Today I’m in St. Ignace, Michigan, on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge. I finally made it to the Upper Peninsula, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for over a decade.
But now I’m here and in a crappy mood. What gives?
I’ve been here since Sunday morning, working too hard yet not feeling particularly productive. And getting absolutely tormented mosquitos, day and night. Clouds of them, like something from Jurassic Park. I’ll get ten bites in one sprint from the truck to the camper and I have learned the hard way that Sputnik isn’t mosquito proof. They get in through the vents, the sink, the broken air conditioner in the ceiling. I blue taped everything, but they keep getting in.
My happiest state is my default state - static flow, repeated rituals. I shouldn’t get so thrown off by swarms of mosquitos, but I can’t help it. I like to stay comfortable and stay moving, in rhythm, sometimes quite quickly, on projects and chores with simple definitions and objectives. Creativity is hard for me because it’s emotional and because it starts and stops in spurts. I think that the reason I enjoy doing dishes so much is beacuse there’s no heart required, no soul on display, and nothing really to think about. Just doing.
Sputnik has a sink but no running water, so I lug around a five gallon jug and fill it up every chance I get. It hasn’t been an issue in the least. There’s also no fridge, which is also no problem. All of my food is non-perishable except for two wicker baskets of fresh produce, one for food that needs to get eaten quickly (fresh greens, peppers, bananas) and another for stuff I can forget about for a few days and it’s no big deal (garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges.)
For three days in a row, I’ve left the breakfast dishes in the sink until dinnertime. So it’s undeniable that I’m in a funk. My rigidly-structured existance makes it extremely easy to diagnose my moods. To a strange degree, I’m in touch with my emotions, but that doesn’t mean that I can change them. I don’t think I’m any happier or sadder than I used to be, but now there’s no hiding from the thoughts and feelings. There’s nothing to distract me. A blessing and a curse.
Sometimes I miss the days when I was so busy all of the time I could just ride through the ups and downs in a fog of chaos - meetings, people, happy hours, endless to-do’s, life. Sitting silently through a sad evening can be excrutiating. I try to avoid letting meditation turn into rumination, but it does happen. I’ll just sit around reviewing and re-reviewing all of my life decisions, including those that landed me in an RV on National Forest Land, unable to afford to stay on campgrounds, sweating my ass off under five blankets but still getting eaten alive by mosquitos in the dark. The funny thing about circular thoughts is that they always end up going somewhere if you’re willing to wait long enough. It must have something to do with blackholes or the fungible nature of space-time.
So many times I have resolved to blog every day that it’s awkward for me to bring it up again, but this is me doing that. I need more words and I need more time. Cowardice and laziness are always getting in the way, but this shouldn’t be an insurmountable hurdle. Other hurdles in my life seem truly insurmountable, but writing every day isn’t one of them. It’s a first step to a million other steps. One that I really need to take.
I think that the thing that keeps tripping me up is the misguided notion that this - what I’m doing right now - is art. It isn’t. It can still be artful and interesting, but it’s not my passion. It’s training. Practice. I’m collecting wood for the campfire, but I’m not actually building anything just yet. Art, I think, shouldn’t have an ulterior motive. It is created because it needs to be created - nothing more and nothing less. This isn’t that. This is strategic. This has an objective.
I want to be an artist. One day. But I think the best way for me to get there, and to be able to even figure out what that means, is to get comfortable with a few non-art routines in my life, like blogging. Faith is going to play a role here.
I’m halfway through Just Kids by Patti Smith. She writes:
“I was lonely and scattered and stymied, surrounded by unfinished songs and abandoned poems. I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. And then I met a fellow who gave me his secret and it was pretty simple. When you hit a wall, just kick it in.”
She also writes:
“In my low periods, I wondered what was the point of creating art. For whom? Are we animating God? Are we talking to ourselves? And what was the ultimate goal? To have one’s work caged in art’s great zoos – The Modern, the Met, the Louvre?”
I craved honesty, yet found dishonesty in myself. Why commit to art? For self-realization, or for itself? It seemed indulgent to add to the glut unless one offered illumination.”
I’m adding to the glut because I won’t be able to find the signal in the noise unless I create a lot of noise. Also, I think I feel a little bit better than I did when I sat down to write this. So there’s that. See you tomorrow. Hopefully.