Thursday, August 2, 2012

I just typed out quite a lengthy post. But look how quickly I've deleted it. It was self-centered and full of nothing but complaints and can be cut down to:
  • I am never teaching another childrens' class again.
  • Parents terrify me.
  •  I'm sick to death of everything.
  • I'm in a cyclical state of anger and bitterness and contempt for everything and anything. Mainly my self.
  • Brogan's 2nd biopsies came back cancer free.
  • But he needs a vaccine that Joe and I cant afford.
  • I miss the person I was 3 months ago and wish I could just accept the person I apparently have become now and get it over with, rather than constantly being full of hate and loathing.
  • In fact it seems I don't feel much of anything anymore except for anger, anxiety, and stress.
  • I've become very self centered. See how many I's are in this post already?
  • I feel shallow, superficial, daft, clueless, flighty. 
  • My appetite is still through the roof and I'm at my wits end over it.
  • The weather has been awful; disgustingly hot for weeks on end, soon to be months.
  • My student loans are in default and any day now it'll be the government banging down my door instead of sallie mae. I have no money for them no matter who's doing the calling.
  • All I do is complain.
  • I should be happy: Brogan is not dying so swiftly. I'll be in Ireland soon. I have a big-girl internship that should be enjoyable. 
  • So...what gives?

Sometimes, increasingly more often actually, it seems the only thing to do is to start smoking cigarettes again because I cannot take this any longer.
Although each day and night my mind says "I'm done, I can't do this, I quit, I can't take it," and I still haven't smoked even one drag.

But I feel miserable and I don't know what to do.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I found $5 on the ground yesterday. I bought two lotto tickets with it. Aye, there's my luck; no winnings.

Joe and I took Brogan to the oncologist on Monday. My stomach was in knots all weekend over it. One minute I was anticipating the worst, planning for it, shaking and crying, and the next minute I'd be optimistic and certain that Brogan would be strong enough to pull through. The latter was especially true when I'd look at him, as normal as ever, wanting nothing more than to play fetch or wrestle Jake or eat my dinner for me.

Anyway. The oncologist didn't find anything more in Brogan's mouth, no more obvious physical manifestations of melanoma. That's good. He then took two x-rays, one of Brogan's chest and another of his right lymph node; it was swollen, and while the vet thought that it was most likely because of the surgery he wanted to check and make sure. His initial read of the xray results was that everything looked normal - he'd have the pathologist/radiologist look at them to double check, and call us in 48 hours.

So we were given a half-hour talk about melanoma and how it works and what the various options are. Brogan has 'low-grade' melanoma, which is the best of the worst, really. The problem is that the lump that was removed had melanoma going into it's base, meaning that it's still on his lip. Thus, the next step in trying to fix Mr Brogan is cutting off more of his lip, and hopefully this time all of the melanoma will be removed.

Unfortunately, the pathologist saw some sort of dark pigmentation on Brogan's lymph node. The oncologist doesn't suspect that the melanoma has metastasized, but to be on the safe side he recommends that that lymph node come out too.

Bit by bit poor Brogan is getting cut apart.

So, one bit of lip and one lymph node later, hopefully all the melanoma will be gone and the last thing Joe and I will have to decide is whether or not we're going to somehow, by some miracle, cough up the money for this way-too-expensive vaccine, or just hope for the best.

I'm still optimistic. Scared, but optimistic.

Aye. It's hard to convince myself to sit at the computer and write here. I haven't done sketches for any work either because the thought of sitting up in this corner at the computer isn't appetizing at all. I've replaced night-blog-writing-time with reading. So many books to read.

I've not been myself in a while now. In part, I blame this on quitting smoking. My world was thrown upside down. What a strange process. On one hand, it wasn't so hard at all; the cravings were shitty, but they were short, and the bad ones only lasted about a week. Now they're gone completely. The only draw to cigarettes I have left stem from "I wonder, if I start smoking, will I go back to normal? Will my patience come back? Will this god-awful fecking appetite go away?" Then I remember how horrid they smell, and what an awful headrush I'll get if I take so much as one drag, and the desire is choked.

But on the other hand, it's been intense. At times I feel like I don't know myself at all. I've become impatient, quick-tempered, and I have an appetite (in particular, a sweet-tooth I've inherited from my dad) that goes through the roof. It's awful awful awful awful, all of it. I loathe this person I've become. I loathe how I have this new found need to rush through everything, to constantly be go-go-go-go-go. I can't sit still. I can't just sit and enjoy things. What is this? Where did it come from? How the hell do I make it go away? This is driving me insane. The appetite, worst of all. I've not gained weight, but that's mostly because I've been running and walking and cycling more than ever before. If I stop doing that, it'll hit me like a brick, unless I change my eating habits.

And my attitude on life, on living, needs an adjustment.

