Sunday, July 19, 2015

Open Doors

Again I find myself coming back to the theme of returning home and whether returning to a place is actually going backwards or rather a forward movement from another direction.

Eureka Springs was not my childhood hometown, that was Springfield Missouri, but I spent enough time there that I feel a kindred spirit to the funky, quaint, artsy alpine hamlet of queers and fundamentalists alike.

I spent much of the day there today and realized that feeling of belonging still hasn't left me. It's one of the very few places or perhaps the only place I have ever felt like I belonged.

I started the morning making my rounds peddling hummingbird suncatchers to several wholesale accounts. It was a beautiful day but offered the promise of getting very hot. My first couple of stops were on Bear Mountain, the mountain I lived on while residing just outside of Eureka when I made the great exodus from the netherworld called Branson Missouri.

My day was a little off kilter simply because I had planned to meet someone for lunch and when that person canceled I planned to take someone else with me on my journey but sadly that wasn't to be either. Fate or folly intervened and I was on my own, footloose and fancy free. Good enough.

I thought I'd stop for brunch at a restaurant favored by another friend of mine who has since abandoned me and moved to the great Pacific Northwest. While there was a certain familiarity there and thus some comfort, the food had changed and not for the better. Oh, there was plenty of it, just not the quality I was use to in times gone by. Be that as it may, it was sufficient and my sufficiency was fully surrensified.

If it's one thing I can't stand it's selling myself. I would not have made a good male prostitute. I have been a rep for various wholesale lines in my life and never had a problem asking for business but for some reason, when it comes to my work, it's like pulling teeth to get me to walk into a shop and offer them my artwork. Perhaps I am uncomfortable about rejection. Who knows?! So as a result I eagerly finished my chore and sold all of the hummingbirds I had with me. I laid the ground work for some follow-up orders and then went off exploring a town near and dear to my heart.

Now for me, exploring Eureka Springs is like someone exploring the back of their hand. I have been all over that town over these last forty years. Sometimes there's a new shop to see and sometimes someone has painted their house a different color. However, other than those two situations, things seldom change in the little town. Yet again, I wasn't disappointed.

While my outward exploration seldom offers anything new I guess I go there for the inward exploration that Eureka Springs offers me personally. It gives me a place from which to gaze backward and then to gaze forward within the realm of familiarity. I did a lot of that while I was there today. I visited many of the springs, spending time at each one in thought and in prayer and visit two of them at least twice before I packed up my doll rags and headed home to Fayetteville.

Living in Fayetteville and spending a lot of time on the bike trails I take a lot of pictures. Few are ever inspiring to me, though I try and I try. I have spent two years in Fayetteville trying to get a "sunbeam" picture and have yet to do it. In Eureka today, the opportunities were limitless and I took advantage of several of them. What I ended up with were some pretty inspiring pics, for me anyway.

My only frustration in the whole day was when a family visited my favorite spring. They were loud and very out of place visiting an underground spring. They cried about spiders, the cold, the dampness, and they poked fun at the sacredness of the space by blowing out the candles that usually burn twenty-four seven, lights that shine in the darkness, lit by loving folk.

As if that wasn't enough, they lit up and smoked cheap cigarettes in the spring. I had to spend some time praying down my wrath. I hope they had a pleasant visit but in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

While I was visiting, I was also calling about various shops for lease, partially out of habit and partially out of simple curiosity because you never know. I was just heading up Mountain Street to where I had parked the Blackbird when my phone rang. It was a shop I had called about earlier in the day. The landlord was a venerable shop owner in Eureka Springs with whom I have spent several hundred dollars in years gone by. He wanted to show me the space I had called about. I trotted back down Mountain Street to Spring Street and made my way over to the shop for lease.

Not only was the shop space perfect but the landlord was very gracious and solicitous of me and my artwork, thinking we were a natural for the little burgh. I have to admit that it was and indeed is tempting. The space itself is perfect in many different aspects. I couldn't ask for a better space for the money. What's perhaps even more important, I couldn't ask for a better landlord. A door has definitely been thrown wide open for me and all I have to do is walk through. The temptation is great.

So now I ponder on what direction my future is to embark upon. My dear mentor, Fr. Martin, told me to always watch for open doors and so I have. This last year I have had door after door slam shut in my face, many of them personal, a couple of them ministerial, and some of them professional. Much of my life has changed as a result but I have yet to experience an open door in the last two years. Today's experience was a clear and present open door invitation and I don't take that lightly. I don't yet know what it means and I don't quite know what I'm going to do but I am definitely paying attention. As I always say, time will tell the story and indeed time is a great tool of discernment.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Feel the Heat

This morning everything was so clear in my mind. There was a gentle cooling breeze and the day was fresh and so was I. Not long after that, the heat hit and it’s been all downhill since. It’s amazing how working out in one hundred degree heat can rob you of your strength and even, in my case, my wits! I suppose I complicated matters by working with a torch burning somewhere right around three thousand degrees give or take a little. It’s a hot job I know but someone has to do it.

