I was born a fourth generation Vermonter. Which means I run maple syrup in my blood and hold autumn in my soul. They say you are not a real Vermonter until you have at least two generations beneath you. But, really I love flatlanders (our affectionate nickname for transplants from afar). Some of my best friends are flatlanders. They make our state diverse and rich, as long as they love Vermont as much as the natives.
I come from hearty stock of hard working farmers and common folk who kept plugging away at the American dream. I lived my first few years on a pig farm in rural Vermont, but my father was in search of success and my mother, her voice. So we began a series of moves that would formulate my childhood. Moves to start fresh, moves to learn new things, moves due to crisis, moves to run away, and moves just because. There is a Buddhist term, annica, which means constant change. Life doesn’t remain the same and mine certainly has not. Believe it or not, I am thankful for that.
I had an early interest in creativity and spirituality. I walked in the woods alone feeling the energy of the earth and soaking in the beauty and stillness around me. This was my church. I loved creating anything I could think up and redecorating my rooms frequently, which I am sure drove my sister crazy. I was searching for the best ways to look at things. An observer at heart, I watched how people interacted, I watched how they survived, I watched how they endured and expressed their inner hopes and dreams.
My father had given me the value of knowledge through his love of reading. He would say “Michelle, readers are leaders” and pay me $1 to do reports on books like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I am a voracious reader to this day.
My mother bequeathed me the gift of independence. Watching her struggle to find her voice helped me understand how important it is to stand on your own two feet. Even though I struggled as well to find my authentic voice, she inspired me to find my way.
By the time I got to high school, my older brother and I insisted that we finish out high school in one place. For the majority of my four years, we settled into one community. I tried hard to fit in and be like everyone else. To the outside observer I probably did. But, I always felt set apart from the crowd. Seeking deeper truths, deeper meaning, seeking…
I was probably the only one who dusted off the copy of the Encyclopedia of the Occult in the high school library. I was fascinated by spirits and at one time seriously thought about a career as a paranormal investigator. (I swear it is a real major). But it was not the science that interested me, it was the human spirit. What makes us resilient to travel through life getting all dinged up and keep coming back for more? What makes us sing, dance, and create even when we are crying?
Through all of it, I struggled. I struggled to find myself. Like anyone from generation X, I was forced to ask who were we anyway? Women were liberated. Sort of. We could do anything we wanted. Sort of. There were mixed messages everywhere from family, friends, and our culture. I struggled to listen to them and listen to myself. I struggled to believe in myself and know my self worth. I struggled to be everything for everyone and still have something left over for me. I took safe journeys so I could survive and be independent, but in the end it wasn’t enough. I needed to realize who I really was and take the risk to put myself out there. I needed to strip away the layers and find my core.
My path to find my creative center was a bumpy road. In high school I started putting art in the forefront, even trading advanced college prep classes in my schedule to take another painting class. But doubt was still loud in my ears and I didn’t really want to believe that I was an ‘artist’ because it didn’t feel safe to bare my soul. Doubt would whisper, ‘you aren’t good enough to be a studio art major.’ So I chose to study art therapy, which was a practical compromise at the time.
After a year of college in the big city of Boston, I decided it wasn’t for me. With what I thought was good practical thinking, I chose to transfer back home and study social work. Even though I took every art class I could get into my schedule, I still could not fully believe that I was an artist. “Who do you think you are anyway?” whispered doubt.
It took many more years of the heart wrenching 20’s. You know the twenties when you deny yourself, look for yourself, devalue yourself and finally grow up into your thirties… It wasn’t until I went through those dark, beautiful, and soul searching years that I asked myself, are you done denying yourself yet? Are you done denying that you are an artist at heart and your soul longs to create and express all that you seek and observe? Seeking the answers to the human spirit is a bottomless well for the masses, because it is different for everyone. Why do you think there are so many churches, religions, and faiths? Spirituality is personal and individual. I was not going to find answers that were truth for everyone, only for myself. The answer for me was to know myself as an artist. To hold that in my hands and up to the light, listen to my intuition and passion, validate my worth, and create my heart out. And then I found home. All those moves. All those changes. I found my constant within myself. There all along.
I started taking art classes again. Getting to know myself again. And my life changed. In placing art in the forefront, I found myself. I met my amazing husband (who is also a musician and seeker). I had a beautiful daughter. I found Joy. I continue to seek and tear away at the layers to make myself vulnerable and open to life’s changes. I continue to observe and express myself.
So here I am. An Artist. A seeker. An observer. Here to express my soul through art and words. For you to take what is truth for you. For you to be inspired and to find your home whatever that may be.