ART AS AN ACT OF LOVE

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A painting of me done my daughter, the brilliant artist, Desiree Song.  I thought it went with the line from this essay, “Forget my face.”   Also, I wanted to show off, because she’s amazing.

I never wrote because I wanted to be famous. I am not in this art thing in the hopes of turning myself into a celebrity.  The last thing the world needs is another fucking celebrity.  We have six jillion of those, six jillion reasons to pretend we are less-than, six jillion reasons to feel too fat, six jillion reasons to wish we were something else.  Not that celebrities don’t do good things–they do.  Some of them are beautiful souls.  But they are beautiful souls because they are beautiful souls, not because they are celebrities.

Besides, I don’t have the chops to be a celebrity.  My ass is too saggy.  There are wrinkles around my eyes. I’m a size 12.  I’m 44-years-old, and not the kind that has been able to afford Botox and face lifts.  I have an anti-thigh-gap. I’m the clumsiest person you will ever meet. If I tried to enact Beyonce’s dance moves, I’d kill myself, someone else, or all of the above.

Truth be told, celebrity bores me.  Celebrity is a lie, and lies are boring.  No one is bigger than anyone else, no matter what that billboard, that big screen, that stage tries to tell you.  Celebrity is nothing but ho-hum pretense, smoke and mirrors, an attempt to manufacture awe when awesome is woven into the fabric of the air we breathe.  Life is awesome.  Leaves are awesome.  Frogs are awesome.  Real is awesome.  Truth gets me off.  Fuck celebrity.

I’m an artist because it is my way of giving back to my tribe–the whole of humanity.  We all give what we can.  Construction workers build our homes.  Chefs feed us.  Doctors heal us.  I can’t pound a nail in straight.  I can’t make toast without burning it.  I grow weak at the sight of blood.  But I can write, so that is what I give.  I try to give hope, love, faith, connection through my art.  I am no more or less valuable than the construction worker, the chef, the doctor.  Why should I be?  We are all just people doing what we can do to love one another.

I don’t care about my “brand.” I’m not a brand.  I’m a human being, a decidedly fucked up one at that. In spite of my fucked-up-ed-ness, I love me. I don’t need the world to see me as special.  I already know I’m special.  I was special the day I was born.  I will be the day I die.  This unlikely miracle of life is special.  Monumental.  All life is special sacred worthy beloved.  You are special sacred worthy beloved. I need you to see you as special.  I need you to know that your story matters.  Your journey is sacred.  Your struggle is not enacted in pure loneliness.  All across the world, people like you suffer in the same ways you suffer every day.  There is solidarity in our suffering.  And in our joy, our love, our victories, our defeats.

Forget my name.  Forget my face.  In a hundred years, no matter what I accomplish in this life, everyone will have forgotten those things.  Because they will be part of the past, and the past is not where God lives.  God lives the the sacred Now.  I believe I will be recycled as some other version of Now, but I will not be Tawni Waters.  Tawni Waters is the form I have taken for a century, give or take, but she is not the beginning or the end of me.  She is not what matters.  The golden core of her matters.  That part of her can never die, with or without celebrity.  Celebrity is an attempt to live forever, but the truth is life lives forever. It dies and is reborn as something new.  It goes on and on and on.

But maybe I can leave something that matters behind Tawni.  Maybe  while I’m Tawni, I can sway the world in the direction of love.  Maybe I can make you look in the mirror and see the miracle you are, and maybe you will teach your children to do that too, and maybe the bloodbath of human history will die out, give way something beautiful and true, self-love that expands into other-love, human-love that grows to become earth-love, love for all things.  Maybe I can be one drop in the ocean of love.  That is my goal.

In my dreams, I see something, this rainbow colored light breaking through concrete, slipping into our world, cracking the despair and the hopelessness and the rage and the suffering and the loneliness that have marred our history for so long.  I believe that rainbow colored light has many voices.  I am honored to be one of them.  That, and only that, is the reason that I write.

And if that light chooses to amplify my words, make them accessible to millions, she does. And if she chooses to let me whisper my truth in a few thousand ears, she does.  My only end game is that light comes into the world through my life.  I think the light that guides my life, and my art, is wiser than I am.  I think she knows exactly where I need to stand to be as pure and effective a conduit for the light as I can be.