I have been trying to start my day by blowing glass in the cool hours of the morning, hours that had previously been reserved for riding Dominic, my Globe Vienna hybrid bike, on the bike trails of Fayetteville. Today as the temperature rose I pushed myself further and further into the heat of the day wanting to make one little glass hummingbird suncatcher after the next.

I have set up my glassblowing studio in the garage and while that offers some cover from the elements, heat is not one of them that it protects me from, in fact, it acts like a little roasting oven and I’m the turkey. With the torch, lights, and oxygen concentrator I create a generous amount of heat to contribute to global warming and I have yet to install and fire up my little woad blue kiln.

As I sat there making hummingbird after hummingbird and listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, my mind raced over my next few blog posts. It was like a manic attack of creativity. I was in the zone. I must have composed at least eight of my next one thousand word posts and indeed mapped out the rest of the year. The juices were flowing and if I had been set up to dictate from the torch I would have had it made.

But no and as a result, as the temperature continued to rise, the creativity started to sweat out of me…

As the heat rose my brained hazed over and my body complained until eventually, sometime this afternoon, I dripped into the house to the sanctuary of a darkened air conditioned room and drifted off to find refuge from a pounding headache.

As a child I was always out and about. It didn’t matter the weather conditions hot or cold, wet or dry, whatever. I was almost always off on my bike somewhere doing something. One summer day, not unlike today, I had spent the greater part of which pedaling around my hometown of Springfield Missouri. I didn’t have sense enough to come in from the heat as it never really bothered me, that is until it did.

On this particular one hundred five degree day when I must have been about nine, I had pushed myself just a little too hard. I remember being about a mile from home when I thought I might be getting into trouble physically. My head started to pound and then, even though I knew I was hot, I began to get the weirdest cold chills and start to shake. I made it home on my bike but at a price. I had a heat stroke.

I’ll never forget the pounding relentless headache and the odd sensations in my body, the dizziness and the nausea. I lay on a couch and didn’t move for hours that evening. I finally found the strength and presence to climb into bed and sleep it off. I haven’t been the same since. After that day I’ve been particularly sensitive to heat and never allow myself to in be a position of being too overheated. As a result when the thermometer reads 90 degrees I no longer ride my bike.

Today wasn’t nearly like the experience of my childhood. I knew I was getting to hot and I shut down. I was just a little taken back by how much it drained me mentally and creatively. I joked with a good friend of mine earlier in the morning about being in a manic creative state and I was just waiting for the crash. Well the crash came.

So now all of those outlines are a jumbled mess in my mind. My outline for the year all but a forgotten memory. This was not even my planned blog post of one thousand words today but I refuse to give into writer’s block so early in the game.

This whole event has helped me to plan for better cataloging of my ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. It also offers the occasion for me to pursue a new piece of technology that I’ve been wanting for some time, a smart watch, and no not an Apple, gack. As I spend more and more time on the torch, a “smart watch” or “wrist computer” as a friend likes to call them, could be a very convenient wearable piece of technology for me. Of course Google glass could be even better but that’s a whole other level of technology for this one eyed person to embark upon.

It’s interesting. My first smart phone was a purchase to augment my glass business. My foray into bluetooth ear buds was also an aid to my glass work. Once again my glass work drives my need and new technology is explored. Fascinating.

Speaking of new technology and the glass business, I’ve also been thinking about investing in a GoPro camera with which to do videos for glassblowing lessons on my YouTube channel. I realize I could accomplish the same thing with my phone, laptop, or even my Samsung NX300 camera but somehow I feel the need for a more professional and or dedicated piece of technology to do the job. And then, it could simply be an excuse to buy a new toy but that’s okay too!

We’ll see. At the price of hummingbirds these days, ten dollars apiece, to purchase these new devices I would have to sell at least fifty of them retail and twice that amount wholesale. I better get back on the torch and stop spending time on this at the keyboard typing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Can You Ever Go Home?

Can you ever go home? Conventional wisdom seems to say no, you can never go home. Such wisdom would suggest that once you leave, things change and try as you might it's awful hard to find your way back to that which you left. Such is the state in which I find myself...

I visited Eureka Springs Arkansas today, as I had an order of blown glass hummingbird suncatchers to deliver to a shop over in that neck of the woods. It was a gorgeous day, even it it was a tad bit on the sultry side and the drive through the Ozarks Mountains was refreshing and inspiring as always. I concluded my business in the afternoon and headed to Eureka Springs to try and entice a few shop keepers and gallery owners to purchase some of my art work. 

