Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Simple Questions. Hard Answers.

"How's your work going?" inquired a colleague/acquaintance at the School of the International Center of Photography in New York.

Simple question, right? But why the blank, is it so difficult to answer. I don't know how to reply. Stumbling for words only makes me appear stupid and inarticulate.

Or so it makes me feel.

The creative life is a long journey down a winding road full of potholes, shattered glass, fallen trees and detours. Along the way there are amazing adventures, but for most people it is not a trip in First Class. I'm happy for those who seem ride in great comfort and reach their destinations quickly without any wear or tear, but my means of transportation evidences dents, scratches, peeling paint and tires balder than a baby's butt.

What do I say but, "My work is going well, thanks!" It's like a stranger asking how you are. They don't really want to hear how things are actually going, because if they did, they probably wouldn't ask.

I think many artists feel uneasy about their creative endeavors. Unless there is hard evidence showing that your book will be published, your music or dance performed, your art shown, you often just don't know. You don't know because you are still in the process. Maybe at the beginning, perhaps at the end, but still nevertheless you're not there yet. And there's no shame in that. The shame would be if you quit before reaching the end.

So I decided not to quit, but to persevere. It seems to me that I've gone so far already at this state of life, that there's no turning around and going back. I can only press on.

But, to answer the question, "How is your work going?"

It's going well. I am working and I get a lot of pleasure out of what I'm doing. And, finally, I can see that, perhaps, I'm finally getting somewhere and that all the work will be worth it. Yet I'm not sure if the reward actually comes in the act of working or if it comes after the work is done.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January and All is Gray with the World

An unexpected phone call has the force to shake our little planets. The phone rang on New Year's morning. On the other end of the line was my Mom in Kentucky requesting my immediate presence. My father has been rushed to the Hospital with chest pains and tingling in his arms. The doctor's finding: blockage in his arteries (probably a result of 83 plus years of fried bacon, fried eggs, fried chicken and fried whatever "southern style." He required open heart surgery. Around midnight of that same day, I stood in baggage claim at the Lexington Airport, waiting for my bags and my youngest brother to pick me up.

Until my grandparents all passed away, I believed myself surrounded by two defensive walls made up of my parents and their parents. With the loss of the grandparents, one barrier collapsed into dust leaving only one wall standing. The thought of losing my parents means that one more barrier will have fallen leaving me standing alone before my ultimate end.

This kind of thinking, obviously, can sound pretty morbid. But, I look at it, as more sobering than anything else. Youth inspires the confidence to tackle anything believing oneself invulnerable to pain or death. While middle age makes you value life even more, knowing full well that at some point every book has a conclusion, no matter how much you may want to stall the ending.

Three weeks has now passed, Dad survived his operation and now is home recovering. My father is not a patient man. He's the kind of man who plunges three stories down a cliff, brushes himself off and starts climbing again. But you don't endure having your chest cut open and your heart pulled out, and expect to ride a motorcycle the next day.

On Monday, I fly back to New York City. Thankfully, I leave knowing that my father health will improve over the next weeks, and that he will probably have a much better summer this year than the one he experienced last year. Regretfully, I leave knowing my mother will have the full responsibility of caring for my Dad, a traditional man of a generation of Men that expected certain things from their wives. My father still expects that my mother will prepared three meals a day for him, and that means three meals daily that he enjoys, because it is no joy for my mother to prepare food for someone who doesn't believe each bite they swallow is the best bite he's ever enjoyed.