creating new traditions

The true story behind the holiday most people call “Thanksgiving” involves a very rare moment of peace between (eventually to be called white) Europeans and Indigenous people. In our family over the last few years, it has felt really strange to celebrate what was an exception to the rule of the day; the rule of the day was my ancestors betraying and murdering Native people.

Last year, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but talked a lot about how complicated it was. Our 11 year old announced a few months ago that she was going to boycott Thanksgiving because of the harms white Europeans perpetrated against Indigenous people. Our family had some conversations about it and we have decided that we will no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

We will, however, create our own new celebration. We are not simply re-naming the day. We will celebrate, and we will probably enjoy foods that we have shared over our lifetimes around this time of year. Our days of celebration will also include moments of solemnity and honor for all of the lives lost, the cultures crushed, and the overtaking of the land by greedy capitalists. We will live in the truth as best we can.

White supremacy culture is all we’ve known in our family, so far. What that means is we don’t have a “culture” that doesn’t relate to oppression of others. But, we white people can tease out of our family traditions, shared experiences, and other aspects of community those elements that may form a new culture or new cultures.

For us, we are trying out “Anticipating the Solstice” as our celebration. It will last two days (the last Wednesday and Thursday of November), so the kiddos can celebrate in both of their homes. The foods may vary from year to year, but there are sure to be many of the old standards we’ve grown up with. How we honor the true story of the first “Thanksgiving” will surely develop over time, too. We will start by using this as a reference. I know we will involved candles somehow, and silence. The rest we will work out as a family.

This is not going to be a “cheat.” This is not a way to celebrate Thanksgiving and still feeling good about it. We will not celebrate Thanksgiving as we have done before. We will join with our wider community in mourning the horrors our country was built on. And, on the same days, we will celebrate the bounty of our lives in joyful gratitude. Add to all of this the complexity that we know we are very lucky in our bounty, that too many people will be going without shelter, food, or family. We will recognize that, too.

As I was writing the last sentences to this post, a friend from our Quaker Meeting, Beth Bussiere, sent me an email about this very topic. I will leave you with her words: “What I found myself finally with was how interconnected lamentations and gratitude are. That without lamentations, without acknowledging the grief and the grievous, our gratitude can be misplaced or superficial. On the other hand, without gratitude, our lamentations can just pull us under.”

quantum change.

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The perspective in this photograph feels like a metaphor. It feels like it’s full of metaphors, actually, just like the asparagus was. Words don’t form for me about it, though. If I try putting it into words, I get lost. Not finding words is something new. Or maybe it’s something old that I’m finally accepting?

Painting lets me share without words, whether I’m viewing them or making them. When I visit van Gogh’s paintings I get as close as the staff will allow (that’s much closer than most “polite” museum-goers usually get). First, I stand back at the regular viewing position. I take in the whole picture; the shapes and layout, the lights and darks, the feelings it brings up in me. IMG_1832 Then, I get in close:
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I look as close as I can so I can see the brush strokes. (I’ve seen his fingerprints, too!)IMG_1833Looking very, very closely is what I do. Aware of the larger picture, I get in close and take it apart. I see the pieces. The whole picture is still there and doesn’t exist without all of the close-in parts; the close-in parts are usually luscious and meaty even when the overall picture is delicate or light.

Writing, even just this train-of-thought casual stuff, maybe especially this stuff, feeds my soul (if I believed in souls). Considering and discussing ideas also nourishes me. I love words. I love dancing with them — “nourish” isn’t quite right back there — and appreciating them. But, while I enjoy writing, the movement of ideas or thoughts or concepts from inside my brain out into the world in a verbal way isn’t comfortable or satisfying for me. Writing allows me time to consider my thoughts before getting the words out. And then there’s the fact that my inner-world has many places with no words; that’s why I paint.

Lately, instead of considering painting a luxury I can’t afford, both in terms of finances and time, I’ve realized I can’t fight it anymore. I need to get it out. Nothing has really changed in my life, except that, in some respects, everything has.

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too personal for the Internet

In the 90s, I wrote (online) my most intimate thoughts for anyone who would read them. The concept of personal boundaries was new to me. Back then, I called what I did “web columns.” In 2001, a friend of my then-husband called my writing my “blog.” I thought it a quaint term used by a computer geek (as it was). When blogs went mainstream, I resented and resisted the term. I’ve since accepted the label, but am now challenged by the content.

As everyone and her sister (and brother and cousin and step-son and grandmother and co-worker and politician and business owner and…) share their offline lives via the Internet, I find myself wandering in a bit of a daze. Or, shocked like a pinball being whipped around, slamming against bright lights and loud sounds. What do I want to share online? What is the point of it for me?