I simply loathe this person. This is the reason I want to go back to smoking - not because I miss it, or crave nicotine. I don't miss any of it, not a bit. I just wonder, will old Kaetlyn come back if I do? Or, how the hell do I bring her back without it?

Today I felt a bit more like myself. More than I have in a while, anyway. So, we'll see.

Tomorrow's a new day.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brogan has cancer.

Suddenly he's delicate to me. Looking at him feels like it might break him. I'm cautious, and full of sadness. He's oblivious. He's lucky, and incredibly unlucky. I could ask 'why?' for the rest of eternity.

I'm terrified but optimistic, and most likely extremely naive.

He can't get a break. He's only four. It's not fair.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My childrens' photography course is over. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Six-year-olds are a tough crowd, and difficult to keep engaged. I do know that I'm of the opinion that paying $130 for your six-year-old to learn digital photography is very silly. They're six. They don't care; they just want to make messes, run around, climb things, tell stories, and have fun, not learn about camera settings or image composition. I think it would have gone better had the weather been cooler, thus our walks/adventures more tolerable.

Joe and I took Brogan in to get that wee lump removed from his lip and sent off to be biopsied. Now we're just waiting to hear test results. I'm optimistic, but we'll see.

My teeth won't give me a break. Now, my top-left wisdom tooth is being a disaster. Since all three of those teeth (the two that were just removed, and this currently problematic one) all came in at the same time it only makes sense that they'd all go bad at the same time as well. Unfortunately, my luck is awful and they begin to give me problems when I have to jump through loads of hoops in order to see the dentist. This one, on Friday during dinner, was giving me issues; any time I bit down on that side an awful searing pain would shoot through my mouth. Then I pulled out a tooth fragment. Well, shite, it was Friday night, there was nothing I could do; I'd have to wait until Monday. Saturday and Sunday: cue more tooth pieces falling out. Yikes. I discovered yesterday afternoon that a huge chunk of that tooth is extremely loose and would probably pop right out if I asked it to. On top of that, all weekend the bugger's now razor jagged edge has been cutting and cutting and scraping into my cheek, which at this point is swollen and irritated and painful from it. So this morning; first things first, I called my dentist's office. But ho! They're on vacation until the 10th. Luckily, they listed their go-to backup dentist, so I called him. Ho ho! His office is closed on Mondays. Forget it, I'm fed up with this tooth and this 'you-must-always-wait' nonsense, I'm calling his emergency at-home number. Luckily, he got me an appointment with an orthodontic surgeon for 11:30 today.

I picked the wrong career. It seems that dentists get an amazing amount of time off, and lots of holidays and luxuries (based on the banter I hear in the office of my own; she has a horse ranch, a farm that she doesn't even live at, and a fancy vacation home somewhere tropical.) Maybe I'll go to dentist school instead of postgrad.

Anyway, I'm 99% sure this means I'll be getting another wisdom tooth removed today. Which means that's another week of no jogging, horseback riding, bike rides, hiking, yoga, anything quite physical. That's the worst part of all of it. I can deal with the mushy food and having to be careful about not irritating anything, but being largely sedentary for a week is misery. Especially since quitting smoking; I have an awful neurotic way about me now, a need to constantly be doing something, mainly in order to stay away from replacing my cigarette habit with food.

Well, I suppose the good part is that being sedentary forces me to focus on things I haven't been able to otherwise focus on because of being a neurotic mess, like doing some reading and art-making.

In other news...there's a family of bunnies living in a wee hole in front of a tree right next to the street. Perhaps a foot or so from it. That's an awful spot to raise a family of bunnies, I have to say, and I worry for them. Hopefully motherbunny moves the kits around and they don't stay there where they're at danger of being hit by cars or caught by passing dogs. 

I bought a handful of succulents and herbs to be excited about. This morning I thinned the spearmint/peppermint monster and put the good cuttings into paper bags for drying, and did the same for mam's thyme because it was getting crazy and she doesn't keep up with it. Most everything needs to be re-planted and I have to figure out what to put everything in, which is turning out to be tricky.

So I'm off to enjoy trail mix while I can before it's back to a diet of sweet potatoes and smoothies.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Offered (and accepted) an upaid curatorial internship at a big local hospital.
  • Currently teaching digital photography to six-year-olds. I'm tempted to say that this has been a nightmare, but we have another week to go and things may change yet / I may learn something even more than they have.
  • Brogan goes in on Wednesday to get that lip-lump removed and biopsied.
  • I've not been reading nearly half as much as I'd like to.
  • I've not made any art (but the good part: I have a desire to do so.)
  • Working every single Saturday evening serving weddings until the end of time. I'll be a wedding connoisseur by the time summer is done.
  • New-found love for blueberries. I loathed them for a long time.
  • Attempting to get an Oriole to stick around by putting orange halves out. He/she has not shown any interest so far.
  • I need to re-learn how to live an unscheduled life. Everything I do has become very regimented and orderly; I plan my days out, I nearly plan my meals out. This has started within the last year and a half. Now that I'm out of school it bothers the hell out of me, and at the same time it seems that I now have a hard time functioning otherwise.
  •  Had two wisdom teeth pulled out. That solved the toothache problem.
  • My cousin is getting married in Portland this weekend. I've wanted to visit Portland for a number of years now, but it's on the opposite end of the country. The weather is nearly identical to Ireland's, the art culture is massive, amongst a big slew of other good qualities. Alas, I will be here, serving another wedding.
  • The garden is growing nicely; 18 tomato plants, pole beans, wax beans, kale, cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, celery, peppers, lots of herbs and a few other things.
  • The weather is extremely hot. My six-year-old aspiring photographers have hated me for taking them out in it. It makes one tired, lethargic, unmotivated. Few things make me as grumpy as being hot and uncomfortable does. If this keeps up, I'm moving to Svalbard.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My teeth hate me.

