In Which Ways Do You Art?

At one point as a child, I thought I’d become an artist. These aspirations began at quite a young age, though we’re not counting the impressionist feces wall-art I made before I could form complete sentences. We may, however, begin where my memories do: around age 5.

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I remember finger fists with flying fingers. I remember front and back views of subjects. I remember trying to replicate illustrations I saw in stories.

 

My grandmother was an artist. She illustrated, painted, drew, sculpted. She was my idol, though I was far from her favorite grandchild and I knew that. Still, I wanted to be like her. I hurt that I wasn’t that good, not realizing that her childhood work probably looked like mine.

Now, I dabble. I scribble on children’s lunch napkins, create over-the-top door decorations for teachers, and practice elaborate snowflake patterns. I seem the best at paper cut-outs.

 

And this is art.

 

At another time in my life, I thought I might be musically gifted. I asked to learn piano. I tried trombone. I envied my sister for learning violin. I also sang in a school choir.

My husband is a very good singer. He’s even released some YouTube videos. He’s part of a rather impressive choir at the moment.

Given that people frequently tell me how good he is (but do not say the same to me), I tend to restrict myself to showers and cars.

Still, music moves me. Music is art.

Tell me you aren’t moved by the chorus of that.

 

These days I mostly write. Maybe you’ve noticed.

I thought this writing thing was a more recent expression, but my diggings to find early drawings uncovered …interesting stories I invented in grade school. Granted, I worried much more about handwriting those days. I was more concerned about everything being ‘just right’ than about allowing my imagination to run wild on me.

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Nowadays, I care less about formalities. My exposure to many varied writers and styles and my practice of writing almost daily have unfettered old writing restraints.

Writing is not my first choice of expression after trying others, but it is the most accessible. When the creative itch creeps up my spine, I run to record my thoughts. I feel anxious at any barriers or delays. When I hit The Muse just right, the result is extremely satisfying.

And this, too, is art.

 

Speaking of art, there are many creative ways we are able to express beyond the three I listed. What of dance? Theater? Speech? Display? Organization? Rap? Cooking? Baking? Psychic sensing?

Awhile ago, I wrote this poem:

Shade the negative space of a lone woman;
Daub the dying sun’s embers behind her,
Then soliloquise of heartbeats echoing sunsets.
Charcoal, paint, poetry.

Commit her uplifted hand to a memory-keeper.
Film her swirling hair against swirled light,
Harmonize with deep wind-flutes of regret.
Photograph, film, symphony.

Beat softly to echo the oboes’ cry
And pulse sorrow through interpretation,
As patrons study her angles solemnly.
Rap, dance, art in 3-D.

Feel her dramatic, poignant tears.
See Earth’s brilliant display at days-end.
Then turn, and show us what you see.
Myriad media, expressed endlessly.

We have so many means of expression, and sub-means within any category of these. Clearly, most of us choose words -but, how do you feel about the subject?

Do you agree that we have many arts?

Which do you prefer?

Skinwalkers, XXXIX

“Erm,” Nathan managed to croak.

Rex slapped his steering wheel and released an airy chuckle. “YOU called a transport, you know! Just where’re ya plannin’ to go?”

Nathan blinked and straightened. He was in charge here, not some nearly-dead operator with questionable manners. “Walls and Pruitt, 34th Beta,” he said, glancing past Rex and addressing the dash, instead.

The computer, however, remained inert. Rex wheezed his variation of laughter again. “Me nephew added a little something yesterday. You gotta say, ‘please.'”

Nathan was not certain how much of his shock showed on his face, but he knew time was not only against him, it had passed him and was taunting from a few paces ahead. “Please!” he burst out. His grandfather would have been critical of his insincere tones, but the lights of Rex’s transport activated and the vehicle jerked to life.

“Darn tootin’!” it responded in happy tones.

“You might wanna work on yer sincerity,” Rex noted, saying the final word in a drawn-out fashion so that Nathan could not miss which word was most important in the old man’s reprimand.

