Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sweat/No Sweat

I’ve been doing a daily nighttime diary for 14 days for Carnegie Mellon University: “Help Us Learn about the Impact of the Coronavirus on Individuals, Couples, and Families.” It asks me what Covid-19 measures I do, what activities I’ve done during the day, and whom I’ve interacted with and for how long. Then it asks how I’m feeling, both emotionally and physically. I recommend the study.

Most days, the only person I’ve seen in 24 hours is Tim, and most days – especially bad weather ones – we’re in our house for a lot of the day. That’s usual for me, but Tim has always been a coffeehouse or daily athletic club, get-out-of-the-house kind of guy. That’s not possible now. Our house is our only inside place. Our only inside place.

Usually, we inhabit the house very nicely together. This surprised me, but I’d had to adapt to his invasion presence when he retired, so this was old business. I go downstairs, he stays upstairs. I am so grateful for this space!

But with Covid-19, how Tim and I occupy the house is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

It started with his little 8-minute workout routine. I’d hear his phone beeping and he’d start jumping or sitting up or hopping or stopping. It was so cute! I offered assistance: “Why don’t you use the old ensolite pad I still have? Oh, what about those weights I got for exercises when both my legs were broken (and haven’t used since)?” 

Little by little, those eight minutes grew. Tim rediscovered the monkey bars on the ceiling in Sophie’s old room – which has been My Precious Space for years – and he’s added pull-ups to his workout. He comes in while I’m writing on the computer and he grunts and lifts and sweats right behind me.

He moves from room to room on his now-hour-long circuit. Hopping things seem to happen in his office, but stretching things seem to happen in the living room. I’m not sure where he does the giant blue ball things. Or the lunging things. (I’m downstairs and just hear thumps.) And now, there’s The Box.

I only exercise outdoors, period. Indoors, I may interrupt inactivity to do things, but the general backdrop is inertia. For me, Covid-19 means there is no consequence to laziness; if I don’t know what day it is, everything can happen tomorrow. Tim does Covid-19 strenuously and in motion. Outdoors and indoors. He just finished building The Box.

I love boxes. I love a good, clean box with a snug-fitting lid. A box just the right size for whatever contents. I am a Box Person. Boxes hold things.

Tim’s box is empty. It’s 18 inches square, wooden, beautifully crafted, and empty. He jumps onto it. Yes, he stands in front of it and jumps up vertically and lands on the box. Apparently, according to YouTube, it’s a Thing.

I stood in front of the box. Nothing happened.

I don’t even know what muscles to tell to move to make me jump up vertically like that.

Now, if you can see where this is going, it’s obviously about more than a box. I have to adapt to living with someone who is doing Covid-19 very differently from me. In the same house as me. I can’t just tell him to stop jumping and sweating and hopping and sweating and lunging AND SWEATING all over the house.

Omigod, what happens when it’s winter and the windows are closed?!?

I have to appreciate that Tim’s taking care of his health and wellbeing in the best way. (The Carnegie Mellon researchers would be very impressed.) I have to appreciate that he just purchased a giant floor mat so his sweat won’t land on the carpet. Finally, I have to appreciate that just because I am a slug, I do not have any moral authority to begrudge the non-slug in my midst (especially when the non-slug doesn’t complain about my craft supplies invading the common space). We share this Covid-19 interior space, and I    have    to    adapt.

Uh, oh. This might be harder than jumping onto that box.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Challenges of Art

This is a gratitude blog. Two weeks ago, I was abysmally [my word] grieving Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the potential end of the world. I was a blob of despair…, yet hours later, I managed to sit at my computer with a burst of creative energy. What sparked it?

My Bricolage art challenge group. Bricolage means “something created from a variety of available things.” Five of us meet regularly to draw another creative challenge from our Ziploc bag of challenges.

Jinnie convened us and then moved to Idaho, but we’re still here. So first, I’m grateful to Jinnie for getting us together, for reintroducing me to Art as Play.

We used to meet indoors, but when Covid-19 happened, we had to come up with something else. We brought our chairs to the huge lawn in front of the closed universities and spread ourselves out very far apart. We were so happy! It was our first chance to see faces and bodies in real life.

We’ve become a little nervous about the weather going bad on us, but last week, it didn’t rain, and we’re determined. We’re checking out overhangs.

The challenge this time was “weaving.” Jane (who shared her art with photographs) wove gold-flecked paper and embroidery thread through paper. Pam wove yarn into the Y of a branch and covered the branch in yarn. Betty made a frame of four branches with jute and wove in natural items – feathers, flowers, even a wasp’s nest. I made two branch pieces; the big one is now on the living room wall. This is the little one.

Usually, Cathy is there, but she couldn’t make it this time. Both Cathy and Betty know about materials. I may have ideas, but I don’t know what kind of paint, what kind of coating, what kind of ink, etc etc. They are my go-to resources. But hints come from everyone. Pam kept her weaving tight by using a fork to squeeze her rows together – a fork! That would have made my weaving much easier! Now I know.

In my very first blog post, I asked myself, “How do I re-insert creativity into my life?” I’ve taken art classes, but it’s been the Bricolage group that has consistently kept me thinking and percolating over my creative choices. The challenges stew in my head till they take shape.

When confronted with the “playing cards” challenge, I turned it into painting a card on a rock and a whole book of face card characters and their royal scandals. When the challenge was “postcard,” it turned into a transparent, multi-layered postcard to the poet, Billy Collins. “Tea bags” became Happy Uterus Tea. “Paper dolls” is a continuing project as my protesting Barbara still has lots and lots to protest.

Jinnie reintroduced me to Art as Play, but I still cling to Art as Project: I visualize an idea or concept before I create something. And then I have to figure out how to make it difficult challenging.

So when the challenge was “envelopes,” I decided I would learn how to do curved piece quilting.

There have been a few duds. “Upcycling” occurred when our house was overflowing with brown paper bags from curbside grocery pickups. I happened to be at the Recycling Center when two guys were unloading cartons. They discovered the cartons were filled with packing material they didn’t know what to do with. “I’ll take it,” I said, “for an art project.”

So now I had brown paper bags and packing material. I read that you could make faux leather by wetting the bags, crumpling them up, then ironing them and varnishing them. If I stuffed them with packing material, I’d have trivets! Or, as the group dubbed them, “cow pies.” Fortunately, I got rid of all that packing material by standing outside the UPS Store and offering it for free. I’m still loaded with paper bags….

I really like the cards I made for “ravens,” but “leaves” is a project I haven’t let go. I keep making pressed, dried leaf notecards. Now’s the perfect time to collect more leaves.

“Plastic” meant a stained glass window for our bathroom. It’s colored plastic bags glue-sticked onto clear plastic. I’d wanted to do that ever since I took a workshop during one of my months in New York City, but it would have sat in the “someday” pile of ideas if it weren’t for my Bricolage group.

I often suffer from some creative paralysis, creative lethargy. I’m an in-the-mood creator, not a disciplined one. But if any creative juices flow, it’s usually sparked by a current challenge picked out of a Ziploc bag. The new one: “wire or metal.” I’ve had an unrealized metal idea since high school. Maybe now?

I am so very thankful that I am part of a warm, supportive circle of artists who inspire, challenge, and educate me. That’s why this is a gratitude blog.

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