Mood of the Day

There are days when I’m In A Mood. You’ve been there, right? Some days I’m wary. Some days I’m bull-headed. Some days I’m that free-spirited 20 year old looking for a meadow to roll around in. Some days I’m afraid. But most days, most days, I’m everything at once.

I feel the bliss of quiet sunlight illuminating early morning leaves. The protective warmth of green tea with honey and milk. I feel the dread of an upcoming errand that requires leaving home and interacting with strangers. I feel uncertainty about tomorrow. I feel both joy and dread in possibility. I feel.

And you know, I’m lucky that way. Not everyone allows emotions to have their sway with the head and heart. It’s a risky business, no doubt, but would life be the same without that full-on face to face with the world? With myself?

It absolutely wouldn’t.

And so as much as I luxuriate in the morning bubble that allows me an hour to visit the realm of my choosing, I try my best to equally meet the rest of the day head-on. To listen. To learn. To honor. To allow the ups and downs. To close the doors that need closing. To walk through the doors that patiently wait. To honor both past and future. To give equal consideration to the skinny branch. To choose my path each day, be it safe and comforting or wildly (and perhaps ill-advisedly) experimental.

I think we’re all allowed a certain number of safe and boring days. They heal. Find the balance.

Flowers on a wall in Giverny, Photo by Pam Goode

What do You See?

I see a whole bunch of us not understanding what’s going on in our world.

I see a child wondering where rain comes from, and why.

I see a construction worker who draws well.

I see happiness in the cordoned off zone of a parking lot.

I see someone, or a universe, that needs a hug.

I see polka dots.

I see yellow shoes that have been places. Lots of places.

I see a smile that’s only implied.

I see love waiting for her other half.

Book Release Coming Right Up!

It seems easy enough, right? Many claim to have penned this truth: “Writing is easy. Just open a vein and bleed” — and no doubt we’ve all felt it, whether during middle school exams or penning a verse to a would-be lover.

But the truth is, writing is sometimes hard and sometimes easy, but editing and publishing can extinguish god’s own holy spark in the best of us. Not that I’ve ever been particularly holy.

Regardless, I believe I’ve just pulled myself through the last hoop atop the last hill (and yes I CAN hear you laughing in the background) and have pushed the appropriate buttons to make the July 24 release date.

Can you hear my wild self-applause????

Touch of Fire by Pam Goode, available as e-book or paperback July 24, available for e-book pre-order July 10, aka, NOW.

Pre-Order Link here. Let’s roll!

Bowling Lady Watering Can

Birds and Words

Today I got out early enough for a bit of a breeze and so many birds, The birds are a gift to my own ever-tenuous ability to hear, as well as a sort of much needed cosmic validation that stretches between us. I’m still here and you’re still here, and some knowing of that life spark passes between us.

When I walk, the words flow, quite unlike the way they sit, box-like, arms crossed and eyes shut tight to truth, when I’m still. I often invite them quite graciously to join me at the table, but they know my tricks. And more, they know the cage has to rattle for truth to escape.

So I use my legs for the rattling. They say exercise saves lives. I say that much of that rebirth springs from the ground and heads straight to the page.

Birds in Tree Crop

Creating a Life: Inspiration from Orvieto

Pamela GoodeThere are those who ask me why I love to travel. In a few words: the exploration, the reversion to a simple and spare life, the crisp solitude of being alone in a new culture and unfamiliar language. Quite simply, stripped of my accustomed ways of being, I open my eyes and see. I remember who I am (and who I am not) and redefine the ways I want to experience my finite number of years. Travel sets me free to choose anew and gives me focus.

Below are a few things I’ve learned about myself during a cultural immersion week in Orvieto, Italy, and a handful of images to remind me when I’m tempted to give in to big city ways and forget.

I Want to Live a Life

I want to live a life on the edge — a life between consciousness and culture, between solitude and community, with easy access to the gifts of both.

Adventures in Italy

I want to live a life where city walls both shield and embrace, but also beckon me past my accustomed boundaries.

I want to live a life engulfed in scents and tastes and textures, with visual surprise around every corner, be it a new village or a just-unfurling jasmine bud.

