A re-Beginner’s Mind Maybe

You can’t wander into a flow if you never begin moving.

I’ve begun thinking in terms of platitudes, I’m afraid. It is probably time for another break from social media.

There’s never enough time in the day – and that has to be a matter of structure and attention, not time. A matter of pulling out the paper and the charcoals, and getting my fingers dirty.

Caging the oxpecker.

Stories should never begin with, “Once upon a time.” But rather, “And then, this time…”

On Not Being a Reactive Artist

This morning I am making significant changes in how I use social media. This is part of a huge shift in my priorities in general. How I want to use my time. In some ways, it feels odd to do this now. It seems self-serving. Focusing on that very first circle of awareness at a time when there is so much immediate trauma in the distant reaches of my awareness.

I keep reminding myself that it is about balance. And about making room for genuine responses to the larger world. I do nothing to benefit the world, passing on memes or summarizing what I read in a news article. I have to acknowledge and then give up the desire to be the “first to know”. The currency of relevance. I am not relevant in terms of current events.

But I do have something to give.

I remember my publisher referring to books as “ferske varer” – produce that goes quickly out of date. And I get that – in our market-driven system – that is a fact. But I figure there has to be another way of approaching art. A way to avoid being swept up in the attention economy, the consumerist throw-away society.

I don’t think I am advocating preciousness. Just attention.

This is my problem. I’m not making blanket statements about the state of the arts.

I know there are artists who strive to make that one beautiful thing. And there are artists who are driven by other (legitimate) impulses. I think that I have spent years waiting for inspiration, in the sense that I have been expecting that the outside world would cause a worthy reaction: “The artist responds to their culture”, “Art needs to be relevant”. Relevant to who or to what? My culture – our culture changes so quickly. Maybe change itself is the only thing one can honestly respond to.

I need to slow down. Step away from social media’s armchair generals, and the what-I-ate-for-dinner photos. I need to turn off the podcasts I’ve been listening to for hours a day. I need quiet.

It may be age? If it is, so be it. Maybe I am old enough to recognize what stays. To be concerned with what stays.

Maybe art dies. The way Peter Brook talks about a deadly theater, I think there are deadly artworks on the walls of galleries, too. In books.

I’ve written seven books, including one that was consciously “relevant” and is dead to me now. I don’t want to do that again.

I don’t want to grasp at the present.

I’m making clay from recycled paper. An ouroboros in praxis.


This is not a treatise. It is a diary entry. Nothing more.

I See Ghosts

In this place of crossing over, of remembering and forgetting, of waking and sleep. Where we cram the shadows like post-it notes into our pockets before we travel: “I will half-remember this wherever I go.”

On this side of the looking glass, where we register the fluid world in oversimplified, stop-motion bits, we collect them in our pockets, too, before we return to sleep.

Sleep: where everything bleeds into everything else, where molecules let go and reconfigure in a continual game of ear-to-ear, of geese-to-geese.

And in the in-between, the hypnagogic state, I see ghosts. Most clearly when I’m depressed, when both worlds are grainy and grey. The veil now is thin, as they say.

I’ve often said (and written about) how when I lie in bed at night, I lie back, sinking into the dreams of the night before. Like submerging myself in the same bath. Colder. Somewhat stale. But real. The same/different river, as they say. And with the same/different voices filling my skull.

I lie back in the bath, rocking my head from side to side, feeling the pull of the water on my long hair. My ears filled with water – vibrating against the tiny drums. The squeak and the thuds of a body against porcelain.

A memory-of-sorts. A heartbeat. A rush of blood like a river against my spine. A mother’s voice that is unfettered by consonants and fricatives. All vowels.

Today I am fettered and tethered, and exposed. The details are exhausting.

Yesterday I taught movement class and was introducing the students to Laban’s method for describing movement dynamics. You break down an action: “kick”, “snap” etc. I asked them to pick a verb that we could deconstruct into Laban’s categories fast/slow, strong/weak, etc. One student was trying to be difficult and said: “Mmmm”. No problem. We can break down a word that is not a verb, that is not a word. Because sound/utterances also have dynamics.

