Good morning Iceland….

Good morning Iceland.   We landed with the rising sun after an insane last few days in Seattle.  Sick people downing gallons of garlic lemonade to get well (that stuff works!), packing up 6 huge suitcases full of half-made art, half-made hopes that it wasn’t all a little bit crazy, cleaning and packing up our house like mad, stowing away pets to different people……  I’m here now, but the beginning of that day, I still didn’t think the clap-trap traveling circus of my mobile art-studio/family drama would really make it all across the ocean.  But we did.  This is a bit of that first day.

waking up as we land, but never really sleeping…

Keflavic, where the airport is, has this stunningly abandoned look to it…I couldn’t sleep this flight and I knew we pretty much had to stay awake another day to get over jetlag and just get done what we had to do.  Get giant bags, keep exhausted 8 year old from breaking down, find rental car, get money…eat, oh yes we forgot to eat for a bit.

Sunrise in Iceland

not even all of our bags (am I insane???)

a little numb and stunned with tiredness, but arrived

We crammed ALL of our stuff into a car that we thought was going to be much bigger (spent some time panicing).  And as planned, drove down to The Blue Lagoon.  As we got closer to it, and I was looking out the window at the oddest landscape I have ever seen, crunchy clinker lava flows piled high upon each other, then covered in pillow thick moss that rounded things out like soft bubbles of green, I started shouting because my camera was buried in the car at the bottom, and it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen!  Then all of a sudden by the side of the road was some bright light blue liquid in all of this, coating the lava rocks white, and we really all three shouted it was so strange and beautiful!  We had arrived at the Blue Lagoon.

getting ready to go in, silly iphone picture doesn’t get the blue of it, but really no picture does…

Which really is the perfect place to go after a long flight.  It’s funny, I didn’t take pictures, didn’t want to and don’t even feel like explaining it.  I didn’t have words, just an animal relief that I could sink into the warm slippery water from the bowels of the churning earth.

Hazel thrilled to find lava wrinkles as we walk around

Rubbing silica mud on our faces, Hazel squealing with delight, Paul laughing and floating in this supernatural water surrounded by lava and moss….it finally felt all worth it, and real.  Finally letting down some effort.  Ate some salmon and potatoes and pickled veggies in our robes, soaked some more.

And then began to drive to Reykjavik….and then the TIRED hit us.  We literally had to pull over half-way there and the boys slept in the car off a little side road, and I climbed a little hill to sit in a lava field.  Already very different than the lava field around the Blue Lagoon area, but my first chance to sit still with myself.  I can’t sleep but in a bed.  I just replaced my 5 year old phone with an Iphone and found myself playing with it up in the field…made this weird little meandering video, but needed to record something, document something.  That threshold between one thing and another.  I sound delirious…and though this is probably boring for anyone else, I like how the sound of my voice seems to get overpowered by the landscape, how the little internal meandering voice in context of a big natural energy seem in conflict.

(I can’t figure out how to post it yet….).

But here’s an image on my first sit in the crackling land.

 

somewhere near Hafnarfjordur, by the side of the road

And despite all the over-stimulating new stimuli, one of my favorite moments was my husband, not giving a shit, doing yoga in the middle of the Seattle Airport.  I was laughing at the way people where looking at him like he was killing chickens, but doing some yoga before you get on a long plane flight is probably the smartest thing you can do.  More people should follow Paul’s lead.


 

The slug-like, cement-blooded, quicksand before we left…

We’ve landed in Iceland…..but this isn’t it.  It’s Lake Crescent in my own sweet Washington State.  Earlier this summer Paul, Hazel and I went to this humming and mysterious body of water, carved out by a glacier and filled with cool pristine clear turquoise water, deep and hidden.

Crater woman

Crater Woman

We went to spend a small few days together after a frantic ride of a big project with not enough time together.  Which seems to be always…It was like Iceland-practice, spend all our time together, making some things, shoot some images and be together, being alone. Paul and I spent some time at dusk playing in the strong wind and the waves, him photographing me wearing one of the costumes for ‘Saltus Chori Aevum’, pressing my hands against the wind back and forth with billowing silk, and him finding ways to make the sun disappear.

