Where Do You Belong?

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My husband became U.S. Citizen yesterday. Yes, that’s him in my glasses. Now, he has all the rights of an American and at the same time, the responsibilities that come along. He can vote, he can travel with an American passport, and he has pledged to uphold the law of the land and to defend it, if necessary.

He has lived in this country for 33 years and in Denmark, where he was born, for 29 years. Yes, that makes him 62. All these years, he has travelled with a Danish and later an EU passport.  Did not want to give up his European connection. Until I insisted and until Denmark accepted dual citizenship.

In less than 6 months he went from the dutiful husband, applying for his new citizenship, to the proud member of his adopted society. I sensed his excitement on becoming part of this land.

Here, I need to add that I was born in this country and therefore, an American, however, I grew up in Denmark and my first language is Danish. When we speak our mother tongue, we sound Danish, and when we speak our adopted tongue, we have an accent.

During our many years together, since we came to this both glorious and challenged country, the question has been: ‘Where do we belong?’ And the answer is: ‘We are familiar with two cultures and their history, language, and traditions, however, we live only in the one culture, and our day-to-day experiences are lived here.’

We are comfortable in this land of many cultures and ethnicities, and when we visit Denmark (not very often), we are the ‘strangers’, familiar, yet lost. We have moved from place to place many times, although within California (besides a couple of years in Seattle), but not until we came to the small town of Calistoga in Napa Valley, did we really belong.

After the children grew up and started their own lives, we empty-nested here and found immediate kinship with the land, the town, and the people. Why? Lots of things! Husband is in the hospitality industry; we value the slower life-style here; we like the small town atmosphere, where you run into people you know all the time; and we appreciate the arts communities throughout the valley.

Citizenship is practical and beneficial, but belonging is emotional and personal and a feeling that is organic, contingent of place, people, and culture.

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ABUNDANCE

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Dwarfed by abundance. I have an abundant amount of writing: essays, poems, fragments, dialogues, situations, plays, children’s stories, shorts, beginning of a novel, and I feel small. I wonder who is in charge. I have work to work on for the rest of my life.

I wish to finish some and present a finished novel, a book of poetry, a short story collection, a completed play. I need help but I can’t put my finger on what kind of help. Help to be done. Why is it harder to finish writing than painting? I have completed dozens of art work: oils, prints, pastels, collages, drawings. An oil painting may take me months but I do finish.

Blogging is like painting. I complete a piece of writing and put it out there. Granted, it is a small piece of writing but hopefully coherent and finished. Like painting I make it happen. So, why the difficulty with my other writings? When do I consider a piece done and ready to be left? Not until publication? Perhaps not.

I will start publishing my short writing pieces on my other blog: http://www.MysticStringsBooks.com

That way I can consider some writings done. And get on with my longer pieces! This may work. Today I will put a writing piece called POISON on my other blog.

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Wonder about Curiosity

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I wonder about curiosity. Whether it kills me or sustains me. I am definitely curious by nature, because I want to know! The more I know, the better. I inhale knowledge every day. And it comes in all shapes and sizes: words, tax deductions, people, moods, feelings, foods, Facebook use, art, town hall meetings, film, books, and internet. In fact, I’m bombarded with knowledge and I need to sift through it and retain what I want. That is knowledge in itself.

So, I would say curiosity sustains me. It expands my world, it enhances my world, it fills me up, and I constantly have to shift my views and my ideas. Never a dull moment when driven by curiosity. It’s like I will never have any final answers to anything, and I live in constant movement. Perhaps, the only thing I can feel certain about is movement.

Right now, my life is moving in all kinds of directions: marketing, curating art, writing stories, painting, blogging, gallery sitting, and every day I’m doing something different. Still, everything I do, is connected. It all requires curiosity. Constant curiosity. Because things change, constantly. I deal with change and the many choices that follow.

All my endeavors have one thing in common: the town of Calistoga. I live, breathe, and wonder about Calistoga every day. Calistoga is my employer. I work for Calistoga. Calistoga keeps me grounded. My curiosity starts here and may end here.

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I get drunk and eat chocolate

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I get drunk and eat chocolate when my husband loses his job, which he has, consistently, for the past fifteen years. And we have turned 60. I love him – been with him for the past 43 years – but damn, it’s getting harder. Easier when the kids were around. Had a purpose. But now? What’s his gig? What does he want? Am I his forever support system?

I know what I want. I totally know what I want. Have looked forward to doing what I want since the kids left. The time is now. I want art. I want to work with art. I want to be art. I want to think and dream art. No way around it.

So, I’m charging. I’m out there. I’m screaming. I’m being heard. And it feels wild. It feels insane. And it feels right. There’s no turning back. I’m on a roll. And I’m looking out for me. Who knew?

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SAFETY

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Safety is a big buzz word today. Anywhere you turn you hear about being safe. Whether in school, on a plane, in a mall, on the road, at work, or on a tour, much emphasis is put on your safety. Often it is a matter of speech, as for example, when the flight attendant ensures you about your safety aboard the plane…in case of a crash it doesn’t really matter how safe you are in your seat…however, you feel safer from the flight attendant’s words.

