Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Susan at her work

18th Annual Art-Life Review, 2021

Dec. 31, 2021. When I retired from a salaried job at 55, I vowed that I would continue to be productive. Every New Year's Eve since then, I have surveyed the year's work. What do I have to show for this privilege of living the art life? Over the years, I've grown more inward-facing. I have less need to justify my art life to the world, yet I still need to to prove to myself that I can continue generating beauty and entertainment, that I can achieve a goal, solve a problem, finish what I start, learn new skills, and construct a complex sentence.

So, here I am again. This year was less about categories of output and more about seasons.

Winter: Cozy Writing Life

2020 began in a sort of mystic haze: winter on the south shore of Lake Ontario, housebound as the pandemic still raged. My work revolved around revising my family-history novel Kitty's People and getting feedback from family members on the second draft.

Doing family history on my dad's side, I updated the Martin family page and posted bios of the three youngest Dunne siblings: Patrick, Margaret Hession, and Catherine Collins.

Spring: Hair on Fire

My trance, my life in the alternate universe of the early 20th century was rudely interrupted by Jim's fall, subsequent surgery, and weeks of rehabilitation. Adversity might be the source of creativity--but not while your hair is on fire, not while you are obsessed with advocating for a loved one's care as the pandemic makes every move more complicated. I will be forever grateful to the friends who helped me stay fierce during this period. And I'll be forever awed, of course, by Jim's innate instinct for survival against the odds. What little creative work I did focused on posting old adventure photos of Jim and scratchy doodles of our life together--as if that would conjure up some healing magic.

Summer: Beauty Is Everything

Summer weather on Lake Ontario is unpredictable, but the beauty is undeniable. My untended garden produced constant blooms and was wild enough to attract bees, butterflies, and lightning bugs. The world was still a shitstorm, but I felt that embracing beauty was the key to serenity and regeneration.

I set up my summer indigo-dying studio on the upper porch so Jim could watch me (and I could keep an eye on him). I practiced some new tie-dying tricks on linen and cotton t-shirts.

I hauled my sewing machine upstairs to make some gifts and to practice new stitches.

I took hundreds of photos of fireflies after sunset and layered them into magical composites. The exercise inspired me to invest in a new camera. More beauty, more technology to explore!

As Kitty's People was set aside to "ripen" before the next revision, I evaluated my writing life. My Wine Poured blog was discontinued and I began to write for Medium, a jump out of my comfort zone to mingle with fellow writing nuts. The problem with Medium is that it exists behind a paywall and doesn't lend itself to casual sharing. So, I also committed to keeping my long-time website Mad in Pursuit.

Autumn: Return to Enchantment

An editor-for-hire agreed to review my Kitty's People manuscript and scheduled her work to start January 3. All my writing energy had to be shifted toward polishing the manuscript to make it as engaging as possible.

But I can only focus on writing for a couple hours at a time.

Who knows why, but I got pulled into playing with dolls again, not making them from scratch but giving old dolls some new attention. Can't say this has amounted to much, but has led to some good learning about cleaning, polishing, and repainting.

In November, Jim's granddaughter gave me a beaded 1920s dress that belonged to Jim's mother. "Maybe you can do something with this." After examining and researching it, I decided it was a collector's item worth some conservation effort. Problem-solving around stabilizing fragile silk and rotting thread was great mental exercise. Actually patching holes and remaking the underdress tested my ability to reimagine in 3-D and to do work on a heavy, disintegrating textile. It isn't finished but it is stable enough to be a conversation piece on a dress form. I have to write up the story.

Lessons Learned?

My creative projects are not an indulgence. They are necessary to regenerate the energy spent being a 24/7 caregiver and advocate for my Jim, in an era when social isolation is forced upon us.

I still love learning.

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2020 Review | 2019 Review | 2018 Review | 2017 Review | 2016 Review | 2015 Review | 2014 Review | 2013 Review | 2012 Review | 2011 Review | 2010 Review | 2009 Review | 2008 Review | 2007 Review | 2006 Review | 2005 Review | 2004 Review

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HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) Traveler's tale of a 1992 adventure. A poorly planned roadtrip takes long-time lovers Susan and Jim to forbidden places and lost times. Kindle.

THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.

 

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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]