I don’t write to be famous.  I write because I live, and I want to share the magic of my journey with my fellow travelers.  I write because I love, and I want my brothers and sisters to know that they are not alone.  I write because I am one cell in a great body of light.

P.S.  While I was working out today, this song came on my iPod.  I always think of this song as being about me (I’m a narcissist like that) because I feel I have lived my whole life with my ear pressed to the ground, waiting for signs of revolution, change, the emergence of light in darkness.  When the song said, “The dirt whispered, child I’m coming home. . .through the cracks I’ll slip,” I saw the light from my dreams slipping through the cracks, taking over the world, making it heaven on earth.

P.S.S.  And then, as if to add to the thoughts I’d just had, this song from my favorite album of all time came on next, and again, I saw that light  when I heard, “And while the rest of us were sleeping, she sent flowers gently creeping through the cracks in the pavement and the cracks in the dam.  Everything we steal away, you know someday she’ll take it back again.” Take it back, man.  Enough pretense.  Enough consumerism.  Enough industrialization.  Enough hierarchy.  Enough war.  Bring on the stars.  Bring on the flowers.  Bring on the light.  Take it the fuck back.

 

 

 

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THREE DAYS AFTER APOCALYPSE

 

 

So far, 2016 has been a study in renewed hope for me. I woke this morning to find this beautiful photo in my newsfeed. It was taken by photographer Joshua Thomas in my home state, New Mexico, the first week of the new year. I also found this poem I wrote four years ago today in my Timehop. The combination of the two things filled my heart with hope. Dawn always follows darkness. It’s universal law.

Three Days After Apocalypse

Dreams lick Easter morning awake
as cawing crows flap and tangerine sun rises
to vomit blood over shattered land.
No one knew it was Easter then. No one sang of resurrection.
They only hunched on stone stoops with sullen eyes
and wondered why their long acquaintances with death
had ever been disturbed by life at all. 

Who wakes now on this miracle morning
seething, percolating rage
as the coffee maker steams
not knowing that today
might be the day that changes everything?

DRINKING HOLY WATER IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

Several days ago, I returned from a weeklong trip to France, where I visited my dear friend, author Jennifer Steil, and her wonderful six-year-old daughter, Theadora.  I knew the trip was going to be magnificent.  How could it not be?  Exploring the South of France with two of the most wondrous people I’ve ever known?  Sign me up.  But I had no idea how wonderful it would be.  I’ve been struggling to put the experience into words, and of course, I’m butting up agains the thing I butt up against every time I try to describe something ethereal.  Words aren’t enough.

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The view outside my bedroom window in Sauve

We stayed in a remote village of less than 2,000 people—most of them artists, musicians, and writers—that was built in the 12th century.  Everything about it is breathtaking.  It is cradled by magnificent mountains that even in the middle of winter were lush and green.  A river runs through it, transcended by a centuries old stone bridge.  Its buildings rise tall and pastel colored, bedecked with balconies and wooden shutters, beside narrow cobblestone streets.  It is all cafes and galleries and bookstores and open air markets.  In a word, it’s heaven.

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The streets of Sauve

I don’t know where to go from there.  Do I take this essay is in a spiritual direction and tell you about the way I started having Mary Magdalene dreams there (I write poems from Mary Magdalene’s perspective often), and finally decided to run a Google search for “Mary Magdalene France” and found out that I was an hour away from the place legend says she ran after Christ was crucified?  Do I take this in a comedic direction and tell you about how I accidentally put Jennifer’s husband’s favorite electric teapot on the stove and started it on fire and flung melted black rubber all over their gorgeous kitchen? (I thought of titling this post “How I Melted the Ambassador’s Kettle and Destroyed His Kitchen in One Easy Step.”)  Do I take this in an artistic direction and tell you about the galleries and art openings and book readings?  Do I take it in a personal direction and tell you about the friends I made, the dinner parties, the hikes through mountains littered with castle ruins?

