helpless, watching the bombs fall from a shattered sky as they hit the ground trembling and burn into memories of laying in the prairie towards gazing meteor showers and shooting stars that give life to flowers crushed in the palm of their hands
mourning tragic moments has a way of showing us the truth exposing all the cracks and flaws in this ceramic castle that we built
The following are excerpts from the art journal I kept while visiting New York for a week.
The mediums I brought with were watercolors, oil pastels, and water-soluble wax pastels, as well as various pens and pencils. I also had a blank moleskin journal where my overall goal was to just fill up as many of the pages as possible and let myself experiment with different approaches. // I started with some background washes on a handful of pages, in case while wandering around the city I was struck with inspiration and wanted to add a drawing. // My process evolved into continually adding layers, sometimes going back to different pages to add something new. // Overall, it was a fun experiment and there were some concepts that emerged I would like to explore further, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my process. ~L
“Lavender lattes” poured over a soft fabric reminding me of a warmer day when not uncovered in vulnerability, sometimes an unwelcome visitor, who stays for too long on your couch leaving your cupboards bare upon their exit
“Sparkling stars and the cityscape” give me a journey unlike the guilty rays of sunshine soaked up by my skin on a rooftop beach my brick-and-mortar bones raw and unfolding
I am currently on my journey back to the Midwest on the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train, and have found myself blessed with a much better view this time around. The sun set over the Hudson River as the world whisked by, I held Charlie’s tag while finally shedding my first tears of the day, having somehow held them inside until I had made it to my sleeper car. This trip was heavy. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at the ending, if I would want to stay longer or if I would be ready to return to Milwaukee, and it has turned out to be a mixture of the two.
The veterinarian (or the angel of death as I’ve been referring to him), let me know his ashes would be ready the day I return coincidentally, synchronistically, like how the morning of his death I opened the cupboard to find it bare; after watching a monarch butterfly land on a freshly planted tree. Though I’m eager to have his remains back where they belong, I am not necessarily looking forward to being alone in that place again, the place that once felt like home but no longer truly does. I hope over time my heart will recognize it as a place of comfort.
During the past week, there were difficult moments, mostly when the quiet stillness seeped in, causing my mind to replay his final moments like a film I couldn’t stop in my mind, which is when I would turn on videos or music to fill my brain instead. I have been finding podcasts about grief helpful, and especially the ones where they acknowledge losing an animal companion can be just as painful as losing a close friend or family member. Our relationship was pure, no arguments, ultimately forgiving, and unconditionally loving. My darkest thoughts have included that I will never be unconditionally loved again and I try to brush those aside.
However, what was great about New York is that it’s the perfect place to stay busy and distracted, and unlike back home, I would get out every day to explore, walking mindlessly around Brooklyn admiring the graffiti art and shops. This trip was good for me, empowering, and it showed me there is a future and fulfilling life beyond what I have lost. I want to bring my sense of adventure back with me, and not only explore my own neighborhood more frequently, but also my inner universe, where the rivers run deep in my veins and stars appear beneath my eyelids, questioning why the films that play in my head repeat the way they do and what makes my heart sing. What makes me feel whole. I used to tell Charlie “it’s just you and me buddy” like it was us against the world, but now it’s just me. Though he has taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be, where I want to go.
While exploring the city today I stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a bite to eat and to add a quick sketch to my travel journal. I wasn’t overly impressed with the results, but the process is what matters the most to me. There was a young boy who couldn’t have been older than 7 years old hanging out at the patio as well while his mom was working. He was drawing at the table across from me and I was endeared by the shared interest.
After a while, the boy suddenly shot up and crumpled his paper, grumbling to himself. He ripped it up aggressively and threw the remnants on the ground, stomping on them and his marker in a dramatic matter that made me wonder if I should tell him not to give up. After his initial drawing was thoroughly destroyed, he got up and for a moment I thought he was done with art indefinitely.
