ARRIVING AT MY OWN DOOR

WORDS & IMAGE: ISA CATTO

Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Derek Walcott

 

My father always liked a crisp display of left brain achievement, preferably with a title attached, so he was disappointed when I told him I wanted to return to school and be a full time artist. It’s not a profession that skips off the tongue like engineer, lawyer, magazine editor, doctor or banker. Telling people that your daughter is an artist sounds fuzzy, like she is dodging a commitment to a world that runs by a 9-5 clock to malinger and sleep in. Nor was he thrilled by no guarantee of income and accolades. Far from it.

But my father did come around, and he asked me for copies of my portfolio to send to gallery dealer friends with a personalized note. I protested. He insisted. And all of these portfolios were wordlessly returned to me except for one. With a message. On the back of the manila envelope that held my slides (yes, that is how old I am) there was a note, scrawled in hasty cursive in big sharpie: “Does she really think she can run with the Big Boys? Seriously?”  Some assistant forgot to remove this detail and I was devastated. I was very tender back then, not very seasoned and not really any good yet. I asked my father for a networking cease and desist. He was mortified by his friend’s fumble, and gave up being my agent. I have no doubt that he confronted his friend’s protocol lapse, but I was relieved to be off the hook and forged my way without his help.

That dealer was right. The Big Boy art world isn’t mine. I worked hard and carved out a tiny niche, taught watercolor, and grew content with my place in things. I enjoy following art shows and Big Boy friends who seamlessly navigate the blue chip art world. I watch the steady parade of new and old cause célèbres and the vanities from the sidelines. Some of the art is dazzling, some not so much. My nose is no longer pressed to the glass.

I do regret the energy I spent trying to prove that I had something to offer. It made me vulnerable to sabotage - either through my own anxiety, or by crazymakers. I didn’t listen nearly enough to instinct. All of this was swept away with the arrival of children, a great deal of personal loss, wobbly health, an increased interest in writing and garden design, and different forms of advocacy. I lost my longing for a  certain kind of approbation and gained perspective. It took years, as it always does, to realize everything contributes to creative process and there isn't always a tidy transactional exchange. Raising a family, tending to mundane household commitments, gardening at a fevered pitch, walking my dogs, scouring hills for flowers and watching the light move, are unquantifiable. And yes all of it, even the random discussions with the pest control guy about the vole population explosion, are part of my creative collective.

POETRY IN MOTION

 

“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.”
— Mary Oliver

Every weekday morning I read our son awake with a poem. The idea was not mine, but the renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s. In an interview with Krista Tippett, Nye referred to a ritual of hers -- she read a poem to her son every morning when he was still living at home. I pounced on that idea and decided to incorporate it into our own household. I started with our daughter. "How would you like it if I read you awake with a poem every morning?”  She is a teenager and her expression was B horror film perfect. I might as well have had tarantulas emerging from my ears. What was I thinking? She takes my dorkiness in stride, however, and when I must have looked a bit crestfallen she swiftly added, "It’s OK Mom, the dogs already do a good job of getting me out of bed.” Our son is not interested in being cool, not just yet, and was ten at the time. He didn’t flinch. “Sure, that sounds like fun.” 

And so it began. I like to think I'm exposing our son to great poetry as he transitions into his conscious form, and that it all is seeping in and will propel him into a life of creativity, inspiration and imagination. But I know I gain the most from this discipline. It forces me to read a poem a day, to study poets that I haven't yet met, and reacquaint  myself with old favorites.

Poetry is part of my family fabric. My sister was a published poet, my mother, a closet one. My aunt was a Yeats scholar. They read poetry all the time. My mother’s poetry books were vigorously underlined and annotated. My sister, mother and I would share poems, and my journals are filled with them; but none of us could recite them verbatim the way my father could. He believed memorizing a poem a week was not only a sign of moral character but also helped to fight dementia. He was convinced that our country began its descent into darkness when memorizing poetry and prose fell out of curricular fashion. 

