We are going through her portfolio of drawings, some of them being over 60 years old. I am admiring more than ever, the curve of her line. The precision, the arc, the clear path to beauty that her pen and pencil take. Having been at this a long time now, drawing that is, I am astonished at how her line moves.
We find a drawing of me as a teenager and we pause to talk about it, and about me, and who I was and am. This drawing is just a few lines, done in barely a few minutes. I remember her doing it of me and how much I loved it – seeing myself this way in this image.
Each visit with Mama eventually ends up about art, design and language. When she is speaking of these things she does not falter, she knows her way.
When we are speaking of family she is the most sad, she misses her children, of course, my cousins, her brother and her sister. And her mother, long gone, and Sue, who walked on 6 years ago now.
When I show her picture of my Goddaughters, Ellah Rose, daughter of Michelle Dench and of Hazel Grace, daughter of Jenafer Owen, then she cries from a deep place within. I show her a picture of Xavi, son of Tyra Corona, being raised on the land at Musea, and then she longs too much to be with these three children who are a part of our community. She feels she is missing out. She wants more time. My mother always wants more time. I understand. So do I.
While she is mostly at peace, she is also suffering, because she is clear, very clear, she does not want to die, yet it feels like, to us and to her, that she is dying. This paradox seems poignant and appropriate. I suffer watching her suffer, and feeling it, and wondering if I have another context available to experience. If she suffers, I suffer. I am pondering what else I might be able to do or be rather than suffering with. Is there another appropriate response? I am wondering.
What am I finding as one of the most challenging things, is that we can’t create a context for this. All of my life, my mother ran our lives through the creation of a context that was larger than the experience and this allowed the emotions of that experience to be held. But because of how her mind is working now, we can’t create a context that lasts longer than a day…because each day is new. Even if she is tracking what is happening from the day before, the larger framework is unable to be held. So I am holding my own, and it is this journal of my own experience here.
My stepfather Jimmie is incredible, a profound artist with line and design, and he and mama have lived a rich life of art making. I see him suffering too and I am sad. He has so much life left in him at 83.
For today’s sharing, here is something my mother wrote. I find the teaching here, profound. Don’t miss it. Get a cup of tea and design your own point.
“My daughter Shiloh gave me an article title to work with called ‘The Evolution of a Designer’ and asked me to address it in terms of how my experiences from childhood had influenced my process in becoming a designer and a writer.
The designer/writer proximity reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Nancy. We were talking about how we would define ourselves if we could use only a single word. I said my word would be, “Poet.” She emphatically said, “No! You are a designer!” I explained that though my career had been in designing and manufacturing women’s clothing I think of myself as a poet because that is my first creative love and the process to which I have been the most devoted.
Nancy, being Nancy, was adamant. “Yes, I know that. I know your writing, and what you do is design. You design and shape the way words are to be arranged on pages and how they are to be spoken aloud. You are a designer!”
I found her definition astute, lovely, and relevant. The creative process and living our lives as a creative process, no matter what we do, is about design.
Design is about seeing a pattern that enables us to assign meaning to our lives. Our response to the plethora of technology and products of today’s world, probably more than at any other time in history, elicits the question that plagues the Existentialist: What is the point? This, probably more than anything else, stops our creative process dead in its tracks. The point is, we must design a point for ourselves. In order to do this, we have to pay attention. Not to just the big things that shout at us, but to the little things that whisper.
We must begin to notice the feelings and images that keep showing up for us and assign value to them. Design is about collecting and putting together these emerging pieces to define a context in which we can live creative lives. It is about finding that thread of the things that most define us and call to us, catching hold of it, and following it through to the very end, or, as the case may be, to the beginning, or even the middle.
Early on Shiloh caught hold of the scarlet thread she noticed running through her experience, caught hold of it and continues to use it to weave not only the tapestry of her own legendary life but to weave hers into the tapestry of the legendary lives of others. She takes her thread and ties all the fragments together, stitches up that which was torn and broken, that which is good and beautiful, and she supports others in discovering how to do so. Most of all, design is about the triumph of order over chaos.
“The thing is, that the design does not just arrive on our creative door step tied with a red ribbon or thread. It only comes to us through the creative process itself. You are not going to even notice that you noticed the red thread until it reveals itself to you in a poem or a painting or a dance. All of a sudden, there it is! There it is again! And you realize it has been there all along.
“It was not until I took copies of all the poems I had written (up to a certain point) and spread them out on the floor that I began to realize there was a thread or theme that kept emerging in a majority of them. This realization led to publishing my first chapbook with the title, “Spells.” It wasn’t until I wrote my artist’s statement that I realized that my spiritual path, my professional path, and my creative path were all shaped by the “spells” cast by actual paths I have walked, and by the people in my life and by the creative acts they taught, modeled and inspired. And there was the presence of this light illuminating each memory. I realized that there is always this ‘light that shineth in the darkness’. Now that I have noticed it and named it, I can always see it and follow the paths and the people upon whom it shines.”
~ Caron McCloud, 2012
Photo: Mama Cloud and Shiloh Sophia at the Cosmic Cowgirls 14th Annual Gathering in 2018