The transport bumped down its strip and Nathan took out his comm. His preferred option involved injuring a senior and being barred from using transports again. He figured ignoring was therefore more polite. Problem was, he couldn’t follow the news thread very effectively in the moving environment. He found reading especially impossible with the constant stare of Rex just beyond the screen, but persevered anyway. Surely the bushy-haired operator would get the hint and leave him alone.

Not soon enough, they bumped to the curb before Carapace’s expensive façade. Nathan pushed out the door and almost ran up the steps to the familiar entry station. He was handing his comm to the stolid security guard when he heard Rex call out, “If I don’ get another client, I’ll wait for ya!” This generous announcement ended in a sudden blare of dated music, the sort Nathan’s grandfather had referred to as ‘Oldies.’

The guard cringed; Nathan looked at him and the man hurriedly smoothed his features and activated the main doors with his tablet. Nathan walked forward to the *shoosh* of automatic doors releasing heaven’s breath. His basic slipshods sunk once more into the lush carpet and his lungs drank the manna of purified air, as he saw the guard marching down to have a little talk with a certain transport operator.

Nathan hoped Rex might lose his license to pilot around Beta, yet wondered at a simultaneous sadness he felt at the thought.

“Hello, N. Reed,” a familiar, feminine voice called from the end of the room. “Welcome back.”

His hands pulled at his suit of their own volition and his face grinned happily. Regaining control, he dropped the hands and turned the sappy grin into a determined set of jaw. The swaying plants waved in his passing stride, the carpet sunk and rose with his solid steps, and the perfect air flowed in and out of his thirsty lungs as he walked.

He approached the desk. Familiar with the process from his last visit, he lifted his comm and scanned it. She tilted her head and smiled. He met her eyes for a half-jiff of eternity; noted her fan of auburn hair; memorized the deep curve of her bottom lip.

Then the panel wall opened with a muted *ding*. Her phone beeped at an incoming call. His feet walked forward, beyond her desk.

Nathan entered the lift and turned to face the foyer. Just before his reflection pulled across to block his view, he saw that the receptionist was still looking at him. Still smiling.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XXXVIII.

What Do I Believe?

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“If you go with the Calvinistic or traditional Christian notion, after Adam’s fall, everybody is totally depraved, and often virtues are just masked vices, and even a good deed done is grace. A personal relationship with God is the right thing… As far as people are concerned, yes, there are a few people who will stand by you, come what may, and they’re worth finding and keeping.”
-Nitin, Fighting the Dying Light

There are frequent times I am faced with a question I’d rather not answer. These queries all seem to fall beneath the subject of categorization.

How old are you?

Where do you live?

What are your political leanings?

What is your writing experience?

What do you believe?

For one so inclined to choose brutal honesty in conversation over tact, my hesitancy to answer these questions might seem odd. I also participate in an online community that may very well be read across the street -or, across the world. Why hold back on some issues?

I might choose to remain in obscurity. Who would care, really? However, many of the writers I follow have recently come out in declarations of belief. If I admire their honesty, surely others will not desert me based on what I admit.

So, what do I believe?

The truth is that I grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A few years ago, however, I read the very entertaining The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. If one ever needs his faith dissolved in a few peals of educated laughter, he is welcome to read it.

This is not to say that Dawkins is fully credited with my disillusionment and departure. His voice merely allowed for more enlightened means by which I might attain answers to forever-niggling doubts and concerns. I have since realized the human mind passes through many ‘ages;’ many changes of perspective. I believe that doubt and a removal from the faith of our upbringing happens to most, if not all.

As a child, I was very much susceptible to the explanations and teachings I was given by my parents and religious instructors. These ranged from paranormal to superstitious to wonderful. I trusted that the doubts I had would, as I was told, be resolved with time and faith.

My pre-teen years were spent in rigid conformity of a self-imposed nature. I was, in colloquial terms, a Molly Mormon. I was a Christian Girl, controlling my thoughts and feelings and emotions to the extreme. I exulted in my perfectionism and delighted in my absolute obedience.

That all changed around the teenage years of hormonal outbreak. This may all be tied into mental issues, but the pendulum of perfectionism swung a bit to the opposite side…

As I said, I’m a very honest person. At times I have thought to not attend church because of my personal feelings. I have prayed, consulted scriptures, and argued with a God who sometimes answers.

