Good morning. GOOD morning. Good MORNING! Such an innocuous statement. It really shouldn’t elicit a Sci-Fi level of goose bumps and foreboding and yet, here we are.
14,965. That’s how many times I’ve heard Good Morning just from the H. in the past 40 years.
Were they all good mornings? Of course not. Because I am not a robot. And that is why my case feels so cranked at this moment.
This morning the daily greeting slapped me upside the head like Bill Murray realizing he was caught in a groundhog day loop…still. I know what H said, but what I heard was “Reset to Start.” My response, like so many mornings in the past few decades, has devolved into a monosyllabic grunt somewhere between *hey* and *ungh*. I don’t want to do the same day over and over until the end of my time on the planet. I want to mix it up! And it appears that even if I begin the “who talks first” morning ritual, the response is…. You guessed it.
It’s time for some new morning greetings beyond that two word replication. Something with some style, some humor. Just another way to acknowledge that, yes, we have survived sleep mode one more time. My favorite would be the recent meme, “So, it appears the assassins have failed again.” Love that. But it’s only fresh once.
Maybe “Weird dreams last night?” or how about “Did that new pillow configuration make your neck hurt less?” Or even a segue like, “…as I was saying…” or, “Welcome back!” Anything would be better than 14,966. Anything!
We hold onto rituals we think are required pleasantries without ever stopping to ask why or if we can change them or delete the practice altogether. Like saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes. It’s Medieval. Literally. They believed that in the exact moment a sneeze happened, that your heart stopped beating and it was a prime opportunity for the devil to jump into your heart. So they quickly stopped that chance with a sticky God Gob blocking the entrance until you were back to monitoring your own devil holes.
If you grow up Catholic, there are a plethora of weird and archaic practices like the God Gob Devil Blocker move. We didn’t question them because we also believed that a bunch of guys in dresses and women in scary penguin costumes had some magical access to the inner workings of the Universe and to question them was to put our very souls in jeopardy.
I guess we should feel lucky we dodged a bullet that they didn’t make a required catch phrase for other body functions as well. Though some 10 year old part of my brain is itching to hear the approved flatulence mantra. Mine would be “Christ on a cracker! What died inside you?”
My new mission is finding alternatives to expected social pleasantries. No more “Have a good day!” From now on, it shall be “Have a different day!”
Thanks for letting me vent. Now, get out there and make up some ridiculous sayings to change the trajectory of your day.
Ten years ago, a health issue led to some questions, that led to some answers, that then led to the destruction of my imagined life and its imagined stability. And that led to what felt like my brain melting and my soul howling out into the void.
If my life were a melatonin induced freaky dream, it would have found me climbing the rope in the gym back in grade school, slapping my hand on the rafter to signal my arrival and then looking down to see someone had lit the rope on fire and it was fast approaching the soles of my Keds.
I have always listened to the Universe as it has guided me on my way. It hasn’t been an easy sprint from point A to point B. In fact, it took me a few decades to figure out that my spiritual guides might be slightly sadistic bastards that thought leading me on wild goose chases was highly entertaining. Case in point: at age 27 I was guided to pack my life in the desert and follow love to a northern city only to be met with a full stop, u-turn and a “Just kidding! Hang in there for seven months in this new location and your work will take you to your next stop which we aren’t going to tell you about until you’re seriously questioning all your life choices! It’ll be great! Trust us!” See? Sadistic.
I sat still. Miserably. Heartbroken. But then the next stop did put me on a path that held a pretty clear route for three more decades. Until the brain melting happened.
So, there I was ten years ago, at my kitchen table in East Lansing; charred bits of my old life flaking off me; writing like a mad woman on the wall I had painted into a giant chalkboard for big ideas. It was handy for menu planning, thought processing, doodling and list making. It’s too easy to lose the post-it notes or the 37th spiral notebook you write the big ideas in, but you’d have to be Criss Angel to lose a wall. So there you go.
New Life Goals!
Uh… Happiness? Nah. Too vague. Success? At what? And really, isn’t “success” the achievement of a singular goal? Then you set up a new hurdle to jump. Screw that. This brain exfoliation went on for a while.
Until I ran into a thought that stopped the brain leakage. “What the hell do I actually want now?” Staring at the doodles, finally, some strong words shouldered their way to the front of my burned brain.
The first word was COMMUNITY.
I wanted a real community of friends and neighbors who I could interact with, create with, commiserate with on whatever shenanigans we would get up to. I had lived in that house in that college town for two decades and for reasons that no longer matter, I had only connected with a handful of people. Those were lonely years. And I was done with that.
