I often have a flood of ideas while walking the beach about what I want to create, write, transform, design and so on. Then I get home and the idea’s intensity subsides. I used to feel quite defeated by this. I don’t anymore.
I can’t possibly create all that I imagine…and there’s some sadness that sometimes accompanies that understanding. However, in this middle school stage of life (I’ll be 55 in October) I finally appreciate (accept maybe) the inevitable ebbing and flowing of my inner creative life, and stop fighting the tide so much.
Here are a few ideas that actually did come to life this week:
I think I’ll give myself a high-five for what I did accomplish. Beating myself up over what I didn’t do this week seems pretty absurd.
We were married May 16,1992. I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time in 1996 after the birth of our son. In 2000, during a challenging twin pregnancy, our doctor thought the babies were good sized (my feet and ankles were also swelling quite freakishly). She thought it was time to induce. Jeff and I could pick the date, we chose to keep our anniversary, our daughters were born May 17th.
From Mother’s Day to May 17th, life’s big events are celebrated at our house. This year Mother’s Day was the same day as my late father’s 82nd birthday. I miss you Dad.
In 2000, the Govoni family had a wedding, four new babies and we lost our much-love patriarch, Lou. That was obviously a very big year. When we talk about it now, new details keep being revealed about that time. Perhaps your family has a year like that as well?
Honoring life’s milestones, and supporting those who suffered loss (especially this year when weddings, graduations, and funerals were put on hold) is what connects humanity. The year really showed how much we need each other.
Our world shifted so many ways this year with the pandemic. Many bonds were strengthened, and unfortunately many fayed (or severed) as well.
When significant change beyond our control occurs, we crave certainty. Life is clearly very uncertain. Learning how to adapt, hell,maybe even thrive with uncertainty is perhaps the key to our survival.
After a year of slowing down, and finally inching toward our new normal, I think it’s time to take stock of where we’ve all landed. First, quietly in our own hearts, and then collectively as a nation.
I want to cut away the thorns from my heart that are hindering my empathy, judgment, or choices. A process far slower than I would prefer…but necessary and well worth the effort.
Last weekend I was beyond snarky. I pulled a cardboard box from the recycling and headed (stomped) to my basement studio. I needed paint on my hands and in my hair and to get the hell away from people…all people. Thanks to the late Ric Ocasek, these lyrics capture what I was feeling.
The Cars, Just What I Needed
I don’t mind you comin’ here And wastin’ all my time, time ‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near I kinda lose my mind, yeah
I settled down after some time creating—always good for everyone in my orbit. The Butterfly Effect of creativity I suppose. Here are the results of my efforts.
I prefer to be foolish when I feel like it, and be accountable to nobody. ― Willa Cather,My Ántonia
In January I stumbled upon a book by Todd Herman, The Alter Ego Effect. His concept seems relatively simple. However, putting it into practice isn’t without some effort. I’ve been thinking about my alter ego(s), or at least the times I’ve needed one and didn’t realized it yet.
“Your Alter Ego is really about defining how you want to show up, defining the Superpowers, and borrowing the characteristics of an existing person, character, superhero, animal, or whatever to help activate your Heroic Self.” —Todd Herman
We step in and out of so many arenas throughout our days and our lives. I’m a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, great aunt, niece, cousin, friend, artist, writer, board member, family recovery coach, neighbor, athlete…the list goes on and on.
Do I really need to drag every single one of my roles around with me all the time? NO, I really don’t.
What are my dominant characteristics?
THE POSITIVE: generous, compassionate, empathetic, creative & adaptable
THENOT SO POSITIVE: judgmental, reactive, disorganized, & often far too intense
What traits do my heroes possess?
Dorthea Lange/depression-era photographer—Dorthea could brilliantly see people’s humanity even in unimaginably difficult circumstances.
Willa Cather/prairie writer—My Antonia, Oh Pioneers, Song of the Lark—She wrote remarkable stories about pioneer life, providing context and sweeping language about the independence I felt growing up in South Dakota. NOTE: I named my daughter Willa in honor of the connection I felt to her writing.
Polly Gray (Aunt Polly)fiercely and elegantly played by Helen McCrory from the series Peaky Blinders is who I think of as my alter ego now. What I’m most drawn to is that Aunt Polly understands people very well; their nature, talents, weaknesses, heartaches, and perhaps most importantly—what intrinsically motivates them.
“Sometimes the women have to take over. Like in the war.”
—Polly Gray, Peaky Blinders, Series 1: Episode 4
Polly Gray also is determined, deliberate, generous, knows her strengths, and can access her anger when necessary. I tend to tamp down my anger and then it leaks out in unhealthy ways, mostly to those closest to me.
Anger often is the appropriate response to circumstances of injustice or being wronged. I want to learn how to use my anger, communicate clearly without brain-clouding emotion or being defensive when possible. Pretending I’m Aunt Polly gives me a little breathing room and more options of how to respond when my anger surfaces.
I want my alter ego (the best version of me) to possess the courage to step into new roles, shed old ones, and not waste much time looking back or worrying what people think.
