The Art of Life

The much anticipated Holiday season is behind us. Yay! I consciously, but involuntarily started listening to Christmas music on the November 3-4 weekend, my first craft fair of the season. I unexpectedly hummed along to the tunes of the one-horse open sleigh and the poor old partridge in the same pear tree. Some three weeks before Christmas I got a bit tired of listening to Christmas songs. By the time it was December 25, just like last year, I wished I could Grinch my way out of Christmas and teleport myself to February.

 

 

In 2018, I started my first outside market day mid-April. I finished my last “Summer” market day mid- October. That’s a pretty long “Summer” season. Then, I took a quick 3-week intermission to prepare for the next storm and dove head-first into the Christmas craft fair season. While I typically only attend 1 or 2 market days a week and aim to work only part-time to keep my health in order, many weeks of the year I felt like a headless chicken running along a non-stop assembly line. Sourcing frames, sourcing sea glass, painting and sanding frames, gluing and sealing glass panes took up the early part of the week. Typically, only a few days near the end of the week were left to make actual designs. 

 

 

Unless hurricane force winds threaten to blow my sea glass filled market booth into the ocean, Summer market days are typically very enjoyable. I am outside in the sun, talking to cheerful people about travel, art and beachcombing. When art sells, bills can be paid. However, the end of every good sales day is often also filled with the bittersweet feeling of knowing how many art pieces will have to be ready again by the following weekend. 

 

 

 

So Boohoo for me. Can everyone please feel sorry for me for a moment? My job requires me to go beachcombing and scavenging thrift-shops for a living, puzzling at home with sea glass pieces while I listen to podcasts and take naps when fatigue sets in. Yep, it’s terrible. I deserve no sympathy. In truth, I’m grateful for having the opportunity to live this lifestyle. But, dare I point out that even a repetitive hobby becomes work after a while?

 

 

 

I didn’t keep track of the exact amount of art pieces made in 2018.  I estimate the amount to be above 500 completed artworks; some big, many small. The beach-themed art is hopefully hanging in windows, on bathroom walls and in children rooms bringing joy to the people observing them. I’m truly appreciative for the joy I am able to spread. But every so often, with the repetitive nature of the most popular pieces, I ask myself if I can call them “artworks”. Yes, every sea glass design is hand-made and unique, but are they mass-produced souvenirs perhaps? If anything indicates that I AM truly an artist, it is the recurrent theme of self-doubt and self-criticism.

 

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It is now January 2019. I foresee a 3-month vacuum where I will occasionally ask myself what the meaning is of all the art making and art selling madness. While I should be making inventory for the summer months to relieve some pressure, my creativity and inspiration demand me to take a break from the repetitive routine. I ask myself what the net effect of a busy year has been on my health. Am I so talented that I even burn myself out in a free-as-a-bird lifestyle that includes strolling down beaches? The answer is a hesitant “yes”. I am currently picking up the shattered pieces of myself and gluing them back together. And now with some time on my hands and being forced to rest, I start spinning circles in my head, questioning my priorities in life, the years rushing by in a hurry, the reason for doing it all again. Sound familiar anyone? Yep, same Martin. Still here.

 

 

I have sat down today and am writing a blog in the company of a coffee. I look at the neighbours shoveling rain on their driveways, the water drops racing down the windows. I reflect on the changes of the past few years. Despite my social media account showing an adventurous life, my health situation is far from perfect. I have neglected it. I still walk around with a heavy rock chained to my leg and risk sliding back into trouble with every day I push myself too far up the ever beckoning slope. It remains to be a personal challenge that might never go away. But like the ocean, my life is full of movement. Changes are again on the horizon. This year will certainly not be the same as the last. That’s a thought that comforts me. The freedom to decorate my days and weeks slightly differently is always there. The tides will bring in new treasures, challenges and opportunities. It’s up to me to pick them up, let them wash away, or use them for something new and creative.

 A bit late, but best wishes to all for the new year!

 


 

Photography Therapy

 

Close to the ground I feel comfortable. The gravitational force has pulled me on my knees, not by choice. My head is spinning and it’s time to sit down for a break. I’m used to it by now. Through trial and error, anger and acceptance I have come to understand what my body can and can’t do. My body is lacking the energy to hike for miles or get up in the middle of the night, so I have grown to get comfortable to take photos in a relatively small window of time and space. It’s no surprise that one of my favourite topics is macro photography.

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It’s over a year and a half since I created a website dedicated to my photography and ambition to write more. I started a Facebook photography page on which I regularly posted a few photos. It’s not a booming business by any means but I kept going steady with the first and foremost intention to share the beauty that surrounds us.

 

While it’s never been a smooth ride, this winter the posting of photos and writing started stuttering like an old car in frigid winter conditions. Health challenges forced me to surf the couch and stare at the ceiling pretty much full time. A fog settled over me, kept me from writing with the clarity and inspiration I felt earlier. It was hard to accept, but I learned to come to terms with the reality that good and bad periods just come and go in waves.

 

Here’s a rather short explanation about my health to give some context. What started with a mild fatigue some 8 years ago has slowly progressed into a fairly serious condition. I frequently experience nerve pain, muscle weakness and severe fatigue. While I look pretty normal, my body’s energy battery is charged at 20% most days. After what feels like a few hundred diagnoses and treatments over the years, I have recently been treated intensively for Lyme disease. The diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease are controversial; the illness is multi-layered and complex. I generally tell people that my ongoing treatment is based on the doctors’  best guesses.

 

When my photography outings came to a mere stand still, I felt no inspiration to continue writing photography blogs. Why would I write a blog about something I don’t actively pursue? The negative self-talk got a good hold of me. But in recent months, after encouragement from family and good friends, I have pushed myself –often against my body’s will- out the front door again.

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I typically drive to a familiar spot nearby, walk a few hundred meters and stop. Legs hurt. It’s time to crouch down and look around. After a break, I get up again, walk another couple hundred meters and take a time out again. By then I have usually found an interesting topic for macro photography. On my knees, with my mind in a different world, the pain gradually dissolves. The fatigue goes unnoticed for a while. Time ceases to exist. All the worries and frustrations of a long challenging journey fall off my back for a while. It is only when I stretch my back and waddle back to the car that I realize I am taking part in a carefully planned and paced exercise.

 

After clearly stating my desire to be more mindful and present in previous blogs, it’s ironic how life has thrown me the perfect exercise to learn to appreciate the little things in life and in nature. My photographic journey continues in a different form than I anticipated. I don’t spend all night in the woods photographing the Northern Lights or Milky Way, nor do I dangle dangerously above cliffs trying to get the unique elevated shot. Hat’s off to those photographers who do that. That’s what I would if given the chance and that’s what I’ll do when the tide turns again. For now, this condition has forced me on my knees (in more than one way). On my knees I’m currently most comfortable. On my knees is how my photography currently takes place.

The close-up natural world is surprisingly intriguing and complex like larger ecosystems, with its own vistas and panoramas. The macro world – a world blown up to larger than life size- reveals interesting patterns, hidden symmetry, geometrical patterns and architectural wonders. Macro photography is now pretty much all I do. Once I am focused on something, my mind is not interested in anything else. The more creative the idea, the better. I am grateful I still get to do this. Photography is a creative outlet and necessary therapy I can’t live without.

 

I have started a personal blog to share a bit more about my own health journey. It’s personal and perhaps not for everyone and that’s ok with me. But for those interested in learning more, you can find it at www.exposedliving.com.