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Episode 139: Roshan James

Roshan James is a visual artist and published poet, living in a small, rural town northwest of Waterloo. In a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation with Sara and Marshall, James talks about poetry, painting, process, purpose, and presence.

Episode 139: Roshan James

Roshan: I'm Roshan James.

Roshan: I'm a local poet and artist, and I'm here to talk to Sara and Marshall on the Bonn Park podcast.

Roshan: What peace do we offer trees when we walk among them?

Roshan: Do they hear our tread or breath first?

Roshan: Our souls?

Roshan: Do they hush and close their spiritual eyes?

Roshan: When our sighs sent the breeze?

Roshan: What does our peace mean to them?

Roshan: Speechless to our ears.

Roshan: Theirs is a language of shade, unspoken, dark, umbrous, alchemy encanging greens and whispering leaves, light and breath transition.

Roshan: There is no idle chatter among them.

Roshan: Their talk is of communion.

Roshan: Pull.

Roshan: The blanket of treetok closeness wraps around our shoulders where rest is bound under thickness of forced sound.

Sara: Roshan James, thank you so much for joining us today.

Roshan: Thank you, Sara and Marshall.

Sara: This is a funny connection because I just one of those cold Instagram messages like, hey, I've got this show.

Sara: Do you want to come on?

Sara: It first.

Sara: I had seen one of your pieces, which is People of Colour on Instagram, and I think it was from City on a Hill Art.

Sara: Is it City on a Hill Art?

Sara: I had seen it, and I didn't know what I was looking at it first.

Sara: I showed this piece to Marshall, and it's just beautiful.

Sara: It's just lines and color, and there's definitely depth of field to it.

Sara: And it just made me happy.

Sara: And I really liked it.

Sara: And I thought, this is amazing.

Sara: And then I saw the title and I realized that it's also important.

Sara: It was so gorgeous.

Sara: And so I just said to Marshall.

Sara: I want to have her on the show.

Sara: I think that she'd be a great guest.

Sara: No, you're also an author of three different books.

Sara: You have a day job.

Sara: You're creating art all over the place.

Sara: So you're doing multitasking in the creative world as far as I'm concerned.

Sara: And you were so kind to answer my message and say, yeah, I'd love to talk to you guys.

Sara: So I really appreciate that.

Roshan: Oh, it's my pleasure.

Roshan: I really appreciate you reaching out.

Roshan: And yes, I'm so curious to hear what your questions will be.

Roshan: There's lots to dig into.

Roshan: Of course.

Sara: Tons to dig into.

Sara: Yeah.

Sara: And you're the author of three different books.

Sara: We just took a fun screenshot.

Sara: I'll just tell everyone we'll include it when we post the show.

Sara: We just took a fun screenshot of all of us holding our copies of Breaking.

Sara: I picked mine up down at Words Worth Books in Waterloo, one of my favorite places.

Sara: And man, do I love this one, but you have art of the unknown.

Sara: And then this is my story, my song as well.

Sara: Yeah.

Sara: Wonderful, wonderful pieces.

Sara: But I want to start where the connection started.

Sara: Like this painting.

Sara: What was the inception?

Sara: Have you always been a painter?

Roshan: It's so interesting because my grandfather actually taught me to paint when I was very, very little, and it's always just been part of what I did.

Roshan: So similar to poetry, similar to story writing and other creative outlets.

Roshan: But I never saw it as, like, something to do, like officially as a job or a career or anything like that.

Roshan: And it was always just an outlet, really, like an expressive outlet and a way to help me process through different stages of life and that type of thing.

Roshan: But going through so many ups and downs through life, inevitably, I started coming back to creativity more and more as really the way that I got through some pretty sticky situations and rough patches.

Roshan: And then I started painting at the beginning of last year.

Roshan: I had been writing lots of poetry over the years, definitely going deeper on that side of things.

Roshan: Had kind of dabbled in visual arts along the way.

Roshan: But then for some reason last year, we just decided we needed to carve out an art studio space because my husband Patrick, he's also a visual artist, and it just felt like the right time for us to do that.