Percy Blythe Shelley’s Ozymandias was taped to his mirror when he died:

“I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The other day I explained to our son why I am such a poetry junkie. I told him a good poem could blanch a bit of darkness or make me feel more connected to this vast network of ours. And that a great line will cast something familiar into a different relief and make me look again. But, most of all, poetry gives me the next clue. "Like in a treasure hunt you mean,” he said. Exactly. 

A few favorites..

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”
Naomi Shihab Nye

###

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —” Emily Dickinson

###

“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.” Derek Walcott

 

MEET OUR ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE: ISA CATTO

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
….Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry

For some time now I have struggled with finding intersections in all the pockets of my life as a mother, wife, painter, advocate, blogger, writer’s residency host, and fanatic gardener, to name a few. We live in a world that likes stamped achievement, not process, and it is easy to step into a loop where I am defined by a particular identity. It’s tidier by the standards of society to be a sum, not an array of parts. Boundaries and categories have their place, but I now understand that I am trying to force a relationship between all the seemingly disparate parts of my life that is already there. Gardening, walking the hills of my Colorado, peering at wildflowers or celebrating  artistic community is all part of my creative practice, one that automatically flows into another. I don’t need to be so rigid about distinctions. Digging in the soil feeds my writing life while maintaining a steady supply of wonder. Identifying wildflowers finds its way into a brush stroke, and makes me more patient as a mother and wife. Welcoming an artist to our small farm feeds my creativity and my family’s. These are all tributaries, some visible, some less so, but all part of the whole.

Isa will use her residency at LOAM to explore these intersections using images and prose. Follow her journey on Instagram or explore her work online

PROMISE OF THE SEASON OF LIGHT

WORDS & IMAGES: HANNAH WATSON

The feeling of ascension washes over. I have reached the top of the mountain. It is the edge of starkness, cold and damp. There may still be sleeping bears in these hills, nestled neath gnarled ash roots. Herein lies the secret to all delicate woes and worries. This very mountaintop. Sun blaring and angels singing through the tendrils of the wind cracking, her soft hair. I have fallen in love again — “Oh and springtime would know it— there’s nowhere that wouldn’t carry the sound of that annunciation. First those small, querying up-notes that a pure affirming day from afar hushes all around in mounting stillness. Then up steps, up call-steps, to the dreamed-of temple of the future—; and then the trill, fountain whose urgent jet bursts up through its own falling in this contest of promises . . . and soon to come, the summer.” Rilke.

I’ll give you all I have, summer. All the glistening salty oceandrops & teardrops that cull the deep knowing of contentedness. Here I come, summer. I live for you, summer. In all your warmth and fiddle tunes and bonfires and echoes of forrest laughter. These snapshots of life form moments that contribute to feelings of eras. I refuse to let the era of this confusing time taint my summer days. Because what else is left but to experience you in your most physically demanding yet serene trailways. I’ve known you for a long time, summer, and each time I sing your praises, joyously drenched in sweat at the end of a long evening of dancing. The early promises in March, the sweet sounds of June cicadas in your fullness, rushing creeks, quiet drips of perspiring beads in the dark hallways between bands playing. Salty kisses. If I were a witch (witch, I may be) I would concoct a medicine that would pull all the energies of the earth in summertime and infuse it into bottles of elderflower nectar and pass it out to all the sweet lovers out there who seek solace in this time of grieving, unraveling, deportations, and war. How can I better support you, summer? So that your endless days of light do not go unnoticed or passed by in the slightest sin of dullness. I’ll pledge to attune myself to your sensory delights, visions of bunnies hopping past an outdoor shower, groundhogs shuffling about atop windswept balds, and finally the magnificent graces of fireflies illuminating your mountain hollers. You cannot go back to ignorance, but you can fill the new space with joyous occasion, and you can let go of what has grown stale.

I’ll be there waiting for you, summer. Waiting for the Buddha toad that sits nostrils flaring under the porch steps in the twilight. I’ll come have a beer next to you, toad, and tell you of my worries. And you, summer toad, will so graciously possess the patience to listen into the unending hours of the night. Time stands still and waits for your heart to catch up, in the summer. Last summer all I had to do was build a house, listen to radio shows of Appalachian ballads, dunk my flushed face each night in the Laurel River, and walk the property barefoot next to the bespeckled pup of my dreams, my wildman. Tiny chairs of my cousin’s sweet babes sat in Bear Creek behind the new house being built with wood, clay, straw. It was this most recent summer that stirred in me something new yet familiar, from childhood perhaps, indicative of deeper troves that may lie dormant for the other three seasons, yet delight in being drawn out in lengthy chapters during the one true season of light. There is no sweeter time to be alive than summer. It is the time to love what you’ve got while you’ve got it.

