Wise Wilding

A re-printing of “Silent Under the Pressure of the Sea” – Amanda Lynne Wilding (FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2008)

In a small row boat, in the midst of a vast ocean with no sight of land or other vessels around me, I let the waves rock me back and forth. And I stare at the surrounding blue. Where the light sky meets the darkness of the water. And it is not a graceful meeting between sky and water, but a severe contrast. As severe as emotions can be. Divided, intersected, broken by the crisp line of the horizon. By the suddenness of a passing second that can never be repeated or changed.

Art breathes existence and precious meaning into life. It keeps you rowing. Pushing through pain, disappointment, uncertainty and doubt. Ignoring the fear of tipping over. Into the unknown temperature of the blue water. Where numerous creatures live beneath the rippling surface.

And I jump. And, from one boat to another, I swim. Again and again and again. Sometimes twice in one intense day. Sometimes after the passing of several quiet months. Regardless of how tired I am, I jump. I always do. It is the only way to achieve change in our lives.

Change requires this sort of a jump. Change requires courage and faith. And you do not know how long you may tread water without the reassurance of a life jacket. And you do not know what swims around you. And you do not know when a slightly larger boat may come your way.

But a boat does float past and you lift yourself out of the water with a newfound, unknown strength and climb into the safety of your new vessel. And you wait until it is time to jump out of it again. Because that time will come.

Since I was a young girl, maybe thirteen or so, I have used this metaphor to explain the way I look at my life. And last year has been filled with a series of jumps and tiring days of treading rough water.

These waters have been filled with love affairs, friendships, excesses. The sea ebbs and flows with these moments. The waves rock us back and forth. Causing us to sleep. Or be sick. Last year, my strength to hold on did not stay constant. My pulse raced and slowed. My blood boiled. My tears came in steady, uncontrollable streams. I sobbed last year. I cursed everything I knew. I wished the most terrible things.

Several boats have been filled up with experiences that have forced me to grow. As an individual. A person. A filmmaker. A writer. A woman. A lover. An intellectual. A human being. A soul.

I aged another year. I cut my hair. I went Raw and changed my lifestyle. I started to run. I took up pilates. I broke people’s hearts and shattered their dreams. I gave other people opportunities. I started a company. I have been cheated on. I made love. I have been the player. I have hurt a man. Or two. I have gotten under the skin and buried myself beneath his veins. I have caused him to feel like he is bleeding to death from within. I have not wanted to let him leave. And he hasn’t and he has.

But these are the two most important and significant moments in 2007, as well as in my life: I experienced the beauty of finding ones artistic voice when I made “The Weight of It.” And I experienced the excruciating pain of loosing my best friend, Amanda, on December 10th, 2007.

Above all things, Amanda’s love, friendship, loyalty and the memories I have of our eight years of friendship has opened my eyes to what is important about why I am here. On Earth. In Los Angeles. In the film industry. About why I chose to move 3,000 miles away from my parents, my best friend and my other friends. About why I felt this sort of sacrifice was worth this sort of separation.

And Amanda knew where she wanted to go. We were both going to be successful writers. A few months ago, she reminded me of the time we met and I introduced myself to her: “Hi, I’m Alexis. I’m a writer.” And she said she was impressed by my confidence. And I was thoroughly impressed by hers. I was always inspired by her. Of her knowledge about what boat to swim to. Of what direction to go in.

Sometimes our boats would float side by side. We would spend long hours, days, talking about the fears we had about jumping into our work. About our worth. About our abilities. About our talent. About our strength. We were exceptionally alike, her and I, although we took different paths in our lives in regards to our writing careers.

And we both have our enormous insecurities, especially in regards to our work; however, we were growing as artists. As writers. And, like myself, she knew exactly what she was about. And she never apologized for it. She never backed down. She was first and foremost a writer. She is one of the most amazing poets I have ever read.

Next to my parents, Amanda was my biggest fan. And I hers. We read each other’s work constantly. We critiqued and edited each other’s work. Since college, we had the dream of forming a modern day “Bloomsbury Group” and I still can’t imagine her absence in my personal, literary and filmmaking life. We had a mutual admiration society. We were starting a Literary and Arts Magazine together. We were going to make a place for ourselves in the Literary, Art and Film World together.

We were going to do so much more together.

Two Roads

My dream. It seems to ebb and flow. And morph in front of me as the days, weeks, months and years pass me by. I have things that I am still completely devoted to – writing and filmmaking – while I have developed and cultivated past interests – photography and drawing – and look towards new talents that I have never given time to…

Theses are my present interests. And my present direction in life. This brings to mind Robert Frost and his Two Roads. I believe we all have choices to make, but most of us feel (or/and fear) that once that choice is made that we have closed something off from us. And in some cases we do. We marry one person and close the door to another. Someone who may have given you a wonderful, but different life. Choices are something paired with definitive ends.

