by Carrie Kirk
I don't know if it is the waxing of the moon, the change in the barometric pressure, or the daily decrease in the amount of daylight, but melancholy is my mood this autumn.
Everyone else in my household seems to be holding steady. My oldest son is regularly charging a soccer ball and arm wrestling with his math homework. My youngest has happily set up a fort in the top of his closet, proving that this top shelf can hold a sixty-five pound boy, plus the weight from assorted pillows, blankets and books. Even our dogs - brothers from the same litter that haven't settled on which one is alpha - seem to be on an even keel, standing in our yard with noses raised, enjoying the season's new smells. So I wonder why I am the one not comfortable in my own skin this October?
Although not the case in my own household, I have found that I have company. A few days ago, George and I were in Broad Ripple running an errand. Parking near the Monon Trail, I saw a man who I have crossed paths with throughout the last ten or so years. We don't know each other well. I definitely wouldn't say we are friends. But when we see each other at the coffee shop or soccer field, we always have a great talk. Much to George's chagrin, this day was no exception. With our conversation punctuated with the occasional "Mom, come on!" from George, we talked a good twenty minutes, and I discovered that someone else was feeling life's melancholic tug and pull.
We are about the same age with children near the same age. He is married. I am not married. And I'm guessing he has a loose version of a nine-to-five job while mine is very loose. We both have discovered the wonderful ability released endorphins have in bringing a rosier outlook to life so workouts are a big part of both our daily routines. So with the autumn sun shining and the intermittent rain shower of falling leaves, we talked. We talked about antidepressants. We talked about raising our children. We talked about being surrounded by so much and yet sometimes feeling so little.
And the reason I bring this to you is because for the past month I have been asking people in my life whether or not they consider themselves an artist. I was curious to see what people said and how the answer to that question might change depending on the age of those who answered. With the "data" I collected, my plan was to write a piece on how when we are children most of us say that heck, yes we are artists but it seems that the response changes as we age. (You may see that topic down the line so please act surprised.) However, because of the sentimental autumn days and the conversation with my friend that has stayed with me, I wonder about the practice of art and its ability to bring happiness to a life.
I believe that art can be utilitarian in nature. If you are a homemaker, perhaps you are an artist in the home you create. If you are a furniture-maker, you are an artist by way of the chair created in both form and function. Unlike children, seldom do adults have a chance for an arts and crafts hour, right? We have to find ways to be artistic in our daily doings whether it be running a soccer practice, fixing a mid-week dinner or putting together an outfit (maybe for Halloween).
Another friend countered that, arguing that art is non-utilitarian and should be considered art if it is only for the pure expression of emotion. But what about that fellow on the trail? For that entire time we talked, he was pure emotion. Can't he find a place to put it that fits into the functionality of his life? In my recent days of melancholy, can't I do the same? Creating something that reflects who and what we are on any given day (good, bad and average) takes courage and expression and a big breath of endeavor. In our own way, aren't we all artists in this life?