The Open Mike

So I’ve been trying my best to do an “Artist Date” once per week.  I’ve written about them in earlier posts – basically it’s a date with yourself.  Yes, by yourself.  I know it’s a scary concept for plenty of people, but oh how I enjoy it when I get up the nerve and do it.

Tonight I went to an Open Mike at the library a couple towns over.  How did I hear about this?  Well, on another artist date actually.  A couple months ago I went to here the Trapps at the Rhinecliff Hotel. On a Friday night.  By myself.  That took a little more push than other artist dates.  I’ve been to gallery openings,museums,  arts and crafts classes, antique stores – things people go to alone.  A band at a bar by yourself, well, I had to work up to that one.  Anyway, I find one way to get yourself out of the house is to get all dolled up, then you feel like you can’t waste a great outfit and a good hair day.  So I made it to the Rhinecliff, took a seat at the bar, and ordered a glass of wine.  Thankfully, most everyone was actually watching and listening to the band, so there was none of that, “I’m here with no one to talk to,” feeling.  The bartender was cute; the music was wonderful.  Not bad for a night out by yourself.

After a glass of wine, I started chatting up some of my fellow bar sitters:   a couple of “older” gentlemen who were former neighbors catching up with each other.  They had no problem talking to a single thirty-something instead of each other.  A little later others started dribbling in, and there I was, the band gone, and me still there!  A kindly gentleman asked if I was local and when I let him know I live just a few miles away he informed me that the crowd that just walked in was coming from an Open Mike that happens every third Friday at the local library.  He explained that the musicians are always amazing, and that they come by invitation.  He introduced me to the founder of the event, and I made a mental note.  Later, I pulled out my Palm Treo and marked “Open Mike at Morton Library” for every third Friday.

Well, tonight I made it over to the library.  Which actually looks like an old mansion.  Well, because it is old.  And was built by a wealthy couple as a gift to the community.  And what a gift!  It’s the first library I’ve seen that has a front porch with rocking chairs.  On one side is the library and on the other is the community room: hardwood floors, vaulted ceiling, a stage and a donated baby grand.  There were nearly fifty people in attendance by night’s end.  And the music?  Each song had a message for me.  Like I was destined to be there because these five groups had something to tell me.  It was a little of everything – we had some blues, folk, doo-wop, barbershop quartet, covers, originals.  The Rhinecliff donates sandwiches, there’s wine for sale in the back.  Everyone volunteers their time and donations for the library are accepted.  I read in the local “About Town” that the librarian knows everyone by name.  And now she knows mine:)  I joined the mailing list, and look forward to the next event.

Artist Dates

It’s a simple idea, though not so simple to enact: a date with yourself.  Julia Cameron calls them Artist Dates in her book The Artists Way. Sarah Van Breathnach calls them Creative Excursions in Simple Abundance.  Whatever they’re called, I’ve always liked the idea but had not put it into practice.  Until today.

Today I went to the museum at a local college – by myself.  I’d wanted to visit this place for quite some time, but found all sorts of reasons to put it off.  But today, the starts aligned.  Or I simply decided it was time.  And I went.

Well, it wasn’t that simple.  It would have been easier to just go home and relax in my favorite chair with my latest library find.  Or I could have used the excuse that I didn’t want to go alone.  But my inner voice said, “You know…when you do these things you’re always glad you did.  Just go.”  I even got dressed up for the occasion – I literally wore a dress, and make up, and good looking uncomfortable shoes (as any woman knows good-looking comfortable shoes don’t exist).

There are not many rules for these dates with yourself.  You don’t have to dress up.  You don’t have to go to a museum.  The only rule really is that you go alone.  And do something that you want to do.  For me, I’d noticed recently that I’ll tour all sorts of museums when on vacation, but never locally.  Why is that, I wondered? If I enjoyed art that much when I was away, why not enjoy it at home as well?  In fact, my friends say I have an alter ego that shows up when I’m on vacations and they try their best to encourage me to parade her out at home as well.  This was a small step.

I had no idea what the exhibits were in the museum when I got there.  I was sure that in whatever was there, I would find something.  Something what?  Meaningful?  Inspiring?  Thought-provoking?  I wasn’t sure.  But I just knew I’d find something.

I had a reason for going on this particular day.  There was a tour at 2pm.  I’m a big fan of tours as I enjoy hearing the background of the artist and the meaning of their works.  (Then, of course, we find our own meanings as well.)  One artist I viewed was quite the feminist.  I tried to keep my mouth from gaping open as I looked at some very provocative, controversial work of hers.  And there were at least two pieces that brought tears to my eyes.  One involved images of hearts and hands – and for reasons I can’t quite explain images of hands have always drawn me in.  The other was an immediate recognition of my own feelings, represented in a short sentence on an index card – one of a hundred or so.  The artist was depicting the contradictory advice she heard and received about relationships.  Honestly, what thirty-something woman couldn’t identify with that?

I don’t think it matters the medium, or the location.  I think in the act of having a date with yourself you’ll discover whatever was meant to come your way.  In my case, the recognition and affirmation of some thoughts I’ve been hanging onto for quite some time, a time of being among a group of strangers who share a common interest, a time of taking off on my own to see what I can see.

A Date with Myself

At first I didn’t know what attracted me to the piece of art in front of which I stood, transfixed.  “Ink on paper,” it said.  The name of the piece was Japanese as was the artist.  I stepped back, deciding that I didn’t have to know at all why it held my gaze, I could just simply look at it and enjoy it.  Quietly, it came to me: there was something so calming about it, despite the action it depicted.  The waterfall didn’t thunder, it fell gently into a pool beside a pagoda.    As I took it in, it slowly dawned on me that the piece was made with only three colors: black, red, and tan.  But with a little water and a little mixing, these three colors turned into many: rust, brown, copper, smokey grey,  burnt orange.  With just three colors, the artist was able to depict depth, beauty, stillness, movement, and peace.

If he could take three simple things and create so much, I wondered what I might be capable of with such simple beginnings?