I wanted to make a series of abstract paintings for an exhibition this fall, but the figure kept coming into the composition. You may not be able to really see the figure yet, it's partially cropped out, and not clearly articulated. This image began to emerge after hours of painting and wiping everything away, and starting over. Again and again.
After I got past my own trying, this movement came, and I knew it was the beginning--it just felt right. It's incomplete now, in the raw, unfinished. But it's real. I plan on keeping things unrefined for now, but we'll see where the process goes.
Here is a start of a series inspired by my daughter. Who says that the only place she feels safe is at home with mom. I've wanted to create a space for a seven year old who is smart and sensitive, who somehow has figured out why she and her classmates have lock down drills at school, and understands things I wish she didn't have too.
I don't have answers for all of her questions. Just an endless amount of love, and encouragement to persist with a messy grittiness. I tell her over and over that she is innately good, and loved just the way she is. That the whole damn thing is one bittersweet gift. Except I don't say damn, she's only seven, after all.
Now that I've stated working on this series, I realized that there is an ache in all of us for this. Hemingway wrote about it in "A Clean Well Lighted Place." Dillon sings about "Shelter from the Storm." Many artists have tried to articulate what shelter looks like. Or what the absence, or lack of shelter feels like.
So here is the beginning of the Safe Space Painting Project.
I played on a golf league once. It did not go well. I joined on the invitation of some good friends, because, the "league we play on is not a competitive league. It will be a good place to learn."
If you have ever played any sport, friendly or not, you realize that all competition is, well, competitive.
This league was no different. It didn't take long for everybody to know how terrible I was. There were many individuals who were helpful and positive, offering advice and encouragement. But for others, playing with me must have been really annoying. I had a terrible handicap. On the rare occasion when I pared a hole, (and when I mean rare, I really mean...once, when I pared a hole...) It must have been challenging for my opponent. In those tiny moments of personal victory I could see the furrowed brow on my opponent's face growing and taking shape. The lines on their forehead deepening the same way the Colorado River etched out the Grand Canyon. When I won a hole from my opponents, their faces often looked like 40 miles of bad Texas road. Nevermind that they were handedly winning all the other holes, my small win probably meant that they were going to be ridiculed for the next week, (at least) for loosing that hole. Golf is a sport after all, and even the kindest of sportsman is still a competitor.
I wanted to be a good golfer, and I wanted to have fun, but it didn't take me long to realize that I was in no way prepared to reach my potential as a golfer. I had jumped in head first. Which is really great. I'm happy I had the courage to do it, but I had so much to learn. Today, I've taken lessons and occasionally play, but I am still a hack golfer. I have experienced just enough playing time to be dangerous, but I am far from the top of my potential.
Which is why when Sergio Garcia won the Master's Golf Tournament, I found myself tearing up and cheering for him. It took Sergio 74 starts, but he finally won a major tournament. He had spent most of his career in the top ten, according to world golf rankings, which for most golfers would be considered really good. But Sergio had started is career as a favorite, a golden boy, if you will. A player who had potential to go down in history as one of the greats. So the fact that he had never won a major--in the world of golf--was disappointing. In the last twenty or so years he played the game, he has had his fare share of critics, his fare share of opponents with furrowed brows.
I often wonder what it takes to reach my full potential, not as a golfer, but as a person. If I've learned anything from Sergio, it's that consistent, continuous, forward movement is the best way to find out. I want to reach beyond what I am capable of today, but I can find so many obstacles and reasons to stop. And the stakes are high--what kind of relationship I have with the people I love most, my husband, my kids. I would die for them, but do I have the courage to truly live for them? What sort of legacy I leave all comes down to slow, continuous, tedious, uncelebrated, forward movement.
It's worth saying that no one may know the inner places where we choose to either recede or reach out. The world is a hard place to remain optimistic, to continue to reside in a space committed to forward movement does not come without a cost. It's just the way it is here. We have opponents, both internal and external. We have challenges. It can, no, scratch that, it will eat away at your heart.
But wins, small or large, are still possible. I'm choosing to keep holding on to the small wins, writing them down here. Because I think that our circumstances are more pliable than we think. Jumping in has its costs. But as far as I can tell, jumping in, taking a chance, trusting forward movement to make the next right choice, tends to work. It doesn't work instantly. It may not be pretty or correct.
But it is forward movement, just the same.
So even if it takes me countless imperfect strokes to get to my green, I'm still committed to playing my game. I'm staying committed to continuous forward movement. I believe that you can, too.