Would you like to take a magic rabbit carpet ride with me, this summer?

DEATH OF A RABBIT

 

ART: HANNAH WATSON


Earth - sodium chloride + potassium aluminum sulphate + calcium hydroxide
Plant - indigo + banana + cotton
Air - oxygen
Water
Fire

Animal - white rabbit + human hands

Through the meditative motion of peeling back salty laters of fat tissue membrane, the only thing that plays in my mind is, “gotta go ⇌ gotta flow.” Working with a blunt knife on pristine white rabbit skin that friends from Appalachia had gifted under the philosophy “use all parts of the animal out of respect for the animal,” I am tuned into some quality of consciousness that exists in a harmony of mind / body. I used to come upon this feeling, the endangered species of pure radiant focus, so difficult to achieve in this age of shining screens, while hand sewing in the theater costume shop for hours during college. This feeling of flow is how I came to know my passion at an early age. So so fortunately.

Though I have never tanned a hide (in this life), I feel a return to a motion, a primal and intuitive impetus to separate layer from layer of animal body, working the skin with my hands. This process is how humans used to, and some still do, clothe themselves as a means for not only elemental protection but for cultural expression too. I became curious about this process when a vision to indigo dye white rabbit skins came to me last summer, and, less than a month later while visiting with some homesteader friends, they called out, “Come see the barn where we keep our meat rabbits!”

I work on the hides for hours, forgetting to eat and drink, working into the waning daylight, working by soft moonlight, working until the soreness in my upper back aches at me to take a break, and the voice chanting, “gotta go ⇌ gotta flow” grows ever so slight and eventually fades out. Our power flows not from us, but through us. When an idea visits, all you have to do is put your body to use.

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel lament and exalt the passing and coming of creativity in their 1970 song “Cecilia.” The mystical woman in the song, named after St. Cecilia, patron saint of music in the Catholic tradition, comes and she goes like a high-power lover, sometimes unlocking worlds of vulnerability you hadn’t yet known before, and sometimes hurting you so badly with her absence so that all prisms of hope leave the spirit. She is fleeting creativity. “Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia up in my bedroom / I got up to wash my face, when I come back to bed someone’s taken my place.” She always comes and she always goes.

Each step in the process of the rabbit hide project has been an exciting pathway to self discovery. And, I’m becoming convinced, connection to a greater human longing to wild. Wild animals. Wild mountains. Wild emotion. It is the relationship of respect to ancestor and animal and planet that continues to fuel my work. To process these rabbit furs is to take the softest white animal fur, the necessity of warmth and protection that it once provided the animal against cold mountain winters in the barn, and to turn it into pure gold after the bunny spirit has exited the body. This process brings me closer to the sometimes uncomfortable truth of eating omnivorously, and it brings me closer to death and to transformation, like the idea of starting a new chapter. I can feel some sort of dancing energy enter the newly formed textile as I make stitch after stitch through tough leathery skin and soft fur. I am bringing this material back to life in one way or another. Giving it new purpose. And it inexplicably all feels right. Like for this one project, everything is going to be alright. And that feeling is something to be revered in these strange times. The truth of it is, we must keep making our art, as it will carry us through to glimpses, and perhaps even sustained periods, of peace that radiate outwards.

