Aspiring Gutter Mages

New pics of our tiny house!

Spence here:  A couple stories. An old boss of mine, who is a skate-boarder, told me once when I was trying in earnest to work on my skate-boarding skillz, “You gotta commit!” I have not taken that advice as hardily as I could. For example, I have never learned to ollie a curb on a skate-board. I gave up because I couldn’t ‘commit’–I was too scared of breaking my back. I did eventually learn to ollie curbs on a dirt bike, mountain bike, road bike and a pair of street roller blades in the 90s. Another story. There is a cartoon I am fond of, perhaps it was Larson or someone of that ilk. It is a drawing of some gentlemen, sitting around in a support group style, with the organizer sitting by a sign saying “Anal Sex Recovery Group”. The organizer is passionately stating “You’ve got to hit bottom!” It makes me laugh every time I think of it, and its been several years since I first saw the cartoon.

What is the point? The last couple of weeks I feel like I have been struggling to commit to my own life. Sometimes I drift off and I fail to connect with family, friends, work–even my current projects are collecting dust. I was sick with a stomach-flu-like illness and things have improved, yet slowly. I finished my art website and a big art sculpture I was working on, and then nothing happened. Maybe I have been taking a breather, or it is the trough after the crest, but instead I think I have floated somewhere and in the intern, caught the depression again. I forget that beast needs constant attention. It is easy to fall prey to the lethargy, non-committal, apathetic attitude, especially in Portland for some reason, as many people here seem to have the malaise plagued by cynicism and disposal income. I lack the latter, but still slide sometimes on life’s slippery slopes. The answer is re-committing. Daily yoga and exercise, helping others, building something, digging something, writing something and telling stories.

This week I re-committed. The sun is out, I am eating more solid foods again, I’m “back on the bike”. We decided we needed some spring cleaning of our spaces, and Billy took some new photos of our ‘Cabana’ and the music studio. The spaces feel better after this rearrangement and I look forward to creating more outdoor spaces for us, like an outdoor kitchen, a new roof, deck and sitting area. I walked down to the local bike shop, something I have been meaning to do for months; walked right in and with help from a neighborhood bird, might have landed myself a bike mechanic apprenticeship. This morning I went down to Pier 99; a cool old marina area on the Columbia River, located a few minutes from the house. There is a group which has been meeting there (NOT an anal sex recovery group) which focuses on the craft, upkeep and enjoyment of small wooden boats–which I have also been meaning to check out for months. I talked to John, a member of the group, and we had a lively discussion about river dories and float boats. He gave me a tour, I helped around the shop and helped John with his bike, which was a cool old Peugeot. He pointed me in the direction of a pile of books and encouraged me to take a look at some of the affordable boat kits being made by a local crafts person. Another dream I have always had is to work on wooden boats.

Billy and I are soon to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary and I feel very proud. We have been strolling the streets in the sunshine lately, and getting our summer skin. There are many new murals in town, painted since we left and it is fun to discover our streets transformed. Get back on the bike, or the board, or the trail or whatever it is you’ve been putting off all winter. On the forefront, learning, formal and informal, working, re-committing. This weekend my brother is running the Boston marathon–again. He knows what that 25th mile feels like and he is still willing to go there. That is commitment.

Bravery doesn’t mean that you don’t feel afraid. If it did, you’d have nothing to be brave about. It’s when you feel frightened of a situation but step into it anyway that you demonstrate courage.

– Madeline Bruser

Billy here. A gutter mage is a character class I made up from my nerd days of playing role-playing games with dice, such as Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun. A gutter mage is a modern sorcerer, somewhat of a cross between a crusty punk train hopper and an alchemist who studies sacred geometry. In a steampunk world, the gutter mage would call forth the symmetry of abandoned train tracks and wild raccoons to create a portal of travel or summon magical helpers. We need a little magic in our current city life phase. It’s all temporary. But it’s so simple. If we are here in the city, let’s embrace it or get back out!

It seems like there is always the danger of losing faith in ourselves. I don’t think this is unusual human behavior. For people who thrive on time to reflect in this speeding world, it seems like we are caught in a riptide. It’s absolutely easy to give in to the prevailing paradigm of the mad rush to some kind of completion.The sun has come out and has peeled back the curtains on everything internal and returned inspiration! I feel like putting exclamation points at the end of every sentence! I read recently at an art gallery a quote by a well known artist, whose name I have forgotten, which said that it is easy to be a successful artist…All you have to do is commit your life to art. Commitment is success. I am committed to Spence. We don’t have to make a certain amount of money or earn a plaque from the government that says we have jumped through the success hoops of love and earned a promotion at life. Life is a gift. Life is art. Everything else serves life, art and love, not the other way around.

All we needed was a walk down the city streets to remember that it takes all kinds to make this beautiful world. There’s the guy who always stands near the same pole and asks gruffly the same phrase to every passer-by, “You gotta quarta’?” There’s the woman with a masquerade mask on both sides of her head. There’s the guy with the zebra pants stapling up flyers. There’s the dirt bike gang with giant head pieces. There is no wrong way to live one’s life if you are doing no harm or causing no suffering. Who is to say that knitting covers for bike racks is not a valid way to spend one’s day?

There are over seven billion of us. By the time you finish reading this post the world population will have grown again by hundreds, depending on how fast you read. That’s a staggering 228,000 people per day, 1.5 million people every week and 83 million people per year. We don’t have the resources – food, water, jobs, health care, education, sanitation and not to mention space – that our parent’s generation had, and our friend’s children will have even more competition for these resources.

At this point in our history, can we afford to not be creative?

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