I had a banal little breakthrough about the link between movement and sound. Nothing original or earthshattering, but one of those beautiful moments where experience precedes acquired knowledge. Like catching a fish bare-handed from a dark stream.

This morning I read about the Tetris effect: where we experience the movements we have executed during the day as we are falling asleep. And there is the imagined speech of our inner monologues, which I know can slide out of linguistic grooves, shaking the consonants and fricatives that give it context, but keep its truth.

It seems scientists focus on what we take from this realm into sleep. And don’t acknowledge what is indigenous to sleep, and whose shadows we cram into our pockets: what little gods’ humming fills the spaces between the stop motion bits of our days. A color – or a shade of grey.

They don’t acknowledge what gods and ghosts welcome us back at night, putting a warm hand on our forehead, pushing us under the surface.

No Such Thing as a Memory

This morning I am moving so slowly I can see the minutes lining up behind me. And I think suddenly of standing in line for milk at some elementary school. I remember the texture of my dress. The smell of the dry air, and the sour, sick smell of leaked milk that sticks to the small cartons. It is a singular memory of a singular moment, but I can sense the edges of what is familiar here. When the memory jumps from my body to my mind and I know I would have had a turn at distributing milk to the students who all line up like the teacher’s ducks in a row.

If I try hard to remember that day – or one of those days – what are the odds that it is a construction not based in actual experience at all?

Maybe it is best not to think of memories as things. What if there is no such thing as a memory? Only a remembering, as ephemeral and myopic as any other lived experience. I like the idea that there is nothing but activity.

Remembering as the breathing of a shadow self, quantum constructions/constructing. What if trying to remember is a two-year-old thinking they’re steering the car with their toy steering wheel? Angry and perplexed when a hard left doesn’t result in a hard left.

I can’t remember.

I have a shadow self with her double DNA. All the damage done in the mitochondria: those absorbed creatures with their own maternal lineage. These energy powerhouses. This energy – the shadow quality that drives a body through the days. Moving fragments of experience around like a windstorm in late autumn. Or causing a single leaf to tremble, to spin on a spider’s web, like an early morning, summer breeze.

Moving Through It

Another night of ruminating. It is the oddest thing. My mind fixated on a single incidence as an illustration of my inadequacy. Some humiliation. A sentence I shouldn’t have said. An omission of etiquette. Hygiene. And it is cold comfort to consider that no one actually saw/heard/interpreted things the way I did. Things – facts – shortcomings exist whether others notice them or not. This self-loathing can be dizzying. The only end to it is sleep.

And Sleep has been fickle as hell lately. There is something in me that still feels like the last week of Advent. This looming social thing to get over with. All of the looming obligations. After Christmas, everything will be easier. I will be able to exhale.

I am all emotions and no reason lately. It’s like the textures of the year have been knocked loose from time. There are days I look at and am surprised by the darkness and the snow. I think I must have spent the morning writing in late summer.

In Norwegian, menopause is “overgang“. Which means a path over something. Which would imply not only a path away from something but towards something. A liminal space. Something to get over with. I will be able to exhale.

This morning when I came into the little library to write, a book caught my eye. Body Space Image. (Tufnell and Crickmay). And I pulled it off the shelf, wondering if it might be helpful with the memory project. My project. But as I flipped through it my mind turned back to my students. Is this relevant for them? Then there are two post-it notes on one of the pages. One has the address of a Basque translator I worked with years ago. The other is one of B’s old mailing addresses.

Whatever god there is, or whatever it is that fishes up a Rorschach-like response from my subconscious, always speaks to me through the marginalia of books and old notebooks.

Teaching can be a form of procrastination. A diversion. There is a fine line when one works in service to other people’s voices. And life is unpredictable. We are uprooted again and again. Until we are ripped out of the earth entirely.

This book is for me, today. And that’s enough. Maybe it will show me how to – literally – move through the self-loathing.