[Please note that there are contained within this post sentences that do not end correctly, that drop off after sprawling. This is due to the fact that I write – mostly – on my phone, mostly on the porch, and that the dog – bless him – sometimes barks at something on the street, and I have to get up suddenly to quiet him so as not to be a nuisance, and not to draw attention, and – also – so that I might focus on whatever it was that I was saying. I minimally edit these assemblages of emails to myself that accumulate over the course of a month, sometimes a season, and so there are many, many imperfections – which I am okay with. Occasionally, I will clean up an old post, but this project <here> is…hmmm, I was going to say that it is not a product, but it is – just like emails are a product and thoughts are a product and language itself is a product. This is not a product that is designed to be in line with the aesthetic slickness and flashofdrollcoolandsunnydayselfcaresuninhairmeditationinternet of a properly engaging website in the year 2021. Here’s the thing: when everything is slick and designed and perfectly hi-def, nothing stands out and there is too much of it all, though we are gluttons for smooth images on screens, moving pictures in scroll, the intrigue of what comes next, what answers may be found, what stories told, who to listen to, what to watch and read to satisfying the gnawing need to look at something, to play, to explore, to watch…it all starts to look the same. When everyone is clamoring to be heard and seen, liked and followed, listened to, appreciated, paid by price, power, or ego satisfaction, who does a person listen to? What is deserving of attention when everyone is trying so dang hard to get it? I am not intentionally ‘doing something different’ – I am different, and I don’t know how to do many things, and thus can’t do a lot of things that might be good to know how to do. I am okay with that. I am doing my best.]
July 30 2021 5:11pm
My current thinking, as I sit here is “Holy Mother of God, I have got to tell someone about this.” My mind quick-spools through the carousel of possibilities, degrees of separation between myself and someone I could actually trust to help me with this.
Then I remind myself that the vast majority of the world 99.999999999(…)% of people do not have any idea what I have been doing or saying, and that even those who may have a dim awareness of this project’s existence…well, they really don’t have any idea what it is actually about – a longitudinal study of form and experience and meaning, of curiosity and the impact on paying attention.
Internal voice is telling me to shut up, get to the point about what do you do?
You will not feel safe when people know about this and know you are connected to this, because people are crazy and you just might be right, there really might be something weird going on with the clouds. I mean, I dunno, I could even see that the dozens and probably hundreds of super strong examples of what I have referred to as atypical and repeating patterns in cloudforms, well…that might just be called cherry-picking the best examples of unusual phenomena that – while strange and rare – are not technically impossible, just highly unlikely. An explanation could be given that selective attention coupled with strong skills in pattern recognition and picture completion led me to ‘cue in’ to clouds that met general criteria for being similar to the ones I had believed – and still do believe, actually, even in light of my scientific grounding, or – perhaps – because of it…represented an ancient sentient Godforce that arose in the subtle pulse and patterns of all things living over 4.5 Billion Years.
I can’t stand that anything remotely resembling an ecosystemic God or Gods is popularly relegated to the bubbly sphere of the New Age, or that elements of useful information about the nature of living things in a multidimensionally* interconnected and underaccounted for real world.
Multidimensional meaning across multiple domains, as in areas of connection – food, proximity, DNA, electrical fields, air, bacteria, etc. (not necessarily dimensions across the continuums of space and time, though that would be super interesting, and doesn’t seem entirely unlikely since we as humans have arisen as a species over hundreds of thousands of years in direct and intimate contact with the earth and the species that share our habitats with us. It’s only within the past few hundred years, maybe the past few thousand in the ‘seats of civilization’ – that our cosmologies (at least in the Western mind and experience) have been bifurcated, segmented into God and us, nature and us, humans a thing apart and a thing above, above nature and – in their actions – above God. Splitting atoms. Making new species in labs. Killing people. Mechanizing slaughter. Desecrating sacred places, holy places. Etc, etc.
We didn’t used to have time. We had rhythms and signs. Now we have numbers and measures. Commitments made well in advance, non-negotiable meetings, binding reservations. The time maps of our days, weeks, seasons…what we are to do and when…creating the territory we move through in our lives, where we place ourselves and for what purpose.
Anyway, it doesn’t seem that weird to me that an ecosystemic force would a) exist and b) muster its oldest instincts and speak up in the ways it can about what is happening and – perhaps – what may well happen.
It doesn’t take a prophecy to know that by virtue of the existence of nuclear weapons in a world that is war-oriented, we are at risk of nuclear annihilation, which will decimate the genetic information of all creation and basically create a world of horrible things worse than any hell one might imagine.
So, here I am. The past two months of clouds are a data set in and of themselves, as I’ve taken probably a thousand pictures. My camera roll is – as my project summary for the Proving God w/ Clouds thing states, ‘a blur of blue.’ But, also near black and bright gold. All the forms I identified in 2010 as being awfully peculiar for a cloud are represented in the June-July data set. There are plenty of examples of what I am talking about with the triangles, the 3, the eyes – and then some, so much more. The look of entire stories rolling and jumbling, yawning into profound detail, moving cleanly, decisively. An eye opening with such a human gesture that I exclaimed, ‘Oh!’ and my body jumped back a little, surprised – still – to see a perfect eye in the sky opening in such a human way.
July 31st 9:44pm
It really is very difficult to hold this possible reality in which I am going to sit down and calmly, effectively introduce the cloudform documentation project, hypotheses, and possible problematic or potentially world changing aspects of the project as I see it, and to see – ultimately – what someone else (whose perspective I trust) may see in it, without any attachment to their perspective being one thing or another, and with full intent to move on to the next potential source of assistance in both decision making as to what one ought to do with a project like this, especially when there is an undeniable sense of unfounded belief around the occurrence of ‘radiation’ symbols in recent cloudforms echoing around her extant fear, her child-fear, of nuclear war and nuclear anything because she grew up by one of the largest nuclear submarine facilities on the east coast, heard people say how her hometown would be a target, the town that wasn’t on the map before the base came, the town that became a target, because of the base. The speculative conversations of middle school students, their fathers, men at gas stations: “If there were ever a war, an attack on American soil, this place would be a target.”
She needs to come up with another descriptor for the sensation of her ‘mind unspooling’ – because she has over-used that concept, tho’ it is fitting
August 1, 7:25am
The morning is soft, sleepy. The sense of much to do, tho’ – not a cognitive sense, a body sense, something that feels like intuitive urgency, but that may just be my imagination.
In light of the recent set of data that has emerged unanticipated, events in nature sometimes do, depending on how well one understands the indicators of an event, the ways that complex events such as animal migrations, species adaptation, or simply the event of seeing a thing, if it is known that the event is likely to take place at a specific time under specific conditions, the prodrome of events, early signifiers and causal relationships.
While I did not exactly anticipate that I would spend quite a bit of time gathering, contemplating, and organizing new cloud data over the past couple months, and have been genuinely surprised by how rich a showing the skies have offered on recent evenings, it would be a lie to say that I entirely did not anticipate the event of a particularly strong opportunity to gather additional evidence of the phenomena I am investigating both cloudform phenomena and experiential phenomena, phenomena of belief.
This project summary was compiled to serve as a framing context to support the assemblage and publications of prior inquiry relating to the structure of cloud formations and experiences of religious and/or spiritual association, meaning, and belief. Because I have gathered many examples of the forms that I find to be so curious, so auspicious, I intended to only periodically document additional clouds. ‘Periodically’ would mean simply maintaining my regular life practice of paying attention to what the sky and world around me is doing and taking pictures of things I find interesting, so ‘periodically’ would mean everyday probably, but not everyday definitely and not everyday for a couple of hours. A few minutes here and there.
Additional to the data set of cloudform documentation from the last two months is the data of experience in the process of documenting the shapes and movement of clouds while trying to be aware of my automatic interpretations, to allow for them without holding tightly to them. To observe what sense occurs in relation to the clouds, what knowing might arise, whether it is a comfortable knowing or an uncomfortable knowing, trusting neither comfort or discomfort to be anything other than the whispers of hopes or fears, misunderstandings of the mind and heart of the observer.
Aug 1, 6:22pm
The overwhelming impression that I get is that I need to show this work to someone. It comes down to a matter of faith, whether I trust that people will see. Whether they do or don’t, now or never, is not up to me. It is not my job to make a person see anything. My job is show what I see, and to try my best to show other people what I see, because it is beautiful and powerful and important, our human birthright to stand outside and watch the clouds spell out exactly what we are.
The cloud roll has been – again – tremendous today. Many candles. Many, many candles. I guess I can take a hint. Though I don’t know if my interpretation of ‘times a’runnin’ out fer ya. Runnin’ out for us all.’
I first saw the fire form a few days ago. Tiny fire form on a lit match held between two fingers. Very distinct, at least to me. It might look like a dozen other things to someone else, or like nothing at all.
Here’s a draft letter:
Hello. My name is ——— and I am reaching out to you because I believe that a longitudinal art and observation project that I have been engaged with for 11 years has come to a sudden point of phase-fruition that calls for me to seek advice as to what I might need to do next, given that there is a slim but charismatic chance that observations I have made of observable atypical/unlikely micro and macro patterns in cloudforms correspond to distinct spiritual or symbolic associations and experiences.
When this project started in 2010, I lost my mind – to much personal and familial detriment, it’s worth noting, from which we have all blessedly recovered – when I started seeing icons and language in cloudforms.
At the time, I believed that what I was seeing was the most important thing in the world, because that is what a person – or at least this person – feels when they see something that looks and feels like a God you could never quite imagine is showing itself in the sky, forming and unforming, transforming in all the strange holy glories of everything that ever mattered in this brief world we know.
Aug 3 5:17am
There was a bank of clouds somewhere to the west. She knew it was cloudy across the river, over railroad tracks, out toward the taller mountains because sun seemed to have been going down for hours, too early for the season. The afternoon felt like Fall, maybe late September, early October, still two months off, and she savored the anachronism of a cool grey day in August, especially after the heat and glare at the end of July, the everyday sweat and squint.
They sat on the porch, a small tidy porch, clean and swept, enough room for the two rocking chairs and a tiny round-topped table, inlaid mosaic and thin spindly legs, curved metal like a helix, easy to knock over. Her porch at home was large and not clean, stretching across the whole front of the house. There were two rockers on her front porch, too – the ubiquitous two rockers of the southern home. The rockers on her porch needing to be painted, white finish gone grey at the spindles joining the seat, paint worn off the armrests, a million gestures of standing up, unthinking grasps of the chair. Her elbow resting on the right arm had worn a special spot that marked the years of sitting and smoking, writing emails to herself on her phone, her great-grandmother’s heavy gardening table set against the dust-filmed white wood of the house itself. Everyday she thinks about washing the house, but she hasn’t washed it yet. She waits until the warmest day, but then is tired when it is house, not wanting to be wet, to be moving, scrubbing and lunging, watching the water run black-grey, the dust of roads clinging to whatever it touches. On the hottest days, she only wants to lay still, though washing the house would – if she were to do it – likely be more fun, and would, she knows it, ‘feel good’ – which means that this action of cleaning her home would temporarily assuage the dull and constant inner sense that she is a lazy slob, which she knows isn’t true, but that still makes her feel self-conscious and like she has a secret as she sits on the small porch, the tidy porch with a delicate table.