I want to live a life where the strong and stalwart and majestic serve as constants for the fragile, a land where the porosity and lightness of stone do nothing to diminish its fortitude.

I want to live a life where both the dead and the living are honored, and joyously — a life where Etruscan tombs from 400 BC sit beneath the waving of wild cherries, and a waiter from lunch three days ago will wave you down in the lane for a smile.

A life where it’s okay to say hello to anyone you pass, to acknowledge life wherever it exists, including your own.

I want to live a life on many levels, from the surety and abundant offerings of ground and field to the communal path, the surprise and joy of rooftop gardens, the soaring art on soaring cathedrals to cotton ball skies and Jupiter shining above the lane after dinner in Charlie’s gardens.

I want to live a life where children in gingham smocks gather magnolia leaf bouquets and squeal with delight, where song is a part of every day’s curriculum, where physical safety is a given.

I want to live a life as many-layered as this cypress, this town, these rooftops.

I want to live a life with as much community as these vibrant streets and as much peace as these convent gardens.

I want to live a life as broad as this vista, completely unbounded by my psyche and conventions, my habits and my fears. I want a life with such clarity and vision that all of my options are recognizable.

I want to live a life where unexpected joy exists stunningly, and sometimes consists only of a gathering of simple greenery. Where the breezes dance, where the air is cool and clear and food holds the tastes of sunshine, rain, and origin.

People ask me why I travel. I travel to pull myself out of daily habits and rituals that keep me from growth. I travel to empty and refill my soul, to recapture moments that makes my heart beat faster.

So Go. See. Assimilate. Love It Up and let it make you better. And do whatever it takes to sear those images and awakenings onto your heart for the days ahead. Take photos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned taking 57 million photos of life, it’s this: turn around. From every position, there are at least two views, and they will constantly surprise you.

P.S. I’m very blessed to be traveling for six weeks in Italy and Ireland. Endless thanks to Adventures in Italy for giving me the fabulous opportunity to teach, to the loving and adventurous  group that accompanied me to Italy, to Olive Stack Gallery in Listowel Ireland for gifting me an entire month to explore and create, to the inimitable and wondrous Olive herself, and to Laura McRae Hitchcock, best residency partner on the planet. You can read more about my Irish adventures for the month of June at https://exciraanddelira.wordpress.com. Love to All!

Little Hurricanes

Prettier in Paris

My daughter arrived on Wednesday, creating a little hurricane in my carefully organized room, and isn’t that what we all need? Someone to stir the pot, to rustle us from the same old, to say “no” to our plans and shoulder us into the new?

She was ten when we first came here together, posing beneath the miniature Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens and dressed all in purple and pigtails. She won’t let me show the photo and she knows a secret: Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I need to remember that myself.

Dressing this morning, she pulled a straw-like and scythe-shaped grey hair from her locks and held it toward me. I told her it didn’t belong there and not to worry; it had most likely blown off the weathered head of a boat captain as we walked along the Seine last night. Another gift from getting outside your self. He knows secrets too, but we decide to only imagine them.

 

Back to the Garden

Back to the Garden

Because spring is too lovely for hard hearts, because it is the ninth anniversary of my mother’s death, because I buried a mother-in-law last week, and because my father lies dying too slowly of advanced dementia paired with cruelly efficient good health, I’m going to tell you a story. It has nothing to do with a pink sweater or a nine inch blade, but there are sticks involved.

When I was a girl, our weekends were always the same: an hour or so of hard labor behind the wheelbarrow, tracing a familiar path from garden to street and back again before my sister and I were set free to play in the neighborhood for the long idylls of childhood. I can’t remember whether or not I grumbled, but I do remember loving the vast oasis that my parents created in our modestly-sized yard. As soon as I had my first patch of dirt, nothing could stop me from transforming it, even though it was a scrappy bit behind a two bedroom condo on a busy street. In went the brick terrace and planting bed walls and matching semicircles on each end, laid as my father had taught me, and using scavenged brick, which is always, somehow, the prettiest. I learned the name of every plant I saw and sank the sweetest into the tiny two foot wide beds, and to be honest, the hours spent there were the best part of my introduction to marriage — working together to create something lovely.