The second strong word was MOVE. Five years prior, I had set a deadline for a decision to be made for the years ahead and if the spouse hadn’t come up with a viable plan to relocate somewhere that I had a say in selecting, then I was going to make the choice and he could come along or not. Afterall, I had uprooted my life three times at this point, each time moving for his work that took me farther and farther away from a location where any of my eclectic skill sets were viable career choices.
Ten years ago, it was clear that I needed to get out a metaphorical machete and start clearing a path to where I was supposed to be. It was a true winter of the soul where I had retreated, hibernating and trying to keep the delicate seeds of dreams alive while I let my listening stretch out again to those sadistic guide bastards to hear where I needed to move next.
NORTH. That was the word. I don’t think there are any coincidences because I know how those sneaky bastards work, but I had two simultaneous invitations to go north for visits from two women I’d known for years who both lived at the tops of two Michigan Peninsulas; one in the Keweenaw and the other in the Leelanau. They did not know each other so three guesses who set this up.
Why the hell not? I packed my car and hit the road to Copper Harbor. I had a great visit with my friend and the miles on the road alone helped air out my head. The morning of my departure from her house, I sat alone on the dock with my coffee and threw out to the Universe a request for a sign to let me know if our communication line was open so I could pick up the next bread crumb they tossed on my path. I did not see a bird fly over, but as I raised my cup towards my mouth, a feather dropped right into it with a satisfying plunk. Hilarious. Message received. As Ellie in the book Contact frantically reported to the control room team, “we are good to go!”.
Next stop Northport. I had some very interesting days in this tiny town and I met a lot of people and already had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last time I visited. Sitting at the donut shop before hitting the road, my friend asked what I saw myself doing next, and I said I wanted to create gatherings where people can celebrate and learn and interact with their community. She pointed across the street and said that building was for sale. We walked over and got a tour from the owners who were outside tending plants. The very second I stepped into the ballroom, everything that was twisted and broken in my soul straightened out and said “THIS”. THIS is my future.
It still took another three years to bring together all the wiggly bits and pieces to finally take over this building and another seven years to become one with this beautiful business in a lovely town with a real community of friends and neighbors, but it happened. Ten long freaking years.
So, the moral of this story is that when your life explodes and your brain melts, it’s a really good time to reopen your communication channels with Sadistic Bastards Are Us. I mean your spiritual guides. Let them lead you on a merry chase as they move you closer to your own next step. The golden part is just over that hill with the steep incline, razor wire, fire ants and random lightning strikes. Come on! It’ll be fun! And ten years from now you’ll look back and laugh.
A word from the Patron Saint of Sadistic Bastards-
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward” Soren Kierkegaard
Can I just say that the Toon Me App is ridiculously fun? The self portrait image at the top of the article is from 2012, taken in my kitchen in East Lansing, next to my chalkboard wall. The other images are from Toon Me’s portal access to the Faerie Realm.
I am thankful for the beautiful spaces of my home and my work that flow with people and the opportunity they offer to witness as we celebrate happy things, mourn our losses, commiserate on worldly matters, or laugh out loud over the perfect madness of life on Earth
I am thankful for a community that rallies when one of us needs something we can not do alone
I am thankful when cancer fails at its job to wreck a life
I am thankful for the change agents who make loud noises about things and wake others up to the fact that the old system no longer works and it is time find a better way
I am thankful to the Universe that has coaxed and cajoled and led and dragged me towards the next and the next and the next small and large adventure in my life
I am thankful to the ever growing circle of family and friends who have arrived at my door on the road of love and for my chance to welcome them in
I am thankful for the gifts of music and art and word crafting and food creation that keep my soul skipping like a kid to their wild playgrounds
I am thankful for this new day where there is another chance for hard hearts and closed tight minds to open and stay that way
I am thankful for the rich and funny, small and large conversations I have had with friends, loved ones and strangers that brought baskets of ideas and inexplicable joy
And I am thankful for my life and the thousand things that allow me to dream something that is not there now and the ability to make them happen
A few years ago, when Betsy Ernst started talking about raising money so we could open our own Pottery Studio here at the Northport Arts Association I had one of those full body shivers. The kind that rattles your soul a bit and whispers in your ear, “Pay attention! This is gonna be good!”
The last time my hands were covered in slip and happily shaping things from clay was way back in the early 1970s out in Scottsdale, Arizona.