“Well, good,” the man said as an a-ha, “you’ve already said one word, and that is ‘book’ – which is good because that’s what I know and what I can help you with. All the art stuff, I don’t know about anything with the photography and art, but I can talk with you about a book.”
“Don’t you think that, in today’s publishing market, there is room for multi-media projects? Especially with digital publishing, you can have books that employ things like non-traditional formatting, lots of pictures, interesting layouts of text.”
‘Book’ can mean a lot of different things. It can mean a wall of words between two covers, a world that is bound by text, open only to those who can read in the language the book is printed in. What if she wants to ‘write’ a story that a refugee could ‘read’?
There are a lot of stories she wants to tell, and many people she wants to tell them to.
What would be the story she would write to the refugee, imagined person, hands like ropes, hot air, the single phone passed round a canvas-walled room, a story that could be told in only one moment, only one image, only one word, a word that tells of the great power in the very air we breathe, the miracle of our breath, that tells a person that their suffering is seen, and that they are not alone, and that all the forces of good and graciousness in the world are relentlessly fighting for mercy to be upon them?
What if I wanted to write a book for a child, or for a politician?
What if I wanted to write a book for everyone?
What could I say that would matter, that would help turn the tide of so much suffering, so many different sufferings?
She sits in the dark of the early morning, and considers the feel of her body held by the rocker, wood hard against the bones of her form, insects pulsing out their brief life in a rubbing of wings and legs that seems impossibly loud in the trees, the air all around, as birds begin their very first songs of the day, saying “I am here. It is day. Where are you? Where are you? Where are you? I am here. It is day. Where are you? Oh, what will we eat this morning?”
There are no words, no words for the simplicity and wisdom of the birds’ waking hour, the pull to fly, to eat, to find one’s friends, to wait for the warmth, to keep living.
“You’ll need to make a proposal, and I can show you some really good examples of what that might look like.”
Aug 4 6:53am
I am careful with the extent to which I share experiences of awe and belief, what runs through my mind and heart as I am watching the sky contort into stories and figures, a simultaneous disbelief and depth of belief as straight-forward and simple as the existence of my own right hand, my own left hand, the ground I stand on, which I understand to be billions of years old and teeming with entire worlds we cannot see.
I understand the sky, also, to be billions of years old and teeming with entire worlds we cannot see.
The need for assistance in this is profound.
I have mustered myself to show this project to a couple of people, but it hasn’t quite worked out, though I have an appt with a friend on the 11th, to zoom and screenshare. I should probably make a presentation, because that would be helpful.
Yes. That is a good idea.
I have a lot of good ideas. I’m a good-idea kind of person.
Having spent the majority of my consciously and experientially recalled life as the person I am, ever since I began to learn about the world outside of my small home-world of woods and family, dirt roads and old traditions I didn’t yet know to be strange, speaking in a way that I could never have known wasn’t entirely normal until I went to school, crossed the railroad tracks, went into town, and nobody could understand me when I told them my name.
I had a severe speech impediment until I was 9. My mouth simply would not form the sound of R, tooth the tooth and edge and growl out of every word. Turned word into wood, bird into bud, my last name into wine.
Aug 5 5:26am
She noticed that the day had turned dark in the afternoon again, hinting at the season to come, reminding of the impermanence of summer. Why, she wondered, did she persist in doing things that she recognized were not ‘what I am supposed to be doing’? The question scaffolding her wondering is ‘why do I feel like I should be doing a certain thing, and not doing another’?
The answers are intertwined in her skepticism of what feels like intuition, and the necessity of balancing reason with feels and being diplomatic, patient, not jumping to conclusions, or acting in a hasty or irrational way.
Yesterday, like the day before and like every day she had stepped out of her ceilinged home, she had bet herself that there would be nothing there if she looked up, that the sky would be the same old sky that meant nothing.
She could barely remember the sky that means nothing, the sky that is just a happenstance pretty thing, the bearer of circumstantial rain and wind, simple science of water and air.
She hasn’t seen that sky, that simple sky, for a long time. She doesn’t know if she misses it or not, or if she will ever see it again. If she were to see it again, what will she have lost?
Within moments of her looking at the sky, she recognizes the beginnings of form, the glint of an eye, the hint of a line. Yesterday, as she stepped out onto her street to walk the dog in the strange cool-dark of the mid-summer early morning, the street still quiet, even the birds hushed in a way that made the world seem paused somehow, holding its breath. She liked the quiet, but likes birds more, the aliveness and singing, feathers in flight, perfection of beak.
How many birds has she seen in the sky here of late? As many cloudbirds as real birds flying?
The clouds that made her lose her mind in 2010 were nothing compared to the clouds that she sees lately, but she is not losing her mind.
There really is something weird about the clouds.
Aug 5, 6:05am
Yesterday, she was relieved that she hadn’t contacted the FBI. That would have been a bad decision, and may have significantly undermined the progress of this project. The only reason I considered contacting the FBI is because of the fear-knowing feels that I get when I see symbols that could be called holy and clouds that look like mushrooms, the sad-eyed faces of animals, rictus of horror on some white man’s face, graven stare of birds, all these freakin’ clouds, man. Does this qualify as aerial phenomena? Is the sense of fear that I – as an individual with a longstanding fear of nuclear war and nuclear anything – have when I watch the clouds and the shapes they make spell out a story to me of doom, a doom like I’ve never imagined, could never imagine, shudder to even think to imagine, shake as I see the disambiguation of all sacred form, the roll of life and death stretched out over me at sunset time.
I mean, my personal feelings about and interpretations of clouds do not constitute a national emergency.
“Yeah, but Faith, what if they do? What if some weird shit is happening where there really are ancient omniscient sentient and all powerful forces that exist inseparably from us and from everything alive, the earth itself, the smallest forms, and what if people used to be able to see evidence of these forces in nature and circumstance – and still can, and still do, all over the world – but, the connection was disrupted by history and by design (long story, save for later), and maybe cause I am some weirdo who has long been geeked out about patterns in nature and who has had an unusual set of lived experiences, and has an atypical strength in pattern recognition and picture completion tasks of ‘intelligence’ I noticed something that is happening, because it is interesting and beautiful to me, and – lo and behold – it actually is really strange and I actually cannot explain it, and I actually do need help understanding why I see what I do and what it means, if anything. The sky is public domain. If I – as an intelligent, observant, and concern citizen of this planet, ensconced in sky as it is – see something that is concerning, shouldn’t I say something?
This is what I have learned about saying anything about clouds:
People think you are weird if you talk about clouds, and think you are crazy if you talk about God and clouds, and they definitely think you’re crazy if you say you see things in clouds.
Even if you have pictures of what you see and can explain why you see the lines clearly (because they are right there!) and are genuinely curious from an environmental sciences standpoint, as well as an anthropological standpoint, and have taken the time to think this through (for 11 years!) and have demonstrated an awareness of one’s capacity for objectivity and are not trying to do some wild media thing or freak anyone out or anything like that at all, and just really, really, really want to know why the clouds look like they do and why I am so compelled to watch them, and why I feel the way I do when I see them – do some psychoanalysis around all that, but not seek to unsee the sky, never, to never unsee the sky and to defend my right to see and observe the sky in whatever way is innate to my evolving nature as my human right.
The only reason I talk about rights is because I am a person who has been court-ordered to take whatever psychiatric medication I am prescribed, and I am a person who has been forcibly injected with haloperidol and who has been held in restraints, despite my sitting still and trying to explain, only standing to ask for my bra back, to not want to be naked under that thin cloth in that cold room. Restrained only to keep me from getting up to ask questions, being as cautious as I could, because I understood the situation I was in and what people thought was happening with me, which was – to a certain extent, yes – actually happening, the psychosis, the delusions, but it really wasn’t so bad, and there were lots of chaos factors in the complex events that led to my being in the hospital. Those events, those complex events, were singularly attributed to me being crazy and weird.
Aug 5 4:08pm
What am I hoping to accomplish here, with these pictures, this name[Proof of God!…]?
Do I really want to prove God?
Do I think I am proving God with clouds? What do I want to do? What do I want the outcomes to be? What do I expect the outcomes to be?
Do I really want to prove God?
No. Not especially. I don’t even know if proving God is possible, given that we don’t know what God is, and even if we discover something that could be like God, even if it tells us that it is God, well – I don’t know if even that would be proof of anything other than something that appears to possess the attributes of what we humans imagine God to possess, and identifies itself as God. Who knows, could be the Devil in disguise?
Do I think I am proving God with clouds?
Well, not exactly, but I do think that some of the forms that are observable in cloud structure somewhat resemble symbols associated with various religious traditions within human cultures, and somewhat resemble what I as an artist observe to be faces and eyes, animal shapes and strange geometries, plays with light. However, I do understand that what I see is simply what I see, and that one person seeing a thing proves very little other than their individual capacity for pareidolia.
Nonetheless, many of the features that I find to be unusual are distinct and obvious enough – in my opinion – as to meet criteria for being able to be seen with the naked eye by most people, or so I would imagine.
Those criteria are:
clarity/accuracy of form
completeness of form
quality of form documentation
I just made those criteria up, and will need to further define them, but what I’m getting at is that some of the features of the clouds I observe are not difficult to discern from other aspects of the sky’s composition at that moment.
It’s like, yeah, people should be able to see this really beautiful and detailed face that is hanging in the north/northwestern sky, or the equally, singularly irreplicable wonder of eyes set in the eastern sky, or a dolphin swimming in the waters of the southern sky.
Shouldn’t they? Is it really just me?
That is information I need to have, if it’s just me, if I am the only one who sees this stuff, meaning that I have taken thousands of pictures of perfectly normal everyday clouds that don’t look like anything else at all.
I need to know if that is the case, and the only way to find out is to show people.
I’ve already addressed the inherent challenges of saying anything beyond a passing commentary on weather or prettiness about clouds in general, and saying anything at all about God and clouds, or what that whole situation is. Most people seem to have 0 interest in discussing such things and appear to consider a person strange or unseemly if God and clouds are brought into any sort of everyday conversation. The people who do want to talk about God and the clouds want to talk about such things in a way that I don’t always find especially helpful, as far as my need to figure out what in the actual is going on with all these triangles.
While I find it interesting to hear about the crazy ass cloud that someone and their cousin saw in Florida when they were tripping on acid, or the way they like to find animals, pointing to a run-of-the-mill cumulous that isn’t doing or being anything at all, saying: “See, it’s like a bunny.”I find most things interesting though, and at this point in my inquiry, I really need to focus on my questions and finding answers to them, not going down the rabbit hole of cloud trips with a random person at a bus stop.