The night before / morning of commencement practice I had a fairly awful toothache that kept me awake for the majority of the night. It was a Friday morning. My dentist's office is conveniently closed on Fridays and they have a message on their machine that says "if you have a true dental emergency, please press whatever button."

Unsure of what constitutes a "true dental emergency" (my mind immediately went to broken teeth, puddles of blood, loads of pain, awful awful things, not "dull achy nagging miserableness" that keeps one up at night) I called my previous dentist. Unfortunately, all they had to say was "Sorry, you haven't been here in a while and although your dentist's office is closed you need to go somewhere else." Glad I left them as one can see how incredibly helpful they are.

A professor was so worried about me that she actually scheduled an appointment for me with her own dentist for that day while I was at rehersal. I thought for sure I was going to need a root canal, but the dentist thought otherwise. It was a tooth that had been chipped a while ago, the filling came off less of a while ago, and I was just waiting for school to be over in order to take care of everything. Apparently the tooth didn't want to wait anymore. She put a new filling on it, and sent me on my way. The pain was gone.

Cue two days ago when the achyness started to come back-but not exactly from the same spot. Off and on. Don't ask me why, two days ago, I didn't call the dentist. Oh I remember why; because I didn't want to spend the money so "I'll just wait and see if it goes away in a few days." Now it's 6am Friday morning, my mouth is in awfully bad pain in a spot that seems to move around on the left side, and despite feeling completely exhausted I haven't slept a wink because of it. Motrin hasn't helped. My dentist's office is, once again, closed.

And today is my first day of work at the golf course.

Lovely lovely lovely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I've had an absence of restlessness for a while now, despite quitting smoking. But not tonight.

This afternoon I took the good Mr Brógan into the vet to get his annual shot updates; DA2/LPP, Lyme, Bordatella, Heartworm Antagen, and five months' Interceptor to keep the fleas and ticks at bay.

I scraped together every leftover dollar I had for that and there isn't a cent left to spare. It's always an expensive visit.

But it didn't end there, of course not! Low and behold, Brógan has some sort of growth on his lip. Joe noticed it around the 12th when he was in town. I mentioned it to the vet, who immediately became concerned because of it's colour; "if it were lighter in colour I wouldn't be too worried, but it's black and that's alarming." In other words, there's a chance it could be melanoma. There's a chance it could be nothing. In order to find out, I have to pay $520 for it to be removed and tested.

$520 to cut a lump the size of a pea hanging off of Brógan's droopy jowl by a patch of skin maybe the width of two toothpicks. This only because they have to put him under in order to do it; "if he were a person we would just numb the area, cut it off, and it would cost hardly anything. But he's a dog and we have no control over his head even if we were to numb the area so he needs to be put under for his and our safety. It only takes two minutes to cut it off, but the anesthesia and medicines for the anesthesia are expensive." Damnit I swear to god I will stand back there and hold his head still myself if they'd knock off money and allow it! Half a grand! To cut off this tiny thing! They don't even charge anything for the actual labwork/biopsy of the thing (thankfully) that's just the removal! Aye!

Can I just cut it off myself, put it in a little container, and bring it to them for the testing? 

I do not have the money for it. I don't know when I will have the money for it. I start work at the golf course on Friday, but as of right now I'm only working two days a week. I'm set to teach two classes but there's no guarantee that enrollment for either course will fill. 

Brógan, please please PLEASE stop getting strange / expensive / frightening ailments. This is getting absurd. First it was Idiopathic trigeminal neuritis, a week before I left for the Burren. "His jaw might work again, or it might not. There's nothing we can do, this goes away on it's own. It could take a week or it could take a few months." He was lucky with that one; after two weeks of making him goopy food and spoon-feeding it to him, and extremely messy water-feeding, his mouth was back to normal. Then the intestinal blockage. Again, extremely lucky. And now...some weird pea-sized black thing hanging off of his jowl which may or may not be cancer.

Argh argh argh. I must hope that Brógan has nine lives. Or....seventy, at this rate. My heart aches and my head pounds. I'm worried and frustrated.

