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Entries in friends (61)



I have an old friend for whom English is a second language.  She is an artist and highly sensate and she uses the word gentle in a way I love, not just to indicate tenderness or calm but also to describe things that are delicate or fine or refined.

This word, gentle, keeps arising in my mind in her voice.  I am trying, in the closing weeks of 2011, to spend some time with gentle.  Sounds like a nice change of pace.


Breathing Practice

Sometimes it's embarrassing how long it takes me to notice the obvious. Even after I admitted in public that I skipped out on shooting a rare-ish celestial event (that happened right in front of me, when I was sitting there with all the appropriate gear) it didn't really occur to me that I should do something about this hunger for solitude.

You know, since I'm so busy and engaged with people in Very Important Ways all the time.

I was explaining all this to a friend Monday, and she challenged me invited me to commit to meditate for thirty minutes every day for thirty days. Just to see what happens. I recognize that a meditation challenge sounds like something of an oxymoron, but it had the ring of a good idea. As I thought about it I noticed, right, I need alone time.  I can make that happen.  I just have to decide to create the space for it.

I tested the hypothesis that this would be worth trading a half-hour of sleep for, and crept out of bed at 5:00am yesterday. It was nice, sitting there alone in the dark, even if the thing I noticed most of all is that my breath was shallow and uneven and I couldn't really moderate it the way I wanted. 



It's not as easy as it sounds.

I used to be very good at breathing, and I never realized it was the sort of thing you have to practice. But it was obvious as I sat there that I have forgotten how to breathe. That seems like a good thing to notice.


I'm going to try not to be too hard on myself.  I'm going to try to just show up for myself every day for a month, the way I show up for work, or for Ezra, or for meetings at school.  I'm going to try to remember how to breathe.  We'll see what comes.


A Measure of Progress

Last year around this time, my friend Lisa asked if I would take pictures of her family for their Christmas card.  I agreed, with the caveat that we should do it early so if the pictures were awful they could hire a "real photographer" to reshoot.  She said, "there is no other photographer.  You are the photographer."  I showed up to their house that day with a stomach ache and we shot for an hour and lo and behold, they got a Christmas card out of it.  I don't know if they were aware that they were probably making me more comfortable behind the camera that I was making them in front of it.

This year when Lisa asked if I would shoot with them I did not immediately feel nauseous.  We met in a local park this weekend, and while it was a short-lived shoot (the baby decided that the park on a brisk November day was not a very fun place to pretend to be happy) I noticed how at ease I felt and how present I could be with them.  I'd like to think that the pictures are better too, but regardless of the outcome, the enjoyment and confidence I accessed during the process feels like big growth.


On Becoming an Artist

I have never thought of myself as an artist.  A creative, yes.  But perhaps more of a creative technician, taking other people's visions and breathing life into them.  I remember talking to my father years ago about what artists are (he knows a lot of them) and he said, well, I know this: an artist is somebody who creates because they can't not create.

Hmmm...  Seems true, I thought.  But it doesn't sound like me.

Part of doing creative work that's client-based, which is what I do professionally, is that you learn not to get too attached to it.  There comes a point in every project where you have to let your vision go in support of their vision.  They're the client.  It's their baby at the end of the day.

But this idea of being an artist still tugged at me.  Do you think of yourself as an artist? I asked a colleague I love and respect, on a work trip one night at a hotel bar in suburban Houston.  I was surprised when he said yes.  I felt so far away from that.

I started taking pictures and, at some point, began to think of myself as someone who takes pictures.  The word photographer still got stuck in my throat.  But something happened as I neared the end of my 365 project, and as I was putting together my video and looking back through the pictures I thought huh, it looks like a photographer made this.

I didn't have time to take any pictures last week, and by the time the weekend rolled around I felt like a caged animal.  I just needed to take my camera and go on a walk.  Maybe that's a sign.  I told Kim Klassen that I'm tip-toeing up to permission to think of myself as an artist.  She got very excited, and pointed me to this post in which she writes about her experience of becoming an artist.  She says that being an artist introduced her to a world in which anything was possible.  I thought yeah, I want that to be me!

I talked to my friend Kelly, an artist in Austin, yesterdayI said, I think I might be becoming an artist.

WHAT??? she said. You are already an artist.  I have known this forever.  I am the creator and president of the Corinna-is-an-amazing-artist fan club!  I'm SO GLAD you've finally decided to join us.

I don't know if Kelly is creating membership cards for this club, but if she does, I imagine they'll look something like this:Jen Lemen gave us these at Camp, but I didn't know what to ask permission for yet.I don't know how my life will change when I cross over into being an artist, but I feel like I'm right there, oh so close and I can almost taste it.


Any of you guys want to give me a hint?  If you're an artist, what does it mean to you?  Is it important to see yourself that way?  What happens when you claim that identity? 


Like A Prayer

I feel like I am having this religious experience, I told my bestie on the phone yesterday morning, knowing this language would be provocative.  She grew up in a highly religious home and (mostly) shed the trappings of that belief system as a young adult.

I, on the other hand, was raised by parents of two different religions in a region with a third, pervasive religion (well, four, if you count basketball).  In the stew of all that I failed to find any semblance of faith at all.  I have always been perfectly satisfied with that.

This new religion of mine, it’s about opening up and really being authentic and I have this clarity all of a sudden that it will draw to me the right things.

Yeah, she confirmed, with no scorn or judgment.  It seems like you’re having a religious experience.

And I just keep saying what I want, and saying thank you for all these amazing things in my life.

You mean like praying, she said.

Like praying.

Ummmm, yeah, like praying.  Except I never knew how to do that.


So I learned how to pray on a random Thursday morning commute, at age 38. 

To be honest, praying has always seemed like a vaguely silly endeavor to me.  And yet here I am, apparently praying half my days away with thank yous and what I really intends.  And I’m so damn happy.

If all this talk of religious experiences and prayer seems a bit immodest, I’m sorry.  It does to me, too.  Mostly it feels head-scratchingly weird and unlikely.  But full of love.