So, no. I do not think I am proving God (or gods) or anything other than that there is some weird stuff that goes on with clouds, man, and that there are cloud-distinct micro-pattern phenomena that show up again and again, like that 3, and the Y. I find this interesting enough to warrant further investigation as to what atmospheric phenomena produce the conditions that create these forms. I don’t really have a good excuse for why I haven’t earnestly begun to research this prior to now, but I have good reasons, reasons that make sense to me.
I have a bit of trauma experience around this project and doing anything with it that may result in me having to admit that I am ‘doing the cloud thing’ again – which means prioritizing my interest and curiosity about cloudforms over other important human relational and economic endeavors. That sort of behavior, the cloud thing in preference to other behaviors and activities, is not something that I am supposed to be doing. This is what I have learned from external feedback ranging from dismissal to criticism to ostracization and ridicule, paternalistic smarminess about how it is interesting, isn’t it?
At this point in my life, I don’t want to deal with any of those things – but, I also don’t care if I have to in order to move this work forward, because – in all honesty – that’s really what I need to do and what I need to be doing right now, because whatever the origins of the belief – narrative, delusion, misread intuition all bungled with the static of my insecurities and unmet childhood needs to be seen and understood – I hold a belief that if I willfully and out of social cowardice deny the impetus to do this work, this work that I love and that I find purpose in, this work that challenges me and mentors me in how it must done, stretches me – for better or for worse – to the ends of my imagination as entire possible worlds are transformed each day, from living to death, to the life of new things…
If I deny the impetus to do this work, to pour all of the energy I give to things I don’t really care that much about to earn wages or to appease perceived social pressures or out of simply getting swept up in the charisma of a bad idea that sparkles nonetheless, then I will regret it every day, multiple times a day, until I die, and it will be like a curse, this not having done the work that I understand to be my life’s work, the thing that is mine to do in the ways that I might do it.
I have no idea how I am going to earn a living exploring patterns in cloudforms and the anthropology of patterns in nature and religious cultural symbols and icons, especially since I am neither a) cloud physicist or a b) anthropologist.
I have noted that as I have been writing there have been no clouds – the sky is totally blue. God, I love that. It is actually not entirely easy to watch clouds closely for a couple of hours straight. It is easy only in that it produces a sort of flow state and a suspended state of sharp focus and so I am not consciously aware of the fact that I am tired, or hungry, or that my shoulder aches, my neck hurts, my eyes are sore. I am sweaty and overwhelmed and yet totally calm, studying the clouds because that – in those moments that stretch into afternoons – is my work and I am working.
This website (note: refers to http://www.imfinethankyou.net) is an experiment that provides summaries of other experiments across multiple media. The primary researcher in this work is Faith R.R. – a differently-abled self-taught artist and healing justice worker who is formally educated in sociology and psychology, with specialized focus in social justice and transformative social change studies, including an undergraduate minor in Black Studies.
You can learn more about Faith’s professional work in human service systems and mental health recovery education here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faith-rhyne-11651b53
This site is a living space, which means that projects are always in development and that content is likely to be added, removed, or edited as methods are refined and inquiries evolve.
Any experiment has a driving question: “What will happen if…”
The motivating curiosity driving the creation and sharing of this site is: “What will happen if I show people my artwork and share the things I actually think about and care about?”
‘…if I show people how weird I really am…if I show people who I really am…if I tell people what I notice and experience…’
As a differently-abled person that has extensive experience of mental health challenges that impact social and occupational health, Faith has learned that it is typically not okay to be herself, that it is not socially safe or socially advantageous to show what she cares about or to talk about what she thinks about.
She is unlearning that fear of being herself and – in the process – learning quite a bit about what actually matters to her.
Despite trying very hard for many years to successfully make her way through the typical economic activities of education and employment, and despite working in professional roles that dealt in the business of people’s lives and deaths and suffering, and despite being exceptionally skilled in many areas, a MA’ed utility player, very good worker, etc. Faith has never earned more than 27,000 a year and generally earns less, some years much less, due to simply not being able to work a typical 40-hour work week doing whatever it is that she is being paid to do. The sensory stress, social and communicative complexities, and schedule/time logistics are overwhelming (not to mention the executive function challenges involved in doing the work itself) to the point of creating a state of burnout that is not just being ‘tired of working’ or ‘burnt out’ – but, is probably more akin to the phenomenon of autistic burnout, wherein people lose skills and function in multiple areas is impaired, as well as there being physical indicators of burnout like exhaustion or somatic manifestations of distress.
I often begin from a place of doubt, such as here on a rain-drizzled Sunday morning, unseasonably cool, more like early October, insects singing the question of their lifespan, the only song they know. I did not wake up at 3:30 in the morning full of vigor and ideas, a deep-grinning enthusiasm in my belly, my mind sharp and dancing with the imagined future, feeling it and seeing it so thoroughly as to make it real. A man from Alabama once informed her that the middle of the night is when the spirits rise, and she wondered what he really knew about el duende, which is what she had been mentioning to him, this learning about the spirit of art and creation, beings in protection of the forest. They exist in all the stories, is what she was going to say, but by then the man was going on about something Jungian, his own experience of dreaming.
She did not wake up at 3:30 in the morning, but slept through and through the cool damp of night still summer warm in her bed, under her heavy blankets, her weighted cave for sleeping, always sweating through her sleep in the summer as a fact of the necessity of being covered heavily as a condition of her sleeping at all
Some mornings, there is no doubt. Today, there is doubt – or, rather, there was. She begins from a place of doubt because she knows that is she begins to name what she notices as a discouraged uncertainty, a lack of confidence, bungled sense of one’s own efficacy in being a person who does anything other than be a lazy fuck who lets their life and potential and brightness slip into dying without ever really trying, really trying to do this thing they long to do.
At this point in my life, I really just want to be able to be myself, and to be able to be open about what I think about and what I care about, to be known for those things and visible in being who I am – which, of course, is changing all the time.
Note a chorus of white men rising up to tell me about how there is no self and this I that I imagine myself to be does not exist and that the things that I care about are ego attachments and the mind must be silenced of what it thinks about, become nothingness.
And, really, it’s like – “Okay, got it, yeah, and shut the fuck up please because the planet is on fire and flooding and animals are dying and there is some truly horrible shit happening on the daily everywhere and I care about that. This is the world I live in and I care about that. I care about my art and my process, the fiber of my spirituality – which is not some imbecilic idea of the ego or identity, but the very substance of my existences as a brief phenomena of blood, gristle, and experience, of witness and walking-talking participant, on this earth, the very substance of what connects me to everything else that is alive and dying in the world as some dude drones on and on about his theories on the theories of other men…”
Why this work is important and not something I need to ‘let go of’ or ‘get over’ so that I can ‘focus on what I need to be doing’ – earning wages in a professional/semi-professional occupational role and not thinking too much about things like post-modernism and peri-apocalypse, definitely not thinking about trying to save the world because even though our culture in the Western world is completely saturated with heroic narratives on unlikely high-stakes missions to prevent some global calamity or another, it is not actually okay for everyday people to be thinking about what they personally might be able to do to save the world.
We can think about ‘being the change we want to see’ and ‘doing our small part’ and ‘helping just one person’ or ‘planting just one tree.’
However, if everyday people start thinking too much about what is actually creating the situations the world (people, planet, animals, ocean, forests, children, future, etc.) needs saving from, and if people actually start considering what they may be able to do to try to contribute to greater change, they are seen as…
Hmmm…I feel a research question coming on.
What are people’s experiences of ambitions to create significant change in social/economic/environmental justice areas?
Are there people who daydream about saving the world?
Are there people who want to try to save the world?
Are there people who are engaged in activities that are motivated by a belief that these activities may ‘save the world’?
This is interesting to me, and reminds me of my idea to develop myself as an artist-researcher that does projects in the public sphere about topics I am interested in, particularly those related to transformative social change processes, and the phenomenology of individual experience in the context of larger social, economic, and cultural spheres.
“Individual experience in the context of larger social, economic, and cultural spheres? Gee, Faith, that sounds like a pretty big scope of interest.”
Speaking of which, I sat down to write out a few ideas about why this is work and why this work is important. This is work because – for example – I personally do not necessarily want to always be noticing the clouds or documenting the clouds as a matter of methodology in my inquiry about rudimentary patterns in nature that are related to the development of human language and distinct cultural/mythological/religious beliefs may inform us of how our ancestors may have seen and experienced spirituality in relation to the natural world.
As a side note, although I’ve said it before, I have no idea where I said it or if I said it well – it makes no sense to me why ancient humans would go to incredible lengths to inscribe stones and build temples – massive monuments – if what they believed was God/gods were not actually really, really important. I wonder if the motivation was for rulers to be seen as God/gods, to position themselves as God/gods.
Jesus Christ, humans are so freaking confused. I’m confused. I mean, really, what in the actual…?
Yesterday, 08/08, I did not especially intend to take over 2,000 pictures of clouds. My camera roll tells me that the first image of a cloud was not captured until 4:22pm, a whole day of skies undocumented and largely unseen save for dog walks and brief glances from the hall window, more habit than anything, checking the blue that remained mostly unbroken for much of the day. The last cloud picture was taken at 8:38pm. I intended to write more yesterday, and thought some about drawing, about painting. My daughter is on leave from work as the school year begins, her senior year. My son leaves for college this morning, traveling from his father’s house across town. Yesterday, he came by to pick up some new socks I got him, say goodbye to the dog and the kitten. I’ve not mentioned the kitten. There is a kitten.
I will send my son a text message here in a few as I get ready to walk the dog and go get a new toilet because the tank on the one upstairs got a strange hairline crack, slow seeping water like tears gathering. The ignition element for the old gas stove’s pilot light broke last week and I’ve not yet repaired it, going back and forth between calling Arnie the kindly and fastidious repair man or ordering the part online and attempting the seemingly simple repair herself.
Most things that seem simple are not, but sometimes they are. She is glad she knows how to replace a toilet.
Despite her current hiatus from wage-earning, she has been thinking a lot about work and the necessity of earning money, trying to figure out just how precisely she is going to do that and reminding herself that while it is very good to exist in the stress-free mirage of optimism and strong faith that she is not blithely tumbling toward irresponsibility, slow ruin.
It won’t take long for her to set up her ‘professional website’ and she can create the content needed for her ‘art website’ so long as she actually opens the computer and begins to write, to copy/paste from old writings, refined drafts and culled emails to herself for an ‘ABOUT’ page.
The difficulty of existing as someone who is deeply engaged in an observational and contemplative art project on the topic of patterns in nature and experiential perception of the numinous – i.e. Proving God w/ Clouds: An Emergent Scientific Inquiry – and living with one foot very much planted in a speculative future which finds me cleverly and strategically connecting with ‘experts’ who can help me to either contribute to a new area of study in the micro-pattern formations of cloud structures and the origins of human mythology and spirituality, or simply help me to understand why I am seeing all of this and to determine – once and for all – whether it is important for me to continue to observe and contemplate the ongoing presentation of the clouds or whether there is actually nothing weird at all about the skyscapes and I can work on organizing my documentation up to this point and identifying which cloud photos I would like to begin painting. I need to be drawing and painting what I see in the clouds because – regardless of ‘meaning’ and ‘importance’ outside of my own experience, the forms of clouds are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, again and again. As I assess the matrices of my strengths, interests, and limitations, I recognize that – if nothing else – I can probably build a happy, sustainable, and fruitful career as a strange surrealist, a futurist. An artist.
