Tension Becomes Wrinkle

Libraries are one of my favourite places. I am lucky to have access to one of the best library systems (not based on any empirical data but deep love), the Toronto Public Library and it is here on a recent research trip that I found this passage titled “Wrinkles”.

One of my favourite things to do is go to the 5th floor of the reference library and wander the stacks (that’s what they call the rows of free standing shelves that hold all of the books - for those silly people who have never been in a library) and just pull things off the shelves. That’s what I did when I found this exquisitely written passage that speaks to my heart. It’s all about our obsession with perfection and speaks to my creative preoccupation with imperfection.

However, I was a total ignoramus (that word comes courtesy of google search for idiot) and didn’t record the name of the book or the author - I thought I would be clever and efficient by just taking a photo not thinking I would need to credit it one day. I have googled, and googled again in vain. Speaking of which, when I search for “tension becomes wrinkle” I get results for wrinkle creams. Sigh. I’ve gone back to the library and employed the professional librarian on duty to help but to no avail. I’ve tried everything I can think of to super sleuth where I got this from but alas I’ve come up empty. So if anyone out there recognizes this please please let me know. I’d like to give credit where credit is due. But it’s too good not to share so here it is and again not my words but those of some eloquent kindred spirit out there in the ether….

Life is full of tension. Plants grow and spread their lush green leaves, bloom brightly, and in time splendidly bear fruit. The culture and civilization through which human beings celebrate life is also represented as an aspiration for tension. We like brand-new clothes, young girls, newly finished buildings, freshly made pure white paper, brand-new shoes… These images are sources of what is bright, beautiful, and desirable. We want to live forever, surrounded by things like this. And so it has always been for mankind. And yet the rhythm of the cosmos coldly moves forward, always forward. Clothes become soiled, people age, buildings decay, even brand-new shoes are sullied in the hustle and bustle of the street. Without exception, tension becomes wrinkle.
Humans face this impermanence, meditating on their raw and fateful sorrow.
However, from the transient process the world can be read afresh, once we find and accept the rhythm of transference and resurrection, generation and degeneration.

I don’t know about you but I find the idea of generation and degeneration very powerful. Not just because it fuels my creative exploration but more importantly because it is a philosophy to live by. After all the “cosmos coldly moves forward, always forward” and so far every living thing inevitably ages and ends. Nothing stays put and what an opportunity that is.

Yet, so much of our time, energy and resources are spent obsessing on ways to remain youthful. Not that an attitude tipped towards youthfulness is a bad thing if that means say trying new things or exploring the world. However, more often than not it’s about preservation of the body and a zealous reverence for a youthful appearance. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for living a healthy life whatever that means for you but I think there is something a bit nuts about spending so much time in the gym or restricting my diet for some potential pay-off way down the road. I will eat triple cream brie with a big hunk of sourdough today and love every minute of it.

I recall my aunt chiding my 80 plus year old grandfather to not have his much enjoyed nightly sip of scotch because of a previous heart condition. It came from a place of familial concern don’t get me wrong, but to what end? In my mind I was thinking fuck that - if I reach 80 I’m shooting heroin in my eyeballs and drinking as much scotch as possible. Why the obsession with remaining alive if there is no living left?

Without degeneration there can be no regeneration. And so when I experience feeling melancholic about the end of summer (even though I love fall - I know it means eventually winter, ugh) I try and remind myself that for spring and summer to come again it must end. Just like the anticipation of a holiday or a reservation at a favourite restaurant. You spend so much time anticipating and hopefully enjoying the experience when you are in it but then why be sad when it ends. Ok, I’m human so I can feel a little bummed out but my point is - shifting my thinking to acknowledge that a good time was had and is now coming to a close just means that the next experience can begin. If things don’t end they can’t begin.

So relish in the wrinkles and the tension. Who doesn’t love a new crisp white shirt or say that new handmade wooden dining table but I’m also learning to love the scratches and dents as markers for a life well lived, here, now.

Lori HarrisonComment
Insta Imperfection
alley wall.jpg
No Photoshopping here folks!

No Photoshopping here folks!

Pressure to be perfect on instagram can be intense. Having a well curated feed filled with beautiful images and positive messages gets likes and followers. And for many of us, this is also how we promote our work aka make a living. As an artist, Instagram has been a valuable tool for promoting and selling my artwork. Yay! But I also wonder about the downsides.