I was an odd child, and my parents worried about me. Far too quiet, they were never entirely certain what was going on with me and I consistently refused to spill, never learning to love the sound of my own voice when there were so many deeper, richer, more exquisite voices to attend to: leaves rustling in the wind, clear water spilling over mossy stones, or whispery moments of tender stillness. As I grew, my passions fell into categories like: You Can’t Make a Living at That or Pam, Don’t They Teach Anything at Duke That You Could Put on a Resume? And so the Dreamer/Watcher/Seer/Knower/ became a woman of immense awareness and modestly practical skill sets who still runs on quiet passion and an infinite belief that anything is possible.

And so it happened that I recently spent many days in preparation, scouting perfect malleable fresh and willowy newly spring-trimmed branches of hornbeam, cherry, redbud, crape myrtle, and ligustrum, loading them into a truck with my partners in crime, hauling them home and stacking them to the size of a small cabin, and then taking each in hand and clipping every side branch of every stick until each inch was long and lithe enough to slide unfettered into new life.

On Sunday we eased them back into the truck and Laura and her boys delivered them to the gallery, all in lovely bundles tied with white bows and standing coyly against the brick like wallflowers hoping for the next dance. On Monday, a bevy of us gathered around the welded frame created by our friend and partner Amy, and began to circle and consider and select and place, which just happens to perfectly match my non-paying skill set. Most came by for an hour and stayed for three or four. Passersby stopped and gladly accepted a branch to place. A news videographer finished filming a same-old event two blocks up, made his way back to us, and bemusedly asked question after question as he added his own pieces to the whole. A gentleman in a hurry made sure we knew he’d like an extra bedroom added on, and that in exchange, he’d build the brick terrace. In herringbone please.

So yes, on March 30 I spent a day doing all those things that pay nothing and yet have made me who I am today, considering and placing, building and creating something where there was nothing before. It’s what I do; it’s who I am, and it may not look like much (“Every time I look at her she’s staring out the window,” a co-worker once said), but isn’t that how the universe is born? Brick and mortar, leaf and bloom, novels and poetry and art (we are all masters) all begin with staring out the window for hours at a time, and then it begins, twig by twig to masterwork.

And to be honest, of course, I’m no Patrick Dougherty. But I’ve become, in some small way, a bit of a stick whisperer, as have the many Ciel artists, family members, and strangers who’ve worked alongside us to birth an idea for the simple joy of creation. This was, in short, one of the best days I’ve spent — under glorious skies side by side with those I love in both body and spirit. But it was more. It was a deep and powerful and abiding connection with my childhood Saturdays, with the attention and joy embedded in the gardens created from scratch by my mother and father and mother-in-law. I know my mom is shaking her head just a tiny bit at what is aptly called a folly, but I know it feeds her joy just as it feeds mine, and I know my father is placing twigs alongside me and showing me how to frame the arch above that window. And even though it hurt to be without them on March 30, I know they were there with me, and we were all happy to be making something pretty on a beautiful day.

Never Goodbye; Hello World!

What Are You Waiting For? Pamela GoodeI’ve always been a believer in signs and wonders. Sure the signs are written in cryptic scribbles and wonders are all-too-often mirage-like. I know I saw this yesterday . . . didn’t I? Or was that the day I had three desserts for lunch? Nevertheless I work to recognize them, roll them around in my consciousness, and act … always the hard part. But the universe tends to take care of our reluctances and procrastination as well, usually by giving us first multiple signs, then several open doors, and finally a whack over the head. And honestly, don’t we sometimes need it?

In the early spring of 2006, my mother died after an all-too-brief and wholly-unexpected illness. She left me some money, also wholly unexpected, and over the next couple of weeks, a small studio in the arts district of Charlotte became available. It was a mess, and therefore a blank slate, and of course as it follows, completely irresistible. I had never considered running an art gallery, but there it was, and I happened to know all too well that mosaic art was often overlooked and in dire need of exposure. Ciel Gallery was born of an intersection of fate, opportunity, and need. Taking that unanticipated step, a step that had never once wandered around in my what-to-do-with-this-life wallowings, changed my life. And it changed me.