MEET OUR FEBRUARY ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE: HANNAH WATSON

Hannah is a collector and creator of textiles from both around the world and from her family ancestral treasures. At a young age, she realized just how creatively activated she became from everyday sensual experiences with various material; however, cloth was the one that always seemed to stand out. Photo-documenting backpacking trips in North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Maine, and finally Peru has provided her a plethora of visual inspiration of which to draw upon for her textile creations. Since her teenage years, she has worked developing her craft as a seamstress & patternmaker for theater departments in costume technology, small start-up fashion businesses creating homegrown clothes, a nonprofit in the Sacred Valley, Peru designing textile goods alongside Quechua weavers, and most recently delving into her own art & freelance practices while living in a yurt / studio in southern Appalachia. She received her B.S. in Cultural Anthropology from the College of Charleston in 2013 with a focus on weaving traditions and ethnobotany. Her explorations in the coming years involve furthering her knowledge of natural dye chemistry, complex weave structure on floor looms, and the mystic realm as it relates to weaving traditions. Her hope is to create a
collaborative & experimental textile company merging traditional processes with the starry notions of innovation.

Indigo Bloodmoon Story
In September of 2015, after just having moved into an 18 foot diameter yurt nestled in a holler of Madison County, North Carolina, I could feel a shift happening. I was becoming awakened to the inspiration that lay in the clear fall night skies that signified a closing chapter. The skies that month graced us with not only a super moon, but with a total lunar eclipse to boot. This super blood moon, I’m convinced, caused a brief period of insomnia that led to the creation of this woven piece. I buried a portion of my fears tied to being an artist in the wilderness the night I started to weave this piece. The wool warp was a gift from a friend I met while working in Peru designing textiles. Upon my return to the states, I learned the process of indigo dyeing from a woman running her own indigo design company in South Carolina. After acquiring and dyeing the wool, the prodding desire to learn to weave resulted in another woman offering me her cricket loom, or a 10” little table loom, to get started with the beginnings of weaving. All the bits and pieces of this project, including the gracious women helping me along to realize my vision & the required skill sets, came slow but steady over the course of two years. This woven only made sense as an homage to lady moon stirring and carrying our hearts into
unknown, yet emboldened territory.

PRESSURE

 

WORDS & IMAGE: AHDREAM SMITH

Blood flowing, heart pumping, shallow breathing


Bills piling up: mortgage, car note, credit cards


Working 80 hour weeks just to get by

Veins constricting, chest tightening

Nothing but bad news on TV

No one is safe anymore

Wife yelling at the kids

Heart pounding

Head swimming

Blurred vision

Breathe

Brea...



High blood pressure, often referred to as "pressure" in my family.

Family member:

"I shouldn't have eaten them ribs. Now my head is swimming. My pressure must be up."

"Y'all kids better sit down now, y'all running up my pressure."

"Let me tell you, them people at that job will have your pressure high."

Known in the outside world as the "silent killer."

PHASES OF DELUSION

WORDS & IMAGES: AHDREAM SMITH

ALLURE

Scents of fresh dough dance in my nostrils

Thoughts of the drizzled glaze slip covering her curves excite my imagination

Golden brown exterior

Soft and fluffy interior

Hot and fresh

GUILT

Doctor says she's not good for me

She's impacting my heart

Raising my blood pressure

I need to cut back

I try to explain that I don't indulge on purpose

I start with one

It melting on the tongue like a frozen ice cube on a hot summer day

Three seconds later, nine of the dozen are remaining

DENIAL

Doctor tells me if I keep messing with her I could lose my vision

Lose my limbs

Lose my life

Says I'm walking a thin line and a future of diabetes and medications are around the corner

Doc, I'm young, I don't smoke or drink

What's a little quality time here and there

Plus, we only meet when the RED LIGHT is on

 

In the “Diabetes Belt,” specifically in Memphis, TN, Krispy Kreme is King. Reaching young people early through promotional discounts throughout the school year: free doughnuts to students for every “A” that they get on their report card. Always go when the light was on. Your doughnuts were guaranteed to be HOT and FRESH. Being a pretty smart kid in school, report card time was always a time that I looked forward to.  

 

Fast forward, I now live in a place that has only one Krispy Kreme in the region and I have family and friends dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol due to their environment and being in a state of delusion regarding their health. To them, it’s just something else to deal with, but for me I feel like they are one step closer to death. Choosing the temporary satisfaction of the “red light” quick fix, that soothing cold cup of southern sweet tea, them sweet and tangy sodium filled short ribs over being here with me; creating memories and having experiences.