Thursday, April 14, 2011

"We can't afford to pine..."

We artists and writers, we look for signs, wait for messages, empty.  Our business is to look for hidden meanings, forget them.  To tell ourselves secrets, write them on scraps of paper and slip them into books we will later re-read.

Helene Cixous, in Stigmata, says, "...we cannot hope to receive the message; the person who will receive the message must not expect it; if it is waited for, it does not arrive."  We know the message will never come, it arrives.

It's April 14th and the snow is falling, small and steady.  For a while the flakes were large and pretty, but now it is the mean snow of spring that comes at an angle and arrows into your skin.  The sky is grey and low and lovely but you can't see it because the snow hushes your eyes.  Rob's Montreal gallery sent back some paintings via Greyhound he'd asked for so that they could be included in his upcoming show in Edmonton.  They sent two packages and one arrived about a week ago, and he's spent the last week on the phone several times a day trying to find the other one.  Mostly the people he talks to are uninterested, say they're going to start a file, look into it.  At one point he talked to someone in Texas.  These are large paintings, the box is large.  It cannot be found.

The course I taught at the University this past term ended on Tuesday, so there is only marking to do and then I'm free. I'm handing the marks in on Monday and then I'll be free.  Which is to say, I'm not free at all.  But need to reinvent myself.  Because the stationery shop, where I work two days a week, will not be enough.

I want to write, just write.  I spend a lot of time dreaming about what that would be like.  Betsy Warland in her book Breathing the Page says, "Although we can understandably long for a period of full-time writing, we can't afford to pine too much for this."  She also says, "It is essential for us to be inventive, tenacious, wily." This is very wise advice.  I know I spend far too much time pining.

And it does seem to me like I've been receiving messages.  I receive an e-newsletter from and they show off their new offerings with quotations sometimes.  This is what was in my inbox a couple of days ago:

And this had me thinking about the process of teaching and how much I have loved looking at other peoples' writing with an eye to seeing what they are capable of becoming.  I'm not naturally a teacher; it's not something that comes easily to me, but I think I'm quite good at seeing the potential in people, in seeing where their strengths lie and pushing them to develop them.

And then there are always the little messages one receives when drinking Yogi tea.  I like thinking about adopting an attitude of gratitude.  Which seems an easy thing to do, but isn't always.

Here is something else I've always thought to be profoundly true, so it was neat to see someone else write a blog post about it.  That:

Your obligation as an artist is to create opportunities for others.

The word opportunities keeps cropping up, just when I need to start looking about me.  I'm also pretty crazy about Rumi's famous line:

"Let the beauty we love be what we do."  

So, this is all just me thinking aloud, wondering what I'll do next.  Figuring out what I need, and also what is possible.  How best to balance things.  I'm a dreamer, but a fairly practical one.


  1. What a delightful few moments -- and insights -- your words have given me, Shawna. I love the Goethe quote. What a lift on a spring day to read this.

  2. I need to write the Goethe quote across my walls. This whole post spoke to me. Beaming GPS thoughts to the paintings.


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