I’ve always reveled in behind the scenes work, creating in the low digit hours after midnight, wordsmithing the minutiae of contracts, or divining the exact intersection of visual and mental in graphic design. I’m the worker horse, never the face. Opening a business, and a cutting edge business at that, demanded more of me than I ever considered giving, and skills I would have been quite happy never to develop. But I did it, and it wasn’t as scary, in the end, as all that.

In 2008 I opened a gallery called Ciel, and I grew as a person and artist by leaps and bounds. In 2011, Ciel grew to include five partners and a brilliant new space, bringing in an all-star cast of visiting artists for workshops, hosting critically acclaimed exhibitions such as the Emma Biggs-curated Pattern Now, and coordinating the 52-artist mosaic mural Unfurled with Lin Schorr. I don’t care what others think about Ciel’s run — it knocks my socks off.

In true Pam fashion, I gave a lot of thought to the next step, but when it came, again it was universe-orchestrated. As of March 2014, Ciel Gallery + Mosaic Studio will become Ciel Gallery, A Fine Art Collective, with seven Member Partners, thirteen Member Artists, and a handful of consigners from North and South Carolina. Our new partner base is hugely talented in a variety of media, excited, generous, brimming with ideas, YOUNG and energetic.

Ciel Gallery Charlotte

Lease Signing Ciel #1; Guts and Glory Ciel #2; Lease Signing Ciel #3

I am thrilled and excited for a new venture. Of course it’s been bittersweet, and not without lingering moments of the unsettledness that bleeds from giving up your identity and wondering if there is a “next.” I know Ciel will thrive. I know the mosaic community now has ample opportunities for exhibition, and that I have had a part in that expansion. I know the Charlotte community and visitors will revel in greater access to local artists, and the art-hungry will thrill to offerings from new teachers. We’ll still feature mosaics of course, and we’ll still bring in visiting artists, but mosaic will no longer be isolated from other artforms. A good thing.

I worry about losing touch with the artists who’ve become close friends over the years, and who have, in so many ways, created Ciel right along with me. I feel angst about deserting a community that has made me who I am today, but at the same time, I’ve watched you all become superstars, and I’m excited to have new conversations about design and technique, or Gaudi and zellige instead of pixels and tracking numbers. And speaking of tracking numbers . . . NO MORE TRACKING NUMBERS! No more Box Room! No more trips to Office Depot for 50 more rolls of packing tape!

Instead of packing boxes and the daily details of gallery-running, I’m giddy at the idea of more art and more writing in my life. I’m thrilled with the growth of Mosaic Art Retreats and upcoming mosaic travel to Barcelona, Morocco, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Greece. And over the moon with the beauty of Unfurled, my first and hopefully only-the-beginning collaborative public art project with Lin Schorr and 52 fabulous participating artists.

I’ll still be at the gallery weekly, still educating art lovers about the fabulous art of mosaics, still planning and hanging exhibitions and dreaming up new ways to infuse the universe with art. I’ll also be actually making art, spending time with my dad, cooking a bit, and maybe even jumping in the car for an impromptu visit to Asheville (or Creemore or Michigan or Sedona) with my guy.

So you’ll still know where to find me. What neither of us knows is exactly who I’ll be next time, because the universe may have a few more unexpected paths lying in wait. And I will walk them. With bells on.

Endless love to all who have supported Ciel (and me) through all our incarnations. Please stay with us for the rest of the ride. Paths diverge and reconnect. Never goodbye.

Why I Make Mosaics

Photo by Ashley Hayward

A young man came into the gallery one day and, like many, stood with his mouth agape staring at the art on the walls. “What is this?” he asked. “It’s mosaic!” I answered with a smile. “Well how do you make it? Where do you get all these little pieces of glass?” “We cut them,” I said with a little glow. “Cut them? You mean you have to cut every one of these pieces?” “Yes,” I said. “Every piece.” “Oh man,” he said. “Why would anyone do this? There’s got to be a way to streamline this process. Somebody needs to sell the glass already cut. Doesn’t anyone sell pre-cut glass?” “Well, possibly,” I said, “but then I wouldn’t be interested.”

And there you have the answer in a  nutshell. I make mosaics because it’s hard.

