My boss, of course, is me.
I decided I would do three things:
- Enjoy the wonderful weather.
- Get some exercise by taking a long walk.
- Figure out how to use the regional bus system to get to and from Denver (22 miles from my home).
Since I have a membership at the Denver Art Museum, I made that my destination. They have a fabulous exhibition of Rembrandt's prints right now. And although I'd been to it, I hadn't been able to see it all during my first visit.
And so, using three different apps, I managed to get down to Union Station using public transportation. (Yes, I did get on the wrong bus initially, but it all worked out.) I took a nice long walk from the station to the museum. Ahhh—just what I wanted.
The museum has a studio where you can make your own prints right now—to complement the Rembrandt exhibit. Printmaking is something I've always wanted to explore, as I've found the whole process sort of mysterious and confusing. The previous time I'd been at the museum, I'd made this print using just a sheet of styrofoam and the tip of a pencil. (Hold your applause.)
I was the first studio visitor of the day, and I got right to work. Again, I drew a simple bird surrounded by foliage. But unlike the styrofoam print, this time, I would need to carve out everything I did *not* want to make an imprint on the paper. And so began a remarkably tricky and time-consuming process of carving linoleum.
I don't think I raised my head once while I worked.
I heard mothers and small children and teenagers and senior citizens come in, make projects, and leave. I heard a tiny person demonstrate her fatigue with several tantrums. I heard a young girl talk about her tricky science project, involving planets and styrofoam spheres. I kept working.
Even though I overheard several warnings about the sharpness of the carving tools. I started to find them insufficiently sharp. Sometimes they seemed to be tearing the linoleum more than cutting it. But I persevered.
I heard people talk about getting lunch. I knew I should eat something. But I couldn't stop.
At long, long last, I felt like my carving was complete. I chose a paint color, applied it to my linoleum, and made a few prints. I hung one up to dry. I looked at the time—I'd been at it for FOUR HOURS.
It was the wonderful David Rakoff who taught me about this phenomenon of unbroken focus in a piece he did for This American Life called "Martha, My Dear." He introduced me to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept of "flow." Flow is that sensation that's part absorption, part determination, and part hypnosis. It's when you're exactly where you want to be, doing precisely what you want to be doing. And happily, it's how I spent my day off.