It’s hard to not be cynical when the talking heads announce that the US economy is “officially” in a recession and has been since December 2007. The absurdity of not being able to name what everybody knew until a year after the fact is one more piece of what feels like the cold-blooded machinations of manipulative forces that have no interest or relationship with any of us down here on terra firma trying to live our lives in the day to day.

I’ve written here before about how artists are so far down the food chain that the market fluctuations that are causing such consternation in the upper echelons don’t trickle down that far. Not one to bitch and moan (having been raised in the “no whining allowed” tradition of my pioneer ancestors), I’m still challenged by what that means, living one’s life day to day. What it means, and what is meaningful.

I am guessing that there are as many answers to that as there are thoughtful, conscious people doing it. Here’s an excerpt from a very thoughtful and conscious friend, Riki Moss. A recent escapee from city dwelling and moving with her husband Robert to the wilds of Vermont, Riki is a touchstone for me in a number of dimensions. A visual artist as well as a writer (her new novel, An Obese White Gentleman in No Apparent Distress, will be published in January 2009), politically active but careful in channeling the rage, a consummate lover of life who bonds deeply with humans and with four leggeds, Riki has inspired me just by letting me watch the way she lives. And her art, so connected to the earth and what it sheds with unquestioned abandon, continues to move me. Perhaps her words will touch you as well.

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Riki Moss

Do we/did we have such power as to shove down with our heavy corporate boot the essential creative spirit of the entire planet? In my lifetime, in America, spirit rose in the sixties, hit the ceiling in the 80’s, was bought out in the 90’s and hid under a rock until the crack in the uber culture widened enough for it to seep through; nature abhors a vacuum. Up here, we are giddy with reality. We’ve turned off the Market Watch and put our noses to the ground sniffing for rising spirit. Personally, we notified the neighbors and formed a sangha in the living room, walking meditation around the depot on the covered deck. Noticing the rain dripping off the studio roof. Listening to the dogs along the road barking from their safe kitchens. To a horse whinny from the back field, smelling the wet hay.

A turning away from the despair of the species to what—not hope, because hope means hoping for something—but turning attention to what’s here. You, of all the artists I know, understood all along what to listen for, dig down to reveal, not succumb to disappointment.

So I find myself dragging home the fall down/cut down boughs of trees. The one in the studio is twelve feet tall. I make paper. I carefully wrap the wet sheets around the branches, feeling the bark, the knobs, the rivulets, the wounds. The feeling is of bandaging, of putting something back, of making a record, a map, a mold. Every ridge of the form is picked up by the paper. I wait weeks. As the cast dries, the paper shrinks, stretches, breaks open in places. I’m learning about nurturing, about taking responsibility for what has been killed for my table. Eventually, the bandaged tree hangs from the ceiling growing white as a bone. I get on a ladder and start cutting the cast open. With the right cuts, the paper is flexible enough to twist off. I lay it on a table and gently tape closed the open cuts, slowly reconnecting the sides with strips of wet paper. In the end, there is the cast of the tree, smaller and white, leaning against the mother tree.

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Close up of a Moss creation. To see more of her images, click here.

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