Until he returned with more paper. This kid drew and destroyed several more sketches, each time ripping them up to stomp on in the same exasperated fashion. Wow, I felt that. What struck me about this action wasn’t that he was destroying his art, it’s that he kept getting up for more paper to keep trying. It was a beautiful reminder, you can hate your art, destroy it if you want, but keep turning more pages to try again.
Upon my arrival to NYC I was struck by the total chaos and confusion (and excitement) of downtown Manhattan. It was surreal, I couldn’t believe I was there. After pacing back and forth between signs and subway platforms to be sure I was heading in the correct direction, while also trying to appear confident and like I knew what I was doing, I finally arrived at my Airbnb.
The lockbox, empty, and the host, seemingly unbothered until he appeared from upstairs pale as a ghost. Oh no. The loft apartment had been vandalized the night before and he had been frantically repainting and trying to clean the damage. Why was I just then hearing about it? Who knows. I wish I would’ve gotten pictures of the insanity, but the moment was rushed and I was operating on little to no sleep.
Lately I’ve been working on being more “go with the flow” and he assured me I would have a safe space to sleep that night and there was a discount coming my way, so I hung out on the rooftop for a handful of hours. A couple mini panic attacks and one bag of popcorn later, the flat was live-able and I was in Brooklyn baby.
It took about two full days to get comfortable and used to the quirks of my new surroundings, exploring the nearby area‘s cafés and shops, I had already thrifted some amazing used vinyl and clothes. The grief of my recent loss comes and goes but always lingers just under the surface. Crying on the rooftop of an artist’s loft in NYC was not a bad place to be, though I would much rather my dog still be alive, only healthy and young of course.
My plan today was to distract myself and explore a little further into Williamsburg. It was a beautiful day, with perfect thrift finds and my one fancy meal of oysters and absinthe crème brûlée in the most beautiful patio garden. I don’t mind eating at restaurants alone, especially restaurants like that.
Afterwards I went to see the cityscape at the riverfront, there is something so magical about it. While heading back to my temporary home, I stopped at a Rite Aid to pick up nail polish remover and a Topo-Chico. Then I spotted it, a little Lamb Chop toy, only with the ears still on. Charlie loved to rip the ears and other parts from his toys. I couldn’t help but touch the fur. I got out of there as fast as I could.
Part of me felt guilty, how could I let myself have a good day? The betrayal. But Charlie was happy when I was happy. The pain of his absence and joy of my experiences exist simultaneously. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m going to be okay, and my emotions are valid. I love and miss him every day. Maybe Lamb Chop was a sign that he’s still here with me, always inside my heart.
About a week ago I decided I needed to escape my usual surroundings after the death of my best friend and companion, my dog Charlie. I booked a train ticket to New York for a creative sabbatical and decided taking a sleeper roomette was one of those bucket list things I wanted to try.
Watching the world pass by and the landscape slowly changing with the weather felt like watching a visual manifestation of letting my emotions come and go. Mostly I cried, eventually wiping away my tears to try to distract myself with podcasts, picking at a blueberry muffin or spending some time in the dining car for the 360 views. The Lakeshore Limited is a beautiful route to New York that would probably be even more enjoyable if one was not in a state of emotional disarray. Yes, I spent much of the time coping with my recent loss and subsequent existential crisis, but the views. The ambiance.
There was also an incident around 7:30am this morning where I realized our sleeper car was locked from the rest of the train by accident, and to my horror there was no coffee in our car, and let me tell you it’s difficult to sleep on a moving train. Eventually myself and a couple other passengers turned on all our call light buttons on and about 30 minutes later we were let out, very exciting.
It isn’t possible to heal yourself with one trip, and I’m not sure that “finding yourself” on a getaway is a healthy concept, the work is never done, but I do think there is importance in getting outside of your comfort zone and gaining a new sense of perspective.
Since Charlie’s death I’ve been struggling to feel connected, wanted, loved, needed, he provided so many of those feelings of comfort and the emptiness he left behind has been almost unbearable. In a way this trip is a test…if I can learn to be gentler to myself, be my own best friend, build self reliance. All things I feel could be improved.
It is true after all that no matter where you go, there you are.