I learned a few things while there, which since then have really tumbled forward with momentum in importance.  I realized many, most of my ideas might be impossible…impossibly heavy, large, bulky to transport across the world, and then into a wilder place…on my back.  I have to carry what I want to do on my back, along with gear, etc. One long hike to an incredible old railroad cave along the far edge of Lake Crescent would have been an amazing place to shoot some pictures, but by the time we found the amazing site, it was too far away from my gear and costumes in the car to go back and get them.  I would have to have some really portable options for Iceland or miss some stunning places to work, places we would only be able to walk into.  But (silver lining) I’m now determined to make it back to that cave next summer…

Even so carrying the  billowing silk around the lake side was a relief to the heavy monstrosities I have carried around, nearly killing myself.  I’m tired of killing myself.  I’ll say it again.  I’m tired of killing myself. I’ve been whispering it to myself for awhile during the course of the past year, also feeling like it was a cynical voice, or a lazy voice and so repressing it at times.  But it’s a voice that has been louder in recent days, and I think I just need to be with it.  I’m not lazy, I’m not cynical.  I’m not even cynical when I see really lazy artwork celebrated…I tend to just look away.  I tend to be nonplussed.  But I tend to beat myself up when I feel I’m ‘lazy’ and ‘lazy’ usually means not following my ideas as far as possible,  not impressing people, having simple goals…..sigh.

Perhaps I am here in Iceland to redefine some things for myself.  I’ve known that all along, but what definitions I’m changing keeps shifting.  Can I make potent fulfilling work that isn’t an encompassing experience? Or maybe all ‘encompassing experience’ is something else than I have imagined.  I am a person who is attracted to the quiet, the small, the subtle, the slow.  Maybe these are the qualities I will draw out here.  Because it was not possible to drag huge mantels of stones across the Atlantic Ocean…maybe a richer, better funded artist could have done that.  I had to leave many crocheted rocks at home. I couldn’t afford it, no matter how I stretched and squooze the grant money.  But (duh) I will find more rocks here, and will have to spend my evenings working nets around them….and have to leave them here to meet my weight limit for the plane ride home…something melancholy about this too.

Gateway

Gateway

And that body I’m trying not to kill?  It is teaching me a big lesson.  I have to slow down.  It got sick two weeks before we left…I’m still laboring under fatigue of a lingering cold….and much of what I planned to bring here remains undone.  So the body, slowed down to a rolling stone’s pace, shifted and adapted what I have been imagining for so long.  I will make work here, finish things that I’ve started….and this is probably brilliant, exactly what I needed to do to get out of patterns that are running down.  I HAD imagined being so on top of things, finished costumes, movement scores, story boards, an expert at my new camera (yea Mark II !!), meetings scheduled….even with trimming things down, streamlining,  things seemed to always be getting away from me. Until the final two weeks seemed like when I would have to pull out all the stops and pull all-nighters and be so together something miraculous would happen.  And, bam! I got really sick.  I lay in bed a week before we left and realized I had no other choice but to adjust and bring things with me, sew the feather cape together sitting next to a glacier, rather than having some master plan completed.  My body has forced me to go with the flow…maybe a slow flow.  But I am still moving, and I have to accept it in a different way.  I have to give up my angst about things abandoned, and observe what is actually in my grasp.  I have to trust this will teach me something.

The one huge weight I felt as I lay there sick with a huge impending project undone, I ticked away all the time I spent on things, people, paths that seemed to eat up my time and divert me away from the essentials of this project, distractions I allowed for one reason or another.  There is no use crying over wasted time, I know. I actually find a great deal of productivity in procrastination and mind-wandering activities.  But this is about something different.  I was unable to do anything for a few days, I realized I am going to get very selfish on this trip…I’m going to do what I want to do.  Not what I proposed, or outlined or imagined, or even think I should do.  Just what I want to do.  I’ll abandon quicker what isn’t working and just seek elsewhere.

That sick few days, Paul and I were to meet with Seattle-base choreographer Corrie Befort on developing some movement scores/practices, and I had to stay home while she and he worked together one day.  But I was stunned by something she said as we tried to outline some things for sick me, a way to begin finding a seed of something potent.  Stunned by how righteous it it, and how as a visual artist I shy away from it (or feel I have to or have been taught that I should).  She talked about, just begin with something you are attracted to, something that lures you, attracts you like a magnet, and just begin to work with it before you even know why. I KNOW this is already a lynchpin in my work as an artist, but some part of me is an apologist for it all the time.  Oh, I must know why I am using this seed, I must justify it.  This, right there is sloughing off me…I’m letting this go.  My sick self told me it was okay.  I am here to wander and go towards what attracts me.  So out first day here in Iceland, lazy wandering has been the way….today we napped by some horses (you’ll see….).  I am here to let down some burdens, and I’m going to be pretty militant about it.

Stumbling out of the block:

Thank you Vanessa, thank you Summer Walleye people, for creating a space to work at the thick plug of fear in my throat.  It is working.  I have spent many months afraid to write, write anything.  Even the writing that I have to do to be a ‘professional artist’ seemed like agony, like words would not form from the clouded jellyfish in my mind.

