By April Serr, Writer, Visual Artist, and student in the Writing and Consciousness MFA Program
My summer began with the freedom of retirement. March 31 was my last day at work with the San Jose Fire Department, a quarter century of service. With our school semester ending in April, I thought I would turn my attention to creating the rhythms of my new life--yoga, hiking, spiritual studies (the Tarot), reading and, of course, writing. And it did begin that way, until my life took a left-hand turn.
Change…it comes unexpectedly and in strange packages. My package was in the form of a marital separation, which catapulted me into an artist’s haven. Yet big change--even when it leads to paradise--does not happen in some magical way. Change most always entails some form of loss as well as chaos, grief and deep introspection. It can also create immobilization.
This summer my immobilization took the form of not writing. I didn’t realize this at the time because my life has been full of action: packing, painting, moving, unpacking, grief. With all of this I would have still had time to sit down and give my attention to a solid block of focused writing. But there was one more thing I had to do--build an artist’s studio. Not much to ask, right? I LOVE to build things. Is this passion a creative expression or is it a distraction from my writing? I am still exploring that self-inquiry.
My studio began as an old shed standing precariously on a post-and-pier foundation. My objective was to shore up the foundation to create a solid base for the structure to be transformed upon. This was a bit over my head but not impossible. I would just keep my eyes and ears open for the right person to help me work through this problem.
Then my Uncle Harold died. I was drawn away from my artist haven to be with family. While working with my cousin Scott and his wife Della on a collage in honor of Uncle Harold, a thought began to form: ask Scott if he knows how to strengthen foundations. Being the respectful and tasteful person that I am, I waited until after the memorial service was over and we were all reuniting over food to ask, “Scott do you know how to shore up foundations?”
“Do you have the jacks for doing the work?”
“Want to come help me with my shed foundation?”
“As soon as you can!”
Scott and Della came just a few days later and worked with me for eight-and-a-half days, strengthening the foundation, building a deck, installing windows and doors, and adding on a foyer that increased the square footage from 100 square feet to 160 square feet. Do you believe in the synchronicity of life? I do. Some call it miracles.
But my work is not done. Scott and Della have gone home now. I still have drywall to hang, electrical to run, plumping to install, taping, texturing, painting, and a floor to install. Yet the clock is ticking away and school is just around the corner. When will I write?
I am not worried. Through this left hand turn in life, through the chaos of change and the introspection that comes with its fiery action, I have gained clarity on what I will write. I know my story now. Its threads are like a spider’s web in my mind with strong, intricate patterns. I just need to transfer its patterns onto paper. And I will. One thing I do know: I can produce.