Roshan: We were changing some things up in the house, and so we took one at the garage space and like, okay, this is going to be our dedicated space for art.

Roshan: And I hadn't tried oil painting just yet.

Roshan: It always intimidated me.

Roshan: It was like the really serious kind of painting.

Roshan: And a friend of mine had given me an oil painting set, like, probably 15 years ago, and clearly I hung onto it for sentimental reasons and also because I was like, one day I'm going to try it, and I'll get down to it.

Roshan: So dug that out last year and started with oils, and it just literally felt like just the most natural thing in the world.

Roshan: It just really clicked for me.

Roshan: It felt like I had been doing it before.

Roshan: It was just the most surreal experience.

Roshan: And so then I started working on different paintings.

Roshan: And with everything that has been going on in terms of increasing awareness around antiracism and the important work that needs to continue to be done on that front and how much more focused we are as a community on this specific issue, especially, like, through the last couple of years, I was processing through different moments of trying to just really reflect on my personal experience as the person of color and what this growing dialogue in the community meant to me, what I could contribute to.

Roshan: It was really weighing out some of these heavier thoughts and heavier reflections.

Roshan: And inevitably, it started coming through in my art, but the one thing that I didn't want to do was have it come out as bitterness or sort of there's definitely healing that needs to happen.

Roshan: But for me, it was really important to focus on bringing out more of the experiences of joy and things that are important to acknowledge and celebrate as we continue to push forward with this really important work on the anti racism front.

Roshan: So that's where I wanted to show progression.

Roshan: A lot of bold colors, but also playfulness and how I mix together the heads and the bodies and the placement on the canvas.

Roshan: So that's kind of how it is conceptualized.

Roshan: And then I built out a few more pieces, and I'm starting to work on a broader collection around that specific theme.

Marshall: I think you achieved that, too, through just the surface quality.

Marshall: It looks like you paint in a very acrylic like kind of way.

Marshall: You use oils as though you were painting with acrylics.

Roshan: It's interesting calling that out.

Roshan: So for me, I really love the feel of how oil painting feels like sculpting, essentially because you can layer and build and create so much texture, and even within a small area of painting, you can create a lot of movement and emotion, too, through that.

Roshan: And that really spoke to me, and I loved playing around with that.

Roshan: I loved using acrylics for the longest time, too.

Roshan: So maybe that sort of feeds into how I'm approaching the oil painting, but I'm 100% self taught, so I'll say that, too, that this was a huge experiment for me.

Roshan: But yeah, it felt very natural.

Marshall: Sara pointed out there's this amazing field of depth in that piece called People, and what's so compelling about to me is there's just barely enough information provided that the viewer just can fill in the blanks.

Marshall: But it's clear as day.

Marshall: I think everybody will read it as those are people.

Sara: And they're descending into a background which mirrors also your landscapes and farmscapes that you have as well, for sure.

Roshan: Thank you.

Roshan: Yeah, the landscapes that too.

Roshan: It seems like a simple topic, I guess.

Roshan: I look at a lot of my pieces, and they're not really complex in that they're not intentionally layered stories.

Roshan: I think that ends up coming through after I start working on them and just the thoughts that I have as I'm painting.

Roshan: But initially I'm like, you know what?

Roshan: I love this vignette in my mind that I captured while we were out on a drive of a specific farm field, and it just sticks in my mind and I have to paint it, and I almost know when those moments are.

Roshan: So I'll sort of free frame that in my mind, come back to the studio, start working on something, and it usually is like a bit of a hyperbole of a very small slice of actual ground in the foreground, and then more so focusing on the horizon and the sky to me out here.

Roshan: What I love so much about living out here in the country is that we just see the horizon line from one end of our field of view to the other.

Roshan: And the sky is just massive and expansive, and it just feels so like freeing and untethered, and it really increases your sense of awe and wonder on a daily basis.

Roshan: So I found painting those simple paintings.

Roshan: Like I said, as I was painting, then I would sort of be layering intention and meaning as I built them out.