Meanwhile, he sleeps peacefully, blissfully ignorant. 

In other news:
  • Quitting smoking is still going well. It's been a week now since I've had a cigarette. After dinner, and then after tea, in the evening, are the most difficult times. Other than that, it's been somewhat easy. Mornings are easy. Probably because the shite of the day hasn't piled up yet.
  • This has resulted in loads of bike rides. And jogging every-other-night with Brógan. He loves it; as soon as I put my jogging shorts on he knows what the plan is and runs to the door with anticipation.
  • My aunt gave me some of the best tea I've had yet. Some sort of black spiced tea. I'm not sure it's chai, but it's similar; naturally sweet and heavily spiced. It's magical and I've only had two cups of it so far in an attempt to spare it.
  • I sat on the patio for an hour the other night doing nothing but listening to and watching the birds. I then pulled out mam's computer and looked up a bird field guide with sounds and attempted to identify their calls, but was largely unsuccessful. There are a number that I know very well offhand, but there are many that sound so much alike, mostly all the small chickadee and sparrow varieties. The grackles, doves, red-winged blackbirds, robins, cardinals, and jays are hard to confuse.
  • The plan for September - mid November: Cleveland > Newark > Shannon > Burren > Inis Oírr > Galway > Dublin > England > Dublin > Mulranny > Whatever for a week and a half > Shannon > Newark > Cleveland. Highly liable to change.
  • Almost done redoing my brother's old room. Dad and I acquired shelves today so tomorrow I may spend the afternoon putting them up, stocking them, and getting everything at least moved into the room, if not organized and all set so I can start to make new work. Making work is going to be entirely different now, which is both exciting and slighty scary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm officially done with undergrad. So that's that.

In recent news:

  • I was awarded the 3rd Agnes Gund President's Traveling Scholarship, $4,500 for the trip to Inis Oírr. 
  • I managed to pull straight A's for the first time in my life.
  • Commencement was much more fun than expected. Mostly because all of our faculty were wearing crazy silly hats and everybody was so incredibly happy and excited.
  • I'm in the midst of a single-handed conquest against my brother's old room with hopes to make a decent work/studio space. 
  • As of yesterday I'm in the process of quitting smoking. I was hoping to go cold turkey but I'm having a difficult time; yesterday I had a total of 4 cigarettes. Today I've had two (one of which I had half around 3pm, and just had the 2nd half of it about five minutes ago...and it made me feel quite ill for a moment.) I normally smoke about 20 a day, so this is massive in-itself. I'm just ready to be done with the filthy, smelly, expensive things.
  • This means that Brógan has been going on loads of walks and jogs. And my bike is getting plenty of use. 
  • Currently finishing The Return of The King
  • I miss Joe greatly.
So summer is here then. 

And with school done that means I have very few things left to gripe over. What will I talk about now?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Well, sin uile.

I can't exactly retell how it went, because it's a blur in my mind now.
The hour beforehand was miserable; my heart raced as though I had run a mile, my chest felt tight. I sat alone in my car trying to detach myself from the situation, telling myself things like "It's just one small hour in one small day. It takes longer to drive home in rush hour, and nightmares last longer." I was trying to view it as a situation that involved little to no emotion, like a mechanical process that I had to do, similar to sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office, or in rush hour traffic. Of course this didn't work and my heart continued to race.

The first two minutes were a little rough; my hands were shaking as I held my statement and read it. I was more conscious of that than anything. My mind kept saying "damnit hands, stop this, why do you do this." As soon as I was done reading my statement / introducing the work and my faculty began to ask questions, the nerves disappeared. It was exactly what I was hoping would happen, and the other 25-30-however-many-students-and-staff were there ceased to exist and it was only me and my panel of faculty having a discussion about my work.

I don't remember the questions that were asked, save a few (paraphrasing: "Are these pornographic or are they hermetic?" "Why are they mounted to panels, how does that effect the read of the work, and why do you want that effect?" "What role do the conventions of photography play in the development of narrative and understanding of the pieces, for the viewer?" Amongst a slew of others and many about my personal criteria for the creation for the creation of the work."

Also can't tell how it went because, from my perspective, too many emotions and nerves and expectations, good and bad, were involved to judge it. I will say that it went significantly better than I expected, but that doesn't say much because I set myself up to expect the worst. The nerves and buildup of anxiety and fear beforehand was infinitely worse than the feeling of standing up there and being under the onslaught of difficult questions.

And then my panel had an awkward lull, tenish minutes before the end, where nobody asked anything; silence, and questions were opened up to students and staff (nobody asked anything then either). Never have I seen this happen at a BFA before. I was in disbelief, unsure of whether it was a good or a bad thing; was it because they then understood the work and no longer felt the need to ask questions? Was it because it was the end of the day, near the end of an incredibly long week, and they were simply getting burnt out and exhausted? Was it because I was playing dodgeball, my answers wishy-washy, and they felt defeated, that they could no longer pin me down and get meaty answers out of me to work with? Or was it because the work was merely not engaging enough to spur many questions?  That last one, more than anything, made me squirm.
But then, before the silence stretched too far into an awkward abyss, one panel member asked a question, which then spurred a bigger question and discussion afterwards.

