I’ve been in one of those post-project/pre-project limbo funks. These are the times that, I have been told, I am the most difficult to live with. I don’t have grounding in the limbo times: I’ve let go of the last project, but I haven’t yet grabbed a hold of a new one. Lack of grounding is known to make me irritable.

Sometimes, if the limbo time starts to drag on, it becomes uncomfortable. The unknown starts to feel oppressive and I get anxious. I start to think that I have used up my entire allotment of ideas for my lifetime, as if there is a fixed amount, but I’ve never been told what that amount is. My time being an artist has expired. It’s during these times that I will start to indiscriminately grab onto any idea that comes into my mind. I will have great enthusiasm for something new for anywhere between a few minutes to a few weeks. But those phantom ideas always fade away and flatten. The disappointment of the fizzle makes the situation feel even more desperate. When it gets really bad, the whole world begins to feel flat and pointless. It’s hard to get out of bed on those days.

Inevitably, an idea forms again. They always do. Ideas are nothing special. But eventually one will form that actually grows rather than flattens. Most of the time the ideas that stick around don’t arrive fully formed. This one certainly did not. It’s an especially nebulous one full of problems and questions. The good thing is that the problems don’t appear to be insurmountable, at least not at this point in time. And questions are typically good because they keep things interesting. I lose interest in an idea pretty quickly if it doesn’t generate more interesting questions.

This new idea got me out of the house on a day that promised rain. I headed to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest with an exploratory intention, but without a clear plan. I had a map, my camera, a thermos of still-hot coffee, and rain gear. In the headquarters parking lot, I tightened my laces and prepared to head out into the forest for the day. Before I finished packing my backpack, a car pulled into the lot. I recognized the long legs that stretched out of the car before the rest of his lanky body emerged as belonging to Fred, my main science advisor. This was quite fortuitous because a short conversation with him clarified some hazy thinking on my part, making the time I had in the forest that day more focused and intentional. Soon after Fred’s legs unfolded from the car, also quite fortuitously, the passenger door opened to produce another artist: DJ Spooky. A conversation with him reconnected me to the Muse, whom I had felt I had lost. DJ Spooky was there to begin a short residency; I was there to begin a project so new that it hadn’t received even a working title yet. All of the creative limbo anxiety dissipated in that parking lot. I had clarity, intention and I remembered once again what it felt like to connect as an artist to another artist.

I visited four stream gauging stations that day. At each one I felt like I was meeting a new friend, the type of meeting where you get the feeling that you will be friends for a long time. I still don’t know the structure of this new project, but I do know that it has had the most auspiciousĀ beginnings of any other beginning. I do know that I have passed through the limbo yet again and I have Fred, DJ Spooky and the Muse to thank for that.

The working title of this project is Gauges. This will change as I get to know the project. It always does.

Some images of the four stream gauges that I visited:

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