I live in the culture of busy; no, the cultivation of busy, like a fine wine, only instead of the nectar of the gods, I get more things to do. I have built a life in which I do, do, and do more, until I collapse. And sadly, it seems like almost everyone I know is like this. We all have three jobs and five kids (or it feels that way) and our spouses, parents and pets demand more, and have their own activities to boot. No one has time for anyone or anything, so we plan coffee with friends and long, leisurely hikes months or years in advance. In fact, I spent a year and a half planning for this residency in Wales.
After a bit of an exciting bus ride yesterday from Carmarthen to Cardigan, I made it to Createspace Wales. I have spent the better part of today getting my bearings, and exploring my new environment. I woke up early this morning, ate breakfast, and walked down to the next town over, which has a view of the coast and the Irish Sea. Along the walk, I wandered up and down tiny roads, criss-crossing the streets as I saw cars coming my way occasionally. I said hello to the cows and the sheep, a random friendly dog, and almost no people.
I returned to the studio to get started for the day, thinking I would dive right into making art. Instead, I meandered through the day, like taking a boat down a river without paddling in any specific direction; just following the water where it wanted to take me. I set up my supplies at a leisurely pace, unrolling paper and canvas so that I could press it flat, examining and trying out my new watercolor, acrylic and graphite paint. I made lunch, chatted with the couple who own and manage the residency, and harvested fresh vegetables from their amazing, massive garden. Later, I foraged for blackberries along the hedgerow. Then I picked up some fruit in the garden that look like miniature plums, which are called damsons and can be made into jam. (They are a classic British fruit, I learned.) In the late afternoon, we all went to the beach, where I continued my wandering, this time with the owners and their little girl in tow. We climbed over rocks and checked out the tide pools and stomped in the seafoam. I picked up stones and seaweed and shells. After an hour, we all went back home, and I went back to the studio space, where I cooked dinner and talked with my family before eating and cleaning up.
Earlier in the day, as I was staring at all my art supplies, I was thinking, “I better make some art.” I also kept thinking, “What am I doing here?” I was starting to think that I was not doing enough. That I am here to “work”– meaning, to make art, lots of it, and the entire time I am here.
And yet, it occurred to me today, in the middle of the wandering and the meandering, that this endeavor is simply an act of prioritizing myself amongst my life, and all my activities.
As a result, I am in full detox mode, disentangling myself from my cultivation of busy. My hands twitch and I pick up my phone. I think I should be talking to someone or reading the news or doing some work. When in reality, there is no rush, there is no destination, and there is no actual work to be doing. I just need to be for now.