However, my ability to take the steps necessary to create that reality (such as, um, establishing a regular practice of drawing, painting, and sharing work, finding ways to sell work or to support my work) is being undermined by the continued feeling that I ought to document the clouds I notice because – dang – sometimes they really do look important, though I can’t say why. They are beautiful, yes, and even if/when I get the information needed to make an informed decision about the time I invest in cloudform documentation, I will likely still look at clouds everywhere I go and I will still – I’m sure – take pictures of the sky because that is where some of my gods live. However, the gods I believe in – nameless gods by many names, I’m sure – also live in water, in trees, in animals, in people, out in the world.
I don’t want to spend my whole life looking at clouds. This is not my only project.
Aug 11 5:32pm
Well, here I am again, trying to “prove God on the Internet with pictures of clouds.” It really was necessary for me to have this immersive re-experience, re-iteration of the summer of 2010, when I lost my mind in part because the clouds looked weird. When I first started noticing the clouds, I wasn’t actually that crazy. Circumstances, however, soon aligned to create a unique set of stressors and complexly coalescing impossible situations that exceeded my capacity to cope and engaged a somewhat hyperattentive problem solving state as I tried to reconcile my little world of work and family and routines wavering toward chaos, collapse.
I still believe that my seeing strange formations in the clouds was not a matter of mental illness, a hallucination. There is, after all, photographic evidence of the phenomena of form that created such a strong impression on me, a person who – it’s worth noting – is generally very impressionable. The shapes in the clouds are a neutral objective observation of a phenomenon in the natural, physical, material world. The meaning I attributed to them and the ways that I responded and reacted to that meaning are where I got a little crazy.
When I first started noticing the clouds, I tried to talk to people about them because I thought – as an artist and a person who was pretty geeked out about patterns in nature during that particular season and who had been drawing a lot and indulging in the richness of the visual sense in the way that only a person who once had been near blind can indulge, every detail and nuance of light a small miracle.
Nobody would have a normal, curious conversation with me about any of it, and began to develop concerns about my mental health which – as such concerns often do – expressed themselves as a general doubt of the validity or rationality of anything I might say or do, watching me with a slightly stern mouth, a guarded, skeptical, impatient eye.
Here at 5:50 am on 08/20/2021, sun still down, earth still turning, insect symphony in the dark, always the word pulsing in the song they sing without knowing anything else to do, it’s probably a good idea to take some notes, as I have reached a turning point with this project. My intent in June was to begin what I expected to be the long process of refining my telling and showing of the ‘time I lost my mind trying to prove God with pictures of clouds on the Internet.’
The framing of the story was one of creative non-fiction, literary non-fiction…magically real first person account of neurodiversity, spirituality, and psychosis told in mixed-tense utilizing elements of autoethnography and employing a third person narrative voice to situate the subject (me) in the broad context of the world I live in as it is constructed of vast phenomena, both material and conceptual, atrociously tragic and stunningly beautiful, etc. etc.
I was approaching this project as a person who had been through something (my life as a person who had a non-ordinary childhood – what is ordinary? – and who had been impacted by a confluence of beauty, loss, alienation, fear, and life-threatening injury as a child growing up in a sacred, ancient place – all places are sacred and ancient. I was telling the story I have been trying to tell ever since it began in 2010 – tho’ really, what is the beginning of any story? I was telling from the position of a person who had stanced themself apart from the events, the experience, but who still had a need for deeper resolution, who still had significant questions about what had happened in her life that year she began seeing something that felt like God in the clouds, what had happened in her life to even situate her to have such an experience, the factors that contributed to the formation of perception, meaning-making, and the chaotic interplay of internal and external realities that ultimately led to her being involuntarily committed, forcibly treated with psychiatric medication and held against her will for – How many days? She doesn’t remember, but could look back at notes, look back at records. Medical and handwritten in her same pressured scrawl, letters in blocks set sideways and up, filling the pages – and ultimately losing legal custody of her children not because she was really a terrible mom, as she was definitely not a terrible mom, but because there were concerns about her ability to ‘make good decisions due to her mental and emotional health’ as a result of impressions that were formed in response to early cloud documentation and inquiry in a somewhat hostile relational environment characterized by negative bias, invalidation of strengths (and – in the course of some conversations – worth as a human being in general) and mental health stigma. She conceded legal custody for the purpose of neutralizing any further divorce drama as it was not productive nor healthy for anyone involved, least of all her two kids. The neutralization of conflict through accepting surrender allowed her to retain partial physical custody of her kids and begin the process of restoring some form of stability and security in their small lives. She had not imagined, when she began watching the clouds out of a pre-existing and long-standing interest in patterns in nature and a happenstance spiritual practice that she stumbled into, so to speak, as she sat on her porch alone, heart-wrenched and grieving, feeling profoundly alone.
She began this project summary portfolio from the perspective of someone who was ready to begin researching all the different ways of seeing and understanding the madness that had changed her life so thoroughly, that had changed her. In many ways, perhaps entirely – yes, actually, entirely – she is profoundly grateful to have experienced everything she has experienced and is grateful even to have lost what she has lost, as those tragedies small and large have taught her heart what matters and what it feels like when something beautiful is wrecked because of bad decisions and distorted priorities.
At 6:25am, after sending the writing as a first installment of notes saved to multiple mailboxes via email, getting up to get some coffee and noticing the pleasant, grainy feel of being awake with unbrushed hair as the sky lightens slowly, bringing day, with a brief reeling recall of early morning travel, being awake all night – which, it’s worth noting, she was not. She sleeps for 5-6 hours and then wakes up to work, sleeps for 1.5 hours in the late-morning or early afternoon, wakes up and continues on.
Lately, her work has been toggling between setting up her professional LLC to offer specialized consultancy for wellness, growth, and transformation – or something like that – a hybrid of individual and family coaching for people exploring intersectional and integrative wellness as part of the journey of understanding and developing strategies to responding to mental health challenges and disruptive distress that acknowledge the complex adaptive nature of structural and systemic factors that impact our experiences as humans and the resources available to us in our individual healing journeys, and working with community initiatives and nonprofits working with vulnerable and complex trauma impacted communities to build informed, functional infrastructure around models of collaborative, dynamic, and inclusive leadership and methods of participatory action research in public health efforts to address mental health and substance use in relation to poverty and trauma.
I already have my fall consulting contracts lining up and I am excited about the work I will be doing with a few different projects. Leaving my work as a wage-earner was the best thing I could have done. Not that I had a choice.
In any event, there has been that work. Meetings and emails. Documents. All good though, interspersed with the work of home – animal family, old dusty house, non-driving teenager who works and goes to school, needs a ride here, a ride there, dishes and laundry, repairs and maintenance, walks with the dog, exercise, hygiene, etc.
The rest of her time lately is spent watching clouds, taking pictures of clouds, thinking about clouds, and pondering what in the world she ought to do about the fact that she began to create this summary of an experience and then began noticing – actively noticing, really paying attention to, the clouds again, and the clouds – almost seemingly in turn – began to become completely amazing and holy beyond belief.
If she had seen some of the things she has seen lately back in 2010, she would have lost her mind so hard. The clouds she saw then were probably 25% as profound and persistent as they are now. She can no longer see ‘regular clouds’ anymore, except for the towers of cumulous far off in the mountains, their details blurred by distance. As soon as she looks at the sky, she can see the suggestion of a shape or a clearly wrought face and the forms spring into their slow shifting movement, twist and flux of vapor and light, rising and dissipating to create the most remarkable forms.
She recognizes that her pareidolia is out of control, sees elements of the same forms in the silhouettes of branches, the drift of sandy gravel in rain-washed gutters, the light through the trees glowing gold on the wall, salt gathered and sculpted on the surface of water not quite boiling.
It’s not that big of a problem, as far as her functionality. Seeing things is no big deal. She has non-ordinary perception. No biggie. Makes total sense to her given the development of her sense-sight as a child with uncorrected near-sightedness that grew up straining to see in a world full of blurs, the relief of details seen up close. She has an atypical strength in processes of pattern detection and picture completion, and is an artist. She has a refined sense of vision, despite only being able to see in the blurred perfect circles of pointillism without her glasses on. It makes sense to her that she would have a tendency toward pareidolia, and that she would integrate this into her artwork in some way.
However, even the most severe apophenia cannot explain the objectively observable forms of a human face in detailed composition, the head of a bird, the measurable angles of an equilateral triangle, the repeating form of 3. She wants to know why these things are showing up in the sky so clearly, and what – if anything other than her subjective sense of meaning, which she experiences as being rooted in the profoundly numinous, holy, and sacred – these forms mean, what these faces mean, what these figures and this light means?
Surprisingly, she isn’t losing her mind and trying to prove God on the Internet through chaotic and bound-to-be-ineffective tactics guided by no clear design or strategy. She is asking questions and holding herself in the dialectical space between profound belief that the ancestors and spirits of all that is living and has lived are rising to say stop, are rising to say please, are begging – actually – for mercy and warning of the consequences of war, the rising death tolls, the rising waters, radioactive seas, etc. I wouldn’t say these impressions of meaning are like doomsday prophecies, because I don’t really know anything about that and am not a prophet. I do know that we are in a global pandemic in the midst of a climate emergency and that by the sheer existence of nuclear weapons the history of the future is in peril because people – human beings – have apparently lost their fucking minds and are freaking out even though we need to be checking ourselves and our realities and our values and staying calm and remembering that nobody is supposed to be killing anyone and that humans – so far as I understand it – are supposed to be stewards.
This is just a content analysis of the impressions I get when I watch the clouds, when I let myself really see them.
So, as a note in process, the matter of this project has somewhat changed over the past two months, during which I have taken thousands of pictures of clouds and studied them intently. I have decided, based on both logical determination of potential importance given what I perceive as evidence that the clouds are weird in that they are making clearly discernible pictures of people and animals and symbols to the extent that the clouds don’t even look like clouds anymore, and the deep-felt intuitive sense of profound urgency to seek assistance in this and – much more importantly – to show people, and – most importantly – to show people who can advise her as to whether or not this sort of cloud activity is unusual and – if so – what, if anything, she should do, because her gut instinct tells her that she needs to tell someone that she sees radiation symbols and that she sees mushrooms clouds and that this scares her because she has been terrified of nuclear anything ever since she saw her first reactor tower by Savannah and her belly went to ice and she felt sick without knowing why. She grew up in the era of Chernobyl. She lived by the east coast home of nuclear submarines, Kings Bay. She grew up three miles from the base.
She acknowledges that her personal psychology creates her perception and understanding and that it is entirely possible, likely even, that she is seeing this stuff and interpreting it as having specific intuitive meaning due to her being under duress because of the pandemic and her mom having been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer over a year ago, right after George Floyd was murdered, and as the big nonprofit pandemic hustle began as her relationship with the person who was her best friend began to end and her elder orange cat slow-died of cancer while her mom was in the hospital after the big surgery that removed her belly button, among other things.
