July has been a month of stress and puttering. Aside from work (teaching and grading, committee tasks, freelance editing and guiding jobs), I also met up with (a lot of) friends I hadn’t seen in a while, went hiking, practiced yoga as usual (I can now do the headstand without a wall!), attended workshops (one on storytelling and improvisation, another on art as meditation) and the English Department’s two-day strategic planning seminar. I made a website and wrote some stuff I haven’t pruned into bloggable shape. And I got a lot of drawing and painting and crafting done, because I turn to artsyfartsying to unwind. Below are some of my drawing, lettering, and upcycling projects.
It’s the last Friday of the month, and I am, once again, in front of my computer, downloading more student papers to check over the weekend. I can’t remember the last time I went out on a Friday night with friends—then again, I never really liked going out on Friday nights because then every joint is packed and buzzing, and it seems impossible to have a decent conversation, if not find an empty seat. So if I’m not working on a Friday night, I’m usually running around the campus or walking home for a quiet evening spent reading, writing, practicing yoga, or chatting with D. But since D (and most everyone I know) is busy and unavailable these days, I have taken up drawing again to unwind.
I like drawing because it puts me out of time (or the awareness of its passage, at least), and, unlike reading or writing, requires focus but not mental effort. It’s all shapes and shade and lines—I let my hand move, and my mind float. I let my hand move, and my heart feel, and not think too much about it.
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember (my first intelligible drawing, I think, was a stick figure doodled with a permanent marker on a wall in my grandparents’ house when I was about three years old), spurred by boredom and a childhood spent watching anime. But I’d never really made it a point to draw regularly, to practice. I just doodled—on scratch paper, notes for class, in the margins of photocopied readings. But about a month and a half ago, I felt terribly upset and had no one close to me and close by to vent to (it is always a bad idea to rant on social networks about personal matters. Anything you put in writing can go around, documented verbatim, and menace you). But I did have a pen and sheets of paper. I could’ve written something, except that some feelings are too tedious for words. So I drew. And drew some more. And now I keep a sketch pad, and my pencils sharpened.
If one upholds one’s distance and revels in solitude, then one must learn to devise myriad entertainments for oneself.
I pass the weeks walking from desk to desk, into and out of classrooms and cafes, like weather. The tall-backed chair in my office feels rough against my skin. Its armrests mean I cannot sit in half-lotus. Once I caught a white cat napping, curled on the seat. It startled and darted out, squeezing through the window. The bench is filled with stacks of papers and two pillows. The table is fine, heavy wood with five drawers. The shelves are filled with the books and the things of three occupants. Two of them are not here, but their things keep the third company. I take lunch in my office, staring at the blank stares of a man and a woman. Their eyes never meet, nor their postures change. Window blinds and cobwebs and years of dust keep the room darkish, even in daylight hours. Time passes slowly within its wooden walls. Often, when I leave, I am surprised to find the fluorescent lights in the corridors already turned off. I walk for an hour in the evenings, sometimes longer. There are many paths I could take on the way home. There are many clean, well-lit places I could work in if I don’t want to go home. The walls of my bedroom are white, the curtains are white, the wardrobe is white, the floors are dark, almost black wood. The desk in my room is teal blue, so is the fan, and the yoga mat where I sleep. Sometimes I cannot sleep as much as I would like. I write to-do lists on colored paper and post them on the walls. I write down my favorite poems in neat script and post them on the walls. I doodle with pencil in my sketchpad, tear out pages, and post them on the walls. I write with whiteboard markers on the white walls.