At the end there was clapping, hugs, handshakes, congratulations, and even a few "thank-you's." I was told I did fantastic, that it felt much more like a discussion and talk than a critique or intense exam. It's hard for me to agree or disagree with this because the entire thing was incredibly surreal. The only thing I can attest to was that it was much less intense and terrifying than I had led myself to believe it would be.

And I have to say that after all of that build up, all of that self-pressure and doubt and fear, shaking and sleepless nights and evenings crying on the phone with Joe and making my parents nervous for me, the end, so far, has been anticlimactic. There was no sudden rush of release, no great sigh relief was heaved. It was merely "Well, I'm done. So that's that."

That's not to say I'm not relieved; jaysus it was nice to wake up this morning without feeling tense. It was nice to sit on the patio with my parents and the dogs last night and not feel as though I were wasting time or procrastinating. And that in-itself is reward more than I can ask for.

Joe is in town this morning. We're headed to school to watch the last of our four-man band of drawing students endure her thesis-defense. I'm very excited for her because I know she's just as nervous and anxious as I was, and I can't wait for her to be done and to congratulate her. Later this evening is a public-reception at the school, and I think my dad has invited half of northeastern Ohio to it.

Tomorrow is a celebratory cookout at a faculty-member's house. Monday my thesis-binder is due. Next weekend is commencement. And there it all will end.

I'm looking forward to consuming a diet consisting of more than coffee and carbs. And I cannot wait to take Brogan on a much much much needed hike.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The day has nearly come.
My thesis defense is tomorrow. Tomorrow.

One hour upon which to judge an entire year of work and research.

Some professors try to be reassuring: this is not to belittle you, it's not a firing squad, it's a group of well-informed people whose attention is on nothing but you and your work for an hour, they have your best interests at heart, are invested in you, want you to succeed, and are there to help you tie the last ends together. Others say different; it's a bloodbath, it's a test.

Despite attending many thesis-defenses over the years, and having freshly watched two of my fellow drawing peers go through the process this week, I still couldn't tell you which opinion is more accurate.

I realize that after my hour is done, everything is done. The work is done, the anxiety is done, the beast will be put to rest. For better or for worse, it will be the end. I realize that unless I run out half way, refuse to take a stand, or blatantly don't show up, I will not fail. For those reasons I feel great excitement and anticipation to finish and close the book, be the ending good or bad, pleasant or painful, and to move on to the next.

But until then the anxiety builds. My self-doubt has possibly reached a new height. As I develop and rehearse the small speech I will have to say tomorrow, every word feels precarious and deadly. Every word feels like a snare. I fear that my own words will be my undoing. I doubt whether I understand my own work, whether I can defend it. Every weakness I show will be pried open, poked, and exposed.

Perhaps that is salt in the wound; while it hurts, it serves to clean, to heal.

I try to reassure myself that life goes on, and in the big scope of things this one, small hour of my life will matter very little. I drive through the park and I see the trees, the people out, the river flowing, and I notice that how my defense goes will not matter to any of them. I come home to Brogan who jumps and smiles and cries with excitement, and realize that to him it makes no difference at all. I sit with my neighbours and family around the fire at the weekend and reassure myself that these patterns and things will continue on, unchanged, unfazed, unaffected whatsoever by this one hour. 

But such weight has been put on it! From your first semester as a freshman to the final applaud at the end of your defense you are reminded that this is the crux of your time at school. You are reminded that your four or five years of work will all amount to this one, hour-long performance. There is an incredible degree of fuss and pressure over it. This is not easy to ignore despite how hard I try.

Emotions are split fifty fifty; excitement and anxiety. I look at my peers who are done and see them glowing with happiness and relief despite however good or bad their time at the gallows went.

I must keep reminding myself how little it matters. I must keep reminding myself that it is one mere hour. If I don't, if I let myself succumb to the pressure, I will fall even harder.

For better or for worse, come 5:30pm tomorrow, I will be done.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In the final stretch now. Finals week has officially arrived. I technically have three, but one of them is my thesis defense, which is next Thursday. I have two papers due on Tuesday and a boatload of black and white prints due on Thursday.

Currently I'm aboard an intense emotional rollercoaster. In one moment I feel relief, anticipation, excitement, and just a tiny hint of pride over having come this far (somehow), the end is so near and in less than two weeks' time I will be a free girl. Then, in the blink of an eye, I find myself suddenly overwhelmed by doubt, terror, and intense anxiety.

That seems to be the motif for all art-things in general. There are two sides to the coin, and it never stops flipping.