Most of the time, I withdraw.

I believe my decision to consider atheism may not have been the best, because it seems driven by a desire to self-protect. Others may read about God and conclude that He loves them and holds their life in His hands. I, instead, wonder at the birds He not only allowed to fall but also burned to death in the breath of His voice or the wrath of His hand.

I truly do wonder why bad things happen to good people, or to any people.

I have come back to faith, but from a wary distance. When I think of trusting The Almighty I often feel sick inside. He might take away those I love, remove my health, smite me blind, or cause any number of calamities. And I am expected to say, “Ah. It was God’s will.”

Where I stand on the faith spectrum is somewhere in-between.

Yes, I know that is the lukewarm place where adherents will be spewed out. Yet I also know it is where I am. A toe here or there causes me to shrink back protectively. The middle is the safest place.

Which may also answer a query regarding political leanings.

If one is to set my person on a judgment stand, to vote whether he may or may not listen to my thoughts and opinions, hear this: we are all of us human. It is human to doubt, to question, to make mistakes, and to act based on feelings. It is human to change; to hopefully grow.

My religious life may have its ups and downs, but I’ve come to some revelatory conclusions because of that path. And, as much as I tried to deny it, those conclusions could not have been solely my own.

People like to sidestep a bold embrace of the idea of God by saying, “God,” “A Spirit,” “Your happy feeling,” “Nature,” or, “Whatever you believe.” Fine. None actually knows for certain what is out there. I mean, for certain certain. One can only know based on his personal feelings affirmed by a core spiritual feeling of closure -and that same feeling can be experienced in another person about a completely opposite issue.

And so, like a child, I wait. I trust. I fully expect The Answer of our eternal end will involve a breaking of our consciousness into reusable matter of a collective-mind sort -but, of course, I do not know for certain.

Now that I’ve borne my religious soul, what about all of you? Do you still talk to God? What have you concluded?

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Swiped from Damon Ashworth Psychology: 25 Ideas That Could Change Your Life

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Eight

Wil’s tenacious grip on the slide bar slipped, as did her treadless boots on the platform. With all the grace of a surprised, screeching sloth, she tripped, fell, and slid the length of the metal slide. She landed quite solidly on the frosted wood chips and closed her eyes against the cold night sky. Perhaps, if she squeezed her lids tightly enough, Eric and the world would go away. A portal into another world might open beneath her, or a wizard would appear and –

From a distance, she thought she heard running feet. “God; are you okay?” Eric said from quite close, his concern a tad more evident in his tone than his amusement.

Wil cracked one eye open, then the other. He stood over her. What she could see of his features seemed to resolve into an anxious curiosity. His mouth appeared to twitch at the corners, but she couldn’t be sure in the dim lighting of the apartment complex.

That lighting was never luminous, and tended to turn off at important times. Her mother had said the owners were conserving energy; her father said they wanted to conserve money.

As if on cue, the lamp overhead blinked off. Wil, Eric, and the playground were plunged into darkness. Wil attempted an evasive rolling maneuver to rise, and succeeded in smacking her head against the bottom of the slide. The slide reverberated in the chill, empty air like a gong.

Shit, Wil! What -” Eric began, but broke off at the sound of Wil laughing.

She laughed and laughed. Then she cried. She laughed and cried and didn’t know why. Sitting up, she stopped at the shadowy sight of Eric standing nearby. Did he need something? She attempted to stand, and made it upright with minimal wavering. Bits of dirt and pieces of wood clung to her scarf and backside; she brushed at herself accordingly.

Eric was still there when she finished, within the reach of her arm. She’d never realized how tall he was. “What do you want?” she demanded.

He stepped back. “I, er…” His face moved in the dark, seeking an answer from his feet, the playground, and the sky. Finally settling on his gloved hands, he mumbled, “Nothing, I guess.” She watched his shoulders lift as he sighed. He shuffled his feet.