You know, it’s crazy, but I seriously was almost at the point of feeling like I really was severely and persistently mentally ill, mostly in the form of what had been an increasingly intransigent depression and emotional blunting that made life feel like a series of chores to get through, but not even because you couldn’t even feel that anymore, you just did the things and said the stuff and smiled the smiles but you knew you were dying, possibly already dead, except for when you would come alive again, just a little, out walking alone, running in circles in the dark at the track, the year a strange suspended state that – looking back – doesn’t seem quite real and yet you know it was, because you remember so much of the detail of days and conversations, all of it close-pressed and living. Writhing and flashing as dying cats and hospital halls, the silver shine of a rain-puddled track in the dark of morning under metal halide, the learning to breathe – to breathe in and breathe out, keep your mouth closed, keep your mind clear, focus on the details until they blur into a million sweet savorings of star and footfall, the lungs and heart, gravity and gentle swirling whisper of fallen leaves in the slipstream of your movement.
I wonder if all that trance-running in the dark did something to my brain, augmented my visual acuity in –
I just had the interesting experience of scrolling through this week’s edition of Aeon/Psyche and being interested in most of the articles, appreciative of the range and facets and approach to reporting taken by the online publication, and yet aware of a definite resistance to reading the articles now, watching the 7 minute improvised animation that is an absurdly delightful something-or-other on creativity.
I am trying so, so hard to stay focused and to remain unbiased.
It’s a delicate thing, this getting clear on one’s ‘own ideas’ – which is a ham-handed way of saying allowing for the intrinsic synthesis of knowledge derived from direct individual observation and experience, taking into account that no individual lives in a vacuum and that the space between individual learning and external teaching is extremely porous, reflexive and complex – in an environment that is full of ideas and expressions of ideas, theories and paradigms and philosophies. I am not entirely sure if my resistance – at this point in my development as an artist-researcher – to devoting large chunks of my time and headspace to the canon of interdisciplinary literature on: God; atmospheric sciences; cloud physics; early language development; cross-cultural myth and religious studies; various philosophies pertaining to the construction and deconstruction of ideas, perception, meaning, etc., as well as work exploring the mathematical relationships in patterns of nature as they may be reflected in iconographic representations and the elements of rudimentary and refined symbols which are observable in the forms of clouds, as well as in other arrangements of living things…is rooted as much in a commitment to being primarily world-taught rather than ego-auto-educated, pursuing the attainment of certain knowledge because I think I want to or should learn it, and being open to the lessons that circumstances, situations, opportunities, and seemingly happenstance information might have to teach me. Life, for me, is much, much more interesting and – besides – although there are many, many people’s work I want to learn about and from and, as evidenced by the list of intersecting interests relating to just the clouds project (not to mention the adjunct, affiliate, secondary, tertiary, associative, or entirely out of left field interests relating to other projects I am engaged in both personally and professionally.
By ‘out of left field’ I mean my interest in the craft of millinery as an art form, as well as various branches of metaphysics and practices that are lumped together under the umbrella label of ‘occultism’ and ‘paranormal’ or ‘supernatural’ phenomena. I neglect studies in those areas as much or more so than my inquiries into religion and the origins of ancient languages, for much the same reason – in terms of wanting to allow for knowledge synthesis through open experience (this does not mean going and ‘doing a thing’ for the sake of having an ‘open experience’ – this means engaging in an everyday way of learning from the world and paying attention to what crosses my path, what associations and impressions are part of the encounter or experience, and how all that situates in the larger context of my pre-existing so-called knowledge, or synthesized understanding that – misguided, misinformed, misinterpreted or not – seems to help me feel like I can make sense of some small or constant working in the world of and in and surrounding whatever might constitute my ‘self’ – a construct that I am increasingly certain is comprised of light and sound, a pattern all my own.
For the sake of reflection, I will say that I have talked with a couple of trusted and informed friends about this project, and they have offered good feedback, though not in a conclusive direction.
“Isn’t there a hotline or something? Like you call and someone listens to what’s going on and takes you seriously and looks into the situation?”
In 2010, I tried to email the Vatican by way of a VaticanTV contact email, and also tried to contact St. Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls ‘cause, well, Paul wrote a lot of letters and I figured the place was at least in the neighborhood of people who consider themselves to be authorities on things like holy visions. Not that I was/or am claiming to have had a holy vision, but it’s hard not to imagine that at some point in history in some place on this planet, some of what I have been seeing may be similar to cloud configurations that were seen as God and or gods, stories and figures, characters and creatures.
There is no way to conclusively prove anything at all about what ancient people saw or did not see in the sky. They didn’t have photography or materials other than sand or fire charcoal and stone to sketch quickly.
The only evidence we have of what people saw and experienced as powerful and important in the ways of a god are the stories and symbols left as records of what these early civilizations deemed important enough to carve into stone and build monuments to, create icons of.
If one considers the record of artifacts spanning thousands of years and geographies all over the planet, it would be quite the undertaking to examine similarities across and between different icons, early languages, and mythic figures to identify elements that may be represented in the forms of clouds.
At this point in my observations, there are a handful of auspicious figures and forms that I see often in the clouds that I may be able to survey various cultural icons and symbols to investigate the presence of similarities. However, even similarities between weird clouds and ancient language does not prove anything other than the appearance of similarity. Similarity does not equate relation, just as correlation does not indicate causation.
I continue to vacillate back and forth between non-belief and belief. When I am not looking at the clouds or studying pictures of clouds, indulging in my new play with settings called ‘shadow’ and ‘brilliance’ to see what forms might be seen if some layers or tones are emphasized or de-emphasized. There is so much I can’t explain, and – personally – I don’t have a need to explain it. I am happy with not conclusively knowing.
In the dubious impression of the shapes in the clouds possibly being important or relevant in some way that extends beyond my immediate, individual experience of finding beauty, awe, and a reverent fascination that humbles me in the way that something holy might humble a person in watching and contemplating the light and movement held by water and dust in the sky, I have developed a nagging need to confirm/disconfirm the cultural or scientific value of my observations of this phenomena.
What if something like God/gods really is presenting itself boldly in natural forms because something like God/gods is real and is alarmed at something that would be deeply evident to an omniscient, or at least sensitive, ecosystem force of knowing – like the fact that humans are destroying the planet, committing mass atrocities against humanity, and fucking around with nuclear weapons that could wreck large segments of the genetic material that creates what we understand to be life on earth?
What if something like God/gods is trying to tell us something by drawing angels and birds and all the old holy signs that people used to know and watch for and pay attention to, but people don’t notice because this something like God/gods doesn’t show up in the way it’s expected to, or because we simply aren’t paying attention despite the fact that we all know that times are troubled and pray for mercy all the time?
What if something really important is happening or about to begin happening and only a few weirdos with atypical visual processing styles, a nerdy preoccupation with patterns in nature, and a high tolerance for ‘boring’ activities like watching clouds are noticing and wondering why the clouds look so strange while the rest of the world goes on as it does, suffering and forgetting and waiting for the rapture?
I have been asking the same questions for years.
I have been living in these questions.
Setting: 4:40am front porch, cool air, amicable cat, slightly restless dog energy, neighborhood and town sounds muffled to a hum behind the usual insect noises, never the same, the tone of summer waning and the full moon setting has particular urgent sweetness, the pulses quick and longing, clamoring and dancing tucked into the trees all around. God, I love insects.
Note that a man on a bike rides down the hill, up the hill, yodeling softly in a way that sounds like the screech owls she hasn’t heard this season, maybe in the fall, maybe in the winter.
There is so, so much we/I take for granted.
Sometimes, I feel a bit of sickness in me, a sad heavy nausea, sea sick, just a little, when I think about how incredibly fucking beautiful the world is and how dumb humans (myself included, of course) are.
What are the ways I’ve been dumb?
Well, yesterday I was considering the actual potential reality that I – as a person who had a long-standing preoccupation with patterns and form in nature and a quiet, everyday grievous concern, anticipatory sorrow and immediate lament for all the completely brutal things that go down in the world all the time everyday, with a simultaneous awe and gratitude and joy in simply being alive to see any of it, to be able to smell sweetness and to notice what I can of the vastly interlocking worlds that are living and dying all around me, to remember to say: “I see you.” – this life that I am living, this person that I am here in the anthropocene, this possible reality in which my penchant for patterns and pictures and my fascination with the beauty of light and the eternally sovereign patience of the sky, really am noticing something that is important, because the sky did not look like this before 2010, and I did not feel the way I do when I look at the sky before…well, that’s not true…there have been many, many times that I sat and looked at the sky and felt the shift of aperture, an expansion and pull-toward focus, a sudden situating in the middle of something amazing and delicate, some fleeting scene of a woman on a beach, sitting with legs pulled to chest, staring at ocean, considering family walking back to the house, the sun going down, all the lights in all the houses coming on, a running dog at water’s edge, moon rising late summer, the roads to get to where she is, rolling a shell on the sand with feet damp and skin sticky with salt, the heaviness of humid linen, the sharpening sandy wind, water sounds wind sounds voices clipped and boomeranged like ghost calls as the grasses bend toward the land, dry roots exposed, eroded sand, the scar of a small fire, upturned pink flip-flop bleaching in the sun, cooling in the night as the fish rise and the turtles swim, and the shrimp boats make their way home in the channels mapped by sonar – has led me to learn to notice a particular function of the sky and clouds (and leaves and trees, and silt on sidewalks, the patterns that gather in water-based atmospheric media, the porous watery world that moves in ways that perhaps everything moves toward, the shapes of ourselves and everything, in everything, as slowly and quickly as our rigidities allow.
These same patterns may be in rocks? Yes, probably. Certainly igneous rock, rock created by flowing lava.
(Oh my God, the earth is so fucking old.)
…so, yes, I’ve felt the deep presence of a fleeting sort of grace and maybe sometimes I felt the flicker of connection, like whatever thin barrier between me and the sky opened just a little and I could feel myself there, out over the ocean, but – by and large – I was separate, and so why now do I feel like the sky is alive, and that I am somehow connected to it, or that it is connected to me?
Why do I observe that the sky seems to respond to my watching it, seems – actually – to rapidly, almost desperately, begin to shift into form, as if saying, “Look, look, we’re still here. Not going away. Not your imagination. We are right here. Go ahead, take a picture. Prove it to yourself. Again. Do you really have to prove it everyday, Faith? Do you not have enough evidence that the clouds are peculiar? Enough proof to persuade someone to help you to understand why the sky seems so alive, so communicative?”
In considering the – at this point – actual possibility that, yup, there’s something weird about the clouds, and reflecting on my conscious reluctance to all but demand that people look at what I’m seeing and help me figure out what’s going on because this could (or could not) be important in ways that I am not qualified to determine.
If you see something, say something? Right?
