Stroke by Stroke (Life as Art)

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“He is the true artist whose life is his material; every stroke of the chisel must enter his own flesh and bone and not grate dully on marble.” Thoreau’s Journal: June 23, 1840

“She, too, is the true artist whose life is her material; every stroke of the chisel must enter her own flesh and bone and not grate dully on marble.”

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Stroke, n. — a mark made by drawing a pen, pencil, or paintbrush in one direction across paper or canvas.

Whether stroke of the chisel or strokes on canvas…the painter’s canvas…the canvas of life, we create what we choose to live, we live what we choose to create.  Creation: a beginning and an ending.  Alpha and Omega.

This time, perhaps, you choose a life uncommon.

If the muse smiles upon us, our efforts may look or feel divinely inspired.

Often our attempts at chiseling away at the marble, at the rose stone, at the life before us is a bungled lump of clay or dough.  That clay, that dough, we must fold in upon itself and simply let it be; let it rest.

DSCF0425Stroke of Dawn, n. — a time of day.

We think when young (not far beyond born, living our most recent dawn) we think we are gods and goddesses who will live forever. We are gods and goddesses falling upward* …born artist or activist, oligarch or musician, capitalist or clown, pauper, priest or penitent.

We will live forever.  We do live forever.  Matter cannot be destroyed (Law of Conservation of Mass Energy).  We cannot be destroyed, yet we disperse.  We come together and we come apart. ** Where do you think goes the slough of skin, the hair follicles, the detritus of your ever-changing body?

During these processes we will get wounded.  And OH how we may hurt!  It can’t be helped.  It may even devastate?

What do you wish for in your second, third, twenty-seventh apostasy?

canoe-paddle-2Stroke, v.an act of moving one’s hand or an object across a surface, applying gentle pressure, or constant pressure, [eternal pressure].

One stroke, then another, we paddle our swift, sometimes rickety, crafts through life.

Across the River Styx and back to first shore – ever vigilant.

Either we face our demons, or we may become one.

We are Warriors.  We are Angels.  We are Friends.

We live fiercely!  Let us not be Foes.

If we are fortunate, we stroke the skin of those we love and laugh with abandon.

Stroke, v. the act of hitting or striking someone or something a blow.

sculptor-3Art is an act of activism.  To make Art we must Act.  Art.  Activism.  Redundant?

Yes!  Strike the chisel over and over again.  Seek perfection.

I shall pierce my HEART and feel it bleed love and wonder, fear and frustration, sorrow and awe.

Sore feet, sore hands, sore heart and mind; I want to experience everything!

And having felt it all, decide what is good for me and what is bad. “…And not to feel when i have come to die I never really lived.”

I will write it; I will dance it; I will scream it from the mountaintops.

I will drum it; I will test it; I will inhale it from the canyon ravines.

Discernment marks my quest, Yet I trip so many times: over the stone and stumble, under the rock and rumble,

Schisms, and chasms, and stuck between.

I shall pierce my SOUL, leaking promise and potential, to know the truth of IT…to be true to myself this moment in the universe as honestly as I am able in the spiral dance of life.

Stroke of Genius, n. – a thought or an act of brilliance.

May we be so fortunate to follow in the footsteps of those we revere.  Oh, to experience even a single stroke of genius!

Stroke, v. – to caress.

I have felt the winter wind whisk mere wisps of hellish flailing; every living thing shuddering, trembling, quaking at once.  I have felt the whisper of love on my cheek, the breath of those I adore caressing my skin.

Stroke of Luck, n. –- something good that happens to you by chance.

Having your best friend nearby when you are struck down by circumstance.

Stroke, n. – a sudden disabling attack or loss of consciousness caused by an interruption in the flow of blood to (part of, all of) the brain, especially through seizure.

We cannot know when life’s circumstances may seize us and render us incapacitated.  It is terrifying to feel yourself lose control…wave-1as if out on a great, wild sea watching the water’s wide wave approach, lifting you up to dizzying heights of fatalism.  Yet, if you are fortunate (I cannot speak for always), a calm overtakes you at the beginning of the tempest.  You give yourself to the fates as willingly as you give yourself to a wise teacher.

