Patience. This project has been a test in patience. There is simply no rushing the process. I find my mind wandered as I painted this week, thinking about all the ways that I could have improved the process in order to be further along. Aside from one thing I'd do differently, there is no fast-track for this design. Oh, there's lessons to learn in every nook and cranny of our lives!
There was a tremendous sense of relief yesterday as I finished the base coat for the bottom half design. No more grey - no more empty spaces. (I may have even broke out into the "Hallelujah Chorus".) This week, due to a particularly noisy fan in the Snye room, I moved into the hallway. It was nice to have an occasional passerby to connect with and I certainly appreciated the encouraging, inquisitive remarks. Earlier in the week I had a parade of tutu-ed mini ballerinas peeking into the room to see what I was up to. I was thankful for the adorable visitors.
The whole project is really quite remarkable and we are all so eager to see the installation in place. Our curious minds will have to wait to see how it all comes together in the great outdoors! Next week: a palette of green!
I love chickadees. I think they are the sweetest little bird and their song is so precious! I will often come across them on my runs but once I have a camera in hand, they are no where to be seen (or flitting about so quickly that it's a lost cause). For a number of years I have had a bit of a conquest... I was determined that one day I would finally create a chickadee photograph that I was happy with. Finally, yesterday, the cutie pie Black-Capped Chickadees decided that they would pose for me. Perhaps it was because although I hoped for them, I did not approach it as my conquest and simply enjoyed the moments for what they were. And it made my heart smile. I sure love chickadees.
I think I've lost count. Foxy Loxy and I have spent many hours together now. Today I finished painting the outline of the bottom half, nearly standing on my head (and putting Foxy on his) in order to get every nook and cranny accounted for. As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the biggest challenges has been taking a 2D design and transferring that to a 3-dimensional object. But challenged accepted and challenge complete! Now that the last section has been painted on, it's time for a white base-coat layer to clearly mark out the criss-crossing cattails. He's coming together!
I owe you an apology.
I have not been kind to you. In fact, I have been abusive. I have ridiculed you, said horrific things to you, looked at you with disgust, and torn you down - to say the least. I have starved you, denied you, deprived you and pushed you through injury and fatigue, all in an effort to get you to a place where I could finally accept you. I couldn't tell you that you were beautiful unless you met the standards I bought into. I'm so sorry.
I have carried you around with shame, out of an intense fear of having someone else point out our imperfections - to point out that we don't measure up. I have mocked you and made fun of you in front of others as a way to acknowledge that I knew you weren't acceptable. After all, it's my responsibility to do everything I possibly can to make sure that you do measure up - that I am trying to perfect you. You know how careless words of criticism have affected me deeply, but it's no excuse. We are a team and I have let you down. I have not stood my ground.
I have not honoured you.
It has been a long journey, and I have been getting a little better, I know you've noticed. Today, though, I am starting a new chapter in our relationship - one where we work together and I stop fretting about perfection. I can't exactly say that I feel thankful for those stretch marks climbing up my hips or the cellulite in my thighs, or the bulging veins in my legs or the lesions psoriasis leaves in its wake. I'm not particularly fond of wrinkled skin, bags under my eyes, and squishy fat spilling out over my jeans, but that's only because I have listened to the wrong voices for far too long. And when clothes don't fit you right in the stores, that's not your fault - it's an industry trying to fit each unique body with a one size fits all. I will choose now to see that all of these "imperfections" are marks of a life in progress - a body that has been on an adventure! You are not disgusting and I refuse to tell you that any longer.
Today, I choose to thank God, our Creator, for how marvellous He has made you. I thank Him for His mind-blowing creativity in how He designed you. I thank Him for how He has given me the gift of you, a housing for my soul, a vessel to journey with. I turn my eyes to Him with gratitude for feet that hike through forests, arms that embrace our friends, eyes that see in colour, ears that hear soul-stirring music, legs that run and leap and climb, hips that help carry heavy loads and help us to dance with a little more flair, hands that paint and play instruments and give awesome high fives, a mouth with which to speak and kiss and sing, lungs to breathe, a heart that pumps away, skin that allows us to feel each touch and sweat through a workout, a stomach that allows us to eat food for fuel, and muscles that help us do it all! And body, I'm just getting started!! You are quite remarkable.
You have been marvellously made.
I have not honoured you or the One who has given you to me. I will take better care of you, nourishing and nurturing you. I will carry you with pride, awe and gratitude. And be prepared, I know there will be setbacks. I know that I may critically glance at you in the mirror, feeling the pressure to make you more "perfect" than you already are. But I am committed to fighting for you now, for honouring you and loving you. You are my friend, not my enemy. We are in this together - I get that now.
