I have a very tiny bird skull in my office with a jawbone as thin as a thread. I don't think anyone notices it or the vase of feathers. They might see the nest with the clay bird, but I don't think they notice that either. My natural history section is filled with things I found in the garden at work. It gives me something real to look at when I'm stressed at work.
There was a movement in Dutch art when artists would show a dead leaf or flower, or a skull, or something to show that life is fleeting. The Dutch were wealthy, and it was a way to remind people to focus on what mattered. We're at a similar place these days, people are caught up with what they have materially without thinking enough about the lessons they need to learn or the legacy they'll leave behind. It's too easy to get caught up with all the obvious things we want without thinking about what we need.
|"Medieval Times" in Baltimore, MD
For me it isn't about material things. It's getting too caught up with deadlines and other people's needs without any time for myself. I hit an invisible wall and took a vacation, driving to DC, Baltimore, the ocean, and upstate NY. That's a lot of driving in Pennsylvania, an endlessly interminable state with a lot of mountains just to make it even longer. I'm sure I saw more headstones than houses in that state, and a lot of the people I saw were Amish, people who are in their way the antithesis of materialism.
All that driving by myself gave me a lot of time for thinking, but thinking wasn't making me happy. Once in a while that little bird skull flitted through my mind. What matters to me? How can I arrange me life so those things that matter are a part of my daily existence?
|House in Lily Dale, NY
I enjoyed seeing my friend in DC and my cousins in Baltimore, and enjoyed the activities we shared, but I was still looking for rest. A coworker loaned me her Lake Chautauqua, NY condo and I unsuccessfully tried to force serenity. I needed to get in touch with myself, but couldn't seem to get there. A speeding ticket from a cop who looked like my ex-bf didn't help. Neither did my daytrip to Lily Dale where a spiritualist told me to leave because I wasn't "receptive". Really, who gets rejected at Lily Dale?!
I picked up shells at the side of the lake and grouched to myself about the shells' dirty shades of brown. I painted the shells blue to match the color scheme of my friend's condo, then painted words on them. The resulting arrangement was my thanks to her for loaning me the getaway. I supposed that was more meaningful than the inspiration I wanted to have for my next great painting, so I packed up and left.
|Sunset at Lake Chautauqua, NY
I stopped at a "Cheese House" and the lady tried to sell me Finnish cheese. I asked for something local, but she said her father quit making cheese in the 40s. "The best cheese is from Ohio." Not just any Ohio cheese, but from my area. I bought some Middlefield cheese and joked with her about my mom, or was it Grandma, who liked baby swiss, saying that aged swiss was a waste of money because all you get is holes. The Cheese House lady said the holes were free, and I felt my childhood come back to me when an old man said exactly the same thing as I watched a big ball of wet cheese wrapped in cheesecloth get pulled out of a huge stainless steel vat near the place where my ancestors lived for generations.
|Happy to see a palm tree in Ocean City, MD