We ride into the storm relinquishing ourselves to destiny, the ending of which even Fate is not certain…though sometimes, it seems, the outcome may be a matter of choice.

On November 12, 2016 I suffered a stroke.  I write now from the visual perspective of 120 degrees having lost partial sight, peripheral vision, in my right eye.  I write now from the philosophical perspective, the intuitive perspective of a great many degrees more.  I am a fortunate one.

Stroke, v. – an act of moving one’s hand or an object across a surface, applying gentle pressure.

Oh mother, father, lover, child, friend…sister, teacher, adversary: caress my fragile, fight-filled, sometimes frightened soul that I may know we live.  Soothe me with murmurs of eternity…

In my next apostasy:

img_0066Far below…I’m the shadow on the hill.

High above…I’m the ghost rain tendril.

Gaze across…the plains of Augustine.

I’m the cloud…living out my next dream…next dream…next dream.

Look at me, I’m flying!

Further Inquiry:

Music and Book Credits

  • A Life Uncommon, Jewel
  • Falling Upward, Richard Rohr
  • Ain’t Life a Brook, Ferron

Art and Photo Credits (in order of appearance):

Sculptor at work – stock photo

Weight Loss – Alexis, 2003

Self-Made Man – Bobbi Carlyle, 2000

Dawn & Vulcan Clouds – Beverly Salas, 2016


Taos Dreaming…”Live the life you have dreamed.” –HDT

More than ten years ago, in July of 2004, I still lived in a glen by a creek that runs through Mink Hollow, near Highland, Maryland.  Mink Hollow was a magical place: a river ran through it, a forest surrounded it.  We danced.  Lovely, you say? Indeed!  Sadly, familiarity breeds, for me at least, a bit of the wanderlust. Which is why on Wednesday, July 14th, 2004 I found myself solo camping in Taos, NM after my first year of teaching high school.  I sought the southwest knowing I could easily find solace, knowing I could truly be alone; seeking, like Thoreau, to get “to the essential part of me.”  I needed a salve for the knocks and bruises accumulated during ten months spent butting heads with 130, sixteen year old students. I had learned and felt so much!

Sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge in 2004, I wrote this in my journal:  “Forgive me Mink Hollow for wanting anything, any place, other than you.  100_4615I do not understand this longing for the long view, but it feels so very palpable.  Sitting at the edge, here at the gorge, or on a mountain top in Magdalena, seeing the gold and green overlapping mountain ranges before me,100_5961 or the layers of earth revealed through infinity, I am filled with a lovely peace…the, I am truly  “home” kind of peace.  Here lies heaven: the smell of juniper and pinon; the rattle of snake and cicada, the whispering trees; the glorious blue sky yet more vivid juxtaposed against white clouds.

I am entranced…………..

To have access to mesas on the weekends, to be able to set out with regularity to the mountains…higher,  and higher still…where silence has a sound… 100_5602 100_5614To call New Mexico home would be beyond my most imaginative dreams…the senses in perpetual, delightful overload.

I cannot paint a true picture using only words; regrettably: my poetic palette lacks the range. Hopefully, photos and words metaphorically wed to help you see. How does one with mere syllables exalt mesas? or mountain peaks? or high altitude streams?   Instead…I return to breath, I bow.  I praise.  I listen to my soul’s longing.” 100_5648

Seven years after that journal entry, I moved to New Mexico. I found my Walden.  I call the wild places home.  Some nights you may see me running with the wolves!

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

Getting Started

“It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is: What are we busy about?” –Henry David Thoreau

The open page, like the long-view vista, invites dreaming.  My goal: to look inward as well as reach outward and note the infinite connections we share.  I hope my journey will inspire questions, dialogue, and collaboration.  Walk with me in the wild.  Listen to what the wind has to say.  Talk to your neighbors.   Keep your ears, eyes, and mind alert.  Together we will create new meanings and new perspectives.

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