The Need to Weed

As I was returning home today, I noticed that my flower bed needs weeding. Even though the impatiens are not doing well, I still don’t want them surrounded by weeds. I need to get out there and pull those green shoots and clovers that distract the eye from the flowers.

Coming inside and sitting down at my desk, I began to reread a short story I wrote a few years ago. I had sent it out to a professional editor for an assessment and was a bit disheartened by the response. I really felt he didn’t get it. The commentary focused on a character I considered minor. And, many of the mark ups were stylistic rather than content based. I had not submitted this to the magazine, but rather for a professional commentary. To direct much of the energy of the marginalia to changing the manuscript to that particular journal’s style guide seemed disingenuous to me, fraudulent even. I thought I was paying for a content assessment, not a comma check. My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the review altogether. However, after some time has passed and the initial dejection experienced by the editor’s comments has dissipated, I can more objectively look at the advice given.  I reread the story, and there is some weeding to be done there as well.

“Kill your darlings.” Every writer has heard this advice, but it is hard isn’t it? Sometimes the perfect sentence just doesn’t add anything to the story. I have read advice of creating a file of the darlings you excise for use in some other story, but I find that just doesn’t work. Once they’re dead, they’re dead.

In other creative endeavors, this advice still rings true. Tonight, I was crocheting a blanket–a pattern of my own making–, and I noticed that after a few rows, it was growing wider. I recounted the stitches, and indeed, I had somehow gone from 56 to 59. I tried first to figure if I could adjust the next few rows down again to a happy medium. There will be an outer edge crocheted on at the end to finish the project which could hide this imperfection. But, no. I thought of my mother-in-law and how proficient and precise she was with her crafting. Her works are truly heirlooms to be treasured not only because they came from her hands but also because they are truly works of art.  So, I did what I needed to do and I ripped it out to the point where the mistake happened and started over. I killed my darlings and started over. I weeded out the extra stitches.

Now I am contemplating the same thing with a painting I am working on. The painting, which I blogged about back in March (https://crcreateaday.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/angelic-assistance/), is a copy of the face of Mary during the Annunciation. However, in my version, I think she looks like a character on The Simpsons. Not exactly what I was going for. While I may not exactly “kill this darling,” I think she needs to be put aside for a while until my skills improve. In the meantime, I will sketch and paint other things. My teachers will give me projects and assignments to help me improve. Hopefully, by the time I am ready to go back to Mary, I will be ready to weed out what needs to be gone from the painting in order for Mary to leave The Simpsons and regain her ultimate innocence.

We all need to weed from time to time, in all different areas of our lives. Next week, I will attack the flower beds and then the other creative endeavors. Weeding helps the beautiful flowers grow.

Urban Bounty

9/11 Memorial, side view

9/11 Memorial, side view

A few weeks ago, I blogged on nature’s bounty; now I want to focus on man made beauties, urban bounty.

Earlier this summer, a friend from Ohio came to visit, and I played tour guide and host for three days. It was great fun, not only seeing her and meeting her daughter, but also seeing my hometown through fresh eyes. I also went places that I don’t normally go in order to show them some of the city’s gems. We roamed all over from The Cloisters all the way uptown to Chinatown downtown to Central Park, Times Square, Broadway, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Did I mention that my hometown is NYC?) We saw man made treasures from antiquity to today, from statues to armour to tapestries to landscaped lawns to musical theatre.  One thing is for certain, creativity has always been and must always be a part of our lives and museums collect and preserve these traditions for all of us, and having guests helped me to break out of my routine of always taking the same route and going to the same places.

This past weekend my husband and I vacationed in our own city. Have you ever done that, become a tourist in your own town? It too helps you appreciate where you live. We first visited the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial, a beautiful testament to a dark day. What we saw reminded us of the devastation, but also of the beauty of the original architecture of the towers and the community that arose from those ashes. And as New Yorkers, and indeed the country, came together to sift through the rubble, many recognized the need to create anew from these very materials. We can never recreate the lives that were lost, but we can honor them through their photographs and their stories. It will never be enough to overcome the loss, but it is what we can do. From the first days of recovery, rescue workers and volunteers instinctively knew that they must create from the debris and build something different, something memorializing from what was destroyed. All of this is in evidence at the museum as well.

From the subterranean museum, we felt the need to walk in the light and rise above the city, so we walked the High Line, a rail to trail project that turned an unused elevated railroad into a park suspended over the streets of Manhattan. Here humanity took an outdated utilitarian railway and created a space for city dwellers to walk above the traffic, to sit and enjoy the sunshine, to appreciate swaths of flowers and greenery, and, for a limited time, to build a Lego city (http://art.thehighline.org/project/olafureliasson/).  Here we viewed the ingenuity of man in so many different forms.

Yet New York has so much more to offer. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic masterpiece that is still in use. We attended Mass, thereby experiencing the building as it is meant to be used, and we also walked reverently around the inner circumference viewing all the chapels. It is an amazing building created in the mid-1800’s with such intricacy and attention to detail. The stained glass windows, the statues, the mosaics, the statues, and indeed the building itself awe even a non-believer with their beauty. Architecture has long been a way for humanity to express its then vision of beauty. From the ultra-modern “Freedom Tower” to the Neo-Gothic St. Pat’s to colonial architecture downtown, New York certainly has it.

So far this summer, for me, has been the summer of the city, and it looks like that will continue as the month continues. I already have one more play date set up, and hopefully another in the works. (No, that is not a reference to getting kids together; in this case, I mean a date to go to the theatre!) I am going next weekend to the NY Botanical Gardens, a cultural institution that has been around since 1891 that I have not yet visited. There is a Frida Kahlo show currently on view. The painter in me looks forward to learning more about her.

How about you? What does your city offer? What place, museum, cultural institution have you not visited lately? Be a tourist in your own city. Enjoy what it has to offer and let it inspire you to add your voice, whatever the medium, to the song of your city. Revel in the urban bounty.

The Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower

Believe it or not, this is a subway station!

Believe it or not, this is a subway station!

Gorgeous Ironwork

Gorgeous Ironwork

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Pat's detail

St. Pat’s detail

St. Pat's Door

St. Pat’s Door

Atlas

Atlas

Patriotic beauty

Patriotic beauty