Roshan: And I think that sort of starts to come through as people look at the texture and movement, especially in the sky paintings.

Marshall: I want to ask, Sarah, didn't you find that looking at Roshan's work, that they walk this line between representational, abstract and then pure abstraction?

Sara: Totally.

Marshall: Yeah.

Sara: And when you were talking about oils versus acrylics, there was such a thickness to the paint.

Sara: And I know you talk about that often about layering because Marshall is an artist and I've painted stuff, but nothing no one's ever going to see.

Sara: But Marshall, never know.

Sara: That's true.

Sara: Never say never.

Sara: Right.

Marshall: I always think they are so painter.

Marshall: They're like painting about painting.

Sara: Right.

Sara: And then something that Russian said just now, I was wondering I was thinking about you, Marshall, that I see something and I'm inspired when I'm out.

Sara: Did that play into your work as well?

Marshall: For sure.

Sara: Yeah, because I feel that way with photography.

Sara: Photography is my tool for sure, my medium.

Sara: But I was wondering with painters, it's everything together then.

Sara: Is it life experience, a message, something you've seen?

Sara: I don't know if you watch Modern Family, but Mitchell, when he was really into painting, he's just like how much paint I have left because that's also if you're on a roll and even though you're not classically trained.

Marshall: You intuitively know how to divide up a canvas like two thirds and a third.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: I guess you also do you stretch the canvas over panel like a board?

Roshan: It's over just a typical Gallery frame.

Marshall: Yeah.

Roshan: So I just buy them sort of prestretched already.

Roshan: But yeah, they're usually fairly deep profile wise, because I like that chunky profile.

Roshan: It sets it up really nice.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: They're almost sculptural.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: Once you put them on the wall.

Roshan: Yes.

Roshan: And I love painting around the edges, too.

Roshan: And the canvas is not better.

Sara: Oh, sorry to speak over.

Roshan: It does on a thin frame.

Sara: Even when people get like a canvas of a photograph printed on a very thin frame, it does end up getting a warble through seasons and temperature change.

Sara: Not a sick frame.

Sara: It's going to be pulled tighter.

Sara: Sorry, Marshall, I just elbowed you there.

Sara: It's got to be pulled tighter.

Roshan: It's true.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: It feels sturdier.

Roshan: I think overall as a structure, especially for oil painting, because it has such a heavy feel to it, the specific technique is impasto technique.

Roshan: So it's that really heavy use of paint and sort of carving into it to create that texture and that movement.

Roshan: I was going to say something about the wrapped edges because I do, like, bleeding over, but not always consistently.

Roshan: So I like the idea of having kind of a rough edge or rough elements even within the composition of the piece, because to me, it feels like that really is what life is like.

Roshan: It's always sort of, like a little bit open around the edges and constantly building.

Roshan: And there's that sense of like maybe there's something else to come and at least it have been open for interpretation.

Marshall: It was a local named Behnaz Fatemi who was a guest on our show, and she spoke quite a bit about the need to bring writing into her visual artwork.

Marshall: And I love that relationship if it works in a very natural way.

Marshall: And clearly you found a way to find great joy in both writing and painting.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: It's interesting, actually, that you mentioned that because one of the pieces that I recently finished, I actually did write a poem, like, not previously written, so I actually wrote it live, I guess you'd say, right onto the canvas, and it just sort of emerged and became part of the art piece itself.

Roshan: And then I included almost, like, from early cartoons or the Batman series where they do, like, the POW and the band and all the cartoon letters.

Roshan: I was trying to, like, introduce an element of that sort of, like, comic style or comic style into the piece as well, because I find there's a bit of, like, a pop art feel that kind of comes out in that.

Roshan: And I like the juxtaposition between that and the more serious, almost like traditionally treated objects in the painting.

Roshan: So it almost ends up being like a collage within the painting itself.

Sara: Before we started recording here, we were talking about Marshall was bringing up the sense of time.

Sara: Can you say it actually Marshall?

Marshall: Oh, just how the pandemic has really played with our sense of time.

