Post from January, 2019

Embrace the Metaphor

Monday, 7. January 2019 1:41

When you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel significant or symbolic. It just seems like a chore that needs doing because … well, because it’s time. And then you realize that it is symbolic and so then you have to deal with that and decide what it means to you. No matter how routine you think it is or no matter how many times you’ve done it, the taking down of winter holiday decorations marks a passage.

This weekend I took down what in my case was a six foot Christmas tree, a kitchen counter-top tree, and a few cards—not so much in the way of winter holiday decorations, but enough, and I restored the decoration-free arrangement of the spaces. I discovered that it was difficult to determine whether it was the end of something or the beginning or something or both or whether it was a really a restoration of the previous state or the establishment of a new, less-cluttered space.

In my case it was all of the above. It was the end of the celebration of winter, marked by the decorations, which, in turn mark the end of the calendar year. Now that celebration was over and it was time to put the decorations away and restore the room to its previous state, except that because of the clutter of decorations, even minimal ones, the new look is not one of restoration, but one of newness and cleanness. The space has become less cluttered, and this seems to mark a beginning.

That’s a whole lot of (symbolic/metaphorical) meaning for one chore. But once the transition is complete, it’s all those things: an ending, a beginning, a marker on the path. And it becomes time to tackle that carryover list of to-do’s that didn’t get accomplished during the holidays, time to let go of the past, time to move on. Time to embrace the metaphor.

Given such a charged situation, it’s difficult not to start making pledges of doing this or that or the other thing better, smarter, faster in the coming months. And artists it seems, for whatever reasons, are very susceptible to these feelings. Often, however, the propensity to make New Year’s resolutions is not accompanied by the effort to follow through. Perhaps it’s better not to make specific resolutions; perhaps it better just to go with the symbolism of taking down the decorations: let go of the past state; move on to the next.

Sometimes moving, artistically or otherwise is difficult. You have to let go, you at least have to stick your toe out of your comfort zone. That is hard to do; yet not to do it leaves you where you have been, perhaps more comfortable, but not doing what you could do, not moving forward. Nevertheless, if we are to progress as artists, it’s what we must do.

We must pack up old ideas along with the seasonal decorations and put them in the attic. Then we must look around at the cleaner, less-cluttered space and see what that suggests. It might be something radical, but more than likely, it will be just a new way of looking at things, a new approach to an old problem, a gentle letting-go and moving on. Then, as artists, we  end celebrating the status quo and begin celebrating the passage.

Happy New Year!

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