“Wellllll….” Wil couldn’t think of anything to say. She didn’t even know Eric; she just rode in his car because his mom had a vehicle everyone could fit in. None of them liked Mrs. Crandall, either; but, Wil realized, that didn’t necessarily mean Eric was anything like her.

The light a few yards down the sidewalk turned on. Her eyes flicked to it, distracted, then back to Eric. She was able to make out more of Eric’s face. He was staring down at her, and he no longer looked amused. In fact, his expression reminded Wil of someone’s she’d seen recently. She felt a light, fluttering feeling somewhere near her stomach.

“Um,” Eric raised a gloved hand and coughed a bit into it. “So -are you okay, Wil?”

She couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from his gaze. She nodded.

“Good.” He did the cough again. “Erm. Great.”

“Miiiinaaa!” came an echoing call from down the walkways. The voice sounded like her father’s, not to mention his use of her second-most detested name.

Wil blinked, the spell broken. “I need to go.”

Eric took a turn nodding. Then he smiled a small, shy, simple smile. He looked nice in a smile, even in the semi-dark. Wil smiled in return, then pivoted and ran to her father’s voice and to their building.

Her scarf fluttered behind her, waving goodbye in the night.

 

Continued from Sixty-Seven.

The Dot

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Whilst considering my favorite children’s books, I realized that most made the list based on favorites of my childhood. Not to become set in my old ways, however, I have found several excellent additions in seeking out books for the children I have since produced.

Such is the case with The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

It tells the very simple story of a young girl named Vashti who is determined that she cannot do art. Her teacher, meanwhile, is just as certain that Vashti can.

I love how we get an idea of the personalities of the characters in a few lines of actions: Vashti’s practical stabbing of a dot onto paper shows her attitude, and her teacher’s encouragement and action of framing that first dot demonstrate understanding.

Teaching is, and has always been, a career plagued by under-appreciation. Teachers are responsible for connecting with a classroom or more of children, dumping information into little brains, and somehow still maintaining order. They also care for their students, cry about poor life situations, and think about hundreds to thousands of past lives they’ve been touched by.

The Dot is not just about a young girl finding courage to express herself. It is also the story of what every teacher aims for: a lesson learned, a life improved, and the benefits passed on to others.

It’s short, simple, sweet, artistic, and touching. If you haven’t, spend a minute reading it. Since it’s more recent, I even found readings of it online.

Time in a Bottle

“Step forward -that’s right! Now, grasp this sand -yes, in both hands. That’s right, sir.”

Wondering, he thrusts both hands forward. Sensing the weight against calloused palms it overflows, draining with the pull of gravity to spill upon his shoes, the floor, the table legs.

“That’s right: step forward to the table. Quickly, now! Choose which of these bottles in which to pour your sand.”

Gravity is cruel. It pulls more and more from his hands as he frantically searches for an identifier on the glass bottle fronts. Which is which? How will he know what he is choosing -!?

“Your time is running out and you cannot get more until tomorrow…”

A blue bottle catches his eye; a portly one which reminds him of a fat man. He leans and manages to dump a measure in, to a halfway point. -Not too much, though; what if he chose poorly?

“That’s it. Good. But what of the others? Do you wish to spend all day at that one?”

Probably not, he thinks, and thrusts toward the nearest bottles. A squat red jar, two narrow green-tinted vases, and a pinkish jug each receive a bottom’s full. The red jar’s neighbor, a dubious black container, accidentally receives a bit more than even the first.

“Hmmm…”

The booming tone frazzles his nerves, already high-strung from the continued loss of sifting hand-sand. With not much left, he jerks his cupped palms hither and thither. The table claims much if not most of what’s left. Ten random jars each carry a small dusting. He looks round; no one seems to be watching. Quickly, he gathers table sand and deposits it into a comely emerald urn. He dusts any lingering pieces from his fingers, his heart racing.

“Ah, I see you are done. Let’s see: Fortunately for you, your first choice was sleep. Some poor fool last hour completely neglected that one. Not a bad number in exercising, either. Work has even more than sleep; yes, this black one, here. I’m not sure how you’re going to feel much accomplishment from only a few grains in household upkeep, budgeting, personal hygiene, nor expenses. The fewest grains seem to be, here, in leisure….”