Marshall: Some of us might just be realizing it now after all this time that we're starting to lose something that's kind of internal about just keeping track of time, and things start to blur together.

Sara: And something else that I personally have felt and I'm sure everyone has, is when you see a gathering of people, even in a movie or a TV show or we were joking with Ren Navarro, the one day her podcast, Ren likes to talk.

Sara: It starts with a busy restaurant or a busy bar, and you can hear the glasses twinkling and the cutlery going and people talking.

Sara: And I had that same kind of even though I felt so much joy looking at people of color.

Sara: The first one that I saw, I also had that feeling of that's a lot of people in one painting.

Sara: It's just the gathering thing.

Sara: It's a little unsettling to me still.

Sara: And it's just because we've all been in our homes and been quiet for so long.

Roshan: It's been a very quiet time.

Roshan: And I think that's where people have been reflecting more, evaluating what's important in life.

Roshan: Right now, we're hearing on the work front through my corporate day job.

Roshan: We're aware of people who are just not realizing that they've maybe done things for so long just because they thought they had to.

Roshan: And now they have the time and the space to just think differently, essentially, and see if they can move in a different direction.

Roshan: It's a very fascinating time for me in general.

Marshall: Roshan, I think your poetry book Breaking is actually a very quiet book.

Marshall: That's what I really find the beauty in it.

Marshall: If you don't mind, I'll just read one little piece here.

Roshan: Oh, yeah.

Marshall: It says we run red lights from exhaustion.

Marshall: Maybe we'll get there.

Marshall: So this really spoke to me.

Marshall: I remember my brother who lived in an outport in Newfoundland with no cars.

Sara: Hi, David.

Marshall: No vehicles.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: And David came up back to Ontario after quite some time.

Marshall: So imagine living in an outpour with no vehicles.

Marshall: And I was driving them down Victoria Street, and I went through three yellow lights each of the time, and I thought nothing width of it.

Marshall: And David was probably experiencing a lot of things being back in Ontario, but he says, hey, what's the rush, right?

Marshall: And I didn't think I was.

Marshall: And I tried to explain.

Sara: You the least rushiest person I know.

Marshall: Yeah.

Sara: And I mean, that was a compliment.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: Thank you.

Marshall: And I tried to explain.

Marshall: I said it's like the energy of the city.

Marshall: It's like there's something that's moving us faster forward.

Marshall: And I truly was not trying to get anywhere too fast.

Marshall: But my mind and body have adopted to the culture of driving in wireless region.

Marshall: And I really appreciate it, my brother pointed out to me.

Marshall: But it's amazing to me how in such a succinct, brief way, you express something that has given me hours to ponder.

Marshall: That's incredible.

Marshall: Such a small, simple bit of text.

Roshan: Thank you so much.

Roshan: It's interesting because when I first started writing poetry, I found that I was writing shorter pieces and that was just me and what was coming out.

Roshan: And I often felt like it wasn't maybe enough because you start to evaluate other poets and how they write and you hear people say, oh, I like this about it, or I like that about it, but maybe it could be longer.

Roshan: And for me because I'm so sensitive, like, I internalize everything.

Roshan: So it took everybody, like, journey upon journey to kind of realize that what I put out is sufficient and leaving that room and space because I am a very quiet person.

Roshan: It's so interesting that you caught onto that Marshall feeling like you need to say more, do more, move faster.

Roshan: All the more it takes a long time to realize that you can just pull back from all of that.

Roshan: And I think the more that I did focus on my poetry and building my voice, that's where I started to enjoy it even more so.

Roshan: It's so interesting.

Roshan: You put down some of the false mores and then you actually get more abundance and the things that really do satisfy and the things that really are you at the end of the day.

Sara: I love that you just used this ‘false mores’.

Sara: I'm like, oh, yeah, that one hits home a little bit because you have to remind yourself sometimes about that.

Roshan: Yeah.

Sara: You do get caught up in it sometimes.

Marshall: I was thinking of you, Sara.

Marshall: You must see many things about yourself.

Sara: Oh, my gosh.

Sara: Yeah.

