missive the sixth, 5/13/3, atlanta, georgia

i thought there’d be no reason to continue the flow of missives once i got back to the states. but it seems my wandering is not over, and so i find it necessary to keep people in touch with what’s going on.

this year has already seen me in exotic locations in spain, ireland, and florida, and now i’m back in atlanta for the moment – two months – before gallivanting off again. to recap: spain was wonderful, but too cold. ireland was wonderful, but too hot (okay, it’s a simile), and florida was wonderful, and juuust right.

i was too busy seeing friends and partying in europe to get much done (6 paintings in 5 weeks), but i made up for it in florida, where i stayed with my friend pete practically without meeting a single other soul, painting 20 paintings in his garage while he was off working, and getting to really love the view across his own private river (not really) into the dense vastness of saltmarsh florida. i like florida so much in the winter that i’m planning on doing it again, a residency in the everglades (with any luck), and the winter florida art show season. it’s nice not to be cold, or hot.

the moment i got back into atlanta, everything went into high gear. my daybook had been relatively empty, the only things i needed to accomplish each day being to sleep late, paint all day, make some food, eat, lounge around in the evening reading, and sleep late. but for 2 months in atlanta i am rushed off my feet, seeing people, taking commissions, painting lots of little paintings to sell at all the art shows, and doing all the running around necessary to get my finances in order for the journey to come.

i don’t think it’s me; i think atlanta itself acts as a vortex of frenetic activity. i don’t think it’s possible to be in this town and not be booked solid by things to do, places to go, and people to see. it may surprise you to know that i am actually quite a private and shy person. you can stop laughing; it’s true. i don’t like to walk up to total strangers and start in on the important questions, and i would never make the first move in a relationship of any description. and, okay, you’re really not recognizing me now, so i’ll just stop.

but it is true that i have a very strong need for solitude and quiet. i can hardly think my own thoughts when i’m around other people (this missive is being written while everyone at dave and elizabeth’s are out doing other things and i’m here alone), and it’s very difficult, when i’m around people, to paint or scheme my next fabric work, or to write chapters of my bestselling demotivational handbook – lazy is good, quit your day job.

the thing about being nomadic the way i am it is that i tend to spend quite a lot of time with others, sharing living space, camping out in backyards, fitting in to the habits and preferences of other people. always being a guest.

and this is good, because i’m learning how to be more flexible and adaptable, how to make do with whatever tool or situation i have at hand. it’s an interesting discipline. after giving away most of my stuff and putting the remainder in storage, i am left each time i repack for another adventure, with just what i can carry on my back or stuff into my car, and this does a real number on my natural tendency to collect stuff i might need later. can’t do that when my packs are already full with things i really need.

i’ve tried to get as far away from the owning of things as i can, and it’s a double edged thing. on the one hand, having pared my cd collection down to about 20, i often miss albums i thought i wouldn’t need again. same with books. in the 3 or 4 times in my life that i’ve given away everything and started over again, i’ve learned that the books are the hardest to replace, and so i give away or sell fewer of them than i used to, because i always end up getting exactly the same library every time i settle down and start over.

for some reason, it never really occurred to me when i was selling all my stuff and giving up my apartment this january, that i was really starting all over again again. i thought i was just taking a break. but it turns out that i’ve gone and restarted the whole game one more time, and i’ve been down this road enough times that i almost know what i’m doing.

not really, because i’m always in the dark about what’s really happening. but it will turn out that the skills i developed all those other times when i’ve given away everything and started over again will come in really useful this time. who knows how long i’ll remain nomadic, or where i’ll finally settle down? all bets taken gladly.

it may seem glamorous to be flitting about the universe, but people who flit about the universe will tell you that it’s like waiting for the cosmic greyhound bus. but it’s new to me and i’m still enjoying waking up not quite knowing where i am (especially after the 4.9 earthquake we had in atlanta the other day. i woke up, looked at the clock, went back to sleep for the aftershocks, and straight back into dream after dream about walking around asking people their experience of the earthquake. too cool.)

i’m spending the spring in decatur georgia, in the newly renovated basement apartment of a friend from ex work. it’s a great deal, i’m helping paint the basement in designer faux, and learning a new technique for the backgrounds of some of my paintings.

when i left atlanta in january i had my year all planned out. january and february in europe, then march at a residency in florida, back to atlanta in april, teach at 2 art centers, do 4 good art shows, and then go off to a residency in connecticut, another residency in the rabun gap in the north georgia mountains in august, and who could tell after that. but all those plans evaporated totally when i came back from europe, and i’ve been improvising since. i stayed with my friend pete in florida during march, and now am at julie’s during my time in atlanta.

