Busman’s Holiday.

I’m going to be honest. I’ve been slacking. First off, it’s insanely hot. I haven’t been cooking, cleaning, or existing above ground for the last few weeks. My husband reminded me that people have been built to live without air conditioning and have done so for hundreds of years. My reply: “I come from largely inbred European stock. We’re not built to deal with anything.”

Not only that but my writing really dropped off a cliff after I finished at the newspaper. I think part of the problem is the newspaper turned my writing from fun into work. A ton of work. Any non-newspaper writing was a busman’s holiday. If you’re not familiar, it’s an old phrase that basically means when you’re doing something similar to your vocation for fun. Being at work on your day off. Like if a ferris wheel operator went to an amusement park. Like if a bus driver took a vacation trip on a bus. Like if a lady cranking out articles for her college newspaper went back to working on her yet to be started novel. (GOOD JOB, LAUREN.)

I mean, I know writing is work, but at the paper it was kind of a slog. I did get to write a lot of things I enjoyed, truth. My editors supported me and I was fortunate to work with a talented staff. The joy just drained away at some point.

I suppose writing is always a busman’s holiday. You’re balancing the work part of writing with the fun part. But I needed to re-establish balance. I was burned out.

I thought back to something a friend asked me a few years ago. Where did I create? Truth was I wrote everywhere. Mostly at my desk, next to my bills and my paperwork and my yawwwwn. Sometimes in the living room. The car. Dinners alone. My office at work. My other creative pursuits, like painting, had already stagnated.

I didn’t have a comfortable spot of my own. He said that was surprising and maybe I’d get more out of it if I could nest a little and make my own space.

It was good enough for the likes of Roald Dahl and Michael Pollan, so why not me?

We have a breezeway with big glass windows that enclose a room that sits between my house and garage. It is mine now. It has greenery and lights and an a/c unit (!) and a big drafting table and I love it.

The only thing it’s missing is a big cozy chair for me to be able to crash in, read, and take naps. I have the chair but the space is small… we’ll see. I also want to fill it with artwork from my friends. It seems that’s a staple of famous creative types, too. 

I need to respect this space and use it. I need to create again. I’ve decided all my blog posts from now on will be written here. I’m going to use the Bob Ross series on Netflix and paint again.

I’m not planning on the next great American novel. But I’m planning to tell stories again. I like telling you stories, reader.

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It’s autumn every time I wake.

I have two paintings on my bedroom wall. They were done by a student artist at a school near where we lived. The woman was older, my best guess in her 60s. I would have never known she was a student by the quality of the art. I mean, I suppose I’m not much of a connoisseur of art. I just know I like to support independent artists. …and filling my house with pretty things. And these were pretty.

painting1

When I spotted this first piece at an art show, I knew I wanted it. I had this flood of memories from my childhood. Most of the trees around where we grew up were pine, but we had one birch tree in our front yard that I loved. Nothing else had leaves that would change with the seasons. The painting brought me back to lazing in the grass, looking up into its canopy. I brought it home.

Soon after, we discussed buying a companion piece for it, if the artist had any. I contacted her and she invited us over to look. There were so many paintings. Lots of lovely scenes. We came across what would be the mate for our current piece. It’s her driveway, after some rain. You can see the reflection of the tree in the wet asphalt. Beautiful. We asked if she minded parting with it.

painting2

I remember she made this little noise and looked at the floor before she said it would be alright.

We looked at each other and started to back pedal. An awkward dance.

“Oh no, if you don’t want to-” “Yes, we don’t have to-”

She said it was okay. She needed to sell the painting. Not for us, not for exposure, not for the money. We didn’t know it, but we had become a part of her grieving process. She’d lost her son in Iraq the prior fall. She’d painted them soon after. They were an important part of that time for her. But she knew it was time to let them go.

She took a moment and so did we. It was somber. We hadn’t meant to intrude. But she reaffirmed that she was going to be alright and that this was something she wanted to do. We took it, but made sure she had our contact info if she changed her mind. We never did hear from her.

These paintings greet me everything morning. I often think of the artist and her son and his sacrifice.

I hope for her peace of mind.

Tiny art is tiny.

I’m not sure exactly when I started collecting art. Maybe it’s because the internet has helped make art accessible and affordable; providing the means for artists to offer their wares easily. Or to discover craft fairs at the click of a mouse. Whatever the reason, we have a lot of it in our home. None of it is high dollar art. It’s all pieces we’ve collected because we enjoyed them. A variety of things.

I do tend to have a soft spot for microart. It’s like art, but small. Why do I enjoy it so? Not a clue. Small things are cute, as a rule. Possibly by a similar token they are also charming to me. In some of the art I’ve made and collected there is a fair amount of satire and cheekiness. Maybe it plays on the part of my brain that’s tickled by that.

In the following photos I’ve taken, I included a Canadian dime for scale.

Tiny landscapes

The tiny landscapes above were my first foray into microart. The hangers on the back are bent pop tabs. When I came across them at an art show in Houston, I ran to an ATM to get change. They were two for $12 if my memory serves me.

Bunny Sketch and Tiny Candlesticks

This sketch was a gift from my friend Stephanie. It is flanked by two tiny candlesticks made at the machine shop at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. They change out the machine every couple of year so people can get differently shaped tiny candleholders. One night my husband and I had a fancy date dinner at home and set the table with our tiny candlesticks. We’re dumb.

Tiny collection of art

This is actually a cube that houses a little curated collection of things. It’s such a weird, quirky selection. The book is an old print of the “Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam” I ended up with, likely the only antique we own. The chicken and the egg used to sit next to that hare and a ceramic tortoise (a small nod to animal based quandaries) but he’s on temporary leave hanging out in my terrarium.

Oooh. Here’s the terrarium. Props to Real Simple Magazine for the tutorial. No dime here, but the terrarium is small.

Terrarium

This final picture is of a tiny painting I got from an Art-O-Mat and a photo. Art-O-Mats are all over the country. You pay $5 to a cigarette-turned-art vending machine. You get art. The photo has a slightly different origin. It was in our house when we moved in. Just laying on the mantle. Our house only had one owner, so I have to assume that he is the shadow in the photo and that’s his dog. It was so peculiar… I felt it needed to be apart of my little collection.

A boat and a dog

Go out and enjoy some art. Better yet, get some art. Better yet, make some art.