Monday, June 29, 2015

Back to the garden

Confession time: I almost didn't renew my community garden membership this year.

Because let's be real - it's a lot of work. Gardening right in the ground, instead of in planter boxes or pots or containers, means breaking up soil that has turned into grasslands over the winter, digging trenches for drainage, spreading compost, and putting down woodchips and straw. And that's to say nothing about the part where you actually plant things. It is a process, to say the least, and I am getting a late start this summer, so I was dragging my feet about jumping back in.

But I had very mixed feelings about quitting too. In the two years that I've been gardening, it's become a big part of my identity, right up there with feminist and little-d democrat and world traveler. My friends (who are awesome about humoring me) ask me all summer long how the garden is going. So quitting the garden would have felt like losing a piece of my identity.

But then again, it's unrealistic to think that I am going to keep gardening forever in this particular community plot. After all, I can't just keep picking up hobbies and activities and never quitting anything and eventually driving myself crazy. And I am becoming more and more conscious that saying "yes!" to some things means saying no to others - there just aren't enough hours for everything I'm interested in.

But how do you know when to quit? There's no longer a graduation date beyond which it would be weird to keep showing up to Model UN. And I am not, apparently, a quitter. After all, I've known my best friend for 18 years and my boyfriend for seven. 

Those are some big questions, but the framework to answer them is simple enough. I just need to make sure to check in with myself about whether I'm still genuinely interested in something, or whether I'm doing it because I've enjoyed it in the past and invested some of my identity in it and am too stubborn to admit it's no longer working for me.

So after some soul-searching and with some hesitation, I sent my check in the mail and showed up in the garden in early June after getting back from Central America. And when I got out there and stuck the garden fork in the soil and got the dirt under my fingernails, there was this tremendous feeling of "ahhhh, yes." It is my happy place. It will always be closely bound up in my experience of living in DC.

A couple weeks ago, the homily at Unitarian church was about joy. Specifically - how we should be chasing joy instead of chasing pleasure. The garden is always going to be more work, and less immediate pleasure, than Netflix. But it reminds me again and again that the things that require at least a little bit of effort end up bringing me the most joy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Get Messy Game

I have been off my art journalling game in a major way lately. It's partly because I was on the road for most of May and partly the general picking-up-the-pace that happens when cozy winter nights yield to seasons when leaving the house can actually be an enjoyable experience. Except this is DC, of course, so we had about two weeks of that before swamp season set in.

I am a bit bummed that I missed the Season of Brave entirely. And I'm reminded that once you get out of a habit, it gets harder and harder to jump back in. It's as true for art journaling as it is for exercise (did I really wake up at 6:45 to work out every weekday?!) or any other element of my routine.

So Vanessa's Get Messy game - instructions, each day of the week, for what to put on your page - came at the perfect time for me. The step-by-step process took out the intimidation factor and reminded me that this can be fun. I tend to want to come up with a Great Idea for a prompt and then make the vision come to life on the page - this taught me that you can play and experiment and make it up as you go along.

This isn't my favorite spread ever, but it was a lot of fun to make. (The flowers on the left side are not actually part of it, they're just hanging around from this page.) The journaling - "you mean it really can be that easy?!" - captures what this process felt like. And it's true of so much more than art journaling for me. I tend to overthink and to overcomplicate and to do things the hard way - but more often than not, it really can be that easy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The daily card, weeks 22-23

 Yikes. I am failing just a bit on the regular blogging front. (And no one likes a blogger who keeps promising to come back while slowly fading away). I have been dragging my feet a bit about picking back up my routines - blogging, Bar Method, packing lunches for work. But I have been gardening, which always reminds me that the things that end up fulfilling me the most require at least a little bit of effort, and blogging is no different.

Moving on! I've been in a pink mood, apparently. I've also been in a drawing mood. This is in part thanks to a fairly disastrous but extremely entertaining Pictionary game in which I tried to draw Africa and it was unrecognizable as such to the person who is supposed to know me better than just about anyone. (I even drew Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria for extra clarity.) I can draw well enough when I'm looking in a picture online, but heaven help me if I have to conjure something up from thin air. But it gave me the itch to brush up my drawing skills, for sure.

So lately I've been a fan of simple illustrations on white backgrounds. The funny thing is, when I started gravitating towards these, I had the thought "am I allowed to do that?" Which is ridiculous because of course I am - no one is setting the rules for this but me. When I started this project, I envisioned it something mixed media-y and scrapbooky and layered, so drawing something on a blank white card seemed like it might be cheating a bit. But with a long-term creative challenge like this, I think flexibility is key. The framework keeps you going and the flexibility keeps you from getting totally bored or overwhelmed in the process.

As a creative challenge, I am decorating a playing card every day in 2015. More context on this project is here and you can see all past card posts here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The daily card, weeks 20-21

I'm back! We had a fantastic time in Central America over the past couple weeks - full of hiking (up volcanos and Mayan ruins), snorkeling (with sharks, manatees, and sea turtles), eating (tacos, obviously), drinking (margaritas and mezcal), and just generally enjoying screensaver-worthy scenery. Thanks to expert planning by my BFF, it was the perfect combination of adventure and vacation. If I can get my act together to start posting regularly again, there will be lots of pictures to follow.

Another success with card-making on the road! This was definitely the most "on the road" so far. These puppies came together in a nice hostel in Antigua, a cabin in the jungle in Flores, the nastiest hostel ever in Caye Caulker, and a well-air-conditioned boutique hotel in Playa del Carmen. I made cards during swimming breaks, right before catching overnight buses, and late at night by headlamp (i.e. after 10pm - some early morning excursions turned us into old people for the duration of the trip) trying not to bother my fellow hostel-goers.

Once again, the pre-mapped cards worked super well - it was nice to be able to slap something on them on days when I was short on time/energy/interest, and to start from scratch on others. For this first set, I love the synchronicity between the cards for May 19 and May 21 - I left the former in DC so had no idea I was replicating it in watercolor two days and one country later.

As in Mauritania, I also did some patterns based on my surroundings. The May 21 card is based on the rich striped patterns (I am sure there is a name for them...) that are so prevalent in Central America. I love how May 30 (inspired by all the tropical foliage and probably also by Justina Blakeney's aesthetic) and May 31(inspired by the bright turquoise water and the yellow kelp), created when we were relaxing on the beach in Mexico, capture those bright, easy-going days.

Overall: totally love this project and love that I've been able to bring it on the road. Combined with my photos, souvenirs, and nightly emails to my boyfriend, I think the cards will serve as a great record of the trip - one that captures a bit of what I felt, beyond just what I saw or thought.

I am settling back into life in DC - no big trips scheduled for the forseeable future - and slowly picking back up my routines. Hopefully that will mean more regular and more varied posting - stay tuned!