The other day I posted on instagram that I was going through a tough time personally. This was a departure from my usual MO of posting pics of my artwork, beautiful interiors and the occasional personal shot (carefully curated of course) along with upbeat positive vibes. I got a few sympathetic comments on the post but otherwise as you can well imagine the number of likes was quite low. So it got me wondering about perfection and the quest for likes.

I’ve certainly noticed my instagram feed change since I started in 2013. I use to post a lot more photos of what inspired my creative process. Images like worn and weathered buildings, peeling paint and other wabi sabi things but over time I could see that pictures of beautiful interiors did way better and so I pretty much stopped posting them. I also don’t post many pictures of myself - often intimidated by the ubiquity of young pretty instagramers out there. I don’t want people to know I’m over 40 (oops) I did recently start posting images of myself but only after I had hired a professional photographer. I’m pleased with the results but I noticed that the photographs had been photoshopped to smooth out the wrinkles on my forehead. I still don’t know how I feel about that. I’m just as vain as the next person but this also seems to do a huge disservice to myself and women in general. After all god willing every one of you and me will reach 40 and beyond so why not celebrate female beauty in all forms? I earned those wrinkles. That’s 40 years of thinking hard about all kinds of shit.

women are taking a closer look at their power and starting to question the very narrow fiew of what's beautiful

But perhaps we are starting to witness a shift. In small and potentially big ways. With things like #metoo and #timesup women are taking a closer look at their power and starting to question the very narrow view of what’s beautiful and valued in our society. I’m encouraged by bloggers and instagrammers like Lauren McPhillips @thisrenegadelove who has recently been posting images proudly showing off her body that looks like the 98% of us non-models. It’s about damn time we see images of wibbly bits and belly rolls. Check out a recent NYTimes article that lists a bunch of female empowering instagrammers showing a different view of femininity. And as a woman who is no longer in the cultural sweet spot of her mid 20’s I’m also encouraged by a lot more ad campaigns featuring older women. Go Helen Miren! It’s seeing images like these that gives me strength and courage to look at myself differently. It’s helping me see myself with fresh eyes. The years of experience and wisdom, the struggle to find my life’s purpose, my strong legs that have powered me through 100 mile bike rides and my slightly flabby but capable arms that hold me in plank pose. I look pretty damn good (and no stupid qualifier required “for my age”)

So all this to say will I be changing what I post on instagram? In small but not insignificant ways, yes. I will keep true to who I am and not be afraid to reveal not only the inspiring and beautiful but I hope to also share the challenges and struggles that make any full life worth living.

There is beauty in imperfection after all

Lori HarrisonComment
Finding Grace in Winter Months
Salt stained stairs

Salt stained stairs

subway tile winter boots pattern.jpg

Many people I cross paths with these days say more or less the same refrain — “I hate winter, especially in the city. It’s so dirty and disgusting.” While I am not immune to these sentiments it got me thinking. I thought if you are like me and live in a city in the more northern of the northern hemisphere then you are faced with at least 4-6 months of potentially inclement weather aka “dirty and disgusting”. That means that a large portion of your life is spent wishing it was another time of year. I just thought that’s nuts. I’m not going to do that anymore — what a waste! It might take a little more effort but if we take the time and open our eyes to the possibility we can find an abundance of beauty and grace any time of year. And yes even in March in a big city.

How do you find grace and beauty in a city of brown slush and grey skies? I think it starts with a little intention and a bit of practice. Set the intention first of all that beauty is everywhere and can be found if we put our mind to it.

And practice by starting with your next walk (even if it’s just to the corner Starbucks to get a coffee). Ask yourself to observe what colours do you see, what interesting patterns can you find (on the streets, in the land) what unusual things can you identify. Maybe start photographing the interesting things you see out and about. Not necessarily with the mindset of will this look good on my instagram feed but more of a journal for your own creative insights and noticing. I noticed this interesting pattern the other day created on a light coloured tiled floor in the subway made by hundreds of people’s slushy boot prints.

What else can we observe when we are out and about. Maybe an unusual bird or even the quality of light that noticeable starts to change this time of year. I am often surprised at how many times I have been lucky enough to see a big hawk in the middle of the city scoping for prey. It’s amazing what you can see when you tune into what’s around you. One of my favourite books that might help get you started is Bird Art Life by Kyo Maclear.

I believe that by seeking out and witnessing beauty you give yourself a gift. A little moment just for you. To revel in the many layered richness of life that exists all around us in patterns, textures, sounds, sights and smells. Taking us out of our heads, out of our next task or to do list and giving us an opportunity to be present and experience a moment of grace.

Lori HarrisonComment