June 25, 2014

The Right Attitude

For the past week I have been awakened at 4 ayem by the sounds of a Catathalon taking place downstairs.  The two cats are young, and full of spit and vinegar.  Perhaps, because they sleep all day, they are most active at night.  Or the other way around.  Regardless, they are having a great time.  Events include wrastllin', obstacle course, races, high jump, slithering, ball-chasing and stair leaping.  Oh, I almost forgot the all-important box-thumping.  But, best of all, it's done in the dark.

We humans call this awakening in the middle of the night by other names.  My husband's favorite expression is "The Syndromes."  We all have the Syndromes -- those niggling little worries that creep up on us when we least expect them.  We rewrite dialog ("I should have said . . ."), worry about paying bills, meeting deadlines, where is (person, thing), and anything else that comes down the pike.  As artists we worry about color, line, 'what's that supposed to say?", the next show, framing, "But does he/she LIKE it?", and how do I . . . .

Cats have the right attitude.  when they feel the need, they get up and DO something.  A Catathalon.  Eating.  Litter box.  Turn over.  Cuddle.   Watch the critters at the bird feeders at night.

We, on the other hand, simply lie there, consumed by . . . whatever.  And by the instructions given us as children, "Stay in bed until it's time to get up."  So, we stay in bed because we have been programmed to.  Would it not be better to do something more constructive?  Clean out closets and drawers?  Sketch?  Write?  Read?  Do something active that requires us to think about what we're doning?  One thing is for certain -- we'll be just as tired in the morning from lying in bed and fretting as we would if we got up and did something.

I, for one, have very well-organized closets and drawers.  It's all a matter of Cattitude.

June 16, 2014

The Cup

As I approach my "senior" years, I find myself more willing to be a spectator, rather than a participant.  Particularly when it comes to running, jumping and other forms of quick physical activity, I find that my "jumper" just doesn't work as well as it used to.  Be that as it may, I still walk and move about (herding cats requires that one be reasonably agile and able to react quickly).

If you've been off-planet for the last several weeks, you may be surprised that the summer sports schedule has been taken over by something called "World Cup."  What 6 million of us call "soccer" and 6 BILLION call "football" (or futbol), entails running.  Lots.  And a huge amount of foot/eye coordination.  And they are done at the same time.  Thirty-two countries send national teams to the World Cup, although all nations are eligible to participate in the qualifying matches.  World Cup is, quite simply, the best of the best players in the world, competing to see which team is the best.

Each player, aside from the goal-keepers, expect to run an average of 8 miles in each match.  That's RUN.  And sprint, saunter, walk and jump for 90+ minutes.  There are no time-outs, except for injury on the pitch; there is one 15-minute break between two 45-minute halves.  Think these players are in shape?  You'd better believe it.  There are no refrigerators or potatoes on the field.  Every single player is in tip-top shape, and (from my point of view) easy on the eye.  Speed, grace, agility, and beatuiful athleticism.

Where I'm going is simple.  These Best of the Best did not get there simply by showing up one day, saying "I'm the best."  They have been playing since they were 7, 8, 10 years old.  They have been educating their bodies in special skills to develop vision, coordination, strength, endurance.  They'be been educating their minds on plays, theories, memory and planning.  And, they've been doing it daily. For absolute YEARS.

The theory is simple -- practice, practice, PRACTICE.  It works for everything we do.  Certainly, there are savants and geniuses who appear to have sprung from their mothers' wombs able to compose symphonies.  But for the rest of us, we get where we want to go by practice.  By doing it regularly, consistently and with the mind-set that we need to perform the "darned dailies" in order to develop that inate sense of what works.

It's knowing when the time is right, when the line is right, when the flavor is right, when the presentation is right.  We've done it enough times that the piece is "done."  Same way with what I do in the studio.  There are voila moments, sure, but mostly art is done the same way cooking, investing, bridge-building, negotiating, and driving are done -- practice, practice, practice.  There is no magic incantation except "let's do another one."  No magic wand except a paint brush or a pencil.  No time machine that gets us to the end of the hallway instantly.  We get there by walking, by doing, by being in the present moment and by being aware of wht is going on.  It's a different kind of magic!