then in june i was going to hang with a very old friend and artist buddy in charlottesville, virginia, but the connecticut residency (at a farm in rural east haddam) came thru at the last minute, so i’m going to be there in june, and at my friend bianchi in virginia in july. and then that residency in north georgia in august, and then i’m thinking the fall festivals in atlanta, followed by a possible trip to france to visit a friend, and then back to florida to do the spring season in february and march, and then back to atlanta for next year’s dogwood, inman park, virginia highlands, and decatur arts festivals. how’s that sound to everyone? doable? completely insane? remember, they’re only plans, and god messes with plans, which is why everyone always questioned their deals in the old testament.

we’ll see what happens. my entirely reasonable basic plan (some way to support myself while i’m nomadic, and some way to haul my stuff) requires several miracles beyond just good health and 3 more wishes.

firstly is keeping the bills, few as they are, paid. that’s probably the larger miracle, but so far it’s been one of the most consistent.

my show stuff, on the other hand, (tent and panels and all my framed watercolors and large bulky oils and numerous small oils and framed prints and boxed prints and real soon now fabric work and a sewing machine) has expanded beyond the capacity of my cute little dodge doohickey that i’ve had for years now and has never given me any trouble.

at this point, i need a truck. not a looker, something old and reliable and with no resale value. or a van; i could store most of my supplies in one of them and be almost nomadic. or the most far out solution of all – who can see me in a camper? i could go stay anywhere and paint. i love to drive, i love to travel, i don’t have much stuff, and just need a few square yards to store my studio equipment. i’d love an rv.

if anyone knows someone with an old roomy conveyance to spare, that they’d rather just see in good hands than to try to get any money out of, then please let me know, and i’ll paint that person a picture to thank them for being my miracle.

things work that way for me now. i guess i knew what i was getting into when i decided to sell all my stuff and move to somewhere unspecific. not. i didn’t know what i was getting into when i quit my day job, did i? but that didn’t stop me, and it didn’t cause a catastrophic failure, either.

all my plans are in little puffs around me, and stuff continues to happen all the time that i frequently describe as miracles because of the timing and apparent sense of humor behind it all. here i am just going along with the changes of plans that crop up every day, and i’m not all that worried for the future. money still comes in, i still get out and attend shows and make contacts and do commissions, and i still pay my bills (oh boy, my cellphone bill since i came back to the states in march? $300 bucks, at 40 cents a minute for overage. so i bumped my coverage up to 1200 minutes, and will watch my usage from now on. and the kind folks at tmobile took the extra off my bill, thanks very much.)

as for knowing what i’m getting into, i firmly deny it, figure i’m as in the dark, as to what i’m doing and why, as i could possibly be, and have decided that it’ll all come clear eventually, and i would be better just carrying on trying not to stumble thru my days.

i’m actually enjoying myself immensely these days, partially because i’ve become almost oblivious to time and outside obligations, and partly because it’s full spring here on the forest moon of endor, i mean atlanta, and i just love all the different shades of green, like that bright green green of trees just out, against the almost black branches, with purple stormclouds approaching.

i followed the spring backwards as i came up from florida, and now i’m going to keep following it. the tulips are still coming out in connecticut, and the dogwoods will be in full bloom when i get there. spring being my favorite time, and dogwoods being my favorite tree, i’m almost heaven where pretty things follow me around all the time.

being back has been a spin back up into overdrive. all of a sudden i was in reach of people and events and obligations, and within moments of turning my cellphone on in jfk my daybook was full for the next week, and it’s been that way ever since.

i find that i’m not as efficient on the fly as i am when i’m settled, and there are still mistakes in scheduling and people i’ve forgotten to get back to, and opportunities that i missed, sometimes by moments. but i figure i’ll get the hang of it before too long.

the nomadic life simplifies a whole lot of your existence. my most important possessions are my cellphone and my daybook.

now that i am computerless, my emails are down to the bare minimum, but if anyone doesn’t need their old laptop anymore i could really use it. mine died somewhere in the cargo hold between spain and new york at the end of february, and the only reason i’m writing this with such relative coherence is because i’m using my friend dave’s computer while everyone’s gone.

in a way i feel like i did when i first started running out of savings after having quit my day job. i felt panicky whenever i thought about it, and so tried not to think about it, and kept describing it as when that cartoon character walks off the cliff and keeps going. the trick to staying aloft is the art of not panicking, the not looking down, not listening to the dire predictions of the realists around you. that’s what keeps you up in the air.

so even tho i’ve got that crunchy thing in the pit of my stomach now and then, i know it feels like i’m 20 feet from the edge of the cliff by now, and i know from experience that in another few weeks i’ll be 40 feet from the edge of the cliff, and still walking. money will still be coming in when i need it, and things will continue to happen miraculously. it’s happened like that for well over 2 years now, and even tho my plans have turned completely inside out, the miraculous conditions that seem to support me keep right on working, as long as i don’t panic.