Sara: You could probably see it's.

Sara: The Breaking book club, everybody.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: I found myself thinking about Sara and other people in my life.

Sara: Totally.

Marshall: Who I thought if they were to see this, they probably would see something that I see in them.

Marshall: I wonder if they see it in themselves.

Sara: Right.

Sara: I read it in the car on the way home.

Sara: I wasn't driving, from Wordsworth.

Sara: And then I took time to read it again.

Sara: I went through it very quickly the first time because I was sort of eating it like a slice of pizza.

Sara: I was so excited.

Sara: Amazing.

Sara: Then I had time to sit back and reflect.

Sara: As Marshall said, this one, it's obviously the type of work that is one piece.

Sara: But you can consider one page or two pages as a little work.

Sara: Right.

Sara: As a little body of work or as their own separate poem.

Sara: And this one here on page.

Marshall: Sometimes one sets up the next one.

Sara: Oh, totally.

Sara: And the one that I'm thinking of is the series in here or the sections in here that start with I'm in here.

Sara: And on page 57, follow along, listeners, on page 57, there's a piece here that says, I'm in here trying not to put my fist through my own walls.

Sara: Dramatic.

Sara: They say aggressive.

Sara: They say, calm down.

Sara: They say, I'll just stay in here.

Sara: And this one speaks to me so much I don't even know where to start.

Sara: I mean, you obviously have your own reasons for writing this.

Sara: But for me, even today, I was struggling this morning with just some ideas of I'm working too hard, I'm not working hard enough, I'm having too much fun.

Sara: You're never fun.

Sara: Like all of those types of things in one ball where you're just like, it's like locking yourself in the bathroom.

Sara: I talk about this with parenting.

Sara: Marshall and I were both stay at home work at home parents.

Sara: And that's how we met in our local neighborhood and just tell the story that there were a few days when my kids were like two little toddlers and I would just lock myself in the bathroom for about five minutes and just take a minute.

Sara: Just take a second to regroup myself.

Sara: And in the same way, as an adult, sometimes I have that feeling like I need to stand back from all of this noise that I'm hearing and I don't know and decide what it is that I need or that I want to present or that I don't want to give to anybody in this moment.

Roshan: Oh, that's so powerful.

Roshan: Sara will say.

Roshan: It almost brought tears to my eyes, like I was holding back tears hearing you read the poem because it's just something.

Roshan: It takes your breath away when you hear others respond to it and pick up on things and then hear how it reflects what they've experienced.

Roshan: But there's no greater sense of satisfaction.

Roshan: I think as a writer, that's pretty amazing.

Roshan: So thank you both so much because here you both read the poems.

Marshall: It's a very reassuring book in terms of it kind of tells you it's okay.

Marshall: And if that's where you are, that's all right.

Marshall: There's some pieces where I said this the other day.

Marshall: I gave her an example of sometimes I wake up, like at a weird time in the night, like three or four in the morning.

Marshall: You can suddenly just feel overwhelmed by something, which isn't the way you should be feeling at that time.

Marshall: Your thoughts should be simple and then you should go back to sleep.

Marshall: And it's amazing how these feelings can be right there and be very present and there's no distraction because it's night and it's dark and you see the digital clock.

Marshall: And I feel like the book kind of says almost like a Pat on the back, it's okay if that's where you're at right now.

Marshall: You have to work through something to get somewhere else.

Roshan: That's 100% it because inevitably we're not ever there.

Roshan: Whatever there means, whatever that there is that we're trying to get to.

Roshan: We're always working through something, moving through a space, moving through a chapter, moving through some sort of life experience, whether it's like good or bad or whatever in between.

Roshan: And really, all of that is 100% okay.

Roshan: And I firmly believe that everything does happen for a reason, but not in a trite way.

Roshan: It's heavier than that.

Roshan: And we're learning.

Roshan: And sometimes those lessons aren't palatable.

Roshan: They are the lessons we wanted to learn.

Roshan: Maybe we didn't choose them, but we do choose how we get through those situations.

