Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Mirror Project

A contractor messed up the tiles in my new place so that ended up postponing my move about a week. My landlady and her boyfriend worked on the building themselves so that I could settle in as quickly as possible. She fussed over the details but in my eyes the apartment was beautiful. I appreciated that she took so much time to make the place look good. Little things like uneven tile and spots that needed touch ups of paint didn't really bother me. I finally had a place that I could truly call my own.

Everything was pretty much set. The only thing my landlady need to get was a bathroom mirror to put over the sink. She was going to take her time and pick out a nice one for me. 

At first I was a little worried. No mirror in the bathroom - how was I supposed to put on lipstick? Fix my hair? Check for boogers? 

I dug around in my purse and found a long forgotten compact. When I opened it up I realized the glass was cracked. 

"Great" I thought. "I only have one tiny mirror and it's broken."

I placed it on the sink next to my toothbrush. I guess this will have to do for now. 

It was a little odd balancing the mirror in one hand and a toothbrush in the other. It was even trickier trying to brush my hair into a ponytail since I need two hands for that. Some days I would be rushing to get ready for work trying to put my lipstick on as smoothly as possible, but it was a little more difficult than I anticipated with the shards of broken glass. 

I got used to staring at the blank wall over the sink. I studied the texture like some topographic map. That was probably the strangest thing to adjust to. I realized that I had gone 29 years with a mirror in the bathroom. Now brushing my teeth wasn't as much fun without me making faces at myself. Funny those little things you take for granted. 

I remembered a while ago I overheard someone ask a hypothetical question to a group: What would the world be like if there were no mirrors?

Some people said very beautiful things like "We would all be reflections of each other" and "We would
see what was on the inside". 

As for me, I actually got to live this out. And what I found for myself was that I got to feel again. Most of this past year had been very rough and I hadn't had much time for myself. I had gone almost three months without a single day off work between both of my jobs. I hadn't planned on making this move but a difficult roommate made it necessary. It actually ended up being one of the best things I could have done for myself. 

I finally had a place I could call my own. I was growing into my self more as an individual. I was making more time for myself and learning how to take deep breaths. I began to live more in the moment. 

About a month went by before my landlady installed the mirror, and I was surprised by how much things didn't change. But one major thing did. I could see myself in my apartment literally for the first time. I could see how happy I had become. My physical self didn't change but I could see myself in a whole new context. I am growing into the person I was always meant to be. 

The first thing I did was make faces at myself. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Fallen One

On March 24, 2013 Orlando got struck by an unusual storm. It rained for most of the afternoon but for a twenty minute period of time the conditions where eerily reminiscent of a hurricane. Rain slapped against windows, we received tornado warnings, and parts of the city were pelted with marble sized hail stones. When the weather calmed down there were scattered tree branches everywhere. Luckily, since the storm was so brief most people only lost power for a little while. 

A few days later on my way home from work I drove past Lake Ivanhoe Park. One of the parks giant trees had fallen during the storm. 

The tree's main fracture had occurred about six feet off the ground. 

One of the large branches had crumpled a dog waste bin. 

I took this photo of my hand against the core of one of the smaller exposed branches. I couldn't even begin to count the rings. 

I climbed on one of the fallen branches to get a better look at the tree. The blurry upper portion of my shadow was about four feet away on the ground. 

Large sections of the rough bark were stripped away revealing a smoother, speckled layer underneath. 

The main fracture, several feet off the ground, brimming with texture and a surprising variety of color. 

A smaller split branch with a dark streak - a telltale sign that this tree was already weak when the storm hit. 

The fallen tree was so large that it's branches damaged a neighboring tree. 

A close up shot of the rotted out core of the tree. Brittle and dry, it looked like a foreign landscape within the tree. 

This is where the rotted core and the healthy trunk meet. 

Parts of the tree that once faced the sky now look down to face me as I capture a jet flying by. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Becoming The Lion

I met German Lemus back at the City Arts Factory when I had some artwork on display. However, it wasn't until he became a regular feature at DRIP's local art night that I became more familiar with his art work. And off all the works of art he displayed, it was the lion that I fell in love with.

The painting was a close up of a lion's face staring at the viewer with a powerful, unwavering gaze. Wild brush strokes mimicked the texture of fur. Colorful mane burst from the face to the edge of the canvas creating an aura of vitality. It was a still image that felt as though it could surge to life at any moment. A glimpse of a wild animal in a very controlled state.

I asked Lemus if I could have one of the images as a magnet. He was sold out at the time but assured me he would have more soon. I realized I knew the meaning behind some of his other works but not this one. I asked him what the lion represented to him.

He said that artists are like lions. You may go long periods of time without eating, without anything to sustain yourself, but you still have to carry yourself the the King of the Jungle. You still have to be proud. You have to be ferocious.

Over the next few weeks I moved and got to reflect more on this thought.

You see, this was my 7th move in eight years, and my second move this particular year. I came to Orlando right before I turned 21 and I can't say that it has been easy.

Six months after I transferred to Orlando the grocery store that I had been employed with for five years went under. I was 100 miles away from home and living with a roommate who was suffering from profound depression. That was when I decided that I was going to rise from this mess.

I have worked jobs that have worn me down just so I could scrape by on rent. I have lived with people who have blamed me for all their problems even as I tried to help them. I spent five years in college working on a major people thought was impractical and stayed up for hours making my projects perfect. I was on a first name basis with the overnight crew at the local FedEx print shop.

One day I came home from being at work for almost eighteen hours straight only to find that my most recent roommate had trashed my room. I woke up the next morning - the day everyone thought the Mayans said the world would end - and the first thought that came to my mind was that I wanted to live alone. Let everyone else think this is the end. This day was going to mark my new beginning.

It wasn't until I moved into my new apartment that my head started to clear a little. And I began to see the past eight years in a whole new perspective.

Sure, I did spend a long time struggling through college. But I got into a major that I loved and I was so proud to finally graduate. I have had some awful jobs, but now I have a job that I adore. And even though the hours are long and the work is hard, the job is fulfilling and forced me to grow as an artist as well as an individual. And living with difficult roommates has allowed me to rediscover the beauty of being alone. These walls have become my breathing room, a means to center myself.

Looking back on these last eight years I am amazed to see how far I have come.

A short while after my move I ran into Lemus again and he let me pick out my magnet. I shuffled through the box until I found the one I wanted - the strong and stoic lion, bursting with color.

I held the magnet in my hands as I went up to thank him.

"I thought a lot about what you said about how the lion is like the artist. That really meant a lot to me. I have to fight for everything I have and I am glad I never gave up. I am so proud of the person I am today."

He smiled and said "Well, now you've got your own space so meditate and make it your own."

"I will."

I went home and placed the magnet on my fridge. A reminder of my power and inner strength. To always remain proud and ferocious. A mirror to show me that I am becoming the lion.

Original art work by German Lemus. 

To see more art work by German Lemus, please visit:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Black Racer

I have a Black Racer who lives just outside of my window. My first encounter with her was when I was doing yard work a few months earlier. I came across a patch of her shed skin which I posted in a previous article,  The Virtues of Yard Work. Since then she has shown herself quite frequently.

I see her most often between 9:00 am and 11:00 am. Trying to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight before darting off. I love this photo of her. She has her white chin propped up on a leaf. 

My cat loves to watch her as well. This is the closest he has ever been to a snake. He watched her intently as she bobbed her head up and down before sliding off into the bushes. 

I caught this lovely shot of her coiled up at the edge of my window. At close to three feet in length, she is one of the largest Black Racers I have ever seen. Her white chin raised up accentuating her graceful body.