So many people these days reply, “I live in gratitude.” A noble place to live, in my opinion, but my question has always been, “Where in gratitude? Gratitude covers a lot of territory.”
For me, these days I live deep into creativity, somedays teetering on the edge of a cliff. Take today. I worked on twelve different “Wishing Wands.” Some of them are still dirty, rough sticks I paired with others, combining roots and branches, or bark and roots. Some of them needed another coat of oil. Others received their crystal. Those sticks, combined and oiled, wait for a few days, while I determine whether they will have a quartz crystal or a piece of petrified wood. One spoke up today, and got a sheen of copper paint and a copper nugget.
In addition to the wands I found a trailer full of chunks of old barn wood parked right outside the high school. Only yesterday I found a single piece of barn wood deep in my stash and lined up some largish chunks of mulch on it. Beautiful! Now I have a pile of pieces of barn wood and a bag of mulch chips. My to-do list—discover how to maintain the disintegrating quality of the pieces, but sanitize them enough they can proudly hang on a wall.
And I picked up a bag of straighter sticks. I want to combine them with my twisty palo verde sticks into the desert equivalent of driftwood hangings. I bought a drill for that project yesterday.
I am going to be featured artist in the gallery in Oak Creek in January. I will get an additional wall space to use. I need ways to hang my work on that wall. These three projects will do that.
I had promised Grischa an ice cream cone if he could sit keep up with me on a jaunt through the grocery store. He ran along beside me through produce, over to get milk and back by the meats. Then we got into line. The check-out line moved slowly. We got to Baskin Robbins and it was closed. This particular day felt different. He seemed to avoid my gaze. Every time I looked toward his deep blues eyes, he looked away. When I asked him what was going on, he sat, stoic. I could not get him to tell me about anything bothering him. In desperation, I curled thumb over my ring and index fingers, formed mouse ears with my pointer finger and index finger. I held my hand toward him.
Has it been only two years ago? It seem like a lifetime. I huddled ion my bed, curtains drawn closed and trembled. Depressed. I remember one day. I decided I needed I could escape this darkness by writing ten blessings a day. My first try all I could do was to list the names of my dogs over and over. Dodi. Baruch. Dodi. I could think of no other blessing.
I was afraid of the future. What if? And if then….The treadmill of life was rolling by. Too scared to hop on, I merely cowered on my bed.
I could not open the shades in my room then. Shadeless Arizona sun beat into my room month after month. No architect looked at the location o the bedroom, shifted the exposure. No gardener planted a fast-growing shrub as a shield. Oh, those cookie-cutter tract homes.
I moved on. Life is relentless that way. I learned about choices. Every moment we have a choice. When I was as buried as I was in doubts and fears, I realized it was the basic choice. I could breathe or not breathe. I could move my leg, or not. And when I did not make a conscious choice, life made it for me. If I chose not to breathe for too long, my body forced one on me.
Generally, not one for sitting and doing nothing, I sat there for several weeks. I was paralyzed, Too many choices. I stuck to the basics, just breathe. Eventually I began to reach out. FaceBook was there. I found a genial bunch of spiritual writers from around the world, felt a simpatico, and began to write to my new-found friends. They suggested workbooks, strategies for me. Always one to reach out to others, I began to take an interest in others’ plights. I made suggestions to them as well.
As I opened further to possibilities, I began to see the effect the bleakness of my house was pulling me down. Yes. It had a large living room, a perfect showroom for my lifetime collection of treasures. I could walk outside the house and look west to see Mingus Mountain from there. I could make the effort to watch the sun, the moon set beyond her peak. But the possibility of a better view intrigued me. I could make choices.
Pulled by the lure of Mingus, I chose to move across the river, closer to my enigmatic mountain. Fate helped me find a new bedroom which, shaded by trees, provided me a view of the stretch of the Verde River. The trees sifted through the rays of sun. And when I chose to get beyond my bedroom I could walk a few feet further and the view I was afforded was a close-up of Mingus. And when I went into the kitchen to cook, the sight of Jerome, clinging to the flank of Mingus beckoned me.
It took me a year to climb up Mingus to Jerome, to discover the creative opportunities there. I walked into the thick stucco walls to fine a community of artists, a cast for dramas I had never been in before. I found I had a proclivity for producing art, a desire for the challenge for marketing that art to others.
And here I am now. I make conscious choices all day. No longer one to lie in my bed, breathe because the alternative is virtually impossible and allow my lack of decision-making dictate a bland life, I now can choose to walk my dogs around the block admiring expansive views. I can choose to eat a healthy breakfast and slip the five miles up the mountain to my studio. I can even choose to snuggle back under the covers, stroke my dogs and sleep in a bit more. I do not let go of my underlying choice, to live a fulfilling, creative life within a circle of creative friends, and two very loving dogs.
One day recently, just for fun, I decided to list my blessingsThe task was challenging. I had too many to enumerate.
Ann Metlay, featured artist for January at the Village Gallery of Local Artists, produces art with multi-sensory appeal. Her recently published word artistry book, Sensations in Color takes up the challenge of producing visual imagery using only words. With her assemblages of local desert driftwood, Ann creates pieces of art which appeal both with their visual beauty, and with their smooth, touchable surfaces.
Ann was born and educated in Berkeley, California. After two years in the Peace Corps in Nigeria, she settled into a thirty-five year career in special education and reading.
She devoted much of her creative energy throughout her life to writing poetry and short stories. Then she discovered her passion to bring out the sculptural grace in pieces of dried out desert wood. Now Ann makes stand-alone sculptures, wall hangings and smooth wands shaped to soothe as they are held.
“I have always loved creating wholeness and beauty from what others might see as broken,” Ann explains. “Before I conceived of the challenge to create my sculptural pieces from dried-out sticks, I worked with students facing multiple challenges. Using strategies as seemingly random as camping trips with my students, writing cookbooks in simplified language for them and successfully submitting their poetry for publication, their self esteem rose, and made significant gains in all areas.”
A six-year resident of the Verde Valley, her poetry and her sculptures reflect her love of the dramatic landscapes in this area. Ann, and the thirty other artists in the Village Gallery, welcome the public to their First Friday Art Walk January 6th from 5 - 8 pm. 6500 Scenic Hwy 179, Sedona, AZ 86351.
For more information and Artist Applications, call (928) 284-1416
www. sedonalocalartists.com Hours: 10-6pm daily.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"