If this does turn out to be a matter, ahem, of significance and I am questioned as to why it took me 11 years to finally get up the gumption to make sure that the right people were informed of this phenomena and could thus respond in a way that is appropriate to the situation, learn more about it, determine its salience, etc., why did I bide my time and sit on my hands and literally, actively procrastinate the decisions and actions required to make this inquiry project real, why did it take so damn long for me to get strategic and grounded in this endeavor, for me to be effective?
All I can say was that I, in the context of the world I live in, was dumb. Most human dumbness is caused by lack of information and ill-preparedness to handle complex situations in a way that isn’t just an emotional trainwreck or act of affront against oneself or someone else.
I don’t know.
Twelve years ago, in the middle of what would become a very difficult year, I decided to draw a picture every day for a year. The intent of that initial project was to re-engage with my creativity, to give my badly atrophied artist-self a space to come alive in, and come alive it did. The daily practice of drawing and reflecting, in whatever little segment of time and setting I could – at work, while I watched the Berenstain Bears with my elementary-school-age kids, late at night or early in the morning before anyone woke up, sitting out on the porch in the late afternoon when the house was peaceful, halcyon, kids playing, doing something they were engaged in, a happy relaxed energy – quickly revived the workings of a younger self, a woman with short bleachy hair, drawing and concentrating on a bedroom floor in a shared house in Portland, the same bassline again and again coming up through the house from the basement, band practice all the time. From the time she was 15 to the time she was 23, she lived in houses and hung out in houses where bands practiced, where people made zines and masks and letterpress covers for 7” records.
When she drew, she felt the same as she did when she was 19, which felt the same as drawing when she was 9.
The aspect of her that has been most constant throughout her life has been that she is an artist.
It’s 6:30 am and the dog has been needing a lot of interaction. I may take him for a walk in this pale blue grey light that is the same color as the silk jacket I wore to my courthouse wedding on a rainy day in Portland, c. 2000. It’s weird to think that for a few years now I have been separated from that arrangement – somewhat – longer than I had been in it, and that the arrangement I have been in – that of the disgraced mother who is a screw-up and is irresponsible and who doesn’t fit in with other moms and who is just strange, she’s just strange, the way she walks around the neighborhood looking at the sky, wearing the same dress again and again, talking openly about social anxiety as a means of making conversation, not cutting her hair, why does she keep it so long, thin rope down her back. Cords like the narrow vertebrate of a rattlesnake?
Why does she say things like that?
She recognizes that as the sun is rising, she is getting a little tired, her morning session drawing to a point of transitioning to the mindless drifting —
I was in conversation with someone I genuinely like and respect the other evening, volleying a sort of state-of-the-world commentary as the state-of-the-world —
Here is how I am doing my work currently, the imperfect-and-still-refining method of my life as an artist-researcher-catalyst- healer which – it’s worth noting – is a designation that I just added the words ‘catalyst’ and ‘healer’ to…
I had been calling myself an artist-researcher in regard to my art practice, and a specialized consultant (a rather bland nomination, in my opinion) in reference to my professional career in the nonprofit public health and recovery sector, and considering ways to be both things > an artist-researcher (catalyst) and a specialized consultant, as one thing somewhat cancels the other in ways. Maintaining a professional outward facing self that is appropriate to the work of the —
Aug 24, 3:24pm
This project is a tactic in a larger strategy to disrupt perceptions of reality by telling the truth of what one experiences and sees in the world for the purpose of creating opportunities for the exposure of unseen and unspoken assumptions about what is real and valid and what is not. This work inverts power structures and casts a critical light on the institutions and perspectives of what we understand to be modern western civilization, revealing them to be stubborn ideas, problematic systems, nothing that can’t be undone.
A lot of we assumed would last forever is already gone.
For the sake of notes, I spoke confidently and connectedly to someone about this project today, an artist. The experience was overwhelmingly positive and I would like to speak to more artists. However, I think it’s important for me to be realistic with myself about my social limitations and the unlikeliness that I am going to find my people by casting a broad attempt at social media friendly charisma out into the hashtagged ethers. I don’t have social media hustle, it becomes a job, another artwork in itself, a perplexing striving for a balance between authenticity and appeal. I don’t even know. I feel neurotic just thinking about it, and so I don’t think about it.
For the sake of reflecting, here at 5:04 in the morning, let me say that there are prompts in this way of telling of her sitting on the porch as always in the morning, still sleep-sour-sweet with a pleasant fuzziness around the eyes, loose clothes and the season’s forecast against the bare skin of her arm in late-August, that cool and slowing sound of insects dying as she sits and considers – as she does – this matter of experience and conundrum, tells herself not to think too deeply about it. Nothing can be definitive and even if it could – so what?
She employs a prompt, a sequence of opening statements that elicit a telling without trying, simply taking notes of what she observes, has observed, of the world and of herself from her limited perspective, her fractionated view. “It’s been a while since I’ve written…”; “For the sake of taking notes,…”; “I should probably spend a little time reflecting.”; “For the sake of reflection,…”, etc. – an assortment of initiatory statements, openings to whatever she might end up saying, which usually has more to do with the act and process of telling, those aforementioned conundrums of self-situation and the difficulty, really, to tell about anything with words, as communication inherently mediates experience, absorbs, interprets, tells, is seen/unseen, understood or not, maybe simply null in the space outside of the communicator, the source of expressed experience, a failed conveyance that nonetheless took action and created impact if only in the scope of the individual and their experience of telling, of trying to say something of themselves and the world they see, the world they inhabit.
She considers this, 5:29am, as she suddenly remembers – a little jarring but not so much that her expression changed as she sits in the dark with the dog and the cat and the dark pocked with streetlights through the trees. Sounds from highways, crashing sounds from buildings being built, heavy and booming up from down by the river, up the steep slope of the thin tendril of remaining woods that presides over the train tracks and the curious north-flowing waters. Ah, yes, she remembered, sudden and jarring – like an out of place image in a lulling scene, the insertion of the fact that her mother has cancer and the ca # is ‘creeping up’ – ‘creeping up’ being a euphemism for two fold exponentiality that she now recognizes creates a severe and sudden anxiety in her to even think about, to do the math back to the number before, when her mom was so sick, before she was – for a time – better, so much better that she, and everyone, almost seemed to forget that – [she does not write the words, those words that define and stage the aberrant cellular phenomena that will end her mother’s life in this iteration of existence. “I like being here,” her mother had said on the phone as she walked the dog up the hill, slow and smelling his way along as the mother and daughter discussed [what? She cannot remember as she writes, and recognizes this as a sort of dissociative compartmentalizing of experience that is just too fucking much, really. “Well, you’ll like being wherever you end up after you’re here, too. If you let yourself, which is probably important to do.”
She scrolls back up the screen, the words precarious in an unsent, unaddressed unsaved email draft that could disappear into digital erasure if she is not careful.
She addresses the email to herself, and sends the message to be resumed here a few lines down the screen at 5:47 pm because there was brushing-the-dog-in-the-dark-with-long-handled-deck-brush and fumbling around in something like a fog following the remembering of the adjunct life, the very real life, of herself as daughter, as mother, as person with a name that walks around and is seen and is loved, etc. – not just this thin silverine thread of narrative from the glinting shifting space of herself in reflection, white screen black text, mediated twice or thrice or as many times as there are readings and tellings, each only grasping at and maybe glimpsing some view of what is being conveyed, which – even in the recognition of something to tell – is distorted in interpretation by the consciousness of the teller, and then – of course – further transmutated and twisted in meaning or representation in the ways conveyance is received.
How can one tell of experience in a way that is representational, but not explanatory, the showing not telling, when what there is to show encompasses so much, the flashes of what’s important or interesting or horrible or simply there, drifting like a shipwreck, floating like a lotus, some random scrap of seeing that is there and then gone, a near constant churning and the absurd effort to tell about what’s right now right this very moment, when the cat is sitting on the cypress bench and the dog lays on the porch and she is thinking about what there is to do during the day, but not thinking about it at all as she considers cloud forms and the documentation project and – oh, yeah – this little opening of time during which she might have a chance of connecting with a potential future that may only be possible during this window of time, as a defining feature of all potential futures is that they are only possible in the specific sets of circumstances that create events and directions, that shape perception and choices, responses and reactions, energy and engagement, resources and access to resources across domains of life and health, vulnerabilities and assets, a constant collider of possibilities that are there and then gone…there and then gone…? As she writes, the dog is getting restless, wanting food at 6:03. The cat is sitting patient, looking around, waiting as cats do.
It’s the next day, 5:40am. She has done this for as long as she can remember, this early rising. The hour between 4:00 and 5:00, 5:00 and 6:00 – such a sacred time, slouching and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, that sudden shift into awakeness and delight in being awake while so much of the human world in immediate proximity seems still, to be sleeping. The world is awake like the dog gnawing a stick on the porch, the rattling sounds and clattering sounds bright like cool wood in the cymatic hum of insect sound in damp air.
There was the usual getting up to hush the dog as the sky lightened toward hints of a bright, warm day. A day of doing things. A wakeful day.
She feels like this every morning, steeped in potential, like anything is possible. It is difficult to connect this state to the person who was severely depressed, tormentedly depressed, the person who – even on good days- would wake up with a paralyzing anxiety, a lattice-work fear tightly wove up through the center of her, making it hard to breathe in the dark, head blaring with all sorts of dreadful and discouraging messages, thoughts and images, body remembering, heart pounding and clenched in numb morning, too warm under blankets, too cold, bleary and hating the fact of the body, the fact of the bed, the need to rise and to speak and to move about, doing all the things that the person with your name and your face and the life you’ve supposedly built but actually more like fumbled your way into and now must live with integrity despite the criteria for integrity in this life that is presumed to be your life, this person you are seen as being and the person who you are in context, at work, in family, in community, do not always line up well with the principles and values and actualities of who you actually are, the person you are that you don’t completely show anyone because, well, that could be dangerous. So, you move about in the life that is yours as the person you are supposed to be, knowing that nobody is ever anyone or anything in a way that is eternal and fixed, not subject to the absurd chaos odds of falling apart in some major way that redefines everything. Never anybody or anything, except maybe the fact of our aliveness and existence in a world that is older than we can begin to really wrap our heads around.
She needs to make a list, an outline, the most crucial things:
First and foremost, though not necessarily first in terms of order in which to be completed is to create (in a process-manner that is efficient and focused, intent-full and not her going down the rabbit hole of overwhelm, ideas, and a suspended sort of reverie, down on fascination street, which is – truth be told – very much her favorite part about engaging in art, in play and illumination, exploration and questioning, showing something that is hard to show either through object/action of interpretative representation or via the function of receiving the work, seeing the work as a relay to the actual art, which is showing a person something about themselves or the world that they did not quite see before, a brief pulling into focus or shifting into frame some phenomena of experiencing one’s beingness as a person considering a ‘work of art’ or an ‘art installation’…or a picture of a cloud on the Internet.
