Art Makes it So.

Art Makes it So.

mouse with wings artwork
“fairymouse” digital painting by Angela Tannehill-Caldwell

I’m just sitting on my back deck looking out at my serene japanese maples and listening to the birds of dusk have their evening conversations. I’m remembering how I used to do stuff. Creative stuff. Friend stuff. Literary stuff. Stuff that filled my days. Stuff to look forward to. Fulfilling stuff.

True, we are 4 months into Covid-19, a worldwide pandemic that has pulled the rug out from underneath us all, and we are still flailing about. But separately and alone. For a myriad of reasons – mostly unexplainable – we can’t even come together to figure out how to make it through such a time, so we are feeling even more separate and alone. And weary. Cue all the adjectives that go along with uncertainty. Disconnection from the world, from my people and stuff, is the actual opposite of what a Sagittarius like me needs in my life, yet I think I’ve been feeling this dark cloud of disquiet inching toward us long before the pandemic hit, and I may have already been shrinking into my corner with convenience store snacks and Netflix. Now the pandemic is my blanket excuse that covers all my actions and inactions, until my days are one big blur of making it to my pillow once again.

But remember how I used to do stuff? Ahh, yes. I used to perform at Friday art walks with my poet pals and meet my book clients-turned-friends for lunch and plan poetry festivals and go to the movies with my husband on our date nights – and have date nights – and take my daughter shopping for her school dances.

Barely a year ago I was in New Orleans where my best friend lives, walking the streets of the lower garden district and the french quarter, and taking part in the first-ever Bukowski festival at the impressive International Hotel on Camp Street. There were celebrities and art and specialty cocktails named after Bukowski book titles and an entire real-life Banksy installation in the hotel lobby. I got to drink absynthe in a pirate bar with a new poet friend and wax nostalgia about 80’s post-punk music, and wander the glorious shelves of the Faulkner House Book Store, where my friend convinced me to buy a thick hardbound book of Frank Stanford’s – an unknown poet to me who is now one of my favorites. It was the curious, delightful and unexpected experience of life as I was living it.

Now fast forward to today – to pretty much the antithesis of all that. Where I am home – and everyone I know is at home. I go to work and come home. (Although, admittedly, my work at the library is a haven, because, duh….) Go to the grocery store and come home. Read post after post about why the anti-maskers think they’re on the right side of history. Get frustrated. Don’t watch the news, though. Watch more Netflix instead. Try to build upon my days in new and interesting ways. I didn’t bake the sourdough. I didn’t learn how to knit. I didn’t write the poem-a-day or improve upon my ukelele skills (“skills” is a strong word). It was the path of least resistance (because who could find yeast in a time like this, anyway?!) and definitely more comfortable to be under my blanket.

It may have taken me 4 months, but today is when I shuck off the blanket of Covid and roll the me-who-used-to-do-stuff-pre-pandemic into a new me-who-does-new-and-different-stuff. My library just had the author, Emily St. John Mandel, of our County Reads book, Station Eleven, on a zoom author talk. The book’s theme is all about the importance (and perseverance) of art during a worldwide pandemic in a post-apocalyptic world. The book was chosen in the Fall of 2019, and the author was to appear here in our town for a live event back in April, but then our own worldwide pandemic struck…. Art imitating life; life imitating art, it’s the big ironic ball that turns this world around.

But while hearing her talk and seeing how so many people were engaged with her books and stories, including me, a light bulb went on that has been turned off for months. I’m now inspired and convinced that Art IS the stuff of life. Books are the stuff of life. Or at least my life. And I’m going to make it so. Starting right here, with this post. Art is the reflection of each of us that we shine upon the world, and I want my face to show up. Art connects us to other humans that we share this planet with. So we need more of it.  More books. More poetry. More paintings of mice with fairy wings, or photographs of sublime sunsets. All of it. There can never be enough.

So finish that book (and then come see me…hee hee…). Dust off the acrylic paints. Sew masks for the anti-maskers that say “this is not a mask,” Fugazi t-shirt style. Learn that Bon Iver song on the ukelele. Plug into the world with your art that is meant to be shared. Throw off that blanket, and get to it. I’ll see you after this episode of Ozark….