Right now I'm taking a break from painting. The final painting of my art-school-whatever. That in itself is a relief. Unless I somehow mess it up. I'm banking on not doing that though.

I was hired at a government-owned golf course nearby as a server for weddings, and late-night bartender during the week. It's not much, but the pay is decent, I'll have benefits, and a pension. Graduate with a BFA, become a waitress amongst high school students. Nobody's fault but mine.

I'm terrified that I'm going to mess something up between now and the end.
I will not miss the awful pain in my back from spending hours bent over a painting. I'll be very glad to be able to take frequent breaks to prevent this from happening, instead of endlessly hunching over the work in an attempt to get as much done as quickly as possible.
I am hoping that painting becomes enjoyable again.
There is still so much to do, and so very very very little time.
I will miss access to equipment; projectors, cameras, lights, a proper studio, negative scanners, etcetera.
I will miss the tomfoolery of my peers.
I will miss certain faculty members.
I will not miss taking out loans or doing FAFSA every spring.
I'm looking forward to lots of time with Brogan. Hikes as the weather warms up.
I'm looking forward to a thorough cleaning/gutting of my room, the likes of which have never taken place before (to the degree that I will most likely have to sleep on the couch because it will be in such disarray.)
Greatly greatly greatly looking forward to quitting smoking (the day: 21 May.)
Also jogging with Brogan. It's been months.
Planning to spend an entire day watching all three lord of the rings films. After I finish the books (I'm halfway through "The Two Towers" now.)
LOTS of reading in general. There are so many books I'd like to read that I have not had the time for.
I'm dreading the monthly bills from sallie mae that will start as soon as, if not before, I get back from Inis Oirr.

When I put in front of me all of these things I have to look forward to, it lightens the load, just enough to make it tolerable and provide motivation to get through the load. But it's difficult to remember these things in the moments of misery. It's difficult to shove "I clearly don't understand my own work and it's been five years and I am going to be in huge trouble at my defense," out and replace it with "Just keep working and remember that in x-amount-of-time you'll be able to do this-thing-that-you-love." I've put quite an amount of weight on school and the quality of the things I must do for it lately, and it's far more harmful than helpful.

I'm hardly looking forward to riding tomorrow night because it's an hour less time that I will have to get things done.

And so it's back to painting now.

Inis Oirr is starting to sound really really nice again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thesis is due today. Today. Oh my.

I've been reading a lot about the theatre of the absurd, and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."  Interesting that it caused such an uproar with the sort of 'intellectual' crowd (for lack of better terms there..), who couldn't agree on the meaning of it, and kept analyzing and analyzing and speculating and critiquing; religious meanings, philosophical meanings, psychological ones, homoerotic ones...
And yet when it was performed in front of the inmates at San Quentin, they just 'got' it. I guess there was a lot of anxiety over performing this in front of them; oh such a high brown thing, how could the inmates ever fully grasp or even appreciate the complex intellect that the play involves? But they loved it, and they each took from it their own meaning: "Godot is society." "Godot is 'the man.'" etcetera.

Beckett said it best himself; "Why people have to complicate a thing so simple, I can't make out."

This was striking a lot of chords for me.
The great majority of questions I get from people about my work, both formally in school and casually by people outside of that community, are questions that ask for the underlying meaning. People expect it to be a critique on something, they expect it to have a hidden metaphor or message, something deep, distinct, and solid, fixed. When I disappoint them by telling them it's empty and fluid they don't believe me, they can't believe me. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "There's something you're holding back on, there's something you're not telling us" over the past five months I'd have enough money to feed Brogan for a year.

It makes it very difficult to talk about the work though. It's a one-liner; the viewer empowers the work. We force meaning and symbolism onto things, which are ultimately empty and powerless, and we instinctively form narratives to make understandable the unintelligible, when we are faced with it. By power I don't mean the literal sense, I mean the power of the pieces to carry and convey meaning. There's a fairly decent quote from the 2nd book in the "A Game of Thrones" series that's sort of suitable:

"In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword to kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

I suppose anyone who comes to my work and anticipates me, or even the work, to provide them with solid answers is, really, waiting for Godot.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Riding Freckles yesterday went much much better. I managed to keep him more forward, my hands were more independent, he was softer to my legs, and I generally had a better understanding of him. We weren't perfect, by any means, but we were way better. I felt there was much more of a connection between us and we worked together, as opposed to last week where we fought against each other as a result of my being-all-over-the-place. The big problem I noticed with myself this week was that I have developed a "chair seat." I've never had that problem before so I'm not sure what the issue is, as it can be a number of things. My guess is that I'm sitting too far back. The last time I rode was hunter-jumper, which is a more forward seat; your upper body is held about 20 degrees in front of 'the vertical' (the vertical being a theoretical vertical line drawn up from the middle of the saddle.) In dressage one rides at the vertical. So it's possible I'm just having a hard time finding my seat, over-compensating, and sitting too much on my pockets and thus causing my legs to fall forward. It could also be stirrup length, or the saddle. When I tried to fidget with my seat and bring my lower leg more underneath myself and identify the point of balance, I was met with a lot of resistance of some sort, like it was unnatural and my body couldn't hold it, so I also wonder if it may be partly that his saddle and I are not made for each other.

