I ride a bus across the border, Into the U.S. of A., And they confiscate my clementine. The flashback from last night’s edible hits Right as the guard starts in with her questions. Where do you live? She asks. I stumble over my response. I have lived in so many places. I have had so many little lives this side of the border. The names of various past-life cities roll through my brain like the reels of a slot machine. Wait, does she want my street name? I still haven’t memorized my postal code. As always, it’s embarrassing. I hesitate, but thankfully, my survival instincts kick in, And the right place name comes out of my mouth. She calls me sweetie. I look at her like a deer would, Frozen in front of her Prius on a dark country road. I hope it’s not suspicious. She asks more questions, the usual ones about the J-1, And then she hands me a green strip of paper That says I have passed this round. Sage 1, drugs 0. I sit down and wait for the rest of the coach bus to pass And try my best not to look high at the border.
I was standing still on a dock soaking in the sun. It was November. It was morning. I closed my eyes and felt my face be warmed by the November morning sun. The sky was blue and so bright it almost hurt. A slight wind made small waves on the water that sparkled. I exhaled. I felt my nervous system settle for the first time in months. All was quiet. There was no one around. I knew I couldn’t hold on to this moment of peace forever. I knew I’d have to leave this place, and life would continue to rock me around, but for the first time in a while, I also knew I would be all right.
That November morning was the last morning of a long weekend in the woods with my mother. It was the first time I felt rested in months. I’d gotten all caught up in my crazy life in the city. I’d been consumed by a stressful relationship that wasn’t working. I had stopped sleeping. So, I decided to spend the weekend in the woods with my mother. We sat around the fire. We roasted vegan sausages on a grate under the arbor. I slept in the loft. I walked up and down the long hill driveway, hauling objects in crates and carts. We played gin rummy and got silly, laughing the evening away before going to bed early. We discovered we were both on the same page of Braiding Sweetgrass (56).
One night, I drove my mother’s car back after a trip into town, bought a dozen multi-coloured eggs on the side of the road, and remembered I lived in Montreal. I lived in Montreal and could go dancing if I wanted to. I came back with a charged-up battery to find my mother sitting in a gradually darkening bunkie. She was relieved and happy that I returned with both light and eggs.
I was moving my body. I was letting the woods hold me. Everything out there takes longer. Boiling water for tea is a whole process. So is preparing dinner. You cannot rush in the woods. You have to move more slowly, which slows your mind down too.
That last morning, I went for a walk right after waking up. That warm November morning, I walked out on a dock and let the sun soak into my skin. I felt rested for the first time in a long time. I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time.
I knew I had to leave, that I couldn’t stand in the sun and silence forever. I knew I had to return to the city, to the stress and the heartbreak, where everything would move so quickly. I knew that life would continue to rock me. So, I turned away from the sun and walked back to the bunkie to begin the long process of making tea. I walked back, but I brought that moment with me.
I don’t remember perfectionism as a child. I think it began around twelve or thirteen. I remember making lists. That got me young. I remember trying to read every book in the YA section. I was homeschooled, and I think I had something to prove.
I tried to grasp for control wherever I could. It was with me before school, which became just another mechanism For my perfectionism to latch onto.
I remember wanting to avoid their anger. I remember her commenting on the trauma of perfect As I swept a floor that would never get clean.
I remember being locked in a room until I finished every equation, But did he actually lock the door? I can’t remember. If I made a mistake, I would be told: You know this. You can do better. You can always do more.
They had high expectations. They pushed me toward my potential. I internalized those expectations, which turned into perfectionism. I needed to people please, to be the person they saw. Mistakes were allowed so long as I was giving it my all.
Today, I am often left with a lingering sense of, I could have done more.
I have just released a new zine! Details are below.
How to Keep Making Art is a zine for writers and other creative types with advice and musings on the creative process, artistic identities, and the struggles of being a writer. This zine tackles questions many creatives have, like, “How do we keep making art in a world that doesn’t see art as valuable? How do we stay connected to ourselves and our work? How do we create even when we don’t want to create?” How to Keep Making Art is a collection of advice, ponderings, and reassurances I initially wrote for myself and thought others might find helpful as well.
I’m very excited to finally release this zine!! It’s been a long time in the making. For now, I am just selling digital, PDF copies because I will be travelling for a few weeks and unable to fulfill print orders. I’ll make another announcement when hard copies are available. For now, you can check out this 40-page e-zine here: https://sagepantony.gumroad.com/l/hbjnj. Enjoy! And keep making art, friends.