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Moments Of Flowering – 22/52, BlackBerry 52, Golden Valley, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: original Droid snapshot of the last peony in our garden, June 2011. Polaroid effect and text added with Little Photo. Jump-Off from Lotus: Not Even Deep Into The Summer, a haiga collaboration with Robin from Life In The Bogs.


Dark clouds pile high over the hill, whipped cream on dirty snow. The sky smells like damp moss and rotting leaves. I squat in a swarm of rain-ready mosquitoes, and aim the camera toward the one surviving peony not browning at the edges. Though strong, she will falter under the weight of the next crack of thunder, pregnant with hard rain. Aching knees. I swat away a bead of sweat, listen to the pretend shutter click.

The pink peony lures me in, along with a lonely ant crawling toward the vortex of petals, sucked in like the prey of a Venus Flytrap. I think of a page from May Sarton’s journal—Journal of a Solitude, the entry from June 23rd. Summer in New Hampshire could be Summer in Minnesota. The humidity feels heavy. The world has gone mad. Too much happens these days. But the peony rises every year from buried piles of January snow, from the trampling of the mailman over her Winter stalks, from under the tire tracks of the neighbor’s SUV the night it drifted off the pitched driveway and on to the muddy grass.

It takes a whole year of work to bloom. I pay attention to the garden. My whole life comes alive there.



_____________________________



June 23rd


Almost too much happens these days. How can I be enough aware of all that opens and dies so quickly in the garden? It takes a whole year of work and waiting for this supreme moment of the great snow-white peonies—and then they are gone! I was thinking about it as I lay in bed this morning, and also of Mildred’s wise remark, “The roots of love need watering or it dies.” When she leaves, the house is at peace. Beauty and order have returned, and always she has left behind a drop of balm, such as that phrase; so her work here is a work of art. There is a mystical rite under the material act of cleaning and tidying, for what is done with love is always more than itself and partakes of the celestial orders.

It does not astonish or make us angry that it takes a whole year to bring into the house three great white peonies and two pale blue iris. It seems altogether right and appropriate that these glories are earned with long patience and faith (how many times this late spring I have feared the lilacs had been frost-killed, but in the end they were as glorious as ever before), and also that it is altogether right and appropriate that they cannot last. Yet in our human relations we are outraged when the supreme moments, the moments of flowering, must be waited for…and then cannot last. We reach a summit, and then have to go down again.

   —May Sarton from Journal of a Solitude. First Published 1973, by W.W. Norton & Company.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, June 17th, 2011

-related to posts: The Ant & The Peony, WRITING TOPIC — NAMES OF FLOWERS, Secrets of the Passion Flower, WRITING TOPIC — SPRING CLEANING — (HOMEMADE CLEANING REMEDIES)

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IMG01418-20110112-2157Things That Changed Other Things

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Confidential (Open), Things That Changed Other Things, The Sketchbook Project, Musk Ox Moon, pages from the Moleskines of Liz Schultz & QuoinMonkey for The Sketchbook Project, January 2011, photos © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Prang Metallic Markers, Uni-ball Signo 207 Rollergels, Letter Stamps, Ink, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Swiss Made wax crayons, Black & Silver Sharpies, digital photo, gesso, sticker, water, Moleskine.


Liz and I signed up for The Art House Co-Op Sketchbook Project months ago. This week we are working furiously to put the finishing touches on our Moleskines. We’ll postmark the journals by January 15th and they will be on their way to a permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library. But that will be after touring the U.S. with all of the other 28,835 artists from 94 countries around the world who submitted their journal art. The tour starts March 2011.

I snapped a few in-process BlackBerry shots but they don’t do justice to the vibrant colors or feel of the original pages. Tomorrow night I’ll get out the Canon and document every page, because the journals won’t be returned. It’s a lesson in letting go. One recent addition to our art materials (thanks to ybonesy’s detailed post on journals) are the Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Swiss Made crayons. I like mixing them with oil pastels. They work well with a brush and water.