Judy Bloom’s—Ramonathe Pest & Astrid Lindgren’s—Pippi Longstockingwere so influential in my young life. I longed to be some version of a badass just like them and perhaps they would’ve embodied many of Polly Gray’s best traits if they had grown up.
All of the women (and girls) I admire, refused to conform to the feminine standards of their time.
Sadly Helen McCrory died last week after battling cancer. Helen/Aunt Polly you were a fictional badass for the ages and from what I’m reading, you were in real life too.
Her husband is Damien Lewis who is in the series I’m currently watchin,Homeland. He wrote this after her death, “She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy. I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.”
The theme song to Peaky Blinders; Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and it sets the tone of the show so brilliantly. I have it quickly accessible on my phone when I need to channel Aunt Polly.
NOTE: Peaky Blinders isn’t for everyone. It’s hyper-violent (I had to look away quite a bit). However, at the heart of it all, the series centers around family, money, power, betrayal, forgiveness, redemption, and love…and that all makes for some extraordinary storytelling.
A special nod to the costume designer for Peaky Blinders, Alison McCosh. The costumes are so gorgeous and innovative. They made me want to be a gangster in Birmingham in the 1920s or at the very least occasionally dress like one.
We’ve all summoned some badassery when it was required of us at one point or another. I would love to hear about your alter ego or the circumstances when you needed a little distance from YOU by embodying a slightly altered version.
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I spent most mornings last summer photographing and then picking up trash on Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I created these plates with my Cape Cod photos after thinking about the amount of garbage floating in the world’s oceans.
I didn’t photograph the paper plates with ketchup/mustard smeared on them for obvious aesthetic reasons. Trust me, there were a lot of them almost every day. I provided a link below to one of my beach garbage posts from last summer.
I want to be more deliberate (not radical, just mindful) about garbage and the packaging I choose. Using these plates for a long time instead of plastic seems like an easy switch.
Hey, friends & family the plates will be in the garage ready for your use. Just shoot me a text and grab them on your way to the beach.
Growing up, I felt there were basically two kinds of prairie descendants. Those folks who felt restless and longed for further exploration, and those folks who planted themselves so firmly that no other life was even ponderable.
In my estimation, both ways of living honored the ancestors who headed west and gambled on a new life…deciding, leaving, proving it up, or calling it quits. It all took guts, no matter how things turned out.
“We had no choice. Sadness was as dangerous as panthers and bears, the wilderness needs your whole attention.” ―Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sometimes I create images and I don’t know what to make of them exactly. Today, is one of those days. I would’ve preferred using images of other people…I wasn’t in the mood to ask for and wait for permission though. Shocking to those of you who know me well, I know.
OK, if I had to guess what sparked these now that I’m about to post them. I think they are about being honest with myself and protecting my heart, even when faced with uncomfortable truths I would rather deny or compartmentalize in some way.
I recently picked up my great-great-uncle, Will Lillibridge’s book, Ben Blair and landed on a few passages that seemed to fit what i was pondering in the moment.
“Ten miles out on the prairies,—not lands plane as a table, as they are usually pictured, but rolling like the sea with waves of tremendous amplitude—stood a rough shack, called by courtesy a house.”
—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair—Chapter II Desolation
Usually in January I make an annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. This year, because of COVID19, I won’t be traveling. So, on this Winter Solstice 2020, I’m reflecting on the prairie, my ancestors and revisiting my photographs.
I’ve always assumed that my love of stark landscapes was simply due to where I grew up. However, as I age I’m increasingly aware that it’s far more complex than that alone. I’m drawn to spaciousness in any form. In paintings, film, photographs, literature it’s what’s NOT there that I love and am so drawn to. Oh, and when there’s a well-placed pause in a song—damn, I swoon.
There’s a duality of growing up in rural America that I understand now at fifty-four and having lived out east for thirty years. There’s on one hand, a fiercely independent streak born out of generations of hardscrabble pioneer and homestead life, but there’s also what’s in the negative space everywhere that I’m more curious about lately.
For that pioneer spirit to survive on such isolated terrain, there’s often a high need for conformity. To me there can be a false sense of security that comes from conformity. When we conform too much, we might be leaving some of the best parts of ourselves hidden in the negative space.
INDEPENDENCE + CONFORMITY = ?
While being around the like-minded often puts folks at ease, the opposite can be quite true as well. When people are different, or deemed outsiders, it might be natural to fear that they might upset the social order in some way. Is this really true,or does it just FEEL true?
The psychology of geography, interesting enough in the year of a world-wide pandemic, is rooted in outsiders potentially bringing disease to a region. Of course illness was greatly feared when folks were trying to populate a new territory…all lives certainly mattered back then just as they do now.
To honor that fierce independence it seems to me that different skills, ideas, and perspectives should be exceptionally valued, hell, even celebrated—now more than ever regardless of one’s geography.
We really need all types of thinkers and doers to face the world’s many challenges. Perhaps this first day of winter is well-timed for some quiet contemplation on what seems likely to be an isolated, and potentially sorrow-filled season before the light returns.
“To-night, for the first time, and with a wonder we all feel when the obvious but long unseen suddenly becomes apparent, the primary fact of human brotherhood, irrespective of caste, came home to him.”
—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair, Chapter XXII Two Friends Have it Out