Tag Archives: artists


lilypoemI’ve taken a long break from writing publicly, and I won’t bother to go into the details other than to say that I’ve felt compelled to break from presenting a persona online. I need more of the real me.

All artists are observers. This summer I had the privilege to go to the National Gallery in D.C. It was a glorious. I was amazed at the never-ending ways we observe life–some are realists, others gather impressions, some focus on the big picture, others on minutiae. Despite the grand diversity of art, each artist was recognizable by their particular way of observing. They may experiment, but within the range of their experimentation, there is a mark that says Rembrandt or Cassatt or Dali. I think that I am finally seeing and accepting my way of observing life. The real Jill. And one of my marks is tension.

I see tension everywhere…mostly in my own life and the roles that I have as wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, child of God, and I seem to write about that tension quite a bit.

I ended this summer by taking a new friend and our children out to Brazos Bend State Park one morning, where we could paint from the dock. I found myself scribbling observations and just painting a few lilies. The kids were full of life, and the tensions between humans and animals, mothers and children, the outwardly-exuberant and the solitude-seeker were ripe. So the following poem ensued. If I am shedding my persona, reducing the tension between my outward and inward face, I can’t think of a better way to start than by sharing my poems. Naked is the word that comes to mind. ūüôā

Observation Deck

The deep today
Everything seems to be happening below

Yet here on the deck we are almost
Obnoxiously present–
feet trampling the wooden planks
Paint strokes missing the canvas
Voices raised in play, jest, protest

Three feet below us the sonorous, deep growls of the alligator
Tease us. He stubbornly refuses to appear, rolling under
The tangle of lilies like a child crawling under a blanket.

My mind is divided.

An ibis appears with a swoop but even he prefers
The cover of the cypress, so that we can only see
His feet dancing the steps of his morning hunt.

I want to dive below the dark water where the light
Is filtered green and sounds of voices are muted,
To lie still amongst roots and darting minnows and

Wonder what is above.

A violent splash startles me and I jump. The alligator has
Satisfied his hungry stomach and l look around and count my
Babies and breathe. One paints, another runs, all are seen.

All are seen.

An (Early) Summer Experiment

For a night owl, setting an alarm for 2:40 in the morning is a somewhat surreal experience. ¬†You know it is going to happen, but you just can’t make sense of it. That is bedtime after all (well, for me, a moderate night owl, at least a very late bedtime), not the hour for rising. ¬†What happens from 3 to ¬†6 a.m., in my knowledge bank, is just kids crying ¬†to be fed, needing a pat back to sleep, or vomiting two feet from the toilet. ¬†At that time of night, my whole goal is to get back to sleep, without ever the thought of starting the day.

But this morning I had to get my son to the airport; a summer camp had his name on a list to show up tomorrow. ¬†When I set my alarm last night, my thoughts were all dreary-guilty ones…ugh, that is an entirely insane hour to be waking, I am going to HATE tomorrow, what a terrible mother, why can’t I sacrifice for my son without complaining. ¬† Even my husband’s compliment, delivered from his hotel room across the country, only left me more guilty. ¬†After all, he is an early bird pilot who regularly gets up at 3 a.m….why should I feel “heroic,” in his words?

Heroic is definitely not how I would have described this morning. ¬†Euphoric is more accurate. Weird, I know. ¬†It must have been the interference with my normal body rhythm which set off a chain reaction of abnormal chemicals, but euphoria is definitely the word. ¬†Adrenaline must have played its part, too, as I didn’t even want coffee until two hours after I awoke. ¬†Only my physical body seemed to be rebelling; I was cold and my eyes literally spat my contacts back out. ¬† I’m pretty sure my youngest child’s newborn photograph was staring back at me from the mirror, but I felt too great to care.

The muggy, hot stillness warmed my chill as I took my son’s luggage to the car. No buzzing lawn mowers, barking dogs, or droning highway sounds. ¬†When even birds are silent, the sense that you are only one awake in the world, however untrue it is, is convincing. ¬†In my semi-chaotic house of seven, this was a rare and coveted moment of peace.

By the time my son walked down the ramp to his plane, I was positively embracing the hour. ¬†Six o’clock? ¬†This *is* insane! ¬†What can I go conquer?¬† Driving home, I was filled with shame at how little I have been out at the early hour. Houston, as seen by the looping toll road, ¬†is not known for its natural beauty, but the sun breaking on patches of misty fog hugging the low parts of the ground revealed hidden ravines and made even the cleared weedy lots look mysteriously beautiful.

Once home and waiting for my urchins to return from my parents, I attacked my fishy smelling fridge shelves with actual glee. ¬†I usually strongly dislike¬†(the substitute phrase for ‘hate’ that I urge my kids to use) any kitchen duty other than cooking, yet here I was whistling at 7 a.m., scrubbing away glass shelves, jubilant like the happy pig slop processor from Dirty Jobs. (Really, this man is my new inspiration!) ¬†Job complete, beets for ¬†a salad roasting away in the oven, still buzzing with energy, I had time to edit a few essays before 9 a.m. CST (Children Showing Up Time). ¬† ¬†See what I mean about euphoria?

So, my real question…are early birds right? ¬†I was certainly getting the worm this morning, but was it just an adrenaline filled fake out? ¬†Certainly four hours of sleep is not enough, but could I possible manage to reverse my natural body rhythm permanently? ¬†Without trying to overgeneralize, ¬†I have noticed that the do-ers of this world tend to be early birds, but the world can’t all be do-ers, can it? ¬† We still need the dreamers, idealists, and artists that tend to inhabit the night hours. ¬†I don’t know yet, but I think I am going to experiment this summer, see if I can reign in my nature a little, do a little more, dream a little less, without changing me¬†too much.