Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The 'War of the Thistles' and Other Distractions

I have the great fortune to live on a beautiful cattle ranch in the Texas Hill Country. 


Happy pastures full of grass means contented, happy cows!

  My father has spent forty-five years trying to return the land as much as possible to its natural state. This means that every spring we have the "War of the Thistles," where I go out daily through the fields with a special hoe (designed by dear old Dad) and seek out the lairs of the dreaded thistles that threaten to take over and infest our lands with more of their kind, crowding out the native grasses we so lovingly protect.  I actually really enjoy it because I love walking, I love being outside, and I prefer it to spraying chemicals all over the place. Now I realize the relative futility of the thing - there's no way we can beat the things entirely. However, we can keep them hidden in the dark labyrinths of uncut, ungrazed forests of trees like the evil hydras they are. 


You may see a beautiful, majestic plant, but to me it is evil Medusa and her monstrous sisters trying to take over my peaceful, pastoral world!

A friend of mine recently went to a ranch where she noted to the rancher that she didn't see any thistles.  He replied that he did have some, but he didn't worry about them; that if you have enough grass the thistles can't take over.  Now, we have a ton of grass and I'm not entirely convinced - those thistles are clever and extremely prolific.  I've fought with patches of  hundreds of them at a time (we'll call those battles a draw) and we've been warring with them for years and still they keep insinuating themselves back into the mix.  So I'm not gonna just sit back and take the chance that they might not actually take over my beautiful ranch, no siree - I've seen it happen to unwitting fools who don't pay attention to their land and it's NOT PRETTY!  It's devastation - I mean, acres and acres of them and not a lick of grass!  So I'm stickin' with my trusty hoe method as long as I can walk and swing, thank you very much.  I'm doing my best to keep the pastures - well, pastoral.  Happy grass means happy cows, goats, chickens, horses, geese, and of course, happy ranchers...

We've had a magnificent spring this year, too.  There's been lots of rain, bringing tons of breathtaking wildflowers...acres of grasses swaying in the wind...and also lots and lots of these evil, powerful, growing-genius, WEEDS!  Anyway, I try to spend only a couple hours per day on it, maximum, but it is definitely a daily time suck.

Another thing that has consumed a large amount of the last couple of months is that my husband and I have been working on some projects which  have involved not only a lot of computer and phone work, but a lot of driving around and meetings.  I'm quite excited about them, yes, but still, they only have allowed me a couple of hours here and there to create.

And finally, my son is graduating from high school this year, and there's always so much to do during the spring, school-wise, anyway.  But this year there are way more awards ceremonies, concerts, meetings, etc. than ever.  And I admit, I don't want to miss a thing, because he's going to school a thousand miles away next year. And I will miss him a great deal.

For the above reasons, I really haven't had much time in my studio in the last month, which is okay I suppose; I've been truly obsessed with creating for almost two years.  I've had idea after idea - last year I started and completed something like twenty-two (or more) projects , all my own designs, all completely done by yours truly.  I was a busy, busy bee.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But since I've been away for a few weeks, with just a snatched hour here and there, I seem to have lost my Mojo.  I'm not feeling particularly creative, and I'm questioning the purpose of all this creative frenzy I've been in for two years.  I mean, yes, I certainly created a lot of stuff, but was it time well spent?  I'm wondering.

And I'm a little grouchy about it, too.  Yesterday, for example, I was most unproductive.  I actually could have been in my studio working, but I didn't do it. Instead I spent hours reading a book (which wasn't actually all that good although I got a kind of adolescent enjoyment out of it), I played with our new adorable kitten, Angus MacKitty, and, oh yes, I actually cooked dinner (a rare occurrence around here these days as I've discovered recently that after twenty five years of doing so, I'm just not all that into cooking dinner every single night anymore).  Those things - and running some errands -  are about the extent of my day's accomplishments.  

I wouldn't say I was depressed, but I was definitely un-motivated.   I mean, it's not as though I have a bunch of deadlines I need to meet, or people waiting for me to write my blog or to see what I've created.  I've been creating because I've been driven to do it by some big creative force coming through me; and yes, it's brought me joy and I've learned soo much. But, too -  I admit I have had hopes that something more will grow from it, too.  I almost feel arrogant admitting that - I follow lots of blogs, and I know how many incredibly talented, creative people are out there...but I've hoped and believed there is room for more.  So far, not much has happened on that front.

So suddenly I'm having a "crisis of creating."  I've really tried to create with no real outcome in mind, just let it flow through me and enjoy the moment, but admittedly there have always been goals lurking in the back of my mind.   I haven't really known how to pursue them, and I haven't been sure I should - I sort of figured if it was meant to be, it would happen.  I've been walking on this path, just letting it take me -  wherever.  And I've liked where it's taken me.  Until now.  Now I'm wondering if it's just going to meander around forever, never leading anywhere.   And if that's the case, do I need to continue on it, forge a new path, or get off the path entirely?

To my mind, this is a seriously spiritual question.   Whether I even should want this creative journey to go in a certain direction at all.  And if it's okay to want it to lead somewhere, should I set short and long term goals and list ideas of ways to reach them and then take actions to reach the goals?   Or should I just keep doing what I'm doing, letting the ideas flow, sharing thoughts and ideas on this blog whenever, and not worry about where it's leading at all?   

When I examine this question, I come up with the following.  

What I know for sure: 

  •  Creating brings me joy.  
  • I'm on a creative journey.  
  • I'm a teacher. 
  • I want to share it.  
  • I will continue to create.


What I would like to have happen: 


  •  I would like to teach quilting classes. 
  •  I would like to publish patterns. 
  •  I would like to write a quilting book (or books.).  


When I ask myself the question of why I want the above, in complete honesty I come up with these answers:


  •  I get so much joy from it and I believe other people would also get joy from it as well. 
  •  Because it's coming through me so strongly, because the drive is so great, I hope - I feel that it has a purpose other than self-discovery or self-actualization or my needing validation. 
  •  I think , I really do, that it wants to be shared.
  •  And (in the spirit of total honesty), I want all the time I spend on my art to be worthwhile, and not just for me.  


What I don't want is for it to be ego-driven.  I don't want to be striving too hard or feel disappointed if I don't reach those goals.  

So after exploring all this quite publicly and in writing, I guess this is how I will proceed.  I will gently try to go in a certain direction, and I will set aside time regularly to set goals and take steps toward reaching the goals.  I will continue to create as it comes to me but - and this is the challenge - I will NOT be focused on the outcomes.  I will be accepting of and contented with whatever does (or doesn't) happen.  It's not a particularly easy path, because I DO want those things to happen, I'm not gonna lie, but I know that I need to be just as joyful even if they don't, and not spend an entire day reading adolescent fiction or watching television and stuffing my face every time something doesn't happen.  

So, dear readers, stick with me while I'm on this ride, will ya?  I'm pretty sure I'm gonna need lots of advice, some reminding, and yes - an occasional kick in the ass.  

It'll be challenging, of that I'm certain.  I won't promise not to screw up,  but I can promise complete honesty and an open heart.  

Here goes nuthin'...