For the past 15 years my beloved dog Charlie had been at my side, ready to take on the world with me and whatever adventure I could think of, he traveled exceptionally well in the car, and we drove all over the country. He was just happy being with me. During all of our adventures and camping trips, touring my music, exploring new places, Charlie was there for me through thick and thin. It was with great distress that I had to make the decision two weeks ago to say goodbye to my best friend and let him pass as peacefully as possible. I’m still heartbroken every day, there is nothing like the unconditional love and companionship of a dog. We understood each other telepathically, I anticipated his every basic need and did the best I could showing him love and care. I was 19 years old when I got Charlie and my life was never the same. This year despite Charlie’s elderly state we went on three different local cabin adventures, then to my dismay I had to cancel our last trip to NYC, due to his ailments finally catching up to us. After spending the past two weeks in my home, getting used to the silence, moving things around, desperately trying to save and hold on to every last memory of Charlie, I’ve felt the need to escape. Go someplace new, do the thing we used to love doing together, travel. So, I found a couple cheap cross country train tickets and plan on leaving after one more show for 10 days, I hope to be able to clear my mind, gain some perspective, and get inspired to create new art. I love and miss Charlie every day ❤ ~L
Sometimes one of the most difficult things about working for yourself or running a creative business can be staying motivated. We’ve all been there, waking up in the morning and all you want to do is roll over and go back to sleep for a little while. Or perhaps you’ve been working on a project that seems to be going nowhere, so you don’t even feel like starting or trying to continue. Whatever the case may be, there are a few tricks that I learned that help me stay in my creative groove, and feeling motivated to do my best and keep working.
Remember why you started to begin with. Try to step back and look at the bigger picture. There was a time when this was everything you wanted, are you able to recall what that felt like? Does this project still excite you or make you feel fulfilled when you finish part of it? Does it still make you happy? If the answer is yes then try to remember how great you will feel looking at (or listening to) the final product. Always remember though, if something just isn’t fun or make you happy anymore it might not be worth it to continue!
Utilize the internet. Don’t just sit there and surf the web all day, but use it as a tool to your advantage. Use it to get inspired and feel motivated again. I like to use sites like Pinterest and Etsy to browse other artist’s work to see what other people doing similar things as me are up to. Often times an image will resonate with me and strike that yearning desire to create back into my system. Soundcloud or YouTube is also great for this if you are a musician or producer.
Clear your mind. Sometimes our brains are too cluttered to work. Take a few minutes to sit in silence and meditate or go outside for a walk, if you need to get your thoughts out, journal with a nice cup of tea. Find the ritual that works for you to clear your mind and get a fresh start. Whatever your routine may be, make it a moment of reflection to recenter and recommit yourself to your vision.
We’ve all been there before, you get a great idea and talk about how awesome it could be if you organized this or that event, collaborated on a project or how badly you want to release your next album, but then for some reason nothing actually happens and said “awesome project” never actually gets completed or even started. This becomes kind of redundant after a while and you begin to wonder if anything will ever actually get done, and it can become very discouraging which can prevent you from even trying in the first place. In my experience there are a few tips to consider when starting a new project.
Tips for making it happen:
Fully brainstorm the idea or project from start to finish. Envision what it will be like when it’s completed. Draw, write, or sketch out as much detail as you can in order to get a full picture of your vision. Sometimes it helps to work backwards from what your completed goal would look like; imagine it already finished and write down what that would be with as much detail as possible. (If it’s a song, imagine what it sounds like before you even start.)
Plan out the stepping stones. Write out the steps necessary to take in order to reach your goals. This means breaking up your larger goals into smaller chunks to make it actually doable and less daunting of a project, which will keep you from becoming overwhelmed and tempted to give up.
Just do it. Eventually you just have to go for it. There’s a point when you’ve done as much planning as you can, and have to start filling out the content of your project. If you have a nice complete outline, you will have an easier time filling in the gaps. Once you have that completed outline and have brainstormed your ideas, it’s time to take that leap of faith and take the first step necessary in the direction of your goal.