Faversham, 24 July 2014
I hope this finds you well.
I have been back in Faversham for two weeks now. It has taken me a while to adjust to being here after nearly 3 weeks of walking for the Ideas Test Funded project Walk Swale Medway. There is still a lot to catch up with that project, as well as keeping up with other work – promised work, pending work, unfinished work, upcoming work. Work. Work. Work. You know when you say a word too often…
It has been a strange and rocky adjustment to being home after Walk Swale Medway. I was moody and depressed, tearful, and flat. I couldn’t explain how profound my experience over the time away had been. Worst of all, walking everyday began to feel like a chore. I even looked it up, and if Post Vacation Blues is on Wikipedia, then it’s a thing. Just to clarify, I wasn’t on a holiday with Walk Swale Medway – I was working – genuine, bona fide, art in action, but could I find Post-long-term-art-project-blues? Of course not. The closest thing to a search like this brings up the Federal Art Project, part of the Great Depression’s American New Deal Works Progress Administration, so at least it made for interesting reading. It also chimes well with the objectives of Ideas Test funding in Swale and Medway, which has a remit of increasing arts engagement and is employing artists to do so.
In 1936, the Federal Art Project employed over 5,300 artists at its peak for employment. “The Arts Service Division created illustrations and posters for the WPA writers, musicians, and theaters. The Exhibition Division had public exhibitions of artwork from the WPA, and artists from the Art Teaching Division were employed in settlement houses and community centers to give classes to an estimated 50,000 children and adults. They set up over 100 art centers around the country that served an estimated eight million individuals.”
I suspect my own statistics (more work on the list!) will be more modest, and I found the parallel interesting. But I serendipitously digress – such is the search engine world in which we live.
“Life has gone on without me, events unfolded for other people, and yet everything seems unchanged.”
I also realised that before I started walking, I had become used to making, and was returning home to SO MANY DECISIONS.
All the time, heaps of seemingly overwhelming decisions.
I had the joy of almost no decision making while walking. The most difficult thing to decide was which T-shirt wasn’t dirty. Or whether I would like a cup of tea from one of my lovely hosts. No decisions. Not many possessions. No make up. No fat clothes. No mirrors. Coming away from this and back into my life was overwhelming. Difficult. Embarrassing. How could I complain about such a great adventure filled with so much generosity, kindness, and encouragement? I had had the opportunity to give and receive such a profound experience. I only went for a walk. And now I felt displaced and odd in my own place.
I met someone recently who was concerned that his neighbours took an interest in him, and wanted to share their stories in return. He was uncomfortable with this and found it peculiar. I said, (on reflection, perhaps too sharply), that people probably weren’t really that interested in his business and have their own business to worry about. I thought about this today when I was walking home, and it reminded me of another neighbour who doesn’t greet me in the street – I suspect I was seen as nosy and too chatty after a meeting or two. Can’t please everybody. Like everyone, I want to have my privacy and autonomy over my life without feeling judged, but I also want to be content with my place in my family, my friendships, my community, my work, and the world. I guess it comes down to whether it’s about listening and human connection or empty chatter and passing the time. I’ll take both, because, for me, that’s what makes the world a place that’s good and kind. Perhaps what I think is empty chatter makes someone else’s day in sharing it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll learn something, maybe I’ll feel virtuous for being patient, maybe I’ll feel I belong somewhere for someone, if only for a moment. Whatever.
I always had these words on the wall when I was growing up (thanks Mom and the 1970’s) from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”
So, I’m coming out as what I am…chatty, interested, and yes I want to know people’s business, but don’t worry, I’ve got my own to keep me occupied, too. This is how I want to fit into my world, and these are my Desiderata, my desired things.
Write when you can,