On Moths and purpose and creative process and such

Metamorphosis: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism,
as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the moth.

If you know me or if you visit my blog,

You know that I have been working on a play.

I am in my moth stage now.

After months as a pupa,

I emerged from my cocoon but–

now I am flitting around

crashing into the walls.

Is this what all that hanging upside down was for?

Ok. So anyway–

Welcome to the moth stage.

This is the part of the creative process

where the artist asks herself

What the hell are you doing?

No really What are you doing?

Right?

Ever ask yourself what the hell a moth is doing?

Well they do have a purpose.

It’s a biologically determined drive,

to accomplish an essential task.

But it’s not always obvious,

especially when you have to chase one around

your room at two in the morning.

Poor misguided moth is just trying to fullfill

it’s destiny and achieve it’s purpose.

But Moths aren’t supposed to be in your house.

They are like butterflies–and are supposed

to be outside in the natural world,

pollinating various night blooming vegetation.

Yet they some how manage inadvertently to end up in our closets–

making meals out of our favourite cashmere sweaters.

And we hate them for it.

Poor misguided moth.

She’s just trying to fulfill her purpose.

Moths and the nocturnal plants they feed on–

like the Honeysuckle flower or the Red Valerian–

can’t live without each other.

Miraculous nature has provided the moth

with dextrous long thin tongues–

an attribute completely wasted on wool sweaters,

but very important in pollinating night blooming

flowers. The moth is always looking

for the flowers. The flowers are always waiting

for the Moth. See what I mean about destiny?

So what in the world am I talking about?

And what does this have to do with my play?

Well–the moth stage of the creative process

is when the writer-

-that would be me in this case–

is madly searching for the flower but can not find it.

I’m madly flying up at that light bulb and singeing my wings.

The flower is the essence or the meaning– or the soul of the work.

I’t’s the inexplicable thing that blooms in the mind of the audience

or the reader. It’s the truth of the work.

I need to find it.

It can’t bloom without me.

There is no art without this relationship.

See. I believe this.

So there you go–

That’s the Moth state.

I saw a play recently that had no soul essence or meaning

and yet I know the young writer probably believed it did.

It was timely. And it seemed to delve into a solid and important question.

But it was trite and obvious.

She didn’t go through the moth state.

Nothing unfolded or bloomed or revealed itself.

It needed a moth.

The Moth state can drive you mad and you can end up

in a drawer pollinating your socks.

But it leads you to the thing that the story is about.

It leads you to the thing that makes the audience

sigh or cry or ache or laugh in recognition–

or even just connect to your idea at a deep level–and engage.

Because this is the purpose of art.

That is what we are trying to do

Kandinsky puts it very well–

“The artist must have something to say,

mastery over form is not his goal,

but adaption of form to its inner meaning”

My play has a deep truth in there somewhere.

I know it.

I feel it.

I am drawn to it.

I am shaken by it.

I have come close to finding it–

But I haven’t yet.

Not quite.

Now it’s dusk and that’s when Moths get busy.

So hopefully tonight–

Hopefully I will find the flower that is waiting to bloom in my play.

Life Lessons

Sometimes I think that the lessons of my life

have been delivered in a series

of disasters and catastrophes.

It is as if I somehow needed to

go sailing in a little paper boat,

during a raging storm,

in order to learn about the need for

life jackets.

Maybe if I had been paying more attention

to the seemingly insignificant events

of everyday life, I would have noticed

them gathering heavily and ominously

like clouds do, just before a hurricane.

Maybe I would not have set sail in such a flimsy boat.

And maybe now I wouldn’t be digging

through the rubble and ruin

to find the lessons left by so many storms.
_____________________________________________

So now my life again is filled with storms–

My mother has Alzheimer’s.

I am her sole care giver.

I have no siblings to share this with.

It sucks.

Literally.

It sucks my soul and my sanity and sometimes–

my sense that I can survive this.

And I am constantly thinking how I shouldn’t be

alone with this and how unfair it is–

and how I need my brother–

who left the world so long ago–

who died in such a terrible way–

to be here with me now–

learning what I am learning.

Of course I ask myself

Why would I write this?

Why would I dwell on this subject?

Why would I go to this place in my head?

When I could be in my imaginary garden

Playing with my comic fantasies

Or painting pretty pictures–

Why?

I am trying to do what

Ernest Hemingway advises–

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Ok–so-this is what hurts.

I wake up in the morning, every morning–

with a feeling of raw dread

And I panic. What’s next?

Will I survive this twister?

Whatever it is?

And then I breathe.

Because in truth I am ok.

It is my mother who is not.

She is losing herself.

It’s impossible to help her.

I can not argue with her delusions.

I can not fight with her paranoia.

I wouldn’t even try.

But little brother–

she never got over losing you.

And every day she relives

the heartache of that loss.

And all her other losses–

so many–

And every day she suffers.

It’s amazing in some ways–

How she fights for what she wants–

how she refuses what she doesn’t–

She is not compliant.

She is fierce.

She’s a force to be reckoned with.

She is not going down without a fight.

It’s a gift to me in some ways.

Not a welcome gift.

Not a gift I would want to thank anyone for.

But a gift nonetheless.

It has something to do with my own healing

and I don’t fully understand it yet.

It’s a steep learning curve–

Grappling with this–

Finding meaning in it.

I am suddenly coming to the harsh realization,

that this is the painful climax–

the cruel resolution–

of a story that began even before she was born.

Perhaps I can come to terms with

my own true story as I play my part in this one.

And though it’s really tough-

and I would prefer this was all a bad dream–

I have to be awake and present for it.

I have something to learn here.

