Monday, September 20, 2010

What Can I Tell You?

I have a problem.

I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not saying that to stall, or put you off, but my life is so full that I can’t sift through it right now.

What might you want to read about? There are so many thoughts going through my mind; what to do about a problem student, what assignment to give in painting class, how to balance my formal painting lessons with lessons that foster creativity. There’s the learning I’m doing on the history of art education, and the way it correlates with intellectual movements and historical data; there’s the school of thought I was trained in, and the evolution of that school of thought. Creative vs. discipline based. It’s a whole new approach that happened when I was busy teaching. Then there’s the grad class itself: I’m the oldest one in the class, and the only actual teacher other than the professor. I try not to talk too much, but I just can’t help it. It’s a social dilemma. And the reading; much reading. I reserve Sunday nights for the bulk of it, giving me time to reflect.

Or should I write about the farm? You know I love the animals and find them fascinating, but that’s not all that goes on there. There’s the constant struggle for funds, the competition for grants and volunteers, the day to day shortfalls in both money and time. I know how much I’m needed there; there’s also the strain of achieving a balance in my own life. How much is enough, and can I make it all fit? There are interpersonal struggles and victories, warm, fuzzy moments and anguish, human drama interlaced with animal drama. As a board member, I’m woven into the daily operation of the farm, and all of its complications, which confuses me sometimes. I’m not a numbers person; I’m a hands-on, down and dirty calf-pulling goat milker. Oh help!

What about my creative life? Should I write about the 35 fused glass buttons I made yesterday, or the drawing I’m about to complete after hand surgery allowed me to go back and finish it? Can I tell you how afraid I was to lose that skill, and how that hand still stiffens up after I milk, or drive my car too long? Can I tell you how good it felt to pick up a pencil and make the marks in my heart with no regression, to be able to paint, and braid, and bead again? And the other half of my creative life, my kitchen, is always calling. Should I write about the 7 jars of pears I canned yesterday, or the 8 paw paws waiting to ripen, or the 3 eggplants on the counter waiting to be cooked? How about the crock full of slowly softening apples, just waiting for me to preserve them before they become a treat for the pigs?

My friends are becoming strangers to me, and I miss them. I dream about them at night, and see them on Facebook, or I email and hope for an answer. I try to think up ways to get together, and know how hard it will be to squeeze them into my schedule, but I try to make a way to do it. Do you want to hear about that? I see my 82 year old mother every week, for about an hour before my grad class. She worries when I’m a few minutes late, and plans all week for my visit. Should I tell you about the stories she tells, or the meals she cooks for me, or the health problems she’s dealing with? For that matter, should I tell you about my ex-brother in law who just found cancer, or his aging mother who’s clinging to her last living son? It’s too hard; you won’t want to hear about it. My daughter’s heart is quietly breaking again; she drove all the way to New Hampshire yesterday to try to make it stop hurting.

What about that? My daughter and grandsons? Shall I tell you how they’ve found a happy life and family, even though they’re too far away to visit now? How I know time will go by between visits, and the boys will grow up and away? And how I know it’s right for them to be there even though I’m mourning their departure? I’m wondering what will happen to our holidays now; will my daughter and I see each other, as we’ve done for the past 32 years? Is that tradition worth preserving if it disrupts a happy family day for 5 small children? I don’t think so; and what form will our holidays take, down here below them? Will we form a small, aging family of three or four, with Peter and the two grandmothers? Will they be able to come, or will we be able to go to them? No one should be alone for the holidays. I’ve done that. It hurts.

So you see, I have a problem. What should I tell you? I often rely upon images or positive moments, lightweight things that might inspire you or lift your hearts; "If you can’t say something nice…"; you get the drift. But most of these things are both, really. For nearly every difficulty, there’s a related joy. For every struggle, a release. And life moves on.

I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was driving a truck that was pulling a camper, and the connection between the two kept getting longer and longer, making navigation difficult. Those angles were hard to imagine, much less drive. And then it snowed; the roads were treacherous. The camper was stuffed full of belongings, and there were three kittens that were my family, and they kept getting lost.

It was a difficult dream.

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