Open Heart Surgery

Sacred_Heart_Holy_CardI lingered at Boulevard Park today en route to my knit.  It was hopping.  Blond kids wading up to their panties in the water while their mom scolded them for going too deep.  Dogs everywhere–a longhaired wiener dog waddling on a leash.  A little girl prancing around holding onto a cloud of rainbow balloons…Striped camping chairs placed haphazardly under trees.  A band setting up on the stage under a huge banner that read Polecat, music blasting from speakers.  Sweethearts tousling each other’s hair, lying all over each other.  I lay on my back on the soggy grass staring up at the interlocking branches of a pine, dense cuneiform.  I felt depleted from working 32 hours in two days, and a tinge lonely (my best friend just moved to L.A.), saying my rosary softly so as not to disturb my neighbors.  Feeling hungry, I headed over to Woods Coffee and got a vanilla steamer with whipped cream, then headed up the hill to the bench.

J. and C. drove up in their green station wagon.  I asked J. how her recent retirement was going but the bright smiles on their faces was answer enough.  In their 60’s, they looked lit up like honeymooners just back from Hawaii.  “I’m looking forward to Monday!” J. said.  “Oh yeah, what’s happening on Monday?” I asked.  “Nothing!” she said exultantly.  What a strange feeling to not have to face a work week ever again.

All week I have been thinking about unguarded presence as it relates to this knitting project and blog.  (See the page above “About Christen” to read about this project in more detail)  Unguarded presence on the bench for one hour daily as a spiritual discipline…Art is a teacher that makes me practice what I am to live in the rest of my life.  It’s not as if I plan it that way–it just happens.  I’ve been thinking about the kitschy statues of Jesus and Mary that you see sometimes in Catholic Churches with their anatomically-correct hearts emblazened on the front of their robes like juicy, red tomatoes.  It’s a picture  of what I am hoping to live–this radical openheartedness come-what-may.  Go easy on me, Life…


4 thoughts on “Open Heart Surgery

  1. Renee says:

    The thing I notice about working on my art (process stuff) in a quiet place is my thoughts run rampant. My challenge is to manage my “monkey mind” and not let negative thoughts come in and take over. It’s easy to remember each time I was passed over for an exhibit, or didn’t get a job I applied for, or felt betrayed by a friend, etc. I have to turn those thoughts to positive, life affirming thoughts, or think about the future as it’s still unformed and so there’s a 50/50 chance it will be GOOD! I find keeping a pad of paper and pen/pencil handy helps me to make lists, which give me focus so I can continue on my project, rather than jumping up and down and taking care of each thing as it enters my mind…focus I think they call it. Good luck and be kind to yourself. Love the icon.

  2. Christen Mattix says:

    Renee, I’m really grateful for your insights. I have the same problem…I really think artmaking is a kind of meditation practice where the stuff that we bury has a chance to come up into the light. I tend to view the negative, loaded ideas that you described so well as a kind of static like a radio makes–on a good day, I label it “distraction” and try not to give it my energy. Some really good art has come out of artmaking sessions where I’ve had to struggle like the dickens against giving in to these thoughts. I think this internal struggle is something that young artists aren’t usually aware of, and it can be really alarming at first.

  3. Cheryl says:

    I’m saddened to think you will not have your best friend near you in the future. I love that you remember interactions of other people. do you write them down when you see them or remember them later when you’re writing the blog post? I want to know because I recently had an experience at the downtown bus station and I told myself to ‘remember this’ but by the time I got home I’d forgotten all about it. Until now, when I’m reading about your day amidst the humans.

    • Christen Mattix says:

      I loved your sweet comment…I have found that my memory is crystal clear when I’m knitting–I can remember names, quotes and details that would otherwise evade me. It’s pretty amazing! I think it’s because knitting makes me quiet inside, while the rest of my day is usually a blur. I’ve come to really treasure that hour as you can imagine.

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