I am passive in my showing and sharing and promoting of this work, in large part due to the reality that a self-led showing/sharing/promoting this work in anyway other than posting content to my – ahem – research notes, which are in many ways central to the art of this project, the practice of observing oneself as a phenomenon (or set of phenomena) in broad context, an intentional practice of not taking for granted the vastly complex conditions that have led one to the divinely singular moment that one may find oneself in at any given time, pulses and points of light across the span of our lives and the lives connected to our small worlds, the entirety of everyone, all places, through all time…and, yet, here we are…not amazed at all. Anti-amazed, as a matter of fact.
Hello. My name is FaithRR (Faith Rachel Rhyne) and I am an artist-researcher and healing justice/systems transformation worker in Western North Carolina. I am also a person who is differently-abled in ways that have created significant barriers to my participation in the normative economy. Nonetheless, I have worked for nonprofits and community initiatives for 25 years, and have a MA in psychology, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change, which is the study of how ideas, movements, and cultural/economic institutions develop and – ultimately – shift in some way or another. I am a high-school drop out from South Georgia who has a BA in Sociology with a minor in Black Studies from Portland State University. My first college classes were held in a meeting room in a building that required special security clearance in the form of being checked in and scanned for weapons, briefly questioned in the wide windowed entryway of the Trident Training Facility at the Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base as a student of a Georgia Military College satellite campus in the town I grew up in, where I was raised in a geodesic plexiglass dome house my father built in the woods on the land he had grown up visiting, the ‘family land,’ only ours by deed for a few generations, ancestral lands of the Utina, oyster shells still thick in the receding banks of the river, bones long turned to dust, returned to the earth, to the flow from dark water to open ocean.
She watched land that she loved and was deeply connected to be destroyed and paved over for a subdivision that was the result of real estate bullying and increased housing market pressures due to the establishment of the largest nuclear submarine facility on the east coast being opened three miles from her father-built house out on the point of land that would, with time and ride, become nubbed down, worn away like the edge of a stone, the tip of a pencil. When she was growing up, she thought it would all last forever. For her, that childhood limitation in cognitive ability to conceptualize the world one lives in being something radically different than what it is in your perspective was a lovely thing, a magical thing, a world all hers and the woods and her family, the seemingly eternal dirt road that led home.
Despite having gone to pull-out special education classes for a speech impediment until the fourth grade, I was not identified as having significant learning and processing differences until I was in middle school, at a psychologist’s office where I’d been brought to be evaluated because I was ‘so angry.’
I was watching places I loved be destroyed, literally scraped away, burnt away. Paved over so thoroughly as to have never been there at all. I did not have a framework for understanding that I was grieving the land, or that – perhaps – the land was grieving through me, howling as roots pulled away from the earth, the deep wince at screaming saw bite. I was angry. My entire world was changing as my hometown became a military town, a base town, where protestors from far away places sometimes laid down on the spur line railroad tracks leading out to the base, trying to stop the trains carrying materials to support the operations of a nuclear weapons facility.
Although the psychologist who evaluated me knew about my learning and processing differences, even reported on them briefly, in the preamble leading to my diagnosis of depression caused by a chemical imbalance for which I may need to take medication for over the course of my entire life, but that I may be able to live comfortably enough, work, have a family.
Nobody talked about the ways that learning and processing differences and circumstantial factors such as traumatic loss and grief re: the land might be connected to my depression. Nobody, in fact, ever talked about me even having learning and processing differences, except to say that I was smart, and had so much potential, etc. – a statement that, to me, only meant that I was doubly and maybe even triply a fuck up because I should be smart enough to be able to go to school without crying, smart enough to not waste my potential.
I ended up dropping out of high school after a couple of years of filling the school years with enrollments and unenrollments, transfers and delays and lengthy absences caused by mysterious severe migraines that I now believe I may have learned to give myself out of an all consuming desperation to avoid the sensory, social, and psychological agony of going to school.
I left home early, returned a lot. Left again.
From the time I was 13 to the time I was 23, I was hospitalized in a locked psychiatric facility 4 times, and spent most of my adolescence on and off different combinations of psychiatric medication in the early boom of adolescent psychiatry, the 1990s. I experienced lithium toxicity at age 16, and by the time I was 23, had attempted to end my life/inflict serious harm upon myself twice and was on multiple medications.
What I need to be clear about is why I am pursuing the path I am pursuing, which is to become a niche phenom in the new media arts/outsider arts scene and creative nonfiction world while concurrently catalyzing a global conversation about cloud physics and human perception of God, gods, etc. through strategic positioning of myself as a lone-wolf artist that is experimenting using an iPhone and Kinemaster to ‘prove something about something like God/gods, etc. on the internet with pictures of clouds.’
I go for the language of proving because I think humans – probably myself included as evidenced by my lightly-held obsession with this question of whether or not clouds can prove anything at all –
On Sep 1, 2021, at 4:13 AM:
Now that my circadian rhythms have been able to ease back towards whatever my body’s natural and evolving circadian sleep/wake cycles might be, I’ve been waking up happy in the middle of the night. I have stopped setting my alarm because I realized that I was waking up 2 hours before the alarm everyday, would be walking around the house as the sky lightened, feeding the dog and cats, beginning to feel a little tired after being up at 4:30 and writing, editing whatever I’ve been working on, uploading pictures, taking notes, scrolling horoscopes sometimes, reading news sometimes, but not often, just the article titles in her inbox, Kabul, Ida, fires, rural overdose deaths, the Poor People’s Campaign, voter suppression, covid, anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon – those haplessly deranged people, addicted to self-righteous indignity, the need to be right against a horrific wrong, privy to a secret world…so, so confused about what to believe.
Man, anything that involves beliefs that inspire a person to kill or violently humiliate and dehumanize people is a bad idea.
Not the truth.
I can’t believe someone killed their kids over that rubbish. I used the word rubbish to denote garbage ideas, shitty ideas that aren’t even functional anymore, that do nothing good but take up space and create harm. Bad ideas as pestilence. Scourge of the earth. (I have, it’s worth noting, looped back to this segment of writing to clarify the usage of the word rubbish, and am now noticing that it is 4:30 in the morning and because I got up very, very early and have been happily working at uploading and writing just for the sake of writing because it is fun today and I feel hopeful and awake.
(Hidden factor: I will be submitting to an opportunity later this morning, and another one later this month, and I am excited about what might happen next, whatever it is.
>It is for that reason, among about a million others, that I have come to believe that it is – if not important, then at least interesting in a timely way – that I devise a strategy and some actionable, efficient tactics to share the collected body <note: a sense of double entendre in the phrase ‘collected body’ in that I was referring to the albatross of this work, all of here, not just this project, but allll the projects, the aria of them, and yet what came to mind as I wrote the phrase was the thought a physical body, perhaps my body, being collected, as in retrieved, a package picked up, garbage, debt, something ominous, and it reminded me to make a note of the fact that a courage barrier in this work is the concern that some deranged Q-Anon person will decide I have serpent DNA or something completely bizarre like that, because of course I have serpent DNA and so do they! We have DNA shared in some way or another with everything alive. Don’t we?
Serpent DNA would be badass.*
I have a whole little set of rattlesnake vertebrae that I got in a shop in SE Portland and always thought that I’d feel much closer to the bones if I’d found them, but now – 21 years after I went into that store smelling like lavender and rain and cigarettes smoked in the car during that strange winter of returning to Portland to play gin rummy & performance suspension & iv-drug-user/hardware-store-employee with the haunted person that tattooed my palms and my back, the dots on the back of my ears, the heart within a heart formed by a set of inverted f’s. That person died because their heart stopped in the middle of the night. My heart could stop in the middle of the night. My father’s friend’s heart stopped in the middle of the night following a brain aneurysm. Age 14, I answered the phone call from his wife, who was crying and telling me the news of the man I hardly new having died in the night, and having to go tell my dad, who was watching television. I don’t remember why I didn’t just go get him to take the call, the woman just started talking, and I didn’t know what to do, but felt very present, listening, hearing myself tell her how sorry I was, etc. how I would remember the time we had a fire..
Carolyn Wright, elliptical poet, died in the night, too.
I could die in the night.
*See, it’s saying things like that that undermine my potential to be taken seriously. But, let me remind myself, at this point the only thing that I desire to be taken seriously as is a person who has questions – serious questions and absurd questions, and a person who is seriously curious, and – in my way – seriously spiritual, tho’ my experience and orientation to spirituality is always evolving, shifting in some way, which is okay with me and even desirable to me because it allows me to stay open to new experience and perspectives and doesn’t have me into any particular doctrine or ritual practice, tho’ I totally get and deeply respect that that is some people‘s way of being in connection to Holy Spirit (God, gods, Jesus, angels, ancestors, all the sacred names, all the sentience, etc.) I’m am in no way saying that my perception and various interpretations of perception through the kaleidoscopic lens of human experience in a singular moment of time during which the specific configurations of thought, sensation/feeling, visual memory, visual thought, external stimuli and circumstance lead me to come to certain knee jerk conclusions about how the cloud look and how that makes me feel, the looping back and forth of feeling and perception, an amplification of seeing in the space between me and the sky…I am not saying that the way I see things is the ‘right way,’ or even what a right way might be, and – if such a thing as a right way to see a thing like a cloud or anything else does exist, who is the arbiter of that way, who determines what is ‘right’ (read:true)?
If anything, I am saying that I know that I am not seeing things clearly, because no person has the capacity to see clearly, really. I don’t think we do. We are too limited and bound in our frameworks of defined reality and emotionally charged opinions to be able to have any neutrality or objectivity. However, we can at least get clear on that, and learn a little bit about the ways that we are uniquely distorted in our seeing.
Revenge is a distortion, I think? But, that is not the point I am trying to get to, which is that there is no point. Nothing I am trying to prove anymore, other than maybe my own sheer relentlessness, which – come to think of it – doesn’t need proving because it was proven a long time ago.
It is fascinating to me that I have so, so much internalized stigma and shame and fear tethered to writing and to art. This is because I am, likely by nature and certainly by nurture, a surrealist, a magical realist. For some reason, people in my family think that it was totally cool for Salvador Dali to be a surrealist, but when you talk about anything you are interested in or prod at some subtle absurdity, want to dress like the Little Prince, or have deep and meaningful relationships with objects and spaces, blur the lines, live in a magically real world where everything is alive and connected in ways that we might only be at the outer edge of understanding and that maybe it would be better if we stopped trying to understand so much in a fact-based and researched way, a substantiated way, and just experience the phenomena we study?
This is a loop-around I am employing to ease the fact of me being a shitty researcher in traditional methods of research, due to both lack of experience and lack of innate and active aptitude for the coherent documentation and consistent analysis and reporting style that constitutes quality research. I am skilled at sussing out whether something is research of integrity, just by reviewing the methodology used and finding the holes in it, and I am good at finding the connections between different areas of research across disciplines, and synthesizing relationships between existing knowledge and new information or perspectives.
I am limited in my effectiveness and potential as a researcher due to lack of experience and lack of desire to engage in what I understand to be the tasks that create the work of research. The computers. The talking to people. I like looking at data. Sometimes. For a minute.
I much prefer clouds, personally.
