the edge of the known universe


Before I got sick, I had been talking about doing a sculpture for someone else: a large hand-shaped wire basket. I remember thinking it would be an interesting technical challenge. I remember being excited about collaborating, and about the idea of a project that might be a little less emotionally fraught than my usual thing. I remember thinking it would be easier to talk about than most of my work.

But then I was explaining the project to someone and she called it “a cheap solution.” Ouch! And then I got sick.

And now that I’m finally starting to recover, now that I’m able to spend more than an hour in the studio without needing a nap, I’m not so sure I want to do this project.

I hate feeling indecisive.

All of the stuff I was excited about is still true, but it’s not the whole truth.

This year has been incredibly disruptive. I’ve taken to calling it “The Year of Pestilence.” I had an infestation of clothes moths in the studio (a disaster for someone who’d been working with wool as much as I had). I had shingles. My house was full of carpenter ants, and mice built a nest in my car and peed all over everything and it took me months to get the smell out. It’s been a lot of work. It has eaten most of my year.

Being middle-aged and being sick have made me really think hard about what’s important to me and how I want to spend my time.

In my morning pages, I wrote that the Hand project was like being at the Edge of the Known Universe. I was about to do something I didn’t know how to do. It was a fun place to be, that place of not-knowing. When I’m there, that’s always when the best things happen for me in the studio.

But the truth is: my work is almost always a technical challenge. I’m often not sure how to do it. Sometimes I’m not even sure it can be done.

The truth is: learning how to live with disappointing people is Edge-of-the-Known-Universe stuff too.

The truth is: I am always at the Edge of my Known Universe, always in a moment I’ve never been in before. While I’m still breathing, there’s always a chance to consider that maybe I don’t know how to do it and to choose differently this time.

There is no right way to live your life. There is only the right way for you today, and the knowledge that everything could change tomorrow.

I’m not finished making wire ladies yet. Not by a long shot. I don’t have time to be distracted by hands.

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