Sunday, March 16, 2014

Benched Week 38: under wraps

Dallas disappointed me. Scurrying just ahead of yet another storm front in the Northeast, I expected warmth and color to greet me when I got out of the taxi at the hotel in Plano, Texas.  There was neither.  So I pulled my too-thin jacket tighter and went out in search for them.

I found color on the street and a sign that could be a stand in for the title of this blog.


But the cold drove me past the numerous benches along the sidewalk.  I needed shelter.  Then, suddenly, I came to a courtyard, hidden in among the stores on my right with high walls to block the wind and a solitary bench.

As well as the strangest palms I’ve ever seen. 

I’m sure there’s a reason for the wrapping (as sure as I am that one of you will clue me in), but the look grabbed my imagination.  Sitting and listening to the whisper of the dead fronds waving out of the tops of the cocoons, the place had a slightly sad sense of mystery – call it the Courtyard of the Mummy Palms.  Or perhaps it was a visual condensing of Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

The phrase “under wraps” popped into my head.  And it led me to consider once again an inherent tension in the making of art.  As you all know, I had a wonderful piece of news this week – winning two Telly awards – and I wasn’t shy to post it. And I’m not apologetic about hoping lots of people read these blogs.  There’s a great deal of hubris in creating.  When we create, artists are, in a sense, saying, “Look at how I see the world!”  It’s a statement and an invitation blended together.  If such a thing is possible, it’s a self-focused exploration meant for others.

That’s the tension. 

Sometimes at an event – like this past week at the high profile organization I worried about – I feel a great urge to pull someone over and say, “Look at how cool this turned out!” I don’t, usually, because I’m sure it sounds so egotistical.  After all, Solomon admonished, “let another praise you, and not your own mouth.”  But I see such moments as two of us celebrating something delightful that has happened – I tried this and it worked!  I don’t want to stand behind the work and be a recipient of the gaze.  I want to come out front and be a fellow viewer.

Maybe this isn’t unique to art.  It might be the same tension we have in telling of our kids’ triumphs.  Look how cool HE turned out!

So I guess I need to wrap things up here.  But not for long.

Sharing is too much fun!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Benched Week 37: scaring ourselves

Pressed for time, I didn’t really want to find a bench.  But I needed a healthy dose of the Hudson River, calming me with its lazy lapping against the rocky shore.

For tomorrow is a big day.

I’m a bit anxious about tomorrow.

After all, it’s not every day that one of the largest global, governmental bodies asks me to scribe. Add to that my being told, “You’re going to add the pizzazz.”  It’s not that I think I’ll do poorly.  I’m just nervously hoping I meet expectations.

But being slightly scared, it turns out, nicely fits this locale, where the geese sound mournful under a gray sky.

And trees seem to grasp with gnarled fingers for some hint of spring.

A log in the water floats heavily like a cadaver.

And even the melting snow forms the scowl of a sinister apparition.

It is, after all, Irvington, NY.  Right next to Sleepy Hollow.

Yup.  That Irving.

I’ve thought much in the last ten months about what I want to do with my life and art.  It’s funny – when people talk about one’s perfect life endeavor, it’s always framed by doing what one loves.  Never by doing what one fears.  All dream, no nightmare.  But is a little nervousness a bad thing?

Connie Chung once said, “I wanted to be scared again... I wanted to feel unsure again. That's the only way I learn, the only way I feel challenged.”

I think she’s right.  And the drive over the Tappan Zee bridge reminded me of a time, during my college years, a group of us would come up to Nyack to be briefed for a summer abroad – I went to the Philippines -- an experience that was prefaced with a fair amount of trepidation, but epilogued by wisdom learned.

Even after sitting on the bench awhile, the river had no effect.  I still felt the internal, sharp edge of uncertainty about tomorrow.  But I suppose I can live with that.  I won’t let it grow to an Ichabodian fantasy of fear.  I can use the edginess to stay alert and pressing on to doing my best work.

It’s better than waking up one day with regrets for time wasted.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Benched Week 36: think glocally

The main intersection of the little town of Boalsburg, PA, was charming.  Inviting.  Beautifully ornate houses lined both sides of the main street, with a simple log cabin thrown into the mix.

And it was quiet. Unlike many of my more urban sittings, this location had little to listen to.  In the stillness, a small flag softly fluttered next to my bench. It read, “Shop Local.” Grammar aside, the message fit the spirit of the place.  It spoke to the fierce independence that permeates our culture – how we love our Davids defying corporate Goliaths.  This is small-town America, buster.  Take your beaten path elsewhere!

Just then, two women exited the tavern behind me and walked past, talking.  I caught the one woman’s story, mid-stream: “…years ago when she went to Australia, we got her a rolling duffle.  Which she lost.  So we got her one from LL Bean…”

I smiled.  Fact is, we are more connected to the globe than ever before in history.  I suppose I feel this more since I started flying around the country.  But it’s more than just being able to be physically present in far off places, it’s that technology is making the “far off” label obsolete.  In a number of events I’ve scribed, studies have been referenced showing that for the first time in history, there is a generation that is defined not by cultural boundaries but by their common online experiences – which has actually produced similar, definable demographical characteristics, regardless of the country.

Skip the millennial label. Call them the global gen.

But this connectedness is not just for them.  Sure, I am a little less adept at navigating this wireless world, but I’m thrilled that as I think about what I can do with my creativity, I’m not anchored by my location.  In fact, I have a growing desire to find away to use my art in some kind of cross-cultural endeavor.  Perhaps even through the web.  Distant caring opportunities drawn close through drawing?

Just then, my reverie was interrupted by the pealing of church bells.  It was noon.  Chimes followed, playing a hymn.  I recognized the tune, and let the lyrics come to mind, stopping at the line: “Dwellers all in time and space.”

So true.  We are creatures of our time and space.  But what a thrill to be dwelling at a time when that space becomes larger and the world becomes smaller at the same time.