Friday, November 25, 2016

rumspringa



"Venture out of your comfort zone. Our ability to grow is directly proportional 
to our ability to entertain the uncomfortable. "
-Twyla Tharp



I've moved to central New York for the winter, to be a resident artist at a zen center, hidden in the pines and golden rods off a dirt road near a pond inhabited only by beavers and geese.

I've been coming to this quite sanctuary since 2011, it's been the well that watered the gardening work I was doing in New Haven. This year I detected that my service of sixteen years in that complicated city was complete and it was time to return to the piney wood hills of the north full time. But I find myself in limbo, wondering-- what am I in service to now? And what form will it take?

Like just about every other artist, I'm plagued at times with road blocks; not from a lack of ideas, but rather too many, which is as good as none if they are left in a heap of competing demands for one's attention. Too many interests, too many fascinating leads, too much beauty to respond to.

Wondering if we are all suffering more of this due to the over-stimulation of our see-everything-from-anywhere-at-any-time age, I've become interested in filters and self-imposed limited conditions. This spring, I did an experiment-- for two weeks I resisted looking at art online, I only looked at art in person in museums and art shows. Instead of scrolling through hundreds of images the way I might eat a can of pringles, I stood in front of the real evidence of human effort and inspiration for what seemed like eternity, relatively. I saw that I can be moved to tears by a painting I'm in the same room with, in a way I've never been when looking through a computer screen. I saw I required more from a painting than attractive colour and composition if I were to truly be with it.

True to the title of this blog (which has been going for eleven years) my quest is still antinomian as I define it- to live with the knowledge that apparently opposite things can all exist as truth at the same time. I superimpose this on my work to mean that there must be some way to synthesize all these seemingly disassociated passions. I just have to figure it out. It's a puzzle that engages me every day.




A rural zen farm seems like the best possible place to boil down all the many aspects of my work into their rawest forms and find what connects them. At the same time, doing this to the many aspects of my self. I suspect at the heart of this is bringing my contemplative meditation practice together with my art practice, as they've been on trajectories to converge for quite a while.

I clean out the old basement sheepskin shop the zen center has offered me for a studio (which is just around the bend in path in the photo above) and become homesick. My house and the attic studio that had come to feel like an extension of my own body is now a phantom limb. My network of freelance jobs is daringly left behind, and my community is reduced to digital blips. It feels like a risk to step out of the momentum of everything I know. It could be a mid-life crisis, but I prefer to call it the start of my rumspringa, the year the Amish give their young people to go out and be in the world. Some go back in, some go outward. Neither is considered right or wrong.

As part of that simplifying, I'm coming back to this blog as my central communication. It's a better place to write honestly than social media. If you are reading I'll know we're connecting, and this post is not another pringle in your can. I have to offer less opinions, but lots of questions I'll never answer right, mostly about creativity and spirituality. I'd love to hear your unanswerable questions, too.






2 comments:

Daniel Surkis said...

Thanks for writing Polly. I always enjoy your thoughts and expressions in all forms. I do love your list of who you are and what you do, although I might tack on one more item. Best rumspringa to you.

alissa imre geis said...

we listened to the Moana soundtrack with the kids on the long drive home from thanksgiving away with family.

Thought of the other adventurers I know.

"There's a line where the sky meets the sea
And it calls me
But no one knows how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be
Is behind me
I'm on my own
To worlds unknown

Every turn I take
Every trail I track
Is a choice I make
Now I can't turn back
From the great unknown
Where I go alone"