Unpacking and repacking many private family hardships over the last many months, my dear sweet sick husband struggling back through months of an anxiety disorder.  NOT wanting to write about it, I became stuck.  And my own fear that it would creep back, even when things were getting better, like the anxiety had somehow seeped into my bones instead.  I became paralyzed to write about making (or not making) work about weight and burden and labor.  So much pressure…

But as I take steps to set down those burdens, reaching out to things I’ve never tried before, finding different strategies almost at random, I’m seeing this paralysis as a friend to growth.  It just takes a nudge.

It’s like when you can’t get something open, because so much pressure is built up behind it.  And it just takes a nudge, someone else’s hand, running something underwater, or a drop of oil.  And the lid simply comes off with ease.

‘Summer Walleye’ facilitated by Vanessa Dewolf, a free meeting on Sunday morning of anyone who wants to write and move, move to write, write to move, read. Share. try.  Vanessa is director at Studio Current in Seattle, she’s a ‘Dramaturg for Dance, Creative Process Consultant & Feedback specialist’, and this I love what she says about herself –  “what do I want? Is it possible to keep befriending the unknown?
I’m unpredictable.”

I came to this meeting, almost at random, but really how any decision is made is through a build up of experience until the way to go seems like something to fall into.  I saw Vanessa’s piece “Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble” at NW New Works Festival, and a wave of relief filled me up.  A tipping point.  What I was seeing and experiencing by watching,  is that we are all crazy, all beautiful, all exhausted, all exhilarated.  A beautiful clicking of energies as 40 people move across stage , creating on the spot their reactions to each other, the words, their senses, their own bodies and histories….and I felt like I was pulled into that safe space on the stage to unfold and unwrap.  So then I got out of bed on Sunday, and fell into Walleye, without thinking.

“Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble”
photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

I have been like the child who has reached the point where they ‘can’t draw’, but I know that is wrong.  I know that everyone can dance, and sing, and draw and walk. I know I can do these things.

I’m going to rest on my Walleye writings, then transcribe them here, whatever they are.  The speed of timed writing after a series of movement exercises unearths energy in a way I need.  Then the resting and the transcribing gives me some time to process and let the words I wrote sink in.  There may or may not be anything worth ‘mining’, but I am quite sure that is where I have gotten myself into trouble this last year…feeling as if every moment has to be visibly productive, like I’m an art worker on an art assembly line.  Will people still respect me if I’m just fucking around?  Yes, duh…and who cares.

I have never at all connected writing and movement, but whenever I have needed inspiration for well-crafted words (when I was young and pretending I would be a scholarly writer of texts), I would walk about the room with my eyes closed seeing the words written in the air, and I would lay on the bed, and something would emerge out of the dark of my mind.  A good sentence, a hook, something that really meant it.  I never noticed my body in the mix of this activity, just the disembodied words.  But I see now it was the visualization from moving my body into an unknown inner space that would unlock what I was looking for.  And I do the same with my work, when stuck for specifics beyond a general direction, I move quickly about then lie still enough to coax an image into my grasp of what I need to make.

At this meeting, in this writing, I see old time-worn Washington Hall as a landscape, and environment, a body to act upon and with.  I also see my own body surfacing, with my focus brought back and back to my grinding crooked bones, the pain in my hip.  At this meeting we began with “journey” – allowing the landscape in front of us tell us where to go. Then we traced with our bodies a site from Childhood and our favorite grocery store.  With writing, we jerked back and forth between these sites when Vanessa told us to jump.

What I have always know is that Childhood is a place I fled, did not belong, not a site of nostalgia.  But I didn’t know Grocery would hold the intimacy of motherhood, of being in love with a child.  What I also didn’t know was after two weeks of these meetings, I feel empowered on my own journey to Iceland, I have new tools to do what I want and tools to find an anchor in the unknown.  I am also most grateful to listening to the timed writing of the other participants, how we diverge and cross back on shared experiences and archetypes. Their imagery, so close to the edge of my own, but with a radical different magic, was like walking in another person’s skin for a few moments.

Summer Walleye in Washington Hall, July 21st

JOURNEY

I arrive

Aimless, to textured veins, to falling apart but staying together.  I arrived to a corner, to a darker place, to an away, from the space, to a stopping point, to a wall, to a place with layers. 

To where others had hid, skimmed the outside, to when energy was only at our backs, to pits of peeling layers had covered meek hands, yet the oils will surface.

To the water. To the time. To the downward desire of the water, the seep, the minerals, the quiet and the noise of all the time that hit the walls.  The rubbing, the hiding, the finding of the soft dark to see others in the center of doing.