At the end of each lesson we walk around on a long rein to cool down for a while, maybe five to ten minutes. I always look forward to that part because the work is done and we get to relax, and I get to spend time with him just walking. He gets lots of pats and scratches on his withers then.

I'm not terribly sore today, which is a plus. It means the muscles are settling back into place. My lumbar is a bit stiff because we sat the trot a great deal yesterday. You wouldn't think that merely sitting up there would cause soreness-maybe on one's bottom, but not in ones core. I've only had a sore bottom from riding a few times, and it was always from sitting in a western saddle, I suppose because I've only sat in a western saddle a handful of times and am thus not used to it. But sitting the trot is a serious core workout, unless you want to bounce around like a maniac (in which case I imagine one would have a very tender bottom afterwards indeed.) The goal is to keep your butt in the seat at all times; no bouncing, contact must be maintained, you should never come up off the saddle. That's tricky and requires that you be both loose and relaxed as well as able to  move your pelvis quick enough to absorb the shock and rise and fall with the horse's movement. I'm not master of this yet; when I focus on it and am relax I do just fine, but when we're asked, say, "sitting trot and shoulder-in" I become a bit tense as my mind shifts to focusing about the aids for shouldering in, and then before I know it I'm bouncing around and as rigid as a an oak board. And then I feel bad because I know all that jarring can't feel good on the horse's back. When someone sits the trot perfectly, it looks effortless, like they're relaxed and just plodding along (and then when you talk to them afterwards you notice they're out of breath and sweating.)

I came home afterwards feeling refreshed. Again the smell of horses lingering on  me and filling me with both nostalgia and wholeness. It took me back to the days of spending weeks at my grandmother's house with my friend Rachel, waking up early every morning to walk down to the barn and do volunteer work. The days spent walking lines of ponies down trail with the little pony-campers aboard them, grooming, tacking, cleaning. Joking that Rachel and I would someday steal Killian (an old bay Morgan/TB mix), who was my favourite, and Freckles (the very same, who was no more than 3 or 4 at the time), who was her favourite, and run off with them. The wooden panels in my grandma's attic, all of the horse pictures we'd pinned up, the ancient cots we slept on, all of our grooming supplies and tack in old wooden crates. Summer evenings after volunteering spent at bluebanks digging up clay in the riverbed and making  little sculptures, then tossing them back into the water. Finding old green copper bullet shells from the 1800's on the hillside from the shooting range that was once there. Lifting logs to find salamanders. Sitting in my grandmother's smoke-filled kitchen, listening to old stories, or her and my brother singing songs from my grandmother's childhood.

I once found a totally whole and intact bullet. A big, solid copper one, patina'd green and blue from sitting on the hill buried in leaves and dirt for so long. Someone missed their mark with it, I assume, as most of the ones we found were battered fragments, or smashed, after having hit something. I lost it in our house somewhere, years and years ago, and still don't have a clue where it is.

In a short while I came back to the present-day and the storm of stress and anxiety and depression washed over me. All of the work I need to do. All of my lack of confidence, doubt, confusion, anger, frustration, fear. Overwhelmed and wholly unhappy. The thought of all the work I need to do causes a feeling that I can only describe as all of my organs falling apart. I sit to work on my thesis and the physical symptoms of fear arise; heart racing, sweating, anxious, want of a cigarette, shaking. I've had a stomach ache for 6 days now, an awful one, coming and going as it pleases, at it's own choosing. Nothing feels good. Stuck in a deep, dark hole. Miserable to stay in, but too fearful to crawl out.  I have not been this depressed in a long time.

This morning was the first morning in what seems like a long time that I'd woken up without a stomach ache plaguing me. I'm sitting here, still waking up, with my coffee and cigarettes, holding onto slivers of motivation and good-feelings. A talk with Joe last night helped, was reassuring.

I need to shut out the thoughts and just work, but it's a struggle. No longer do I even look forward to all of this being done; it feels impossible, it feels as though I am on the verge of falling short of the mark. I'm staring it in the face and yet I cannot reach it. I am afraid, terrified. Everything hurts.

But I have to keep going.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We've been graced with fair weather for the past few days.
Yesterday I spent a good while laying on the grass in front of the house, looking up at the branches of our maple tree, and playing with the green keys it's started to drop. They're soft and green and translucent, but soon they'll be brown and brittle. And everywhere.

A new painting started today. After this one, just one more to go.