My good friend who had moved there from Morristown, New Jersey had gotten a brand new neighbor. When he introduced me to Sissy, she was unpacking her things after relocating from Asbury Park. Her former roommate back home was dating some musician named Springsteen. I wonder what happened to that guy. Sissy was a free bird, hippy-dippy chick like me and amongst her moving treasures were stained glass making tools and clay things.
She shared a lot of skills and we had a great time getting messy and making art. Life happened and things changed as they always do. Divorce. Moving North. Moving South. Remarriage. Kids. Work. Moving North again. Kids launching out into the world. Moving farther North. You know the drill. Somewhere along the road, things just filled in the space where clay used to live.
So here I am now, four days away from jumping into a clay class with the NAA teacher, Tina Greco and I am ridiculously excited!
When my kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year, I announced that I was going to take clay classes at the brand new NAA Clay Studio after the wedding season was over at Willowbrook. My son presented me with a clay tool set that has way too much stuff in it but I’m eventually going to use every single thing.
The point is that a lot of us left things that brought us joy somewhere back along the road and until the Universe drops a big sign in front of us, we sort of forget what we used to love.
Anticipating these classes is like remembering a song I loved. I can hum the tune, but I’ve forgotten the words. I’m thinking that when I get in there with Tina guiding me, the words will come back again and I’ll be singing some clay pieces to life with the same joy I had when I was 22.
It’s a great time to check out the classes at the Northport Arts Association! We’re growing more every day and the variety of classes is impressive! Renew your membership if you’ve let it lapse or get over here and join us!
Find your joy again and let’s see what’s been hiding in your artistic soul waiting to be asked to come out into the light.
There’s a quiet beauty in entering a creative person’s maker space.
A rough pencil sketch on a scrap of manilla drawing paper. Jars with carefully cleaned brushes that still hold just a whisper of Viridian oil paint near the ferrule. A box of pastel chalks; the pinks unused, while colors for shading nature rest as nubs and bits and powder. Tupperware boxes filled with used oil tubes that give away the color source of farm fields and rolling clouds out over the bay.
You can see which were the most beloved colors in the way the tubes had been rolled to get every last bit of Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Prussian and Horizon. Just a few in the arsenal of blues that let him give the world what I now identify as a “Gene Rantz Sky”.
Last Saturday, Betsy Ernst and I went to Gene’s studio at the invitation of Bill Rantz, Gene’s son. He wanted us to pick some things for the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Foundation Scholarship program at NAA. We gathered books, paper, brushes, paints and other things our young students can use.
We took our time looking around the studio while we chatted with Bill & Colleen Rantz and Lisa, from the estate auction house. Among the things left there, waiting … ready to get back to the making, there were books on art and books on philosophical meanderings. A small bird’s nest catching light by a window. A can of soup no doubt to remind him to stop and eat something. There were vertical stacks of sketches he’d done for practice at the Monday Night Figure Drawing Classes that Chris Woomer teaches.
There were easels and work tables; an enlarger for architectural sized copies and dozens of large and small tools for bringing to life whatever his imagination could conjure.
We saw watercolors, oils and pencil drawings in every stage of completion that sat looking back at us as if to say they were on the way, but not there yet.
My favorite things were the paint palettes. Covered in whatever dabs and smears and mixes Gene needed while he worked. Wood and hardboard and even a piece of glass held the primordial soup from which each creation emerged unique and beautiful.
And the glove. That one hit me in the heart. The cloth glove that Gene had used so many times to blend and smooth and wipe a wet canvas that the paint had stiffened it. I stood it up on the worktable so I could take a picture and that was the thing that had me step away and shed a few tears. So real and so tangible, this simple glove awaiting the hand that needed it.
And there were new supplies at the studio as well. Stacks of brand new canvases, watercolor paper, oil paint sets and lots of picture frames!
So many of us were friends of Gene and his luminescent wife, Judy, who moved in the world like a human bundle of wildflowers. Losing them both, one after the other, was a stunning reminder that life is short and we’d better get on to making our own contributions to the world sooner rather than later.
Now, it’s your turn. On May 15, 2022, Bill Rantz will be holding a sale and auction of Gene’s studio contents. For artists looking to add to their supplies, the items I’ve mentioned will be available for sale. And for those of us who want a memento of our friend there will be an auction. Artifacts of a life well-lived; small treasures and tools; sketches and art pieces, wooden art boxes and work lights amongst the offerings.
Part of the proceeds from the sale will be donated by the very generous Rantz family to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Foundation Scholarship Program at NAA. We are grateful and we want the Rantz family to know that we will continue to hold Gene in our collective hearts.
I’m pretty sure that if Gene were here he’d say, “Ok. people. That’s enough. Get back in your studios and make something.”