Can you be in control of your own safety? To a degree, of course. You can choose not to drive fast and reckless on the road; you can choose not to visit areas of the city that you don’t know; you can choose not to do extreme sports; and you can choose not to go with strangers. However, you do not choose to be a victim of a criminal act, such as spousal abuse or to be a victim of a random crime, such as a drive-by-shooting.

With that said you can choose to feel safe on a daily basis. Otherwise, you may become a victim of too much worry leading to anxiety. I know. I experience anxiety attacks when dealing with situations that are out of my control, such as witnessing my mother’s severe dementia or anticipating the financial loss of a business or a home.

I try to create a safety space for myself. It starts with my home and my studio. From there, it extends into the community and the small town, in which I live. I feel at home and I feel safe. I have chosen to do so. And with that feeling in place, I bring it with me when I travel and when I meet new people. It is my practice.

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All Over The Place

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We’re always looking for the range of what we see in life. That creates a tension between us and our audience because they don’t know what to expect. It makes people excited, but it can also make for frustrated consumers.

Quote by Andy and Lana Wachowski who created the Matrix Trilogy and who are launching their latest movie, Jupiter Ascending this Friday. I relate relentlessly to their statement, as I’ve always had a hard time sticking to not only one art form but also, to stay with one tone or thread in my work. I like to try out different expressions with my art.

For instance, I’ve been thinking whether I should stick to photos of my grandchildren on Instagram and thus become known for that – which in a way would be cool as I would catch their development through the years – or whether I should write a book about parenting which I know much about and which I have been successful at but then, would I have to stay with non-fiction writing?

I’d much rather catch the images that speak to me in the moment and I’d much rather write fiction which takes me to unknown places. I like to explore and I like to take risks with my art.

What about you?

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How Honest Can You Be?

IMG_0876In search of knowing myself truthfully, so I can pursue the stuff I really want (and reach it), I have tried to answer the following questions from both heart and mind:

1. How do you want to be remembered?

As a creative person who is passionate about art and literature and who is determined to pursue her creative goals. A person who does not give up on her dreams. Also, a person who believes in the greater good. A community member. A caring family member. A good friend.

(I realize that this person I describe above is the person I am now. But why don’t I say Author? Artist? Is that not what I want? Do I not write every day, so I see myself as a writer? Is my goal not to be published, so I can call myself a published author? And what about all the art I have created? Don’t I want to be remembered for that? Basically, I do not allow myself to go all the way!! This is a problem. Because I don’t believe I will get there and be remembered for my published work and for my exhibited work.)

2. How do you want people to describe you?

As a person with a strong sense of self and with a desire for passionate and productive relationships. As a dedicated community member. As a caring family member. As a good friend.

(Again, why don’t I say: as a successful artist and writer? I have to know that people find me strong, so I can keep pursuing my goals, and I have to believe that the relationships in my life are both passionate and productive. But are they? Good question.)

3. Who do you want to be?

Someone who is creative and expressive, someone who stands by her convictions of aesthetics and morality but also, someone who is open to new thinking and to new ideas.

(Why don’t I just say: A famous author and/or artist? Isn’t that who I want to be? Really? So, why don’t I say it?)

4. Who or what matters most to you?

I matter to myself. If I’m not happy I cannot be of help to anyone else. Continuity of life matters to me, therefore, my children and grandchildren. Room for expression, therefore, my artistic projects.

(Again, why is my answer not this: That I become a published author and a well known artist. And why do I not mention my husband, who supports me in all I do? I am afraid to say it like it is, and I keep seeing myself as this person that needs to stay strong to be there for others and for her art. Weird.)

5. What are your deepest values?

Life. Health. Environment. That life continues on a healthy planet.

(Okay, so is this what I write about? Is this what I paint? I am a storyteller. I tell stories about people and their lives. I paint fairy tales and other narrative work. I hope my values are part of my storytelling.)

6. How would you define success in your life?

Being a valuable family member. Being a successful immigrant. Being ready to explore. Being in love with people and with art.

(I could also have mentioned my Master degree, which in fact has prepped me for the writing process. Again, I stay on the fringe of things and I keep mentioning my family as my biggest success. Perhaps, I should write a book about that?)

7. What makes your life really worth living?

I’m a puzzle piece within my family, within my community, and I like to contribute to these puzzles, to make them whole and healthy. Also, my personal expression through my art projects is invaluable and motivating.

(How about this answer: That I am able to write hours at a time, morning or afternoon. That I have the opportunity to publish a book. That I have the opportunity to exhibit my art.)

My answers were written a week ago and today I added what’s in parenthesis, because I see how I prioritize. This is a constant challenge for me. Perhaps, because I grew up as the oldest of five siblings and had three children in my twenties and lived close to my parents most of my life. Not until I went back to school in my forties did I ‘leave’ my parents! And then after that I launched my art career and later my writing career. Here I am with space, time, and motivation to write! And still, I’m scared. Holding back. It’s a new feeling.

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