all this is what fuels my best selling demotivational handbook, lazy is good – quit your day job. you can play by your rules, as it turns out. plans are for nothing, but you’re alive every moment until you die, and there’s always a chance to reinvent a piece of your life. it’s okay, nobody will notice, so as long as it suits you, you can rearrange things. it’s figuring out what you want that counts, learning who you are. but that’s the key to understanding life, isn’t it?

as usual i’m preoccupied with the important questions of life. why are we here, etc. i know most people get tired of asking these questions after some particular hangover in their 20s, but these big questions have always been my central focus. they just got subsumed by business as usual during my 30s. now that i’m almost 47 (this friday, the 16th, isn’t it great?, and more gray hair, and more wrinkles around the eyes, a few more aches and pains, and a very interesting set of changed attitudes) i’m back to the big questions, and they’re more urgent and cogent than ever.

my kid is here with me, after hanging in little 5 points with her friends all day. she’s 14 and lives in white suburban fayetteville now, so any time she comes to the city she goes right to the middle of hip urban oddity and calls me from my borrowed cellphone now and then to reassure me. i think we’ll go to eatz for dinner, and eat greens and beans and rice and jerk chicken, and then to decatur where i’m staying.

it’s 2 bedrooms, so allison gets her own room, and gets to take a long bath in the largest domestic tub i’ve seen in years, while i sleep soundly in my own bedroom. it’s a far cry from the open plan loft where i used to live in downtown atlanta.

my friend ben came back from his travels to thailand. and we got together earlier this week to talk over our wanderings, he suffering jetlag, me still waking up at times unsure what country i’m in. we sat in little 5 points at a pub with a patio, drank guinnesses and watched a massive thunderstorm come over us. all raging wind and scurrying streetlife, we sat and talked for hours about everything we’d been thinking since the last time we’d seen each other.

except for frequent emails, ben and i haven’t been in the same city for many months now. the trouble with catching up with old friends is that so much changes in each individual life that you become a whole nother person every couple of months, and it’s difficult to explain the simplest thing without backtracking and getting really circular. which is why you cultivate friends and keep them for years and years.

i’m really lucky, despite this strange movable life i lead, to have very good friends that i’ve known for forever. almost a full complement of friends for every stage of life. i’ve got a friend from childhood, cathy, several friends from my college days (bianchi and laura), many friends from my time in ireland (kay, brendan, diarmuid, renee, marie), a few friends from my days in new york (brad, gail, dierdre), and tons of friends and buddies from right here in atlanta (too numerous to count). i’ve even got some internet friends i’ll probably never meet in the flesh (martin, tim).

at the moment, being nomadic, i’m going around visiting all the friends i’ve accumulated over the years, and making new ones all the time. life just keeps getting more interesting, and more amazing things happen every day.

i’ve discovered a lack of a link between work and money. to most people, there’s a real correlation. you spend time working, and you make money. if you want to make more money, you work more. weeks when you work really hard, you expect to rake it in. but that’s not how it works for me. since my money all comes thru the right hand of miracles, there is no causal link between how hard or how frequently i work, and how much or how often i get paid.

i do my best not to panic, because that was the first lesson i learned – worry and the miracle erodes, panic and it evaporates. i pay my bills when they come due, and buy the art supplies i need, and there’s always enough to buy food and gas, and the day after i consider panicking and decide not to bother, a check comes in the mail, or someone calls me to ask for a commission, or something else.

it’s a wonderful thing, being a lily in the field. it’s the essence of how to make quitting your day job work. you guys can’t do it because you’re all wrapped up in the system, but i seemed to have cut a hole in the fabric and escaped. i’m tearing more holes all the time, so look for them and stick your head thru to say hi.

i’ve got tons more to say, but don’t i always? there are several more shows to do before i leave, one in downtown atlanta this weekend (broad street and marietta), and one in watkinsville, most of the way to athens, next weekend. and then a couple of days with allison at a campground in myrtle beach, and after that i’m out of here for the summer, and won’t be back until september.

and then only for a short while. round and round and round she goes, and where she stops no-one knows.

please don’t feel slighted if you write me and i don’t answer for awhile, because once i leave atlanta again i’m not sure if i’ll be able to find a computer to borrow in order to write back. but i’ll be on my cellphone, at 678-697-6724, so call me, especially after 9 pm when my phone minutes are unlimited.

everybody take care of yourselves, and be light and happy. life is short; why waste it worrying or being angry or dissatisfied? smell the roses, and to hell with the day job.

love jeanne


  1. […] missive the sixth – 5/13/3, atlanta, georgia. […]


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