Art

Deeply Awake – Guest Post by Zoë Trout

Have you ever come across an essay and thought, “Wow! Another human being understands the way I view the world!” As a writer, a quiet observer of humans, I’m constantly wondering if others have the same sensitive intuition as me. When Zoë emailed asking if she could post on my blog, and I read her essay, I inhaled deeply into her words. She gets it. She’s wired like me, at least a little bit. I’ve got sisters and brothers and sensitive folk out there doing the same beautiful work as me. I feel honored to share her perspective. From one beauty seeker to another, write on.

Author: Zoë Trout
Blog: https://speckonaspeck.wordpress.com/

Her favorite quote: “i thank You God for most this amazing / day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees / and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes”  – e. e. cummings

Lately I’ve wanted to write about beauty. When I say lately, I mean for months—
and for months I haven’t written a thing. It daunts me to render something so
vast and brilliant in plain words, and my mind spirals in a hundred directions. I
still don’t know how the thoughts will come together. What I know is that beauty
wants to be written about. It’s been knocking softly over these months of
avoidance, and I’ve come into surrender, and so begin.

. . .

Our acquaintance is long, I’ve always loved beautiful things. When I was little I
slipped into imagination easily and intuitively and no one demanded answers. I
collected beautiful images in a mental folio for daydreams, pouring over
photographs in coffee table books, and copies of O magazine and House &
Garden. I treasured a calendar with pictures of French countryside, and pictured
my own “some day” life nested in fine art and stylish decor in a beautiful setting.
The appeal extended beyond possessions, I wanted my whole being to be a
beautiful thing. I sat on the big purple couch in our living room and practiced
writing in cursive over and over, pouring my attention into the loops of o’s & p’s
& b’s, and the quick, elegant peaks of lowercase r’s—it wasn’t task so much as joy.
I wrote, and drew, and painted; I took pride in helping my mom choose furniture
and fabrics, and in laying out outfits for her to wear. I courted loveliness with the
unspoken belief that it would enrich my life, or really that it already was.

I continued to harbor that belief as I began to grow up. Driver’s license in hand,
many of my first independent trips were to beautiful places that made the world
feel quiet and deep. I went outside, into green spaces and under trees. I went into
chapels and galleries, and visited art I loved. I sat before text and pictures, and let
myself steep in their harmonies. I obeyed the same gravitational pull that lured
me into daydreams, the same finger wagging me towards pockets of delight. I
followed enchantment with beautiful things.

Beauty inspired more substantial decisions, too. In high school I let it direct me
to my first job in a restaurant with windows on a stylish plant nursery across a
little green lawn. At night Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday swam through the
candlelight like honey and kept the restaurant glowing. I wasn’t always excited
for long shifts on my feet but my delight was renewed in going to a beautiful
place, and getting to be part of its melody. When I had to choose a college, an
impalpable charm drew me to the school I attended on first glance. Even from the
car, its campus had the same lyrical poise as a poem, and held me under the same
power of awe.

I would go on to choose apartments the same way, and find myself laying tracks
in beautiful spaces wherever I went. Now, I often get pressed into the fog of daily obligations and then wake up to some physical grace, like a silk scarf, or leaves on
a tree branch, twirling together madly in a sudden breath. Out of the daily plod of
emails, errands, and hourly pay emerges something plainly extraordinary, like
sun on the grass, and my spirit lights anew. Sometimes I don’t watch the road as
carefully as I should in the car; my eyes drag on glassy pond-tops, shop windows
and wings outstretched in the sky; my heaven is a perch with a view.

. . .

The question of vanity is raised, and also the question of escape. Isn’t it
superficial to swoon for aesthetics? Isn’t it irresponsible to abandon screens and
numbers and the high-stakes sport of “figuring out?” What do you get from
simple reverie? The spreadsheet and the checkbook demand an answer. The
insurance company demands an answer, and the accountant, and the banker, and
the boss.

For a long time I asked these questions, too. I thought I must use beauty as a
means to escape or avoid, running away to a false palace of my mind. I assumed
my delight was undisciplined. I reasoned that it was, by nature, a weakness.
It’s easy to confuse immersion with escape.