This is the part of my life story–

where I lose my mother.

And this is the part of her story

where she loses herself.

And it isn’t going to get better for her.

Not this time.

She wont escape this.

I can’t protect or rescue her from this.

All I can do is walk down this dark road with her,

holding her hand, through this desolate landscape.

And Oh my God–

I’m trying to understand what is being asked of me

by my own soul.

What teaching am I meant to take from this

violent and terrible storm–

And why does it have to be so hard

to learn whatever it is I am learning?

When I think of my mom, usually words like —

Vitriolic, Vindictive, Venomous, Victimizing–Viscious–

are the first that come to mind.

But seriously folks–

And now that she has Alzheimer’s I can add

Delusional and Desperate and Demonic.

When she was young and I was a child,

when we were children–

She was glamourous.

Gorgeous.

Gentle.

Generous.

The prettiest mom of all the moms.

High heels.

Red lipstick.

Big hair.

Big eyes.

A party girl.

And a singer.

A beautiful voice.

Everyone would ask her to sing

And she always would.

Single mom in a time when there

wasn’t a name for it–

Or an understanding of how difficult it is to

be one.

Strong independent.

Cruel if I displeased her–

abusive they would say now-

moody, mean, manic-depressive–

although we didn’t have a name for

the crazy times that came and went.

Mostly I loved her.

Mostly I adored her.

She was the queen of my world.

And I did everything I could to

please her and protect her.

I usually disappointed her.

In childhood I learned how to take care of myself,

And in truth–I gave birth to myself–my true self–

when I chose to be an artist.

but that is part of another chapter–

I have found so much I can admire about my mom.

I can admire her and understand her now–

She is fighting for her life.

And maybe she always was.

The only way she knew how to live was to fight.

She is smart as a fox and as fierce.

She knows where the traps are.

She can smell them.

Little old crazy fox-woman,

I can love her for that.

Coping with her terrible behaviour now,

and actively making a point to remember

all the beauty and love that she

offered me in her own way–

is a way I can love myself.

Sometimes I am not successful and I torment myself

with my life long addiction to self pity.

But then I snap out of it and remember that I don’t actually

need to suffer in this. It is my Mom who is actually suffering.

And I stand back up and rise to what is being asked of me.

I can do this. I tell myself.

Thank you God for honouring me with this mighty task

and for allowing my soul to journey through this difficult

terrain. Help me continue to hold the light within myself

enough to see the road in front of me.

And to learn the lessons that my life is offering me.

I am trying to speak these true and difficult things out loud

so as to cross that bridge between art and life–

and see if I can pick up the pieces of my torn and

tattered soul over there in that place between the worlds.

Some work in progress–The beginning of a story-reposting to inspire myself to finish it.

This is the beginning of a story that I scribbled down in the coffee shop.
It showed up in my notebook today like this.

My grandmother was quiet and mysterious and knew mysterious things.

She was part gypsy, at least that is what I grew up believing.

She could heal wounds, and cure sickness, and she always knew how things would turn out.

She could predict bad news, and see right through untrustworthy people.

She knew what to do about both.

She had secret recipes, and special remedies,

and wise old sayings, to fit every situation.

She believed in good luck and friendly forces.

She also believed in the unfriendly forces,

and she took great pains to protect us from them.

I would watch her fill a little cloth bag with needles,

and nails and bits of broken wire.

Sometimes broken twigs and spiky leaves and dried nettles–

for the teas and salves and poultices she made,

would end up in the little bag.

She would put the little bag under the door mat.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask.

“Doing what needs doing” she would answer.

My mom would tell me, “Oh it’s something Irish–

a superstition that’s all.”

But I would watch my Grandma hide a bottle of my Grandad’s whiskey,

way in the back of the cupboard.

She would carefully sprinkle a line of coarse salt in front of it,

and then stack the mason jars of peaches and carrots

and crabapples in front of the line of salt.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask

“You can see what I am doing.

Or are your eyes just for show then, and you can’t really see?”

My Grandad would come home, and look behind the piano for his whiskey.

He’d come into the kitchen scratching his head.

He’d open the cupboard and move the jars around.

“Where have you hidden my whiskey Maggie?” he would say.

But he would never find the bottle.

It was right there in front of his eyes, but he couldn’t see it.

If I asked Gran too many questions though,

I was always told something that would make me feel

as if I shouldn’t have asked– as if knowing this information,

would be a terrible burden to me.

It wasn’t what she said, it was what she didn’t say that made me know this.

So I didn’t ask questions–

at least not often.

Sometimes though Gran would make me feel,

as if we had shared a special secret.

I could never remember the secret.

I just knew something wonderful had passed between us.

And every moment I spent with her seemed magic, and precious,

and I was convinced she had remarkable abilities.

I was convinced she could make things happen.

She did things efficiently quickly and without any fuss.

She seemed to do whatever she did, without actually doing it.

She would tell me a story of her girlhood in Ireland,

while she ironed the shirts, baked a pie, washed the dishes,

and swept the kitchen floor.

I would be so carried away with the sound of her voice

and her tales– of the fancy french seamstress that taught her

at the Dressmaking school in Belfast, or the Scottish School Master,

who was sweet on her sister Esther–

that I couldn’t remember the unfolding of the

ironing board, or the basket of white shirts, or the

flour and lard, or the rolling pin or the big bowl on the table,

or the broom or the dustpan. Yet suddenly she would be taking

a golden brown apple pie out of the oven.

And the shirts would be hanging crisp and white on the hangers.

The dishes were washed and the floor was swept.

I didn’t have to ask any questions

I knew she was magic without being told.