 

The answer is I don’t know.  I don’t know what to say except that very rarely, maybe once a decade, I have an experience that utterly transforms me, and for me, Sauve was this.  As my plane was landing in Paris, I had a dream in which my mother told me that France was full of holy water, and I needed to drink it.  “Drink it!  Drink it!” she yelled, not angrily, but enthusiastically, and I woke with her shouts still echoing in my ears to see that we were landing.

The trip came at the end of a long bout of soul searching, and one night, I found myself sitting at a table with Jennifer, sobbing, telling her things I never tell anyone.  I don’t know why I did it.  It’s not like me.  I don’t let very many people see my pain.  I’ll put it on the page.  I’ll cry alone standing in the front row of a rock show, but not one on one.  I hate to be weak in front of people. I don’t like to let them see me cry.  I don’t like to let them know the steps I took to become what I am, the past that is littered, yes, with miracles and wonder, but also with skeletons and demons.  But that night with Jennifer, I felt almost possessed, like I had to tell her the truth about my shame and pain.  (Poor Jennifer.)  I kept trying to stop, but it just kept coming. I didn’t just tell her things that had been done to me.  I told her things that I had done.  It felt like a confession, and she hugged me when I was done and told me there was no shame in my tears.  And when I went to bed, I felt something I’ve never felt before.  Total peace.  That was the night I had the first Magdalene dream.  The next morning, Jennifer and Theadora woke me with breakfast in bed, and a few days later, as I was flying home, looking out at the sunset, I saw colors I’d never seen before.  It was as if my vision had been washed clean.  The word “baptism” comes to mind, though a week eating cheese and drinking wine and taking in luscious art feels like a baptism of a very decadent variety.

I miss France now.  I miss waking up to feel Theadora curled beside me. (She always crawled into bed with me in the morning and waited for me to wake so she could show me the pictures she’d drawn for me while I slept.)

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One of Theadora’s masterpieces, which she left on my bed for me, along with a bunny to cuddle

 

I miss watching Jennifer dance around while preparing breakfast smoothies singing, “I got another man, and he ain’t nothing like you!”

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Jennifer baking chocolate chip cookies for our dinner party.  She thought the French guests would get a kick out of the American dessert.  They did.

I miss our hikes through the mountains, with Theadora collecting stones and leaves and sticks for me, all of which I promised to “keep until the day I die.”  (One rather gargantuan stone caused some consternation to security as I came through customs on my way back into the U.S.  After the bag had been run through the machine several times and then hand searched, an incredulous guard asked me, “You have a rock???”)  I miss Martine, the wonderful Australian novelist Jennifer and I spent a good deal of our time with, along with her beautiful, wise daughter, ten-year-old Manon.  I miss the markets and the galleries and the bread and the wine.  I miss looking outside and seeing heaven in the stone buildings and colored shutters and rolling hills.  And of course, I miss the holy water.  I miss that thing I felt when I was there—the sense that I was somehow home.  I’ve traveled much of the world, and I’ve never had that feeling anywhere.  It was like I’d been running all over looking for something (I have, actually), and I’d finally found it.

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I took this photo as I was driving through France.  Yes, I know it’s dangerous to take photos while driving, but I had to hold up my phone and snap it because for me, this moment encapsulated why I am addicted to the road, the glory always waiting around the next bend.

I have been living on the road full time for a year now, traveling from place to place.  It was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, a process of cleansing, of finding my truth and my peace.  My friends have been asking me where I’m going to end up, and I kept saying I didn’t know.  I didn’t know because nothing felt right.  My intuition said that when I found my next step, I would know it, and every time I thought about staying in Knoxville or Albuquerque or Los Angeles, something felt off.  But France feels like my next step.  In a strange twist of serendipity, the woman who rents an apartment attached to Jennifer’s house gave her unexpected notice the day I arrived in France.  Nothing is set in stone, but I hope to be able to rent the apartment and return to France to live for a while.  I’m not sure it will happen.  If Sauve is really meant to be, it will be.  I believe in destiny.  I believe fate has its way.  But if I’m not meant to return, I’m so grateful I was able to visit the South of France for a week.  It changed me forever.

Momma, I drank the holy water.

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Me in Sauve

P.S.  Here is my song for the day.  I listened to it over and over while I was in Sauve.  Ave Maria.