Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Road To Nowhere

This is from a newspaper article I was asked to write back in 2014:

"Creative people are often asked about their inspiration or their muse or whatever it is that kicks their imagination and motivation into high gear. Some have really complicated rituals while others turn to music to put them into their prolific state of mind. There are even a few people that recommend sticking to a routine which I do not get at all since I see routine as the antithesis to creativity.

As an artist who uses photographs as the basis of my artwork, when I need to get my blood flowing I get in the car with my cameras and sometimes a person or two that I love and my dogs and I hit the road. Drives to nowhere are always the goal, and always on country back roads. Nothing soothes my soul and clears my head more than indulging the wanderlust and need for simplicity that is imbedded in my personal genetic makeup. Farms and barns, cows and horses, corn fields, roadside stands, and a sky full of puffy white clouds.  There is not much that can be better than all of that. My artwork revolves mostly around these kinds of bucolic scenes although I do add a whimsical twist to them in order to really get people’s attention. We are all so inundated visually and otherwise nowadays that sometimes you have to go left of center to make people see.

When I am out on one of my drives I have to pull over countless times to let someone pass so that they no longer tailgate me.  They ride up on me not because I am going too slow but because they are going too fast.  Although I am maintaining the speed limit, I am in the way of them racing at breakneck speed to get to where they are going in record time.
I am in the way of them racing to speed through their life, seemingly oblivious to the risks they are taking, the most important being the risk of missing out on the very quality of their own lives. 

I want people to slow down. That is one of the reasons why I enhance my landscape artwork so that it has a manipulated, wonky element to it.  It makes people pause; they linger long enough to really see what they are looking at.

I want them to pay attention to the beauty that is everywhere that they are not seeing as they lose their senses of wonder and awe to the myriad of distractions that everyone is consumed with and buried under nowadays.

I cannot imagine that it is worth any of these risks, particularly the risk of not seeing all there is to see every single day of our lives.  Remember staring at clouds until they turned into recognizable shapes?  When is the last time you did that?

These days everyone is preoccupied as they rush from one place to another. They are talking, texting, checking in, status updating, tweeting, Instagramming, picking up, dropping off, shopping, etc. 

All of that distraction is coming at a very high cost and that cost has nothing to do with the ridiculous amounts of money spent on gadgetry.  

When is the last time you got in the car to go for a drive to nowhere?  How about taking a walk in the countryside just to listen to how quiet it is there?  Do your kids know how great it is to dip their toes into a stream or to laugh while watching the antics of a bunch of farm animals?

Le petit bonheur is a French term that translates to the small happiness.  It means to take pleasure in and appreciate the little things. It means that if you see a lady with a camera pulled off to the side of the road, instead of speeding past her, think about slowing down to see what she is taking pictures of. 

You might wind up being very pleasantly surprised."  SOH, 6/14

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grief, Chapter One

     Aside from the obvious the one thing I really hate about death is that all traces of the person disappear.
     And it doesn’t take long either. 

     Gone, like dust in the wind. When the dead person’s name is mentioned people cast their eyes downward, as if they’re looking for the person on top of their shoes or somewhere on the sidewalk.  Say the name of the dead person out loud to someone and they respond in hushed tones, like they’re talking about something or someone shameful or embarrassing. 

     Pictures might stick around for a while but eventually they’ll be put away, too painful to keep in plain sight. Personal belongings are put away in boxes that are mainlined for a closet or attic never to be brought out and gone through again. Sometimes Left Behind People even give the dead person’s stuff away to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or some anonymous organization that has drop boxes in the parking lot of the local supermarket where some strangers will wind up with the dead person’s favorite sweater or shoes, maybe even with their scent still clinging to it. This makes me very uncomfortable.  

     I hope no one gave your stuff away.  I hope it’s in a box in the attic and sometimes someone sneaks up there when no one else is around just so they can open your box and spend some time with you. 

     I have not been able to figure out how to get them to believe me when I tell them how wrong it is to act like dead people never existed.  Of course, I’m the crazy girl who thinks that dead people are still here; that you just can’t see them in the flesh anymore.  I’m the one who wouldn’t think twice about continuing to set a place for the dead people at the dinner table or even to talk out loud to them but that kind of thing is seriously frowned upon in polite society.  The thing is though, that everyone does it to one degree or another, they just don’t admit it which is a really big shame. 

     What I don’t get is why people let the love they had for the dead person turn into sadness. I mean, I understand grief. Well, that’s kind of an understatement. There’s not a lot of people who understand grief better than me.  It’s been my constant companion for decades now.  I take it everywhere I go kind of like a best friend. Or, a frenemy. I don't think it's very nice that a person spends their lifetime - however long or short it is - doing things and having conversations and making people laugh or maybe they made really good chocolate cakes or gave great hugs or would not give up those corduroy pants they wore long after they went out of style. Whatever it was, whatever they were, it seems to me that it is a downright travesty to sweep all of that under the rug, never talk about any of it, and instead get sad whenever they are thought or spoken about. Makes it seem like their life didn't have much meaning or substance which is the absolute furthest thing from the truth.

     Anyway, since I live with grief all the time and I have watched its effects on myself and others for years, I know how it works. Or how it wants to work.  Grief is always there even when no one has died.  It sleeps in the background of everyone’s life as they are preoccupied with living. Grief is the boogey man and the bully rolled into one. Once grief wakes up, it bangs on your door and if you let it in it will lay on your couch, dine at your table, sleep in your bed, drive in your car, brush with your toothbrush, and invade your thoughts, your attention span, your very ability to think.  

     Like a squatter, grief moves in uninvited and stays for as long as it likes and everyone seems powerless to do anything about it.  Sometimes it stays for an acceptable period of time and leaves.  But don’t be fooled, it will never be very far away.  It just goes back to sleep, albeit fitfully, in the backyard or the garage or the basement. 

     And sometimes it goes and hides in the closet after wreaking havoc and comes back out years later when it’s the last thing you ever expected. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Cozy Palace

Growing up, I was always taught that it is a sin to make judgments on people and that you should avoid doing that best you can. Besides, nowadays you can get tarred and feathered and given one of a hundred different labels if you say out loud what some people think is the wrong thing or if you make a judgment that people don't like.

Yet it seems all them same people are the ones who talk bad about where I live.

Well, I don't care what they say.  I love where I live. This place is my cozy palace.

When I bake cookies in my little oven they taste and smell  just as good as the ones that fancy people make in their expensive kitchens. Maybe I don't have a granite countertop but I have prepared many meals on my plain laminate one that have nourished and given pleasure to me and the people I love.

Heck, I could rip out my old countertop and put in a granite one anytime I want to but that's not going to change a single thing around here except to drain out my bank account for no good reason other than so I can say I got a granite countertop. No, thank you.

You know, this little place holds just as many memories as any other house anywhere on this planet, by God. It knows our tears and every other high and low that's come our way. It's protected us from every storm that's passed through, too. And every year we set up the Christmas tree with all our old ornaments and the twinkle lights right there in front of the windows so everyone can see and maybe get a little bit of spirit.

Maybe it ain't much, but it's home.

Yes, it is our home.

-Sharon O'Brien Huey
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