Additional limitations include difficulty with consistent ability to engage certain cognitive and communicative functions that are helpful if not required in most methodologies of research.
Methods of analysis I enjoy are content analysis and coding for content. I like listening to people talk and taking notes, pulling out the themes, l like designing surveys on platforms that provide reports in clear visual formats. I do not like entering data into white spreadsheets, tho can do so for limited periods of time. I am able to enter data into databases fairly quickly, but do not especially love doing it.
There are HUGE gaping holes in my knowledge base as far as information about history, art, religion, math, basically everything. I mean, most people aren’t walking around with a specialized interdisciplinary knowledge of esoteric minutiae and scientific facts in mind at the ready. Considering that I basically dropped out of high school in the 9th grade in South Georgia, after being ‘educated’ in some really terrible school environments, it’s amazing that I even maintained my love of learning, my curiosity and concern for all the worlds I can’t see, that nagging knowing that I can’t unknow that tells me there is so much that I don’t see, so much that I am blind to.
I want to see the world, and – in my spirituality – I want that to be a moment of reverence. Every time I see the world, anything alive, everything alive. Everything. To see the world as sacred.
That is the change I want to be. I want to see.
Let me take a moment to reflect and, more importantly, develop+express a plan for the next ten days, of which today is the first. 09/04.
In ten days, it will be September 13th, and – as I consider the span of significant dates during that time, I recognize that the 20th anniversary of 09/11 is two days prior.
Essay and compilation of media re: why I quit watching television after 09/11+ways that disengaging from that form of constant media exposure has – to my knowledge & through my assessment at time of essaying
09/09 – 5 days from now – is a nice number and on that day, 09/09, I ought to write an account of the 9 dots I have tattooed on the back of each ear, because the different arithmetics that the numbers hold together is deeply satisfying to me.
In the meantime, I would like to try to capture a coherent synopsis of the focus-plan for the next 10 days, which could be pivotal or inertic. I don’t know if inertic is a word, but it is meant to convey the state of being characterized by inertia.
I’d opt for pivotal, though pivotal in way that is intentional+strategic, tactically sound, with concrete actions and clear objectives, restricting room for chaos shenanigans by design and anticipating…
——^ at which point these notes to myself ended in the early morning and did not resume until 24 hours later, the full first day of the 10 day plan gone by without the creation of the 10 day plan.
It is going to be important that I document in a way that is consistent over the next week and a half and that I stay focused on my measurable objectives and daily to-do lists if I am going to maximize the potential of this small window of time, characterized by confluence of cultural phenomena and a point of maturation in this work, an organic emergence into play with new media that – like all things – could be explored and nurtured, expanded…or could briefly flash and then atrophy, neglected in the strain-economy of keeping up with a daily life that is not structured around ones art, a daily life that – for the most part – involves activities that try as one may to bring art into the progression of movement and orientation through the tasks of the day just really don’t have much directly to do with developing ones art and research projects other than offering an exercise in participant observation and reality orientation as part and process of going to the grocery store and being a figure walking a dog up a hill, a woman in a car driving out to see her sick mother and bewildered father, delaying the work on art, the actions of using media documentation and artifacts of experience synthesizing experience into a format that is an accessible & engaging summary of my work, experience, & interests in different areas, and that also serves as an art piece in and of itself, a little internet island of one person’s experience and what they chose or were able to show of that in the telling of the time. Her work is beginning to cohere, new practices are forming up, ways to manage my energies and attentions to maintain an orientation to and engagement with the processes of art, which means creating the opportunity for ones art work —
It is now 09/06, and although I purchased a planner yesterday – (mid-Sunday morning almost empty parking lot, almost empty office supply store, music playing loudly like a party nobody is coming to, a lone middle-aged woman testing office chairs alone, moving from one to another, half spin, lean back, move on.
I wake up early naturally, have done this my whole life, save for a few dragging slurred years of late-sleeping adolescence and hung-over early adulthood, depressed and avoidant little periods of time when the solace of sleep was much preferable to the anxiety of being awake.
For a very long time, I woke up with fairly hideous morning anxiety, immobilizing dread. I don’t have that anymore, because – over time – I extinguished those synapses, quieted the expectation of and searching for the maw of blaring angst that I used to be consumed by almost every —
–waking moment. Learned, first, to understand that my ‘anxiety’ was connected to stress and trauma, to experiences that correspond to the neurobiochemical state of elevated cortisol, which tends to rise in the early morning as a process of our waking. I learned, slowly, to shift the vigilant attention I would reflexively give to my dread – a function of negativity bias and the human tendency to look for what presents a threat and to orient to it, generating a psychological and sensational experience that is primed to think about, visualize, and anticipate all of the terrible things that might come about from being awake. By developing a perspective of my experience that buffered me from full immersion into what I was conceptualizing and reacting to in the first conscious moments of wakefulness, the narrative of what was happening to me and why, the amount to which I was invested in believing that I was doomed and the cost of that belief in light of the much stronger likelihood that, really, was a person who had had a lot of hard days, a lot of stress-producing experiences in the early light of dawn, getting ready to go to school, go to work, find something to fill the seemingly endless hours stretching out in a way that you understand could theoretically be filled with the possibility of wonderful things, but instead felt more like an inventory of nearly insurmountable challenges, the first of which was the rising from bed despite shaking in your chest and metallic ringing in your ears, weird wooden feeling feet, what the fuck is this body, this heavy tired body that cannot rest, that feels like a cord of electricity all frayed in the wires, thick on the floor and all that terrible shit in your head, the cold numb fluttering thud of your heart in the dark again?
Reading over this writing, she finds herself taking a deep breath, because it is easy to conjure that space, that state. She has the memory-images of those times and she can see how severing they can be, how persuasively seizing they can be, those now-imagined scenes of times and places, rough mornings that she never wants to experience again, and perhaps never will, unless she gets dementia and the part of her brain that is able to recognize that the the ‘anxiety’ is a product of —
her nervous systems response-effect of stress will forget that and she will think the horrible dread is how she really feels, what she actually believes. Secq I AQqqqqqqQqqq a q a a qqq q a qaaaqXX
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This project is a culminating experimentyes in love cfsdwcc V ngitudinal research building since 2009s — [pocket typing ^]
I’ve been making these short layered-still videos lately. There is something about the rhythm of the shifting images that reminds me of the slide of water against a bank, subtly arrhythmic, small shifts in timing, tiny slapping wavelets, a breath draw in, held, released.
I have many, many multi-photo capturings of various sky-moment phenomena, dozens of almost the same image, but not quite.
The videos make me feel a little seasick, which – while an undesirable effect, experientially – is interesting, that visual/spatial/sensational outcome of watching the dance of blurred trees at dawn.
The eye tries to find images, patterns. I can feel it searching, even when I try not to look. It’s always scanning, not even knowing what it is looking for, anything familiar, anything to make meaning. The silhouettes of trees become a text, become a slurring story told not in words but in the drift from one layering to another, a visual conveyance of the perceptual process, that effort to see what it is we are looking at, a suggestion of some form we can recognize even as we know it’s only trees we are seeing, only clouds.
I have to remind myself to see a tree as it is, not as a tool or a representation, a ‘tree’ or the ‘shapes’ that it holds, but to fold into my seeing a recognition of bark, the details of lichen and unseen colony, the coolness at the crown, right at the soil itself, breath of earth seeping up and drawing down in the rise and fall of water, wind of billion stomas opening, closing, trembling to life, wood like living bone.
This project is a culminating experiment in one branch of longitudinal experiential research that has developed through emergent process and autoethnographic methodology over the past 12 years.
By design, the work of faithrr as an artist-researcher is virtually unknown.
As a self-taught differently-abled with polymathic tendencies who was not identified as having the learning and processing differences that profoundly shape perception and conception of meaning, faithrr has spent most of her adult life in a state of multiplicities – a worker, a mother, a community member, a person sitting alone on her porch emailing herself notes about the experience of watching clouds, ideas for the latest strategy and analysis of the motivations of that strategy, a play with possible futures, an indulgence in a secret secret, a bold-speaking self, the creator of a massive archive of story, reflection, and image, a bricolage of prose, poems, drawings, excerpted emails, and photographs spanning 12 years in the life of the great-great granddaughter of Georgia State Supreme Court Chief Justice Marcus W. Beck (1905 – ), the man who accepted – on behalf of the South – the as yet unfinished monument to Robert E Lee that was being carved on the face of Stone Mountain, Georgia as part of what would become the largest monument to the Confederacy in the United States.
Faith Rhyne grew up on haunted land.
It’s the strangest thing – over the past several days, the whole preoccupation with clouds has dissipated much like a cloud itself. True, there haven’t been very many clouds – uniform morning fog burning off to reveal clear blue with just the slightest haze of humidity. I also, however, have not been looking for clouds, and have not especially been thinking about clouds other than to be aware that beyond the frontal lobe thought stream of work-to-lists and the neutralinteresting immediacy that seems to characterize my sitting and looking around without much impetus to say or do anything about anything, but finding it pleasant enough to feel out the rhythm of sweeping the floor, the warm water of washing dishes, thunder-rush hush of a clean sheet being spread on the narrow bed that I sleep in – beyond the immediacy of whatever I might be doing, there are the habitual whispers on the topic of clouds, like a breeze reminding of a day you’d almost forgotten.
“I should probably post something,” she thinks, scrolling through the camera roll and feeling the same slightly restless feel of looking at social media for the hundredth time. Disconnected and not even seeing as the blue and white and grey and gold screens slide like a slot machine and pause to reveal nothing more than a cloud. It is harder for her to see the forms these past few days. She does not have her eye engaged, isn’t in that space of seeing, is a little distracted, maybe tired. All weekend, she wanted to sleep and felt – at times – as tired as she’d been in the spring when she left her job, couldn’t really do much for a minute there, tired as she was after the year and all it had held. All weekend, she felt a little tired like that. Bone-deep weary, unable to do anything but rest. She can’t stand that people are made to feel lazy for resting. Sleep is for the weak, etc. Her dog sleeps for 16-18 hours a day. Lazy dog.
Last week, she began contract work on her two Fall/Winter gigs, and there were emails and documents and meetings on zoom, the familiar language and urgent, disorganized energy of the start-up nonprofit. She doesn’t like the way it makes her feel, the talk of it all, the way a spreadsheet makes her brain feel, sharp-edged and outlined, lineated like that. The work is not hard. The headspace, however, is. An entirely different part of her brain is active and engaged when she is working on the linear and outwardly coherent communications required for collaborative work in regular, everyday communities than when she is working on art, being in art, allowing for play with the surrealism of perception and possibility.
When she is doing contract consulting work, she does not sing as much, and is less joyful. Her sense of a wide open future retracts, shudders and retreats. Some aperture inside her closes, and she forgets that she believes in God and that the work connecting her to that belief is the most important work not because it will make the biggest impact or do any particular thing, but because it makes her deeply joyful and immensely grateful to simply exist and to be able to see, hear the variance of insect song as the seasons shift, notice her own breath, the sweetness of water, the soft scent of crape myrtle in bloom – easy to miss.