Then there come those little paths in the forest. Did Frost forget to mention them? Those little off-shoots that are covered in weeds or obscured by overgrown bushes. Those narrow paths where the forest floor has not yet been tread upon – by you.

There once was a time in my life where I was constantly drawing in notebooks and in sketchpads. I was never without a pencil, a pen or a piece of charcoal. Students would ask me to draw portraits of them. Teachers would insist that I continue studying Art. As a teenager, I even had the opportunity to go to college at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) after attending the Pre-College program; however, I decided to go down a different path in life and I chose to go to a Liberal Arts University – Denison University in Ohio – and then to Film School – Emerson College in Boston. In time, my artwork fell to the wayside as I focused my energy and attention on writing and filmmaking.

Sometimes we need to focus and put things on the backburner in order to excel. I have learned that this does not mean that these unexamined items will necessarily “go cold.” You can reheat old interests. Early on in the pre-production of my spec commercials, I drew out rough storyboards for the Storyboard Artist, who in turn said, “She doesn’t need me.” And here I was on my little filmmaking path, concentrating on the image in my head, and I suddenly found myself skipping down a little dirt path that brought writing, filmmaking and drawing together; a path where I reacquainted myself with a different type of artist inside of me; a path that redefined what it is to be a Visual Artist. Perhaps all we need to do is find a new path to wander down in order to find ourselves again.

180-degrees

As I stated in my last journal entry, “I had no idea how to manifest a 180-degree about face; however, change quickly found me” and, in late-November of 2009, part of that change appeared when I came upon a house to rent – a place that honestly found me at the right time.

After summer had ended, I had started looking at houses to buy. I even went to look at a fixer-upper up in the Hills, but realized that I was not ready for the responsibility that came with being a “homeowner.” Besides, I don’t even know if I am going to be in Los Angeles in three years. I decided to cease my house hunting efforts and concentrate on making my condo a “home.”

One beautiful Wednesday afternoon in November, I was hiking with a friend when we momentarily paused in front of a house at the base of the Hollywood Hills. For a number of years, I had passed this house on my regular hikes, but had never really “looked at it.” As I stood with my hiking companion, I noticed a “FOR RENT” sign on the green metal gate that separated us from a very picturesque, 1920s Hollywood Bungalow.

Two nights later, I decided to peruse Westside Rentals in search of the little Bungalow. I was curious about what it might look like inside, as well as what was the listed rental price. In no time, I found the house and spontaneously emailed the Landlord, who replied to me by the following morning. His wife was available to show me the house at 4PM. I met with his wife at the house, which she told me had been now up for rent for over a month. The price had been also been considerably lowered. And there was an interested couple, although they had not yet put down the deposit.

The Landlord and I went inside and I quickly noticed not only the beauty of the house, but also the overwhelming sense of goodness that the place radiated. Every friend of mine who has visited me since moving into the house in December has commented on the “good energy” that exists here. One friend actually described the space as having a ”neutral energy.”

I am not a Religious person, although I am the granddaughter of a well-respected Russian Orthodox Priest and went to Catholic School for 9 years. Over time, I have come to understand my “Faith” or “Belief” as being a composite of what I have learned through the years. I consider myself a Spiritual person and call myself a Russian Orthodox Taoist Agnostic.

Before we go any further: What does this mean? My grandfather’s faith/belief in a “Higher Being” drove him to put his life (and his family’s life) on the line in order to save thousands of lives – be it Jewish, White Russian, anti-Nazi German – during World War II in the name of the God he believed in. In the God that he believed existed. Today, I do not necessarily use the name God to describe the energy that is in our lives. I believe that this “Higher Power/Being” can be called by a variety of names, which are found in every Religion known to Man. Who am I to know what his/her/its name IS.

When I was at Denison University, I took a Taoism class my sophomore year. It changed my life. Philosopher Lao Tzu wrote in “The Tao Te Ching” about the ways in which Man tries to control life – and perhaps his/her destiny – and I found comfort in the way he felt one should approach life. One of my favorite sections of the book spoke of a leaf floating down a river, with the current, until it came upon a bolder. As this leaf, Man forces themselves to go left, crawl under the boulder, work their way up and over it or drill right through the center; however, nature – the natural path (of the water!) – would lead us simply in the direction in which the river was naturally flowing – perhaps to the right of the boulder. And so, the Tao Te Ching is one of the most important books I will ever own.

Now, you might ask: how is she Agnostic if she believes in a “Higher Power”? Agnosticism is not the belief that there is NO HIGHER POWER. (That is Athiesm.) I believe simply what I previously wrote two paragraphs ago: “Who am I to know what his/her/its name IS.” Who am I to understand who or what this Energy/Power is? What language, words or level of human understanding do I have to comprehend what It is? I am human. I have limited knowledge and I am secure in my beliefs and my place on Earth to not have a solid, explainable answer.  It is what it is.

