Summer 2020: Sabbatical drifts into Self-Isolation

This winter I made some time and space to focus on my studio practice. After two years of out-in-the-world, architectural work, it was time for the sort of making that’s less practical: more playful, contemplative and soulful.

A load of Madrona branches for the new work.

Along with some much-needed deep rest, I delved into developing some new approaches to the light-oriented sculpting and papermaking, wading into a new series, and getting my creative encampment in good order. I noted on the calendar that late April seemed a fine time to reengage commissioned work and open the making back out to the realm around. 

The past couple of years I hadn't shared my studio and work on the Orcas Artists Studio Tour, and I was really looking forward to ramping into that and having the realm around come 'round to my creative sanctum.

Instead, the sabbatical has become self-isolation for an indeterminate time. Someone nominated the buying of a “2020 Year Planner” for the worst investment this year, an idea that manages to be all the more amusing for its being exponentially true.



My quiet lifestyle has changed very little with the onset of the pandemic. Yet the quality of the solitude has shifted: it’s less familiar, more populous now that so many others are living more quietly as well. The vast company in quietude amid social upheaval sweeps through and recedes like tides. I count among the great many things for which I am deeply grateful, a practiced sense of what is mine and what is zeitgeist roiling about. 

Struggle and uprising, pain and empowerment, fear and hope are in the air.

When the towers fell on 9/11, I was in grad school working on an MFA degree. In the aftermath, the finer concerns of form and line and color and idea and material that impassioned us at the university seemed light indeed. When we gathered up in the still-smoldering shock, a professor said, It might seem like what you’ve been working on isn’t important or meaningful after what’s happened, but this is the time to be vigilant; what you care about and make is what this world very much needs right now.

While not so abrupt and jarring, this unfolding pandemic reminds me of that turbulent, disturbing post-9/11 time, when I needed to reach down to my roots, remember that my calling is to creative practice—to showing up with openness at the edge of the unknown, ready to listen and make. Amid the tumultuous waves coursing through, I practice what’s natural for my monkish nature: In this moment, this rearranging of What Is, in a long stream of choosing toward grace and harmony in a flow of honest endeavor. 

I weep at times with the state of the world, reground in what is wondrous, keep making what feels wonderful to me, knowing that while the vast upheaval washes through my experience, it takes with it the qualities of my existence, as it does with each of us. We are just beginning to rebuild our world—to establish new norms—and this is the finest time to focus on what we truly care about. 

I keep making, feeding the best of me back out into the whirl: a drop in the tide of massive change.

The world needs joyous and loving people capable of just being. 
                                                                   -Thich Nhat Hanh