swimming, snorkeling, laughing, adventuring.

Continuing to work on figuring out a new journaling system that incorporates textual notes, visual notes (sketches), character sketches, purge writing, and because I can’t seem to eliminate it, notes about my to-do list.

Reading: THE WOLVES OF CURRUMPAW by William Grill, HAWK RIDGE by Laura Erickson and PLAINS NDIAN DRAWINGS 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History by Janet Catherine Berlo

Preparing for the wild rice season!

field notes (7.29.16)

Visited the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, Minn. after years(!) of driving by it and thinking that I should really stop sometime. An amazing place.

Made reservations for a solo, silent retreat.

Made reservations to view the Kerlan Collection.

Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights. Remember that. No nonsense.” – from HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh

Reading: HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh and GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell

I think being an artist means telling the truth, your truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or others. You can tell your truth in any medium you choose: text, paint, conversation, pie baking, sculpture, kind acts, singing. Whatever. The medium is irrelevant, the message is paramount.