This week's riding lesson was significantly less...graceful...for lack of better term...than last weeks. To put it bluntly, I was a disaster. Last week, the mare was very sensitive and hot, thus requiring subtle and sensitive aids and overall calmness and reassurance from yours truly-she was spooky and unsure. It was also a private lesson. This week's horse, Freckles, was the opposite, in fact he may have been a cow rather than a horse; it was like trying to convince a brick wall that it should bend around my leg and move forward. It was also a group lesson, six of us, on top of two other riders in the arena. I was heavy with my hands and my legs slid back and forth horrifically. I've never felt my legs slide around so much before; I was absolutely a sloppy, sloppy mess. The horse was lazy, he did not want to pick his feet up, and he was very adamant about cutting corners; rather than last weeks horse, Pie, Freckles required very very strong aids, particularly in the legs. My strength there is mostly gone, and if I had any doubt about that prior to today the confusion has been very much cleared up. It was a struggle to gather up enough strength to keep us where we needed to be; every time we'd come around the bend he would fall in and I'd flail around yanking on his mouth and trying to kick as hard as I could with my inside leg, and he basically continuing to cut saying "nah you're doing this wrong and so I'm just not going to listen." We did things I've never learned before, particularly shoulder-ins and half passes. I know these maneuvers well, as in I can recognize them when they're being done, but I myself have never done them before. So, eight horses plodding around the big arena, tack and buckles squeaking and clanking, and the instructor yelling from the opposite side, I couldn't hear her at all. For a good ten minutes of the lesson I felt thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of myself; rather than getting anything from it, asking her to be louder, or explain something, I was merely following the group and trying to mimic the horse and rider in front of me, with Freckles resisting and the poor thing! My hands were so heavy on the bit and he was stretching downward and trying to avoid being yanked and I feel absolutely awful about it now but at the time I was just trying to maintain the pace and get myself balanced and keep him moving forward and to stop cutting corners. I don't know what it was about his trot or what was different with myself from last week to this week, but I could not get my legs to be still for the life of me, particularly the right leg when we were on the left trot diagonal.

Oh it did feel like kicking a brick wall.
After the embarrassment ended, my legs and back already feeling stiff, and having taken Freckles back to his stall and apologizing for the agony I put him through, I asked my instructor if I could ask her a few things, and it did help; I asked her what exactly I needed to be doing when we approached the corners, to keep him from falling in so bad, and what exactly the aids were for the shoulder-in and half-pass. At first she seemed a bit annoyed, but she's a very straighforward person and maybe it was just my personal overwhelming guilt for having hung onto poor Freckles' mouth that was seeking that out in her. Anyway, she explained them, and all I can do is wait until next week to try and correct my mistakes.

Despite all of this, and how ashamed I am of myself for making Freckles' suffer for my own disorganization and madness, I really hope we get to work together again next week. I hope she keeps us together. I remember taking lessons here before, and it seemed every two weeks we would be on different horses; I hope that isn't the same this time. I'd like to stick with him until I can understand, and get things to work. I at least hope that next week we will be together, so that I can have a second chance.

As I was untacking him and apologizing for everything, one of the women from the group approached me and started chatting. She reminds me of my anthropology instructor; an older woman, very short, thin, pixie-like, with big, wide, curious and kind eyes, and a small and shy smile. I was still suffering from my embarrassment so I mostly looked down at my gloves and didn't say much; which just made everything worse as I then felt like I'd been rude and regretted not talking to her more! I can't win against myself and my guilt, I don't let me.

So the adventure continues. I've another long, endless week to wait until the next round. Once a week is certainly better than not at all, but it's tough; I crave more. It's an awful drug. It's difficult to deal with, in every aspect; it's both wonderful and awful. It's complicated.
To put it into a few good words:

"Riding a horse is not a gentile hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he or she will have to accept that their life is radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Until next week, the madness and insanity of art school continues. The weather will begin to cool down again, and tomorrow will have a chill, so they say. But I'm not going to think about that tonight. Instead I'm going to curl up with "The Two Towers" and wish that I lived in the Shire with Joe and Brógan, where everybody would speak Irish, drink loads of tea, read loads of books, have wonderful gardens, tell lots of stories, and enjoy the sun and the breeze and the soft rains. And maybe have a horse or two...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scanned Negatives

Ilford Delta 100 4x5 negatives. I'm really happy with the middle one.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

still life test shots

These are test shots done with my digital camera in order to check the lighting, thus the poor focus / framing / cropping. The final shots were done with film in a 4 x 5 camera.

The last one was a bit of boredom.

For it being my first time shooting entirely alone in the studio without any help at all, I think I did a fair job. The only other times I've shot in the studio were in order to help others out. I've even taught a one-day course/seminar on studio lighting and photography...
Well, it wasn't bad, it just took a good amount of time to get everything set up and broken down. Hopefully I'll be using the studio more often for future projects.

So this is the blog I'll be using to update on art-related-and-whatever things.
I'm not much in the mood for writing tonight though, so, sin agaibh anois.