Sunday, October 02, 2011

A brief breather

Tom demoed a watermark on laser-cut foam for a special preview audience last night.

Julie took great pictures for me last night during my demos of Korean and Japanese papermaking. Like last year when she took my hanji workshop, she was so helpful and gracious, and so good natured. I loved seeing her with her husband, who was also a trooper, beating fiber all day and always working, heoping out. It's rare to see such a solid, healthy marriage (31 years!), so that was a treat these past days.

Marcus and a bunch of other interns appeared last night, which was so fun. I especially loved seeing how they've bonded so tightly through working here.

The blue is still jarring, though the paper dries much more lovely than this garish tone. I worked overtime at the mill so I missed the closing of the auction, where I was outbid on everything. I finally met Rebecca Cross, another Obie, who does gorgeous fiber work. We fondled each others scarves. I also got to meet Deborah Howe this weekend, on the board of the Morgan, who was so sweet and amiable. We talked last night about group meetings of book and paper people, and how she likes them. I steer clear, for a variety of reasons, but we come from different generations in the field. My mentors and predecessors had to figure things out on their own, and created strong networks of friends and colleagues. I walked into an MFA program (by then, curricula had been developed, books had been written, a field starting to solidify and codify), didn't click with my cohort, and never developed that particular kind of community (at least, not right away). This morning, Tom said that if I went to group meetings, I'd make more friends. I love my friends and value friendship more than almost everything, but I'm not looking for more friends.

Over the years, I keep feeling a veil that falls behind my eyes when I interact with people. Maybe it became more noticeable when an ex-friend told me that I was cold. This horrified me, since I had spent much of my teens and 20s trying to be warm and huggy. But as time passed, I thought, maybe I am cold. Or, maybe I need more space than I thought I did. I hated myself for a while when I'd feel the screen come down: I'd hear myself talking and feel myself going through the motions, but I never connected. I worried that I was a fraud. I felt it last night during the demos, and probably self-preservation instincts were kicking in--maybe there is no way to survive without the shield. It has been hard to make paper amidst crowds, or even a few people, or even with one person that I like very much here and there. I like making paper alone. That's the whole point for me, just me and the mess.

I was amazed by how all of these people who were a generation older than me were still energetic and hanging out after the open house, with no signs of leaving or flagging. I left at midnight, feeling like crap, since I've been battling season-change-over-worked sickness and in the middle of my period. But even though I was completely wrung out, I stayed up to work. I've felt out of sorts since I got to Ohio because I haven't been on top of my admin, my daily ordering of my life, my compulsiveness. Once my receipts were labeled, logged, and filed, and various other pressing things unraveled, I finally felt like I could crawl into bed. But it has been COLD, and windy. I could barely breathe from congestion and then fell into a natural state of grief, crying in my exhaustion. My loss is different and less profound than hers, but I read Susan Tweit's recent blog post, and her keening resonated deeply.

I obviously fell down this entire trip on self care, trying to survive solely on drive. But I can't sustain it. I watch Tom and marvel at how he can keep working, all day, all night, every day, for years, without much fuel, with such a good heart and attitude. Meanwhile, I feel like a dried-up carrot that has been run over and is washing away in the rain. This carrot soup has another long drive back to Oberlin to drop off books and have a meeting, then back for dinner with my surrogate mom, and then a giant pile of work before tomorrow's lecture at CIA and workshop with enthusiastic book arts students. If I'm lucky, I'll muster up the strength to do one last papermaking afternoon on Monday before packing it all in for Tuesday's flight home. Today is my first day not getting wet after a week of pushing too hard. Maybe this breather will make it possible to have one last quiet papermaking session tomorrow before I'm done for the year.


  1. we all need to balance protecting the deep self and being open, and it takes so much wisdom to do that. you will. don't be quite so hard of yourself. the blue pulp is sort of funny, but i bet the paper is beautiful.

  2. that's on, not of


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