Outside of my family and friends, there are two things that pretty much make up the central focus of my life: exercise and art. And, each Monday I run to the spot that is the picture at the top of this blog. I have been running this road for nearly thirteen years now and, 26 weeks ago, I started this blog to document a full year, fifty-two weeks, at this place, by taking a picture from the same spot, on the same day, each week. Today, marks the halfway point of the fifty-two weeks.
For me, running and art are very intertwined and it is no surprise that I live, and run, in a more rural area and that I also compulsively render trees in my work. On my many runs I’ve not only imagined my paintings and collages, but also written poems, essays, presentations, and even this blog, as my steps and breath pounded out the rhythmic beat to the miles of the day. Readers who know the magic of their habitual workout–whether it’s running, walking, swimming, cycling or whatever–understand the mind-body connection that comes from the activity you do. Never mind the reward of a healthy body for a moment; the mind and mood altering that occurs can just about be a religious experience. New research has uncovered that while endorphins were long thought to create the famous “runner’s high,” their molecules are actually too large to pass through from the blood to the brain and that this euphoria is instead probably caused by endocannabinoid molecules. If that word sounds a little like cannabis to you, it’s not just a coincidence and I bet you’ll agree that it puts a brand new twist on the whole runner’s high idea, dude.
But, as I said, I’m halfway there today, so let’s take a look. Check out the twenty-five Mondays that make up this photo collage…
Aren’t they beautiful all together? They look like a quilt! There is truly something so awesome about the chronicling of small changes in nature. (You can put your own photos together like this easily, by the way, on Picnik.) Nature calls on us to notice it all the time but, in a busy world, this call is sometimes hard to hear and noticing becomes something that people feel they can’t make time for. I’m not a photographer, however, with this project and my camera I’ve discovered new ways to notice things–not just in nature but in the whole world. And, I’ve never been someone who draws much, but I’ve started sketching, making reference drawings with notes, and taking some courses with other artists to get in touch with how others notice the world. At the moment, I’m amazed at how mesmerizing a single sketch can be.
I also work with children, those funny, quirky and confounding creatures who are really just little untamed, inexperienced versions of ourselves. We adults are often frustrated by the attention deficit that their stream-of-consciousness implies, but they certainly do notice everything, don’t they? We are too frequently aggravated by their constant motion, but they do seem to enjoy being in motion, don’t they? And, although we can’t seem to stop talking about what’s wrong with kids, how they learn, whether they learn, how they test, and where they are going as a generation that many of the experts would have us believe is doomed, they go on talking out of turn, bouncing in their seats and losing them selves in daydreams as they stare out the windows. So, it’s frustrating for someone like me to watch something like the rise of childhood obesity alongside the continuing cuts to the arts in our public schools (and our country) because these facts fly in the face of two of the things that I feel make me the better, healthier, happier, smarter version of myself: exercise and art. I have also experienced that the flurry of activity, creativity and laughter that I strive to stuff into every single 45-minute art workshop I do with children often leads to these wiggly, kooky creatures telling me, “this was my best day ever!” I swear, every time I hear those words I feel like I’ve been validated by the Universe!
I like the opportunity for reflection that is offered up by measurements of time, and I wanted to come to the halfway point here with some reflective stuff. Finding a photo project to go with a running habit wasn’t a challenge. Writing each Monday, however, has been. It has pushed me to scour my own beliefs and to seek out those of others, encouraged me to look at the world more closely and less dogmatically and, on a practical level, forced me to hone my own writing skills. All good things. Most surprisingly, though, is that I think it’s made me happier and more motivated to create. I’ve often said that creativity is a state of mind and that anyone can be an “artist of their craft.” In my third Monday post, I gave you Nic Marks’ “5 Ways To Well Being.” I haven’t thought much about Nic since that post, to tell you the truth, but when I started to reflect on the noticing, connectedness and exercise that I find implicit in this 52 Monday project, darn if it didn’t all come back to Nic’s Five Ways: Connecting, Being Active, Taking Notice, Learning and Giving.
I will leave you with a Seth Godin quote that Facebook friend, Nikki Grimes, posted yesterday. (Nikki’s blog is a great place to check in for thoughtful writing, too.) For me, this quote speaks to both exercise and art, these two things that totally and completely feed my soul and my mind. I hope that it might also speak to whatever it is that gives your life purpose…
“Art is what we call the thing an artist does…What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.” ~ Seth Godin
TRY THIS WEEK: Take the walk you think you don’t have time for. Take your time when you are on it.