His hopes raised at the news of sleep; deflated somewhat at the exercise. He was just going to ask whether leisure might be a bit higher than budgeting when he notices a shadow frowning over the green urn.

“Hmmm. Odd. You’ve a fair bit in meals, here, but they’re not the best quality. It’s almost as though some other, older bits of grit are in here. …Perhaps the urn wasn’t quite cleaned -or the sand. Well, I’m afraid your nourishment will not be the best sort. At least you’ll have it though, eh? Not like that woman just yesterday…”

He watches in astonishment as arms wave over the table and every bit of sand within the containers rises into the air. They’re colored like the vases or jugs or urns they traveled from and dance in a dusty swirling cloud which follows the circling arms. The cloud condenses within the taskmaster’s shaping hands and resolves into parchment.

“Your day. You’ll see it has everything you chose. Now, take it and exit behind me through the large wooden doors. Move along, move along.”

He stumbles unsteadily out the exit indicated, an exit he swore was not there when he first entered the room with the pouring sand and the table. Between his careworn yet clean fingers he clenches his hard-won paper prize. From the closing door behind him calls the echoing voice again:

“Next! Now, don’t be shy -don’t be shy. Step forward, ma’am, and take your sand…”

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Skinwalkers, XXXVIII

Upon reaching his small sleeping area, Nathan stopped to get his hurried bearings. He squinted at each familiar object: bed, nightstand, walls, doorway, closet. The last was his goal and he groped to his clothes through blurred vision and the ever-present dimness of the cheap lighting.

I wonder if I’ll earn enough to afford good light, one cycle, he wondered. Remembering the importance of a powerful mindset, he cleared his thoughts and said, “I will get an apartment with good light. With daylight.” The near-barren hole that passed for a closet echoed his word-sounds and returned them in a garbled state.

His hands felt among the hangers till they gripped a plastic lining over a thick garment. His suit. He pulled the ensemble to his chest like a precious thing and carried it to where he remembered his bed rested. Laying the loosely-bagged suit atop his blanket wad, Nathan withdrew each clothing piece and began dressing.

Though the process took far less time than his last costuming, he knew his time was already gone. Grabbing his slipshods from the floor, he rushed and stumbled back to the bathroom. Shower, off. Panel, closed. Comm, pocketed. Wristwatch, strapped.

He flung a quick glance at his reflection and nearly jumped out of his skin. Either he was more shaken from his dreams than he’d supposed or he had heavy-handed the eyedrops. The man staring back at him from the cheap, splotched mirror was a complete stranger, somehow adept at following his every movement and occasional blink.

“I intend to demonstrate the full capacity of a united workteam, led by a competent manager,” he tested. The mirror man spoke as well; his words were powerful in the cramped, reflective space. Try me now, Caill, he thought.

His pocket vibrated. He withdrew it and read its angry message: Inpracticum set to begin. Status?

“Reply,” he told the message response system. “In transit.” Waving the answered query to the side, he instead pulled up Transport Request. Expenses be damned; he couldn’t risk further tardiness. The program *pinged* and a green transport icon moved to his virtual location as a real one simultaneously did so outside his apartment.

Nearly sprinting through hallway, lockdown, and out the exit; he just missed knocking into someone swaying across the landing. It was Franks, but Nathan hadn’t the time to deal with charge demands now. He hadn’t the time for anything. He sprinted up the stairs, as quickly as a man in a skin and full suit could run. There sat a transport; his transport, rocking a bit in its streetside idle.

He strode forward past the usual street dwellers. They sat in a chorus line of hunched, silent misery, too saturated to know or care that he passed. Just before he activated the door of the waiting transport, one face lifted. Nathan’s comm moved over the door panel and he ducked and entered his paid ride.

It was after the door closed that his brain recognized the long, pale, older man who’d looked up. Shin.

“Well, howdy agin!” an exuberant voice jerked him away from his shocked surprise. Rex the operator grinned back at Nathan with what was left of his teeth. “Where to now, Sonny?”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XXXVII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXXIX.