I live and breathe at the corner of Artistic Avenue and Vain Street. I’ve discovered that whipping cream makes me happy on all levels and that it’s easier to chop vegetables when I’m wearing high heels.  (Better angle and better looks, too). I tell my offspring all the time that they could easily have a “porridge” mom if they wanted, but that they would have to go way down the block to find that elusive, non-embarrassing, perfectly seasoned and abominably boring mom – she won’t be found at the corner of Artistic and Vain.

On Artistic Avenue, my heart breathes passion and creativity. Conversely, I have heart issues when circumstance blocks my ‘art’eries. I cannot tell a lie – I am addicted to puns and lame jokes.

Like most, I have a penchant for art that speaks to me and experience an adverse reaction to that which doesn’t.  However, my passionate response to art usually results in art of some sort or at the very least a rant about it.  Out of their generous care for my personal health and safety, my family often helps me down from the perilous height of my soapbox, and usually I am quite grateful.  My zealous reactions are not limited to art; my ardent nature warmly welcomes all types of life experiences, vicarious or personal.

I am told that I sang often when I was a little girl and I have fond memories of many musical events.  At around the age of thirteen, I began writing songs in response to the world around me.  Some lyrics were questions and some were answers (albeit fairly unsophisticated), but all were part of my lifelong quest to live life deeply and to get to know the God of my Sunday School experiences.

A few years ago, I was obliged to sing a listener request at a function – the request was for a popular song that I absolutely despise and at one point, swore I would never sing.  However, I put on my “big girl pants” and sang it.  It made the guests happy or at least it appeared to but I went back to my hotel room and was beside myself– so I stayed up for another couple of hours and painted a picture.  It was a great lesson to learn – and since then, I am adamant about limiting my artistic expressions to art forms that I can fully invest in.  I want integrity to wash over every file of my life.  And in fact, I am working hard to blow open the filing cabinet of my life and see it as more of a well.  But that is another deep topic for another day. Refrain from questioning the existence of lame jokes in my posts– they are an ever-present, ingrained evidence of me – consider them either ‘art’ifacts or blatant strategies to test whether my children read my posts.  If they do, I will surely hear about it:).

Both life and the lack thereof inspire me.  I wonder why some choose to live life so shallow and then I’m immediately petrified that I’ve suddenly looked in the mirror.  I admire those who walk through seemingly impossible situations.  I write when I pray.  I pray when I write.  I sing when I’m sorrowful.  I sing when there is much joy.   I even sing when I am sad and hope for joy. It’s where I truly live.  At times, it’s a strategy to move beyond and it works.

When I stop writing, that’s when I forget who I am.  And then shortly thereafter, I write about that.  I am compelled to create.  At times, it’s exhausting to even think about why on earth that I write!  I wrote about that in my journal this morning. It’s important, vital in fact, to consider what is compelling.  I live on Artistic Avenue – it’s where I live.  I was born there and I have no intention of moving.

Everyone has an avenue that they live on.  However, I am seeing that many people forget where they live, choose to not remember or even worse, attempt to move which results in an overwhelming sense of being lost.  What’s your address?  Are you lost?  Sometimes I am, too.   That’s what good neighbours and GPS’s are for.  May I suggest that this is good ‘insurance’ for living life to the fullest?  But I digress…

I refuse to believe that art is meaningless on Vain Street.  I’m firmly planted in the belief that wisdom and revelation are possible – that when I sing, things can change.  That when anyone sings, things can change and ultimately, when one’s life begins to sing, everything changes. In this world where art is valued or devalued on monetary whims, I choose to employ irony and call this street Vain.  For I believe that it is not vanity at all, but wisdom to see art as a window into the eternal and at the very least, a mirror of humanity.  Occasionally, discouragement or distraction has me tripping the light ‘unfantastic’ down Pointless Boulevard and I have been known to skirt the sidewalks of Idiocy Aisle, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Performing isn’t performance for me, it’s my endless effort to relate, to talk about the things that have wounded me in a way that still allows for kindness and forgiveness (if not now, sooner than later), to be respectful about the deep feelings and thoughts of my listeners whom I consider family/neighbours, and above all, to create an atmosphere where joy and understanding is welcome.  And to laugh, and to be self-deprecating now and again.  After all, life is pretty amusing.  Contrary to my children’s opinions, I think I can be downright comedic if I do say so myself.  Did I mention I live on Vain Street?

I sing because that’s when I can really hear.  The noise and the worries of life disappear when I sing.  My deep hope as both an artist and a neighbour is that when I sing, others’ noise and worries of life fade away enough so that they can truly hear, too.

I love to hear the thoughts of those who listen to my songs.  That doesn’t mean I always obey those, though. Now and again I do rebel against suggestions. Particularly in the case of Glen Bergstrom, a longtime dedicated (and much appreciated) listener, who recommended that I sing “In the Wee Small Hours”.  I just simply couldn’t get my head around it.  I had great affection for Glen and trusted his judgment for sure, but I couldn’t think about adding it to my repertoire unless it really connected.   Once I finally got my head around it and realized the depth and beauty of the song and that I did truly relate to it, I could sing it.  I am thankful for listeners who are patient, willing to wait for me to figure things out.  I do listen to all suggestions but I reserve the right to take my time to process them and/or ignore them.  My mom and I have a great agreement – she is free to say whatever she wants and I am free to do whatever I want.  That way, we both have peace about communicating our concerns and owning our actions.  I love my mom!  She’s one of the best neighbours I’ve ever observed.

Name the corner that you live on and memorize it.  Ask a neighbour for directions. Consult your GPS (this is why I begin every morning with a cup of coffee, my journal and my Bible). On those days that inevitably will come, when circumstance or rifts in relationship cause you to question where you live and breathe, shout that address out.  Then run (do not walk) back to it.

Who you are is linked directly to where you live not what you do. Where you live is directly linked to who you are. You are unique, loved, and a treasure.  Each of us is! In this world, the sheer idiocy of misplaced priorities exasperate me – things are more important than people, beauty is defined in consistently narrow terms and status is attributed to ridiculous things.  Is it vanity to consider that one can make a difference? Possibly, but that would be vain to write about it.  Oh, well…another deep thought.  Sometimes I am so deep, it makes me shallow.

For crying out loud, do not allow someone else to define your address or to tell you where you live or you will indeed be crying out loud.  Trust me, I know. Think about it, if you were me and you had to choose between Bard or Bored, what would you choose?   What do you choose?  Is there really a choice?

When you are working at your desk or with a client, do you remember where you live?  For your sake and for the sake of those you love, please take a moment to write down your address.  Memorize it, canonize it, but whatever you do, keep it somewhere handy for those moments that challenge your identity. I am now assisting myself gently off the precipice of my beloved soapbox.

As I was driving home the other day, I saw two little girls in the playground weaving dandelions together to make daisy chains for their hair or perhaps for their beloved teacher.  Can the bane of every lawn aficionado be the source of joy and inspiration? Of course, when you live on the corner of Artistic and Vain!  I think it’s time to write another song.

(c) June 3, 2013 Sandra Foster, Ranenpur

Thank you to Marcia Cummings and Terry Stroud for their excellent questions
 – so appreciate your comments and thoughts! Thank you to Glen Bergstrom for his song suggestion! 

Have you ever read “Are You My Mother?” – a deeply profound children’s book that I still am touched by.  A huge fan of Dr. Seuss, I am!  What is your favourite gem of children’s literature?  How does your favourite story affect you?  I’d love to hear about that!