During the monthly and often weekly classes I teach, new students will often take on a familiar stricken look when they first start cutting. I tell them to relax and cut for the pleasure of exploration — that making mosaics means learning the love to process. And the process is hard.

Some might say I like a hard life in general. I’m a good one for trudging through the minutiae of a situation, considering every possibility, and then selecting the most time and soul-consuming avenue. To me, this simply equates to actually living my life rather than just going through the motions. It’s the same way with cooking, planning, picking out (and decorating) a Christmas tree, traveling, thinking, loving, and art. Either I do it to the max, or I don’t do it at all. Otherwise, what have I gained? What have I given?

I love mosaic art. I love the interplay of color. I love the dancing of light. I love the intention of andamento and the way it makes your eyes move. I love the heft of a piece, and not only the weight of its gathered materials, but the sum of thought and labor involved. I love the antiquity of the artform and the accumulated labor of so many who have labored before me. But most of all, I like the slow, intentional, repetitive, considered and exacted repetition and thrill of determining the perfect cut, achieving it, and fitting it into place to create, many hours and days and weeks and sometimes months later, a piece of art that demanded and received my full attention — my full passion.

One of my favorite mantras is from the movie “A League of their Own,” when Gina Davis admits that something is hard. Tom Hanks (isn’t it always Tom Hanks?) says “Of course it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The Hard is what makes it Good.” He’s so right.

It’s a funny thing about “easy.” There are many things that I do because they are “easy” for me, like sorting or folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher or writing a press release — I can have them done in the time it takes to think “oh — I should do this.” Accomplishment is a powerful feel-good, and we can rack up way more of the easies than the hards. But does that make them good? Well, no. None of my easies will ever make it to my Very Favorite Things list.

But give me something hard: determining and creating the ideal ratio of perfect cuts to “human touch” in art, cooking the (very) occasional meal that takes alllllllll day, raising a child, or growing the balls to be my fullest self, and I’m all over it.

So yeah. I love mosaic because it’s damn hard. I think we all need to love and engage in something that tests us, that pushes us flat up against the wall and says, “Do your best. Now.” What tests you? And what do you love about it?

She’s Not Here

Photo and Sculpture by Micheal Pardue

On the beach and far from phones and computers, my thoughts turn like homing pigeons to laundry lists of tasks both real and imagined, and I wonder peevishly how long it will be so. How long before the wind shakes me silly and the sun evaporates every drop of logic until my cranium is hollow, bone dry and thirsty for folly and impulse?

The ocean is tricolor today: aqua near the sand, then teal, with a thin navy stripe that hugs the horizon. How do I move from the frothy edges to the navy depths? Why am I stuck in minutiae?

I’m willing to wait, but I’m anxious. Maybe eager is the better word, but anxiety lurks. I love the deep. I live for the deep as much as life allows, and in this instant when life is handing me an unexpected gift of time and sand and sea, I struggle to be here now.

If I tilt my head just so, I feel the heat of the sun on my left cheek and a sea-cooled breeze against my right, and it charms me to learn that two divergent climates can co-exist on my one small head. I think two lives are spent here as well.

In truth, the voice that pulls at me is not minutiae, and therein lies the rub.

I could stretch myself flat in the sun by the sea quite joyously for every day of the years I have left, until my brain is so bereft of new stimuli that I begin to grow worlds in its place, and I sometimes wonder if that is precisely the life I was made for. Egos crushed like periwinkle shells into smears of yellow or purple against the sand, hair blown wild into a wooly nest for puffins, with skin the color of night, the texture of winds, quite pockmarked with stars and story.

Instead, the sun teases the too-well-known out of us for only moments at a time, until some trivial matter demands our attention and we leap, almost grateful for permission to return to the safety of the familiar, that easy cloak (tired, worn) that fits so effortlessly even though we meant to trade up so many resolutions ago.

The truth is that I’m experiencing a major life-shift, and I don’t yet understand how to walk it. Given the hours to stare into nothingness, understanding will come, but the days that have filled and will fill out this year have not been slated for me; my diligent attention is called for elsewhere and I am honored to give it. One day there will be time and presence to spare, and I will surely miss today. And so for now, I’ll try to make peace with not letting go.

What Are You Waiting For Blog