As I was clearing my little backyard flower garden which, responding to four years of neglect and plentiful spring rain here, had become overrun with grasses, I thought how much gardening is metaphorically like a career in art, at least in my experience. Most of us remember what the beginning was like - the tentative efforts, the unexpected responses, the acceptance in local shows, and the gradual increase of people who wanted our work. Much like any early attempt at gardening, there was lots of exploration, some failures, but enough successes to keep us headed in that direction.
With this mature garden of 30 years, my plan is to reclaim what is already there - to weed intentionally and thoroughly, feed the soil, mulch heavily, and hope the grasses don't reappear. It parallels my plans for life after life as an older artist here in New Mexico.
Much will remain unchanged, like the perennials in the garden - these plants have established themselves and survived many years despite drought, neglect, crowding, lack of nourishment. A lot of things I planted, like my side-explorations in art, failed after a time. The plants that remain are not astonishing, rare, hard to maintain plants; rather, they are sturdy mainstream beauties. Like those plants, my career direction is settled; both abstraction and figurative sculpture hold my interest, with two other side interests - watercolor portraiture and teaching adult drawing-coming into play periodically. Like my garden plants, these seem unrelated, but spring from the innate interests and skills I have developed in many years of practicing my craft - the end desire being to create something beautiful, and support my life as an artist .
Bill never shared my passion for gardening but he appreciated the results of my efforts, and I am pleased he wanted his ashes to go there. His studio window overlooks the backyard. As a sumi painter his approach to making art was literally the opposite of mine - emotional expression comes first and is integral to the sumi painting process.That at the end, he saw emotional expression expanding in my abstract paintings is a source of pleasure for me now. Tending a garden for 25 years teaches patience and perseverance more than anything, but now letting go and letting it show may be an even better lesson!
This much needed gardening respite from elder-care, art-making, marketing, and showing my work on weekends, feels like a natural pause before LIFE AFTER LIFE resumes. In two weeks we'll have a celebration for my art and life partner of thirty-three years. After that, a more familiar life will resume, yet surely very different.