The process for the bottom half is completely different than the line taping madness of the top. Using an acrylic paint marker, I am drawing the details free-hand. The hard lines of the top are contrasted with the curves I'm creating now - but they are both endlessly weaving in and out.
There is a bit of fearlessness that I've had to tap into for this project, as my two dimensional design has been adapted to the nooks and crannies of my 3D reality. From the very beginning I realized that I wouldn't be able to sketch the entire design onto the fox. Rather, I'd have to trust the process and trust myself to make the creative decisions along the way. It was quite daunting to begin drawing over all the stage one painting - what if I slipped? What if I made a poor choice of lines? I had to choose to be fearless and go for it. My favourite experiences and works as an artist come from that choice. It's always good to let go.
I took a break from Foxy Loxy over the holidays. Today, I finally finished stage one. I just might be able to put away the tape! With two more stages to go (the bottom half and then touch-ups) I am excited to begin drawing out the bottom details next week and start with a new array of colours. A palette cleanse is in order! The next challenge will be navigating through the smaller surface area of his legs, tail and belly. I'm going to have to figure out a way to secure him upside down in order to paint with precision... I will MacGyver something - stay tuned!
Do you know the story about Martha and Mary? They are sisters who were friends of Jesus and the Bible records one of the times Jesus came to their home in the tenth chapter of the book of Luke. Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet, taking in everything he was saying. Martha, by contrast, was busy being the hostess, "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made". She then goes up to Jesus asking, "Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
I have read - and heard - and studied - and pondered this account many times. I can surely relate to Martha and find myself filling in the blanks of what might have been her experience. I imagine her desiring to be reclining at Jesus' feet but she couldn't get past all that needed to be done. She couldn't rest when she had a special guest in her home! It was her job, her obligation, to make all the preparations. I suspect the inner conflict came and bitterness crept in, when what she desired clashed with what she felt was expected of her. I envision her grumbling to herself in the kitchen, fighting this battle within her heart and mind, as she was left alone to do the work.
Oh, Martha, I get you. I read between the lines of this story because I wrestle with this every day. The things that my heart desires - the things that bring depth and meaning and peace - are things that I have to carve out the time to do at the expense of urgent tasks. These urgent tasks really aren't important but they scream at me in an endless to-do list, demanding my attention. And when I leave these tasks, I feel guilty for letting them pile up. It is a burden and a weight that I can't shrug off. There is a million things to do, and not enough hours or energy with which to get them done, and all I really want to do is rest at Jesus' feet. I want to stop all this spinning and toiling in order to receive His peace. But the truth is, I continue to struggle reconciling "being" with all the "doing".
What I do know is that all this toiling is not what Jesus wants for me. He has not heaped this burden on me. Yes, that endless to-do list is there and there are tasks to be done but my priorities are misplaced. Jesus' response to Martha's exasperation is not for her to get back to work, or a glance to Mary to get to work too. Instead, Jesus says, "Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
I don't know what happened after that. Was Martha able to take a deep breath, wipe her hands on her apron and sit with her sister? And if she did, was she able to truly rest at Jesus' feet without the nagging thoughts of the dishes in the kitchen and the meal cooking over the stove? The reality is, someone has to cook the meal if we want to eat and someone has to be the hostess if we want to have people in our homes. The reality is, there is work to do. There are toilets to clean, laundry to tend to, children to bathe, lunches to prepare, meals to plan, groceries to buy, cheque books to balance, people to call, gifts to buy, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, (feel free to add whatever else comes to your mind), along with all the external messages coming at us that tell us we are not quite good enough as we are.
Is anyone else exhausted?
I began this post today with the intention of writing about the bombardment of self-improvement messages we hear at the dawn of a new year. I wanted to remind myself, and you, that we are enough as we are. I wanted to make a declaration that all the things the world tells us will make us happy are fleeting and superficial. I was going to spout off about an industry that capitalizes on our desire to change and find lasting peace by selling us a product, promising with a money back guarantee that they have the answer. All this led me to Martha and Mary. I see Martha as the one who is toiling to find her purpose, bound by expectations and obligations. And Mary, she may have the same internal struggle as her sister but she is making a stand for what matters to her. Perhaps she can rest because she really knows who she is and that her value isn't wrapped up in all that "doing".
What I do know is that God has me on a long, refining road, teaching me about purpose, identity, value and rest. For reasons unknown, we aren't designed for a quick fix. The road of life is one of life-long learning and continual transformation. I could continue writing a book about all that is on my heart and mind. And the temptation is to not post my writing until I've said all there is to say - until I've got it all figured out in a 200 word paragraph. But I'm a work in progress and it's messy. What I desire clashes with the pressures of reality.
I might be Martha, toiling away, but I'm learning a little more about how to be like Mary.
acrylic on wood panel
12" x 18"
Erin Stinson 2014