Eureka Springs is a little Victorian oasis nestled on the side of Crescent Mountain in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. Now, truthfully, Eureka encompasses more than the historic loop which winds its way up to the top of Crescent Mountain but that's the heart of the hidden little hamlet.

It's rich in history, eccentricity, art, crafts, Christian fundamentalism, commercialism, beautiful geography, magical springs, Pagans, Wiccans, Faerie, hippies, nudists, and it's as queer as a three dollar bill! It has been called the San Francisco of the Ozarks and rightfully so, what's more, it flies its colors with pride. We even have our own version of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Eureka has been a tourist town since, well, forever I suspect, and over the years the demographics of the tourists that visit, as well as those folks who call it home, have changed as the times have changed but it's always been a melting pot of sorts. The factions have lived in civility for the most part and blended nicely to make a flavorful soup. We are, after all, Southerners, and that counts for something. And like that statement, Eureka isn't always what it appears to be at any given glance and you have to peel layer after layer to sometimes get to the heart of the artichoke. Are we talking about artichoke soup?

What's more, with perhaps one exception, I have always taken the loves of my life to Eureka Springs, of which there have been several. It's like some sort of romantic rite of passage for relationships of mine. I've been married in Eureka Springs and I've honeymooned in Eureka Springs, not with the same spouse both times. The one exception to this eros-sian rendezvous was a wonderful girl who lived in Michigan and with whom I fell madly in love one frigid evening in downtown Chicago. We were teenagers at a high school journalism conference, loose in the city, looking for adventure, and we found one another. It was teenage love but alas we never made it to Eureka Springs together. Who knows what would have happened had we made that pilgrimage of the heart?! Probably charges of kidnapping and transporting a minor over state lines or some such nonsense but that's another story.

I think I've explored every square inch of Eureka Springs and most of it multiple times. It's my go to place when life is being life and not what I think life should be. It's my place to regroup, to rethink, to re-purpose, to reevaluate, and somehow I always manage to find myself again when I visit. Perhaps it's because I left a little part of my heart there forty years ago when, as a child, I discovered the magical place of my dreams.

The Eureka of today is somewhat different than the Eureka of my childhood. The "dragon trees" are still there and the candy store where we would procure the giant jawbreakers is still there - with a taffy machine in the window working on the same pull of taffy it was working on all those years ago. I've had a love affair with that city for perhaps forty years. The Eureka today though has become a mecca for the motorcyclists and not just a couple of them, all of them. Of all the different folks who have taken up with Eureka Springs, the motorcyclists are my least favorite. Not that I don't care for them as people, though there are some who try my inclusive little heart, but I hate the noise pollution. The noise alone shatters the sacred and unhinges the heart.

Anyway, I ventured back today, partly because I wanted to hit up the shops and galleries for some business, partly because it was a beautiful day and like a homing pigeon on such days, I just head that direction, and partly because life has been kicking me around a bit lately and I needed some time to be there. I didn't spend nearly enough time there and plan to go back in two days to spend more time.

A couple of years ago I fulfilled a dream to move to Eureka Springs. I had always wanted to live there and just knew that if I ever did, I would be in heaven. I really did love it and maybe more than I realized at the time but for several reasons, none of which I'll go into in this blog post, after a year of living in Eureka Springs on Bear Mountain, I moved on to Fayetteville Arkansas, a place I call the Promised Land.

Since that move I have toyed with moving back to Eureka Springs. It always calls to me and has always done so. I suspect it will never be silent, being a place that resonates with my soul on some deep level. Today when I was there I kicked around where my old studio use to be and to my surprise it was empty - my heart fluttered! Could it be? Could I move back and have my old studio again? Really? Oh, it seemed too good to be true and it was. 

The complex where my studio had been is now owned by Harley-Davidson. Across from where my quaint little Victorian studio was now sits a big fat in-your-face Harley-Davidson shop flanked by a smoke shop, a tattoo parlor, and Bud's Beers and Brauts. What's more, half the parking lot was dedicated to "motorcycles only" and had been sectioned off with gates and warning signs. Hardly the neighborhood for me. The noise alone with drive me to fits.

My heart sank...and I left...I really couldn't go home after all.

After that rather shocking discovery I made pilgrimage to the Holy Hill where I visited some dear friends at a delightful place called Hillspeak, an Episcopal retreat center of sorts with books galore. I was blessed with the most delightful conversations and I had a particularly wonderful conversation, as is always the case, with one very dear friend. She is perhaps one of my most favorite people in my beloved little alpine village and we laughed and carried on as only we know how to do. By the time I left I had almost forgotten about the motorcycle scourge that is spreading throughout Eureka, almost.