Today I know the difference. I still seek out brilliance in nature and art, and
anything else that stills my soul. It’s no secret that I know how to escape, and
have plenty of practice, but now I see that beauty never asks me to hide.
Submerging into wonder might look going to sleep, and perhaps it is a kind of
numbing to the outside world. It asks to be prioritized over tasks and lists and
news headlines. It asks that I surrender thinking, and let myself be led. But on the
other side of that quiet I hear my own harmony in a timeless choir. I come to
know myself as lovely and beloved. I come home to my necessity in the great,
mosaicked mystery of everything alive.

The world may continue to question. All I can offer is heartbeat, and sky reflected
in my eyes. All I can do is continue, pen in hand; there’s more to see and more to
say. I keep an eye out for wonder, and the discovery reminds me I am never
asleep in beauty, but only more deeply awake.


1243364_10151631700702984_1530260115_o
Zoë Trout was born and raised in Texas and studied English and psychology at the College of William & Mary. Despite living in the Boston area, she harbors a deep affinity for the South and enjoys memoirs, contemplative poetry, and traveling widely. She has previously worked as a university writing consultant and served on the editorial board of The William and Mary Review, and she continues to write creative nonfiction while working in mental healthcare.
You can read more of Zoë’s work by following her blog, where she writes about growing up, living with purpose, and finding meaning in a noisy world.
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Welcome Back

Have I mentioned my love for Whirly Pop popcorn?

Oh my goodness. The simple pleasures. Throw some popcorn kernels in with some oil, and crank, crank, crank the wooden handle. Listen closely as the beautiful, white orbs of deliciousness come to life. Add butter and salt, and you are good to go.

I’m eating a snack at 9:35 pm. And that is a beautiful thing.

On Tuesday last, Dylan and I were invited to participate in a Paint and Sip class. I signed us up because I was craving a night out and thought it would be fun to try something new. As we walked into the brewery where the class was being held (yes, brewery – welcome to Northern Colorado) I felt myself relax into the space. Or maybe that was just the beer included in the price of the experience.

Gazing upon a row of twenty blank canvases, twenty sets of paintbrushes, and twenty palettes of paint made my heart go pitter-patter. So much potential sat waiting to unfold on the table before me. I am a tentative artist who hasn’t played much with art supplies since high school. This class was the ‘welcome back’ to facilitated creativity that I needed.

I spent three hours following an instructor and applying paint to my own canvas. There is a soothing quality to spreading pigment across white, filling a space with colors and swirls. Long handled paint brushes with stained bristles make me feel powerful – there is space to create with such tools. I was astounded to realize that yes, I can conquer shadow and line, and even a bit of color theory without formal training. Well, the color theory came from my husband sitting next to me, but teachers come in various forms don’t they?

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At the end of the class twenty people had created the same concept, but each with their own unique interpretation. None of us were experts, at least I don’t think so, and yet the creativity flowed. This class was a reminder that joy comes in the process, rather than the concept of a finished product. I, myself, am a finisher. I love crossing things off the list, moving to the next task, and feeling like I accomplished many “to-dos” throughout the day. This class though, reminded me to be present with the paint. For when the canvas was finished, it was time to go home.

Playing with paint was a beautiful, fun and freeing experience, but my emotional takeaway carries more weight. Be present in the process, in the swirling mix of colors and shapes that will come together to create a scene. If you keep following the directions, surely beauty of your own variety will transpire too.

 

 

 

Noise

I have always identified as an introvert. Give me a glass of wine and a movie on most Friday nights and I am incredibly content. I am sensitive to other people’s struggles, and at times, prefer to just avoid humanity. Quiet please.

That is where my soul restores.

noise

As a more ‘sensitive’ individual, I flock to the people who like to give noise a bad rep. We say that our world is full of noise – conflicting messages, messy business, soul-sucking meh that makes the important things blur away. This week, however, I’ve been thinking about the beauty and benefits of the mixture of sounds that create feelings of importance.

Loud voices in my head keep reminding me that I am alive in my new challenges. The cacophony of the rumbling thought waves need to be reminded to turn the confidence up. I yell at my inner-critics to shut up.

