It’s been almost three years since I’ve posted here. I have nothing new for your ears. If you want to check out some of my releases go to swampmessiah at Bandcamp.
It’s been a rough three years.
To only put a small spin of melodrama to it, I nearly died. Perhaps if I were single and living alone I would have.
Regarding art and life itself, if you are sick enough it not only affects your creativity and productivity, it diminishes your ability think and feel. By the end of June 2017 I was barely functioning in any capacity, physical or mental. This was the culmination of nine years of avoidance. Not denial—I knew what I was getting into—but avoidance.
From the summer of 2008 I had been showing unmistakable symptoms of diabetes. But I don’t trust doctors. Nine years of damage because I feared the treatment and the changes to my life more than the illness.…There was weight loss and weakness. Loss of dexterity and balance. Muscles have not revived.…The permanent and most debilitating damage that I could have held off for many years with treatment is to my nerves, both peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, which also led to muscle degeneration, from the lack of feedback, along with the lack of nutrients that starved the cells.
At the time—June 2017—I was being treated for pneumonia (which turned out to be empyema that required a surgical remedy that August). And yet more, I had cataracts, surgically removed December 2018/January 2019.…When we were in Australia for six weeks, just before surgery, I found it to be a very yellowish, unfocused place…which didn’t make their appallingly cramped, glum bathrooms any more appealing.
Between all these symptoms I felt very vulnerable and generally helpless. For almost a year I had difficulty walking even a block most days. This spring I finally started taking a bus and venturing a couple miles from home on my own. Still, some days I can barely get from room to room in our house.
I won’t go into a lengthy description of my symptoms. The important consideration is that I cannot do most of the things that we do without thought, the everyday things we take for granted. Everything I do, every step and movement, has to be conscious. Walking, standing, looking away from what I’m doing. I stumble and stagger when I walk and risk toppling if I look over my shoulder for oncoming traffic or tip my head back too far back to drain a glass of water.Picking something off a table, writing or drawing with a pen, holding a fork—very difficult. For instance, it isn’t just that I can no longer touch type from the loss of feeling. This summer—mid-July 2019—my vision again affected my ability to do negotiate space: I started to see double (diabetic diplopia). I can’t even be sure of the key I’m pressing when looking right at the keyboard. My fingers don’t go where I think they will.
Almost every basic function of my body is erratic. If I wander away from the house my trip might be cut short by my digestive system or low blood pressure (the two often go together). So far, I have not completely fainted. Not quite. Basically, I’m a wreck.
If you are sick enough it’s like you’re numb and addled by meds. You can’t think straight. You’re apathetic. But even when you’ve recovered enough you might not have that flow and spontaneity needed to create. You might not have the stamina to take on even a small project. You might not feel like playing. The lack of sensory feedback cuts out something essential. For me this has been compounded by the difficulty of using tools, any kind of tools.
I’ve tried painting, both with acrylics and digitally. The results are clumsy. Digital painting has a learning curve and an unfamiliar tool set that does not excite me. Physical painting requires adjusting from minute finger and wrist movements to use of arm and shoulder. No more intricate detail, that’s for sure. With a loss of technique it becomes entirely dependent on design and concept—never my greatest strengths.
I’ve updated my studio setup, both software and hardware, but, as you can tell, nothing has come of it. I haven’t even felt like noodling with a synth. Even the synth apps from Arturia that I have on my iPad have not been that tempting. (And I’ve had to switch DAWs, each with a considerable learning curve. I currently have: ACID Pro, my entry to audio composition, which has finally been updated but no longer seems viable; Cakewalk, which I used briefly but find arduous and uncooperative with MIDI controllers; Studio One, which has a great interface but I haven’t actually used, and would cost too much to update if I did want to us it; and Reaper, purchased this spring, which looks the most promising but I’ve never actually tried it.)
For now, at least, I’ve shifted focus from creating to cataloging and presenting, which I periodically do anyway. I’ve been working on my InDesign skills to create books of past achievements. PDF and fixed layout EPUBs are the most attractive options. Though I still like to imagine that I’ll be able to produce physical copies, whether with perfect bindings or stab bindings (for some great design ideas for creative stab binding, check out Becca Hirsbrunner).…Right now I can’t even keep the pressure on a straightedge to trim with an X-Acto or score a page with a bone folder. I’m trying to modify tools and workspace to improve my chances of doing what I want to do.
(The big project I’m working toward is a fixed layout EPUB of all the posts on this site (including this one and the fixed pages, a total of 133), which would include the audio tracks. I’m working on it. But I need greater skill than I have, so I’ve been creating test books in InDesign—table of contents, linking objects to text, the uses and limits of master pages, text flow, refining my use of the menus and tools and styles, et cetera. One test book was a crude work on stab binding. Then, two months of this summer went into creating a book of my top “100” albums. (I put that in scare quotes because it’s closer to 1200 albums. The top “10” is, at last look, 35. The next 100 was…I forget. More than 100.))
More than anything, I read. A lot. Since the end of January, after both eyes were repaired, I’ve read close to 100 books, both solid and digital. Mostly non-fiction or graphic novels. Quite a few books were on design, bookbinding, or InDesign (do you read InDesign guides cover to cover? I do). I’ve been on an Ellen Lupton binge and can’t recommend her strongly enough. I often read as part of my creative process, what might seem a fallow period, trying to subconsciously organize what might come next. And to feed myself. Walking is or was the best way to digest ideas while not seeming not to pay attention to them. But reading has long been what feeds me.