One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

22 August 2015

Waxing Nostalgic

Last Spring, after returning home from an art show/gallery/reference trip that lasted over a month and spanned nearly 6000 miles, I started working…on the old wood floors of my house.  For many years, I have cleaned my floors on my knees with a rag (whether wood, tile or even linoleum).
“Oh my gosh, WHY!?” you might ask.
For many reasons…

There is nostalgia, of course…
When I was a kid, my Mom waxed our wood floors on her knees (though she did have an electric buffer to finish them).  She told me recently that she always imagined a scene from Dr. Zhivago when she did the floors.

The thought of my Mom working so hard waxing goes hand in hand with memories of my brothers and I sliding on our socks on the newly polished floors and of Breyer horse feet clacking on that wood as they galloped through my imagination.

A smile cannot be helped at the treasured memory of our old Shih Tzu, after hours of playing with a new squeaker toy, trying her best the dig a hole in that wood floor wherein to bury it, then “covering” it carefully with nose.  Only to have the Lhasa Apso walk over pick it up and promptly rip out the squeaker.  

I will always cherish the image of the fire reflected in the wood, as the family gathered around to cook hot dogs over the open flame in the fireplace.

Then there were the Christmas mornings where we’d run out to find “Santa” and “elf” prints leading from the hearth to the tree.

A good wood floor holds far more kinds of reflection than a carpet ever could.

Then there is the work itself…honest work that brings a gratifying feeling of accomplishment when finished.  This, too, is tied to memories of family and the work ethic we were raised with.  As kids we certainly complained plenty about the work we had to do.  There were no “allowances” in our house…but there were plenty of chores.  There were also bonus “jobs” we could do for which we might be paid a little... if we kept a good attitude (if not, they might revert to unpaid “chores”).  

Over the years, my parents (with our help) transformed a run-down house with a dangerous falling down shed, no trees and and no fences into a beautiful place with a board and batten barn, a huge garden, huge trees, a brick patio and and beautiful stone walls/walkways.  All built by work that we did ourselves as a family.  After Dad left, Mom continued to finish projects and begin new ones.  With the kids grown, Mom continues to build, repair and reimagine.  The family farm is still a continually evolving work of art in progress..  

In hindsight, I don’t think about the hard work on brutally hot, humid Southern Summer days…what I remember are the things we built and the skills I learned, skills I use to this day.  The most important of those probably being that priceless work ethic.

Talent can only get you so far in this world, but a strong work ethic can carry you on to your dreams.  There are many things that I am grateful to my parents for…not the least of which was teaching us to work (whether we liked it or not).

Perhaps there is a bit of Zen thrown in the mix, as well.  Some genuflection and some introspection.

Floors are the foundation, the ground upon which we stand in our home.  To give respect and attention from our ground up is to build everything we do with care and respect.

Mindfulness is not about lofty thoughts…it is about being entirely present.  There is considerably more “mindfulness” in carefully cleaning and polishing a floor by hand than simply running a broom and mop over it.  Spending a little time on your knees cultivates humility and wielding a rag on wood can clean the soul as much as the floor.

There are many articles floating about the internet about why creative people thrive in clutter…but they don’t apply to me.  Over time, I have learned that I am at my creative best when my space is clean (and pretty).

When the clutter in my world (or my mind) is blocking my creativity, one of my many ways to woo the muse is to clear the decks, wipe down my world and start fresh…heart, mind and house.

It isn’t easy...art is messy and I am easily distracted by anything more interesting than cleaning (which is just about everything).  It doesn’t help matters that I have two house cats, a dog and a wild world outside that seems determined to come inside (often on the bottoms of my boots).

My path to a clean home means practice, failure and more practice.

There is a certain peacefulness that settles in when my world is clean, though....and the work of bringing it back to beautiful is an art form unto itself.