I'll return in a couple of days and I plan on giving the Harley people a wide berth. I'll wander the Carthage stone streets, climb the hills, and visit the sacred springs. I doubt I could go back to live but I will go to visit my heart.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Writing One Thousand Words a Day

The other night at a party I was throwing I struck up a conversation with a neighbor friend who had just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of Arkansas. After the compulsory congratulations and "thata-boy's" I leaned back in my chair, took a long drink of my homemade sangria and asked,

"So, now what are you going to do with the rest of your life?"

Knowing my friend wished to be a writer, or more accurately wished to become a better writer, I had a pretty good idea of what his answer might be. Writing.

Indeed, he didn't disappoint. He launched into his hopes and dreams, his daily routine of becoming more of the writer that he knew he could be; he shared with me his plans for the not too distant future and eventually we got down to the nuts and bolts of it all. He was going to write. Already he had embarked upon a personal challenge of committing to write one thousand words a day for at least the next year. Notice I wrote the words one thousand because I learned that numbers don't count.

I thought to myself, wow! One thousand words a day! Ambitious!

I have always had a challenge with depth perception because I was two months premature and my eyes developed poorly. I was subsequently diagnosed with Lazy Eye, a condition where the eyes do not align to a single focal point, robbing the person of good depth perception, a condition I would have all of my life until finally I would go blind in one eye. That's a story for another one thousand words. I said all of that to say this, I also apparently have an issue with judging the depth of words when strung together in sentences that pile one upon another. I thought one thousand words a daunting amount to write day after day.

So I pressed him for more information...

Apparently he was going to, or already had, counted anything he had written from personal correspondences to blog entries, to perhaps even grocery store lists I assume. I jest but you get the picture. I began to think of the emails I write for the my dealings with Christ Catholic Church, my own personal corner of Catholicism, or for Whithorn School of Theology, and began to do some mental calculations. I quickly came to the conclusion that, by George, I think I normally write one thousand words or more a day by accident even if I don't count Facebook or other social media posts! Wow!

So then it occurred to me that I wasn't the best judge of depth historically and so I thought I'd give it a whirl by means of a single blog entry and see where my word count landed. Luckily I utilize a blog platform, Word Press, that counts your words for you as you compose. I suppose that comes in handy for folks who write for a living. This was something my friend, remember the one I mentioned earlier, was hoping to do, to eventually get paid for his writing. Anyway, according to the count at the bottom I'm over half way there!

Interesting. I haven't broken a sweat, nor, on the other hand, have I said anything of any import. I suppose its the dedication to the art of writing as much as anything. If you write enough surely something you write must be worth something right?! After all Fox News is a money making empire!

This was my friends attitude and a healthy one I suppose. He offered that writing one thousand words a day made you a writer. He extrapolated that over a single year and then working with a life expectancy actuary table, figured out how long he had left to live and multiplied the two numbers coming to an ungodly amount of words he will have written if he sticks to the plan. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he'll live to be over one hundred years of age and given that he is now maybe thirty-eight that would mean that he has sixty-two years left. So let's run the numbers...

One thousand words a day for three hundred and sixty-five days a year, excluding leap years, would obviously add up to three hundred sixty-five thousand words a year. Now take that and multiply that by sixty-two years remaining of his life and you come up with twenty-two million six hundred thirty thousand words he will have written before he kicks the bucket. It was his opinion that somewhere in all of that writing someone would find something that they wanted to publish, if for no other reason than novelty.

I just don't know. Let me see...

I'm older than my aspiring writer friend by a few years, having just had my forty-sixth birthday. Let me break for a moment and share with you that my forty-fifth year was rotten, rotten to the core. One shouldn't wish one's life away and I didn't at the time but I was so very glad to see the earth orbit the sun around to the location of my birth again. I have hopes for forty-six being much better although it's off to a rocky start but again that's a story for another one thousand words.

Anyway, I 'm sure that I wrote one thousand words a day last year when you add them all up but I have no proof of that. So I figure I should live to be at least one hundred years old and why shouldn't I? On Facebook it says eating cheese, devouring chocolate, and drinking wine is akin to exercising and it's surely not wrong if it is on Facebook is it?! That coupled with the fact that I returned to being a vegetarian two years ago and gave up everything I like to eat except for cheese, wine, and chocolate and not to mention, oh wait I am mentioning it, that I bike fifteen to twenty miles a day in reasonable weather - I should live forever.

If all that is true and I live another fifty-four years, again not accounting for leap years nor for the twenty-seven days since my last birthday, I should be able to write another nineteen million seven hundred ten thousand words in my lifetime. And maybe even say nothing of import.

Oh look, I'm already at one thousand seventy-five.