Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Artist's Way List of Ten

A few years ago I did an Artist's Way class. The Artist's Way is a book by Julia Cameron, a New York author and playwright who was once married to the film director Martin Scorsese. The outline of the book and program is fairly simple--you write three pages in a journal every morning (called "morning pages"), go for a weekly walk to stimulate creativity, and have a weekly "Artist's Date" where you do something to support your "inner artist"--such as a trip to a museum, sitting in nature, watching an old movie, or looking at your childhood pictures. The activity itself is totally up to you--the only "rule" is that you do it alone. Cameron's books, which include Vein of Gold and the one I'm reading now, Finding Water (all of these can be found on Amazon) contain other exercises and writings--each program is 12 weeks long. I enjoyed the class, but in the hurly-burly of moving to India, I had forgotten about the books and the process, which can easily be done by simply reading the books and following along. In the last few weeks since I've been home, I have re-discovered Cameron, and have resumed doing morning pages. It is a good way to record the changes I'm going through and feeling, as well as dreams and fragments of dreams, which probably pick up other aspects that are more submerged.

One of the Cameron exercises is listing simple pleasures, ten things you enjoy ("take pen in hand" she writes as a prelude to these exercises). I wish I could find what I wrote four or five years ago--buried in some box no doubt-- to see what has changed in my list of ten, but here they are, and more than a few undoubtedly reflect the effects of repatriation:
1. Sidewalks. What an amazing thing they seem to me after Chennai, where even when you did see them, they were a foot and a half off the ground, interrupted by trees and peeing dogs and men, and located along busy roads where it was impossible to escape the cacophony of horns. Here, despite the ice which makes them hazardous at times, it's a beautiful thing to go for a long walk down tree lined quiet streets.......

2. Podcasts. I could go on and on about what a difference an iPod has made in my life, even since I've returned to the U.S. In India I had a couple of hours a day to listen since I had the long commute, but when I first came back, I struggled to find an opportunity to use it. Now, I work out nearly every day and walk often, so have caught back up on my long list-- The Wall Street Journal, This American Life, Japanese, Hebrew, The Cook and the Chef (a great Australian videocast with lots of scenes of Australian wine and cheese country), and several others. The other day I even learned a new and easy way to polish silver (it's chemistry).

3. Snow. Yes, crazy though it may sound....I'm a true northerner and love the four seasons. Watching the snow come down in gentle flakes with a cup of coffee in hand, Junior purring behind me on her special little "fur trapping" pillow, is a great pleasure.

4. Living less than 2 miles from the zoo (close enough to walk, far enough away not to smell).

5. Driving myself (that is one I would not have written 3 years ago).

6. Cooking again. Last night's creation was a salmon pie with goat cheese, thyme, red onions, and red pepper. A bit too much dill, but otherwise not bad. (My mother and aunt would be spinning in their graves, though, since I use store-bought pie crusts rather than making my own--even without the excuse of time.)

7. Costco. What a great place. And to think I used to mock Marty for the "inventory" we carry at home by virtue of buying things in large quantities.

8. Fresh berries. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries especially--I'm not such a fan of strawberries unless there is nothing else available. This is by no means a "green" or guilt-free choice---this time of year, the raspberries come from as far away as Chile, most of the others from Mexico. (Bought, of course, from Costco so at least the price doesn't make me feel too guilty, too.)

9. Netflix. Thanks to Harry for this one. Netflix, the online DVD rental store, was just getting started when I left and didn't have the country covered the way it has now. It's very slick, and much more convenient than the brick-and-mortar competitors. If you live in the U.S., check it out. If not--it's probably coming your way, like Starbucks, Amazon, and other American marketing icons.

10. The New York Cook Book. Full of stories--if you want to know about American immigrant history read this book-- and wonderful food. I haven't read or used it for over three years, and am rediscovering.

Maybe this list sounds like I don't miss India. On Sunday, my visa expires, and I've been thinking about that. Another list of 10 in the making......

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