It happens. In the sky, big scary shadows overtake the sun and everything gets dark. The chickens roost, the owls come out. The world is backwards. And it happens in life, in our hearts, and the pain can be intense. We fight it, deny it, ruminate and finally wait patiently for the light. But the beauty of a total eclipse is that it passes. It is inevitable. It always rights itself and the world is bright again. Hence, the name of this blog.
And so now I am a blogger. I held out for so, so long. Who would want to read my innermost thoughts online? There are millions of other voices out there all clamoring for attention. Who will listen to mine?
The reason I finally gave in is not, however, my soul straining to be heard. It is so I can link stuff to Pinterest. How pedestrian is that? Many of you already know I have more than one avocation. I write, I paint, I make stuff and I research history and genealogy. It kind of embarrasses me that I haven’t been able to limit myself to one and get really, really good at it, but how boring would that be?
I spent much of my life teaching art, teaching creative thinking, teaching techniques. That job is a real creativity sapper for the teacher because there just isn’t anything left at the end of the day. You leave it all there somewhere near the paper cutter, over by the sink with the paintbrushes in it. The dirty paintbrushes.
And so the day I retired in 2014, I made a commitment never to teach another person one damned thing. Well, I pretty much stuck to that with the exception of a few workshops and tutoring sessions. Why so adamant about teaching? It’s like this: when you teach, you are always putting yourself in someone else’s mind. Are they getting it? How can you demonstrate it better? Is it too much? Too little? It is exhilarating and when they get those aha moments your life is full. But still, you don’t get much of a chance to get inside your own mind. It is a wonderful vocation and I recommend it. But retirement is such a gift.
The first day of retirement I began needle felting. This involves poking small figures repeatedly with very sharp needles. It was a perfect way to calm a career’s worth of things I did not say to people who wouldn’t have listened anyway. I did that for six months, then the bloom faded. Truthfully, I wasn’t very good at it. I wanted my items to looks like those I saw online, delicate, lovely, like characters in a fairy world. Problem was, mine all looked rather like South Park figures.
Next came painting. This I knew how to do. I had taught this stuff ad infinitum. Line, color, shape, form, texture, yada, yada. Hey, I can do this! That was a remarkable discovery, that all those years of teaching I had actually internalized the principles. I branched out to digital work using my IPad Pro (think big screen) and an amazing and very cheap ($.5.99) little app called, appallingly, PROCREATE. I still painted (still do) but digital work is clean, doesn’t put out brain cell-killing fumes, require canvases with prices in 3 figures and there is that nifty back-track and delete function. When I actually paint and make a mark I don’t like, I mentally reach for the delete key. If only! And to my amazement, a lot of both my canvases and digital prints actually went to forever homes.
I added polymers. If you are a colorist, as I am, polymers are heaven. So far I have only created wearable art, thinking doo-dads and knick-knacks aren’t really worth the time and effort and will end up in a rummage sale somewhere. But working in polymer clay takes that total eclipse of the heart and moves it across the sky very quickly. I can approach my work space with a bleak, bleak countenance and it lifts as soon as I mix one color with another.
Ah, writing. Can’t forget writing. I started writing a book in 1987 and it took me through some difficult moments in my life and gave me a real sense of accomplishment when I completed my first novel. (Yeah, 700 pages, a bit wordy. I am learning to practice tenseness.) I had no publishers interested, although I did read the “reader report” that was accidentally left in the manuscript at one of the big houses and it said:
“The author writes well and in the style of Rumer Godden (SCORE!), but there is really no place for this topic on our list.”
That was nice, but nicer still was the fact that I did interest a “real” agent (real like 23rd St. NYC) but she wasn’t able to move it, either. Oh well. But I kept writing and then discovered KINDLE. Oh, yeah. Write it and publish it YOURSELF. So I have a page of books under the name Jennifer Hilary on Amazon. Aren’t I amazing? I actually get kind of embarrassed when folks who see my art and my page on Amazon say things like, “Wow, you paint AND write?” But really, it is the same thing. Words are my colors on paper, paint is for canvas. They are both aiming to get inside “your” mind but in different ways. I found a niche genre that I likes (apocalyptic fiction) and have done quite well there. Each book made a nice profit in the first year and every month I still see small checks coming in from Amazon, so take that, big publishing houses!
My hobby is genealogy. Want something searched? Give me names. I will do it for free! That is a whole other post.
Last, but actually first, I am in love with God. I live in his shirt pocket. Jesus hangs out with us, too. That will come up now and then on this blog.