And when I left

I pushed myself to go against myself, to go into the space, the place where I wouldn’t usually go.  To just be without walls, without dark, without myself and myself’s walls and see if I could feel anything, feel okay. 

Fine, I feel and it was just fine.  But it wasn’t the destination. Just a space to travel through.  I wasn’t afraid of it, or rejecting it or anything but passing through it.  It did not have me , but I had it.

Along the way

I look from where I started, kept my eyes there and so I did not know where I went, so had to feel where I went.  Had to see it all spread out before me, slowly rocking with my pain, my gait, my lumber. 

And the pattern of the place emerged.  One side led to tiny patterns, to a herringbone, from the ribs of the fish, the bones of the place. To the labor, of the making, of the tradition to small details, of task, of purpose. 

Then every energy played out on top of it all, now worn, but once gleaming in the wood.

Movement

Led by the flat bones, the grinding in my hip to the bones dragging, led the leg pulled by gravity more than no other.  Dull pain moves everything, influences everything but I move anyway.

Try not to do battle with the dullness but more with it.  Let it lead instead of trying to ignore its presence.

Its presence, old pain, old stillness old things.  Born things, usually afraid of them, of the things they take over, how they stop me, slow me down, but I let it lead.

I open my eyes to the lines on the floor, to my hands on the floor, to the waxy hips that seem to ride and navigate around the dull pain, the misplaced bones, the old bones, the rubs, the mishapers, the records of things undone and not cared for, the gifted body unopened, the fluidity unused.  But knowing it is time to embrace, time to open, time to ride out the bones and they will their embrace.

The bones, the stones, the place that will not move.  I will love it, I will remember it to make it know.

That was the first pain the labor took away.

(It feels pleasurable transcribing this stuff, like I can walk through the physical acts again of the exercises and remember processes that helped loosen pathways.  It is very simple, no great earth shattering revelations, but to see the movement experiences naturally translating into both my real experience of the site and the things reverberating in my mind and body, how they blend back and forth between inner and outer world, is exciting to see that revealed and be clear…just by writing quickly after movement with a time limit and no real sense of purpose.

Someone said writing and reading words are in different parts of the brain.  While reading is a wild flourette of sensation and experience, I really only write with a pragmatic purpose.  Not simply to practice, to feel around in that part of the brain that writes…this challenges that.)

Grocery or childhood

Childhood

So empty I could hardly find a way around.   There was nothing in there but the bed, the texture of the cotton woven spread, the wide bed, the bed that took the whole space in its grips, the rough feel of synthetic carpet, the smell of no history of nothing of no one of no energy.  I moved around rectangles and angles, looking for my things, what were my things, things I have no memory of but the ability to let them go.  There was just empty.  But I found the closet that was long and used to be a place to hide, to play.

Grocery

Always always spend spin with the boy, the boy in my arms, the boy

Childhood

Nothing, nothing to start with, with, with alone, but the cat, under the covers

Grocery

We find a place to touch, he leans into my chest, he goes to it, the fruit.  He feels a part of the life that surrounds him.  We go slow, we fill up with the abundance, of being able to choose, of imagining and yearning, of taste of feel. 

To feel together, to get it done that needs to be done, but to be together, to explore, to want, to treat one another, to be naughty.  To make out own choices and remember the gift of small pleasure.  To find peas and chocolate the milk the soaps to smell the wine.  The wine to bring to nights alone.

Childhood

Still, nothing.  Still nothing there.  The bland carpet, the cat jumping, the cat biting, the hidden, the puppet show, the awful agony of putting on layers of long underwear to go in the snow.  To try to see a way to make a world, that isn’t trivial, to everyone, to sneaking about listening for clues that I don’t actually belong there.  That would make sense.  I am bored out of magic, no magic at all.

Practical notes to me:

-take the time and luxury of space to TRACE memory in the physicality of my body…se what is there or not there, NOT making it there, but be in alignment with its absences also.  Give over enough of yourself to find the quiet narrative…

-My head was so warm to the touch, a comfort, yet I never touch my head, though I know that energy flows out of it like a field or a pole above me.  I can make the magic for him, the energy, the intimacy needed for a rich imaginative blooming world.  The layers, the layers of memory, of presence, soft and lonely.

-MOVE in that space like I have a mirror under my nose again,to shift my focus into a space of memory…not memory, but the thread of things knit together that all lead to THIS moment.

-Of being here in this moment, this new situation, I never would have come to except for being LOST, so honor being lost, being brought here by lostness.  Lostness means many other ways are open to me.  All things lead to this, this leads to all things.