This weekend we tromped through massive drifts of white powder on another snow shoeing adventure. The noise of the wind whipping through the massive pine trees brought grounding and connection to forces bigger than myself. The loud, whistling branches sprayed stinging snow against my face suggesting that their noise may be less than gentle. If we take the time to observe all of the forces creating our surroundings, noise can be reassuring. As trees grow, bend, and sway, even nature groans messages inviting us to participate in the process of being alive.

And tonight, as I sit here and wait for the countdown to kick off for Super Bowl 50, I am tickled by the noise created when family gathers together around chicken wings, and beer, and pride in a football team. The yelling has yet to commence, but I know that my father-in-law is going to start pacing here pretty soon. Noises of excitement, of solidarity, of celebration for the kind of energy connection that only American sports can provide.

Perhaps it is trite to compare the decibel created in forests to those created by hundreds of thousands of Americans at a football game. For someone who takes comfort in quiet situations, I ask this week, what is the benefit of noise? The blending of crashes, voices, sizzling of preparing food, conversations to be had, or the gentle roll of a tear down our cheeks. Noise, this week, makes me feel beautiful.

soundwave

In her series “Sound Form Wave,” Ukrainian designer Anna Marinenko draws a fresh comparison between visualized sound waves and jaggedly oscillating patterns in our natural environments.

Simple Sets of Circumstances

It feels wrong not to mention it. The loss that is sweeping the nation, and maybe even the world. I’m sad to hear that Robin Williams is gone, that he took his own life, and that we grieve the loss of one of the greats. I’m sad, too, that this icky darkness called depression continues to prevail. I know it’s a serious something; more complex that intense sadness, or loss, or a phase. It takes people down a trickling path that fades to nothing and I am sad. As someone who has depression running through my family, this loss makes me even more aware of the pervasive nature of this deep disease that can sink into us. I just want to say we will miss you. And to all of those out there who are struggling with out fortune or fame, we care about you too.

This news is making me appreciate the little things and encouraging me to create some excitement within my own day. Its the sweet moment of Dylan doing the dishes while I write (hallelujah), or the after work bike ride as we race just to be silly. It’s chocolate covered pretzels and budget meals of “fried rice” with eggs and peas and chicken because we try to save some dough. It’s the feeling that maybe we are more than just a spec on the planet, that our interactions mean something and have greater force than what we can even imagine. We each matter. We each ripple into one another’s lives and thoughts, and patterns and rituals. Who are you letting ripple into your own?

photo 5

This weekend we took a much needed break and went down to the Botanical Gardens in Denver to see the glass exhibition by artist Dale Chihuly. Even though we could have been making schedules and checking lists and being productive I forced Dylan to wake up early so we could check something off of my summer bucket list. At the gardens I took a picture of what appears to be his mission statement, and it drew me right in. Simplicity in a set of circumstances. Circumstances that appear to be dark and hot and uncomfortable. Circumstances that shape and contort and form one substance into something greater, bigger, more beautiful than it’s original form.

I guess the image of refining under fire is not a new one. We burn away the chaff, ask for God to grant us refiners fire, or purify our selves in the form of a golden phoenix. This extended metaphor in this man’s work got me thinking though, and I was so appreciative for the beautiful pieces of work he creates.

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Delightful and fun and playful these pieces are. You want to reach out and touch them, taste them to see if the vibrant colors remain as sweet as they appear. They are tactile, and have movement, and give room to interact – which I tend to think provides the best artistic experience. Both the art and the viewer get to have a relationship in interpretation. I think that’s neat. I wished the instillations allowed for you to walk through them, like the works of  Jean Claude and Christo. Maybe Dale doesn’t trust us viewers with such fragile pieces of work – I guess I wouldn’t either. Glass is much more delicate than fabric.

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It seems, at times, that sets of circumstances in all of our lives are out of control, frustrating, unmanageable. Dale got me thinking, however, maybe they are all just simple, and if we let other forces bigger than us have a hand in creating who we are meant to be, we can come into our own form of beauty, as eccentric as that may be.

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What forces are at play in your life? Are there simple moments you are thankful for today?

*All works shown done by Dale Chihuly – pictures taken by me.