29th July, 2014. By Harper Cowan.
This summer is the first in the past 6 years that I’ve spent in my hometown, New York City. Last Wednesday, after an early video-editing class on the Upper East Side, and then a couple of hours at my internship at Center for Planetary Culture, I wandered up to the L train to head back to Brooklyn, to my temporary-bedroom #11 (12? 13?) of the summer. I realized I haven’t been this in love with this city in a long, long time. I felt awe struck by all of it, the sunset, the city, the people, the streets, the shops and schools and energy, the taxi cabs, the trees, the air, the art, the inspiration – head over heels in love with all of it. I’ve lived here since I was 10 and it’s been the setting of some of the happiest and saddest days of my life, and this summer I am so grateful to New York City for continuing to hold me in its arms. This summer I feel so present, focused, calm, kind, and joyful, it is the most righteous experience.
I remember when Jess and I were traveling I felt so amazing, I felt like all my senses were heightened – I could taste and see and smell better. And I noticed all the animals, and all the vibrations and energy and life happening all around. I still feel that way, I feel so grateful to be so keenly aware of so much beauty. I stop in my tracks at least once a day, at the BARE MINIMUM once a day to marvel at something. The sunset, a dog, the combination of two colors, the smell of bread, a good dancer, a good song, a view, a sleeping baby, a kind person, a cute boy. I feel like i’m on wonder-drugs. I just want to run up to people and say “Are you seeing this??!!!” Can you even believe how much incredible stuff we get to experience every day? Aren’t we so lucky?? It’s just blowing my mind in the best way.
There are three things that were really bouncing around my head on that early evening wander, and when I got home I shared them with my oldest best friend, Molly. The first was this – this summer, this year, from now on, I endeavor to take responsibility for my well-being. I love myself, so I want to take good care of myself, and make good decisions for myself. Whenever possible I will keep myself out of harm’s way, and I will try to be kind to myself. I want this for me and for all of my loved ones – let’s take care of ourselves, you guys! Let’s make good choices. Let’s be good friends to each other and to ourselves. Let’s be kind together.
The second intention I had floating in my body came in response to watching Chris Burden’s conceptual / performance piece, “Shoot“, as well as Marina Abramovic’s video piece, Artist Must Be Beautiful – I respect and admire both of these works of art, but the thought that came to me was that the new trend I would like to see in art, in culture and in lifestyle, is self-love, not mutilation. Let’s stretch, challenge, and push ourselves to see just how good we can be. So often in art and in life the goal seems to be to hurt yourself, to see how much you can put yourself through, how much you can bear. It’s shocking and it resonates with viewers and elicits a lot of questions and emotional responses. What I would love to see happen, and I do see it happening in the work of some contemporary artists I like very much, is work that embraces and cherishes us. How much am I willing to love myself? How good can I be? How much can I care? I feel really excited about creating Anima Rising and working on Ways Of Living with Jesse because it’s a project filled with love. It’s about being good to ourselves, good to each other, good to the planet. We love, and we care, and we’re trying, and that is just filling me with joy right now.
The third inspiration I had, coming out of my video class where I’m practicing my Final Cut skills, and then going to my internship where I was generously offered a lesson in User Experience, and then meeting up with a friend who also generously gave me his After Effects software, is that I can do anything! There is nothing that I can’t learn. For a long time math and science and computers felt like something I’m just not good at and something that I don’t know how to do. But I felt so inspired in this feeling that there’s nothing I can’t do. If there’s something you want to do, you can learn how to do it the same way you’ve learned everything else that you know – you study, you practice, you try, you fail, you improve. I felt so encouraged, like a whole world of potential had just opened up to me. Working with Jess on Anima Rising has been huge in that way too – we didn’t know how to make a website, we figured it out by trying. We don’t know how to make a movie – we’re figuring it out by trying!! (Side note: Brad was right – the willingness to try IS the only skill you need!) You can learn how to surf, you can learn how to speak Italian, the only thing you need is the willingness to try.
I’ve also been incredibly inspired working on the Wild Woman page for Anima Rising – getting to meet, and talk with wonderful, powerful, thoughtful, intelligent and exciting people. The whole thing just feels so blessed. Jess and I wondered on our first filming trip if it was possible that this project could just keep getting better and better, because every day seemed even better than the last. And, in its way, this project DOES keep getting better and better! I just couldn’t ask for it to go more right, I feel so lucky about the way things are going and so grateful for all the encouragement and amazing creativity and collaboration that is happening.
I’m so in the mood to be good, to be kind, to be open, to be trusting, to be joyful. Feeling good feels so good. There are always challenges, but we hold so much power. Like so many wise people have alluded to, you can’t control what happens but you can control how you react to it.
This summer I’m grateful for old and new friends, for their generosity and patience with me. This summer I’m grateful for the beach, I love swimming in the ocean and lying on the sand – it is a simple, joyful meditation, and it’s so fucking fun, I can’t get enough of them waves. And of course I’m grateful for beautiful New York City, enchanting me every day.