With the addition of the significant consideration of my family’s privacy—especially my children—and my growing need for a more professional public presence, most content feels inappropriate.

Then, I listened to Montaigne’s essays. I am reminded of the value of sharing my introspective fascinations. The richness of my inner life deepens when I write regularly about my thoughts. I also miss experiencing a response from readers.

Next week I will begin as a (monthly) columnist for The Bangor Daily News. Based on the comments following my op-ed in October, I’ve found a forum to experience responses from readers.

Next week I will also publish an updated version of my business website. In the process of developing new content, I considered telling “the story” of how grantwinners.net came into being. That story relies heavily on my struggle to balance parenting and income production. It was too personal for my business site. I miss being “too personal.”

I’d like to return to “blogging” (writing!) here on serenebabe.net. The Montaigne essays inspired me. As I said in a tweet, “Comparing myself to Montaigne is so Montaigney of me.” I have no interest in publishing hyper-personal journal entries. I won’t take time to follow current events enough to dissect my opinions about many of them (and the BDN column provides some space for that type of content). It feels good, being attracted to using this space again to write about random thoughts and ideas as they occur to me. As I’ve said twice now, I’ve missed it. I’m not sure what will end up “published” here, but I know I want to find out.

“And taking upon me to write indifferently of whatever comes into my head, and therein making use of nothing but my own proper and natural means, if it befall me, as oft-times it does, accidentally to meet in any good author, the same heads and commonplaces upon which I have attempted to write (as I did but just now in Plutarch’s “Discourse of the Force of Imagination”), to see myself so weak and so forlorn, so heavy and so flat, in comparison of those better writers, I at once pity or despise myself. Yet do I please myself with this, that my opinions have often the honour and good fortune to jump with theirs, and that I go in the same path, though at a very great distance, and can say, “Ah, that is so.” I am farther satisfied to find that I have a quality, which every one is not blessed withal, which is, to discern the vast difference between them and me; and notwithstanding all that, suffer my own inventions, low and feeble as they are, to run on in their career, without mending or plastering up the defects that this comparison has laid open to my own view.”  – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

too valuable for caution

$119 worth of paint (most of the $ paid for the 5 tubes on the left)

When I squeezed the first little bit out of my new Old Holland paint, I was careful. “Just a touch of this fancy new paint,” I thought, “It’ll probably go a lot farther than the paint I usually use.”

“Let me mix in a lot of the bloopy stuff (one of the mediums meant to mix with oil paints). That’ll make the paint last longer.”

My body felt tight. My hand and arm felt tentative as I moved the brush. My usual free and quick motions, so fluid and mindfully mindless, were caught up in the expense of buying the higher quality paints. The money I used came from the successful kickstarter project I ran in May (thank you, backers!), so it wasn’t money out of my bank account. But, also it was money out of my bank account, no matter the source. Money for groceries has been a concern in recent memory, so I’m pretty careful about every dollar I spend.

I squeezed out some more paint. I needed the blue to be greener. Then I needed it to be glossier. Then I needed it to be lighter. Now slicker. Now smoother and back into blue a little bit more. My brush started moving faster and with more flow and direction. I began feeling the painting.

Still, I felt caution. I took a tub that I had saved from an earlier painting and figured I could use that (white) instead of “wasting” new paint from the new tube. I did this for a bit until I discovered bits of the gummy film that forms on oil paint as it dries. This painting was meant to be smooth, clear, clean. The textures I have worked with in paintings before didn’t have a home in this one. I removed the scummy bits as much as I could and then I had to let go of a lot of wasted paint. The very expensive paint, the mediums, the large quantity of paint was all ruined. I considered saving it (again) for a painting where texture wouldn’t need to be smooth, but dried bits of old paint aren’t something I imagine myself wanting to incorporate to any painting in the future.

Finally, I decided I needed to use the paints. Really use the paints as I wanted to. Use the paint as the painting and the brushes and the wind and sun and REM’s music told me to. It was pretty messy. It was a little frustrating but in an exhilarating way (the painting would get *this* close to feeling as if the layer was finished, I’d see a section I wanted to tweak, and the whole thing would start shifting). At one point I added a color with a grey tone and the whole thing began turning muddy. Bringing it back to clear colors was tough, though it’s almost there. I had to stop because I was running out of time and I’m sure the best thing for the colors will be to take a break, clean everything, and start fresh with the clarity I need.

When I begin again in a couple days, I’ll start free. I’ll know that being paralyzed by the need for caution will block my painting. Something this worthwhile deserves all the wet and sloppy, error-laden, gooey, gloppy, bold and surprising messes I need to make.