Liz and I chose different themes for our Moleskines. I am working with Lights In the Distance; she chose Things That Changed Other Things. Photography lends itself to light, so I included original light-related photos and a series of Moon sketches. Liz worked with original photographs, poetry, and collage. She helps motivate me to experiment with new materials. It’s been a long time since I kept a sketchbook, so it’s been fun to work on this project together. Though I wish I had not waited quite as long to finish up the details. Deadlines motivate!

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Rabbit Ears, Dragon Moon, Life Is Short, Art Long, pages from the Moleskines of Liz Schultz & QuoinMonkey for The Sketchbook Project, January 2011, photos © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Prang Metallic Markers, Uni-ball Signo 207 Rollergels, Letter Stamps, Ink, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Swiss Made wax crayons, Black & Silver Sharpies, digital photo, magazine pages, discarded faxes, gesso, sticker, water, Moleskine.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, January 13th, 2011

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sit walk write in Taos
Sit Walk Write Fly in Taos, pigeon coop at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, December 2010, collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










Joy is s i t   w a l k  w r i t e
with Mabel’s pigeons in Taos
learning how to  f l y












-Related to posts WRITING TOPIC – JOY and haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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New pages, testing out my new doodle journal, Christmas gift to myself, December 26, 2009, images © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
Today is all mine. It’s almost two and still I’m dressed in my light blue, light flannel pajamas. They’re old-fashioned, the kind of button-down-top and pants that Ricky Ricardo and Lucy used to wear. As Jim said, “Now if someone comes over early on a weekend, you won’t have to scramble to get dressed.”

No scramblin’ today.
 
 
 
 

my three cranes

 
 
This was the view from my kitchen window yesterday morning. The three cranes who’ve been hanging out here for over a month had meandered up to the spot where the pasture meets the patio—the closest point to the house without actually being on the patio.

One crane stands sentinel while the other two eat or preen. If they catch us in the window watching them, they sometimes stop what they’re doing and stare back. Us watching cranes watching us watching them.

It’s reminiscent of that spring when we had nearly two dozen turkeys lounging on the patio furniture, including the farm table that’s pushed up against the exterior wall of the kitchen. Turkeys looking in on us, and now cranes. Birds, Big Birds, are social animals. Either that or curious ones.
 
When I crept out the sliding glass door over to the low wall that separates patio from pasture, the cranes booked on out. They didn’t take flight, but they wandered away on their incredibly long and skinny legs to a more comfortable gazing distance.
 
 
 

December Cranes, cranes in the pasture retreating when I move closer, December 28, 2009, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

November Cranes, same cranes, November 28, 2009,
photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 

changing tradition

 
 
My sister Patty and Mom made Christmas tamales this year. It’s a tradition in our family. Patty suggested that Mom try adding red chile to her masa this time around. Mom had never done that before. Normally the masa is made straight up—corn mixture and water or broth. Not being the most traditional of women, Mom agreed to the change.

Turned out be a good idea. This year’s Christmas tamales were the best ever. I’m not kidding. Chile in the masa made for an interior sort of heat, the kind that comes from deep inside. And tastyyyy?! The kind of taste that you crave days after Christmas has ended and you wonder if anyone has Christmas tamales still tucked away in the freezer.
 
 
 
 

  

Tamales for Christmas, Mom’s tamales stacking up for the big holiday,
photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

tart and sweet

 
 
One of my favorite gifts for Christmas was a package of Sharpies in Caribbean colors. They remind me of tropical Jelly Bellies or Skittles. The kind of bright colors that people in island cultures use to paint their homes, although you never can tell since the sun fades the colors over time to a sort of Easter egg pastel palette.
 
 
I bought myself a new doodle journal, on sale at Anthropologie. I love that store; the buyers there have the best taste for eclectic and gorgeous furniture, bedding, clothing, shoes, kitchenware.

This journal has a full year’s worth of pages, each month a different color. The months aren’t labeled but the dates are—1 through 31, or however many days there are in that particular month. January is salmon, February creme, March red, April green, May yellow, June blue. The paper has little specs in it, like sun spots on skin. The freckles come out when you apply a marker to the surface.

A doodle a day, starting January 1. I can’t wait. In fact, I didn’t wait. For the first two blank pages, I already doodled. Real doodles, not the fancier drawings I tend to call doodles. I’ll still do those, but sometimes my own complexity—my desire to outdo myself—gets the better of me. Back to basics. (With a mango twist, of course!)
 
 
 
 

  

 
 
 
 
 

retreat, retreats, re-treaty

 
 
I recently became a member of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. I received the 2010 Catalog of Offerings and have decided to take two classes in 2010.

One I want to take with Jim. One of my intentions for 2010 is to share my passions with him. I seem to spend a lot of time in my own world, and while I’ve always appreciated the latitude my husband gives me, I also realize he’s open to exploring new things.

We had a couple’s massage on his birthday, and I’m always surprised by how willing he is to do things I might otherwise assume he wouldn’t want to do.

Don’t make assumptions, one of The Four Agreements®. I reflect on this particular agreement most of all, although all four are principles to live by.
 

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

 
Read The Four Agreements® again. Live them all year long.
 
 
This wasn’t meant to be a post about new intentions. Remember, I’m sitting in pajamas, chillin’. I guess the reflecting and looking forward are percolating, even as I cling to lazy days spent in coffee shops or movie theaters or my writing room.

The waning days of 2009. Another year. Another decade.
 
 
 
 

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Reflection Of Things To Come, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Reflection Of Things To Come, performance & installation art piece, b&w photo from sketchbook & journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Providence
1382, “foresight, prudent anticipation,” from O.Fr. providence (12c.), from L. providentia “foresight, precaution,” from providentem (nom. providens), prp. of providere (see provide). Providence (usually capitalized) “God as beneficient caretaker,” first recorded 1602.




Old Journals

I stumbled on a lost box of old journals in the studio last week. I thumbed through one and tossed it aside. It was half-full of incoherent thoughts. On the cover of another was a painting by the Zen monk, Ryōkan who lived most of his life as a hermit. I remembered the cover, but not what was inside. I had bought the blank journal at Orr Books on one of my monthly trips into Uptown.

I used to spend a whole day walking the pavement, visiting bookstores, buying art materials, taking myself to dinner at The Lotus. Dinner was the icing on the cake — beef lo mein, iced tea, fresh spring rolls, and a smorgasbord of books spread out on the table around me. Delicious.

Orr Books, Borders, and The Lotus are gone. Uptown is a shell of its former self. What used to be trendy has moved on. Or maybe it was me.



Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I sat down in my rocking chair and opened the cover of the journal. On the first page was a black and white glossy I’d printed of an art performance collaboration with Jennifer. That was followed by a color drawing of a mandala with Gaelic names and symbols, the Celtic Wheel of Seasons. Samhain (pronounced ‘sɑːwɪn) or Day of the Dead, has morphed into Halloween. It is the beginning of the seasonal calendar, the first High Holiday of the Celtic New Year.

The drawings reminded me of my old sketchbooks from art school. But that was long before. The journal I held in my hands was from the year 2001 — the first year I traveled to Taos, New Mexico to take a weeklong workshop with Natalie Goldberg. I had a corporate job back then, and big dreams. After 9 years, I was working hard emotionally to let myself leave. I wanted to jump off into a life structured around writing and art.

How high was the cliff? I was petrified.



Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Providence

The effort came in learning how to get out of my own way; I used every tool, rope, and carabiner in my arsenal. The Universe seemed to conspire in my favor. After two years of self-imposed isolation, I drove 1200 miles to Montana and hung out with my old friends in the Bitterroot Mountains for a week. I was in a gay bowling league in Minneapolis that year and met tons of new friends.

The last night of the Strike Pool, my name was called. All I had to do was bowl a strike on the spot, and I would win the kitty. Every eye in the place was on me.

Something must have guided my wrist. The pins fell in slow motion like the parting of the Red Sea. I left with pockets stuffed — over a thousand dollars in $1’s, $10’s, $20’s, and $5’s; a buff friend walked me to my car. The next day, I went down to the bank and exchanged the stack of green for a money order made out to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. That’s the only way I could afford to go on my first writing retreat sitting under Taos Mountain.



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



There were other things in the journal/sketchbook that reminded me of how hard I worked back then, how hungry I was, how much I wanted to live an abundant life around writing and art. I became fearless and put myself out there in strange and unusual ways. There were four pages on the stages of Alchemy, drawings from Prima Materia to Solutio, starting at the Full Moon on 5/7/1.

On a page marked June 9th was a Medicine Shield, I think it was a Butterfly spread. There was a page of drawings on the Ancient Tree Alphabet and its relationship to the Runes. “What Is community?” was written at the top of another page, followed by writing exploration, ideas, and meanderings.

I had forgotten I had taken an Enneagram workshop that year (the Ego forms around 1 of 9 enneagrams). There are positive aspects to each identity, but the False Cores of the Enneagram are harmful, learned belief systems, Monkey Mind mantras, that when studied, help answer the question of why we feel separate and alone, rather than part of a larger whole.

With Providence we are aligned with the Universe; whereas the separation of Ego causes us anxiety, insecurity, and pain. The Enneagram types and False Cores were listed in the journal this order (turns out I’m a Four) with notes that followed on ways to turn the tide:


  1. Perfectionist – False Core: Something is wrong with me
  2. Helper – False Core: I am worthless
  3. Performer – False Core: I have an inability to do
  4. Romantic – False Core: I am inadequate
  5. Observer – False Core: I am nothing; I don’t exist
  6. Loyalist – False Core: I am alone
  7. Epicure – False Core: I am incomplete
  8. Boss – False Core: I am powerless
  9. Mediator – False Core: I am loveless




Wilderness & Thoreau

My favorite journal spread was a rough drawing of 10 Mile Canyon in the Pintler Mountains of Montana. I had taken a once-in-a-lifetime pack trip with a friend, 2 dogs, and 4 llamas that we carted in the back of her Toyota pickup. I had never saddled a llama before or even been that close to one. Their names were underlined in my journal with the following notes:

  • Crow – for the Crow Reservation where she adopted him, part coyote, she called him “Crazy Indian Dog”
  • Camas – from the purple flower, like a gentle lap dog
  • Rumpel – Stiltskin – The King, The Old Man – he was 15 years old and all white
  • Chaco – for Chaco Canyon in New Mexico – he was feisty and black
  • Willie – the friendliest, roams free, he was brown, she called him William III
  • 10-Mile – for 10 Mile Canyon – the lead and the youngest with a white stripe, very stubborn


I never would have remembered these details without writing them in my journal by the fire (it reminds me why it’s important for a writer to take good notes):

The glacial Montana lakes we passed that trip were not named. There was a Snow Cave at 9000 feet. We saw a pair of migrating Sandhill Cranes on the hike in. Llamas do spit but it’s okay; it’s only cud, regurgitated grass or hay. And they only spit if they are irritated. The moon rose on Friday, July 5th, 2001 at 11:45, one day past full. The wind was constant, keeping the mosquitoes away. Until later that night, when the tent zipper broke and we spent the buzzing night with our heads covered.


The journal was so alive. Did I really go on a llama pack trip in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness? Drive twice cross-country by myself, join a bowling league, win $1000 on a single strike, attend a writing retreat on the edge of Taos desert with 48 complete strangers, all in one year? When did I stop sketching and drawing? Have I become complacent? Lazy?



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan Journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I don’t know if I’m supposed to be laying low, slipping inside like the turtle way I feel. Or force myself to get back out there, take the next step, walk hard in the world again. It’s alright to rest, reflect, fill the well. But that journal woke me up — nothing comes easy. Nothing comes without hard work and risk. In 2001 I was working my ass off. The Universe lined up beside and behind me, nudging me along.

It’s kind of like those few lines from Natalie about the angels cheering her on. Or the way W. H. Murray and Goethe write of Providence. Or these lines in scratchy block print from the first few pages of my journal, penned by Henry David Thoreau:


I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be explained, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.

In proportion, as he simplifies his life the laws of the Universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Journal/Sketchbook Entry, March 18th, 2001
Near the Spring Equinox
Time of Crane Migration Through Nebraska




Providence Revisited

Do you believe in Providence? Not magic or miracles. But that if you make positive effort with Great Determination, the Earth and Sky, a Higher Power, will help you along? Do you believe in Fate? Or do you call it Faith?

Providence extends to the neighborhood, the state, the region, the country, the world. If the time is right, the old systems will crash to the ground, making way for the new. The right person will come into power, into the place they need to be. Change is not always positive. But it may be necessary.

Providence – is it fate or faith? Neither or both? Usually when it’s time to move on, challenging personal opportunities present themselves. Do we bite? Show a willingness to sink into the gristle? Or ignore the signs and keep living the status quo. Every day, we are presented with the chance to make a new choice.

If we’ve built castles in the air, then those are our dreams. The time is not lost. With effort, and practice, structure creates a solid foundation. What once seemed impossible is now routine. Am I living old dreams? Maybe it’s time to replace them with something new.



Journal Entry -  Thoreau, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan By Hand (Calligraphy), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ryokan Journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Corners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Journal Entry – Thoreau, Ryōkan By Hand, Ryōkan Journal, Corners, from 2001 sketchbook & journal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, all photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 16th, 2008

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I made a list of all the jobs I’ve loved before…who’ve traveled in and out my door…um, I mean, all the jobs in my life, which is the first step in this week’s topic post (Job! What Job?). I thought I had a lot more jobs than this. I guess I’m more stable than I care to admit.

July 13, 1974 summer diary, all rights reserved, ybonesy 20071. Babysitter: Starting at about age 13. From my Summer Diary of 1974, a few excerpts on babysitting: 

  • June 7: Dear Diary, Well, school’s out. I’m glad. I got st. A’s. Gonna babysit tonight. After school we went to Alvarado. I got my yearbook signed some more. Lisa wrote me today. I babysat the H.’s. I made $2.50. I went at 7:30 and came back about 11:45. Got to go. Bye.
  • June 10: Dear Diary, Well, I went to swimming lessons. My instructors name is Mark. We mostly just got organized. We did do some of the back float and front float. At first it was scary but it was fun too. I babysat A. and A. Got $2.25.
  • June 14: Dear Diary: Today in swimming lessons I got to dive. Michelle didn’t go. The Brody’s moved today. I babysat the B. kids from 2:00 to 12:00. Boy, were they BRATS!!! Bye.
  • June 18: Dear Diary: In swimming lessons we dived some more. Not off the high board! Mark says that this guy is a baby! He is! I like Mark. He’s nice! Also funny! I forgot to tell you yesterday but my guppy died. I babysat the B. kids. They weren’t real brats. I met their reletives. Boy, some more weirdos. Now I have about $25.00. Bye!

2. Dentist Office File Clerk: The next summer, age 14, I went to work with my sister at a dentist’s office. We drove in her brand new red MG convertible. I filed all day long while she worked the reception desk. It was the most boring job ever. After the first day of standing in front of the giant set of file cabinets pulling out identical manila folders and filing dental x-rays and insurance papers, I knew I never wanted to have anything to do with teeth again.

3. Retail clerk, Hallmark shop, age 15, where I stole something almost every day. I think the owner was on to me.

4. Banquet waitress, Albuquerque Convention Center, age 17. Got fired, along with all my friends, the night after we dropped water on debutantes and their escorts and essentially did a lousy job working the Senorita Ball

5. Hostess, age 17-18, at a restaurant housed in an old haunted building. I got to drink in the saloon after work each night even though I was under-aged.

6. Picture framer, age 19, for two different frame shops. From the second one I quit and got fired in the same instant. Good news is I can cut my own mats, and if I had the equipment, I could do my own framing. Given the cost of framing today, I ought to splurge and buy myself the tools.

7. Researcher for the Vargas Project, age 20ish. Beautiful flourishy hand-writing of the Spaniards who entered New Mexico. Otherwise showed me that I wanted nothing to do ever again with historical research.

8. Waitress for a university-area restaurant, early 20s. I never wanted to go back to waitressing, but then I discovered I needed tips to survive.

9. Account Executive for a Santa Fe advertising agency, mid 20s. Learned it’s all about image. Also learned I’m not.

10. A bum in Spain.

11. Research Assistant for a handsome Brazilian graduate professor who unlike other professors didn’t even make me grade papers (and I didn’t even sleep with him! He was just a nice guy.). I guess I was lateish 20s.

12. Program manager for a university program that did internet publishing related to Latin America. This was a cool job–got to travel all over Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean. Went to Cuba. Salary sucked. Started at age 29, quit at 35.

13. Internet trainer. Attempt to supplement my university salary. The role took me to Mexico a bunch of times. I learned how to say “mouse” and “click” and “ftp” and “telnet” and all sorts of early-internet words in Spanish.

14. Corporate sell-out, age 35. By then primary breadwinner for my family. I’ve had about six or seven different jobs in my almost eleven years with the company.

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Detail from ybonesy’s journal, 2007




I’ve been wanting to do a post on the power of journals for some time now, ever since I read this article in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers. It’s about Brian Singer’s 1000 Journals Project. Here’s the gist: one thousand journals are sent into the world. Some are sent to friends. Others are left in public places. The journals land in the hands of artists and writers and average Joes; they’re filled and when they’re complete and available for viewing, we discover each page in each journal is a piece of art. Collaborative art.

Bald Tuesday, from ybonesy’s writing journal, 2007I love this idea that people are making art separately and together out of something they find. What I love even more is that it’s something as ordinary as a journal. Nothing to fret about. No worries about perfection. It’s a page in a notebook. After you paint on one page, there are a whole bunch of pages left just waiting for you to take your pen and scribble. Doodle. Do whatever you want. And when that page is done, there’s another, then another.

This idea of “journal as art gallery” is enticing because it is so impermanent. Nothing to be framed and hung. Nothing to publish or sell. Always another page, and every page your own.

During a year-long writing intensive with writer and teacher Natalie Goldberg, I kept a journal to track my daily practice. All of us in the intensive did. Days we practiced—writing, sitting, or walking—we noted what we did and for how many minutes. We also recorded days we skipped.

Skipped Wed from ybonesy’s writing journal, 2007I loved the journal part of our commitment to the intensive. I liked picking out my book. I settled on something mid-size and thick yet flexible, with a bright red vinyl cover. The pages were graph paper. For me the journal signified witness–witness to the fact that I showed up. It added structure to what was already a year of discipline.

Something broke free in that structure. I suddenly found myself doodling like I did when I was younger. I’d open my journal while at work sitting in a meeting and I’d draw the fellow giving a presentation, or I’d draw my hand. I got into inking typefaces, serif and san serif. Flowing, flowery cursive. Tight, narrow lettering.

I played with the headers for each day of the week. Sometimes I stamped them out with alphabet stamps I bought for the girls at a paper store. Or I wrote the days in a loose freehand.

I threw in color. Some days if I went somewhere interesting, like the time I took Dee and Em to see the Mexican Modern exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, I included a memento. The journal reminded me to be present, and any time I was cognizant of this effort to be present, I documented it as practice.

Another page from ybonesy’s journal, 2007Once the intensive was over I stopped keeping track of my writing. I stopped recording my creative process. I still have my journal. I still have notebooks for my writing, and I have a painting notebook as well. I haven’t stopped writing or painting or doodling, although I have lost the structure. I’d like to get back into recording my practice, maybe once I settle into the new house. Once my life becomes sane again.

I’m struck by how for me the journal became a creative medium in and of itself more than simply a record of my work. It was like verb and noun all rolled into one.

I’ll let you know when I get back into it. Maybe we can start it up together. In the mean time, if you have a chance to keep a journal—a hard-bound book in which you draw, paint, make collage, and write—give it a try. Make it be about more than just the journal itself. Log your progress toward practicing your art. I think you’ll enjoy the process.

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