Most of my life, I have been suspect of people who say that they can read Tarot Cards; that Astrology is important, that they see auras or spirits; that they can see the future or are psychic; that the Law of Attraction (or Manifestation) works. In the last few years, I have begun to consider – open myself up to – the possibility that some of these things – although not all – may be… genuine. Recently, Manifestation seems to be clarifying itself in my mind’s eye. I see now how people can manifest negativity and manifest the positive.

My house is proof positive that something is going on here. As I walked through the house with the Landlord, I also realized that it had everything that I had been looking for when I had considered buying a house. There was a sunroom that could become a photography studio; a front and backyard; a cheerful kitchen; hardwood floors and high ceilings; a fireplace. It had everything that I had put on my “list” of things that I wanted in my first home.

At 7 AM the following morning, I received a call from the Landlord, who immediately offered the house to me. The couple that was interested in renting the property had the initial deposit ready; however, the Landlords preferred me. I can only believe that this house was meant for me. That I manifested it through my positive attention to what I wanted.

To Write or To Draw

Almost two years have passed since I published a simple word or thought through A Bohemian Girl. This does not mean that I have not written other things. Grocery Lists. Emails. Letters. Notes. Journal entries on smooth white, lined paper. Long, elaborate texts. Facebook updates. Twitter.

There are a variety of approaches to writing: creative, editorial, scientific, to name a few. And I have always enjoyed blogging – as I wrote quite frequently on my previous “A Bohemian Girl” site – but there came a time when my life started to get complicated and I, in turn, ceased to put pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to computer keyboard.) I cannot blame anyone, but myself for my lack of time spent writing; time spent contemplating life or my sense of self; chronicling my daily (or weekly) activities; or expressing my thoughts and opinions.

When I was in France in May of 2009, I spent a great deal of time journaling in a number of notebooks that I collected on my month travel around the country. It felt wonderful sitting in Parisian cafés that once served patrons such as Ernest Hemmingway, Jean Paul Satré, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Lee Miller and Kiki of Montparnasse, among other writers, artists, models, philosophers and general wanderers. In Paris – or cities with similar histories – one can get lost in the romance of the place.

There, I wrote about being away from Los Angeles; about becoming reacquainted with my European upbringing and roots; about a script that had been running through my head; about love and heartache; about the food; about the French; about my desire to return to live in Paris part-time; and about my dream of being a filmmaker.

I have always used journaling – and now blogging – as an outlet. Great writers – like the amazing Virginia Woolf, who is by far my favorite writer – have used diaries as a way of not only expressing their literary and artistic selves, but also as a way of expelling their emotional burdens. I find writing to be an amazing way to “let go” and I am always interested in looking back over time to see how life affected me. In the future, my carefully chosen words will remind me about how happy I felt about my new love, photography. Today, I can look back and see how my life changed only days after my best friend Amanda suddenly passed away.

After my trip to France, I knew that life had to change, but I did not know how. I did not know how I was going to recapture something I felt I had once lost a long time ago – a sense of self that had become foreign to me. Somehow, I must have put it out into the Universe that I knew that everything was different, but I had no idea how to manifest a 180-degree about face; however, change quickly found me.

******

Below is a re-print of my August 11, 2007 blog entry entitled: “To Draw or Not To Draw.”

There is nothing like the craftsmanship of a firm, leather bound journal. You crack open the pages and you hear the crinkle as they become unstuck. Putting pen to page, you think about what you want to write. To write in such a beautiful journal – like Hemmingway and Greene – you cannot be wasteful with your words. It’s an art form in many ways. You don’t just rip out a page and start afresh. They are expensive books. They are heavy books.

When I was seventeen (when the sketch of the woman was done) I went to Rhode Island School of Design for the Pre-College Summer Program and found myself in paradise. Eight-hour studio classes drawing nude models all day and being surrounded finally by like-mined teenagers was bliss. I never wanted to go back home or to my stuffy prep school. NEVER!

Sketchbooks, journals, and notebooks. These are some of my favorite things.

When I wasn’t writing, I used to also carry a sketchbook around with me and would draw almost daily, filling the books with sketches of my classmates, of my school buildings, copying photographs and pictures in magazines. Kids used to say they didn’t understand me: “You’re in 3 varsity sports, you’re an artist and we find you reading Shakespeare in a tree!” So, I was the weird kid.

Sketch of A Woman (1996)

But those days of drawing every day in my sketchbook did end, although I have thought about taking that back up over and over again. It’s therapeutic and I think if you have a natural talent for something, you shouldn’t let it go to waste.

Virginia Woolf (1999)

But I guess when you really focus on one thing, like anything, other things get left at the wayside. Things get left behind and you have to figure out how to incorporate those things you love back into your life before you loose them forever. They’re like friends that you don’t want to loose touch with. I guess that’s one reason why art always finds a way into my stories. I have to have it around me. It’s all over my walls. I see it everyday. I read about it. I make sure it surrounds me in my life. It’s in me. I might as well make sure it comes out of me again.