Roshan: And sometimes it's okay to just say that it's not okay and I just need to lie down or I'm awake at 3:00 AM.

Roshan: In the morning with spinning thoughts.

Roshan: And I've 100% been there many times.

Sara: Yeah.

Marshall: There's one that opens talk about fluidity, and it kind of ends with the fact that we are moving mountains.

Marshall: We're not just these stagnant.

Roshan: Yes.

Sara: But also insignificant at the same time.

Marshall: Yeah, exactly.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: That's in there, too, right.

Marshall: That's so neat, because Sara and I read a book called The End of the Universe, Astrophysically Speaking.

Marshall: I thought there's a poem in here that actually would go great with that.

Sara: Yeah, it's written by Dr. Katie Mack.

Sara: And it's about how in 5 billion years the Earth will end as a crusty little clump of fire.

Roshan: How do we reconcile with day to day the mundane of just getting up, having breakfast, getting kids ready.

Roshan: You've got kids to get ready in the morning.

Roshan: We do.

Roshan: So everything you're saying about being parents resonates with us and just moving through your work day or whatever that day looks like.

Roshan: And then you realize and you look up the stars and you look up the sky and you're like, there's so much more out there and so much of it is 100% unknown.

Roshan: We have the answers that we think get close to what everything means, but I still think we're guessing at best.

Roshan: And it's humbling.

Roshan: I think it's good to kind of have to go back and forth in your mind between the day to day and those bigger thoughts.

Roshan: And that's perhaps what helps us sort of create things like hope in ourselves and resilience.

Marshall: Do you ever look at the page and it's like sometimes just twelve words occupy one page.

Marshall: Do you ever think about that?

Marshall: But those are your words like you deliberately picked each one of those words, you might have labored over that poem for a long time.

Marshall: It might have looked very different at the beginning, but in the end, once you published it, it's maybe a dozen words and it occupies an entire page.

Marshall: That's a lot of space around those little words, but they're yours, right?

Roshan: Well, that goes back to feeling comfortable to own that space and say, yes, this is enough, because I'm constantly battling that urge to put more in there and say more or get more specific, because I'm not sure if somebody is going to understand the abstraction of the piece.

Roshan: So that's been part of the learning.

Roshan: And just experiencing through it is like figuring out and becoming more intuitive about where to just stop or where to pair a little bit back.

Roshan: And I do find that even the experience of writing a piece of poetry is much like sculpting or carving, because I feel like I throw a bunch of stuff out there and then I start peeling layers back.

Roshan: I'm doing this gesture, carving gesture, because that is what it feels like inside.

Roshan: When I'm going through the editing process.

Sara: That hits home with me.

Sara: I mean, I feel that way about the creation because I edit the show.

Sara: I feel that way about the show.

Sara: We can't leave everything in.

Sara: Sometimes we talk to somebody for a couple of hours, don't worry, we won't keep you that long.

Sara: But you're often peeling things back from that.

Sara: And Marshall's, a writer and an artist, you can definitely relate.

Sara: I'm doing that with the camera all the time where I'm looking at what's inside the lens, and then I'm repositioning to omit things because it's too much most of the time.

Sara: And you're trying to keep it more simple than that.

Sara: And yeah, I know, Marshall, when you're going through your writing editing process, same thing.

Sara: Do you get that sculpting feeling or do you feel like you see it beforehand?

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: It's amazing how much in my case, when I write a newspaper column, I have a maximum of 550 words and sometimes the first draft of 650.

Marshall: And I think, well, I can't cut anything out of here.

Marshall: It's all incredibly important for the story I'm trying to tell.

Marshall: And then you realize that once you have to do it, you do it.

Marshall: It's actually much better for it.

Marshall: I'm sure that's the case of poetry, right?

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: I love the fact that in a case like your poetry book, the most amount of text is on the back of the book.

Marshall: That's pretty awesome.

Roshan: That's where I explained everything.

Roshan: I'm like, this is what it's all about.

Sara: That's how we use it.

Roshan: Yes, exactly.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: I find that mood, especially because when you're creating these pieces where you're going through the creative process, it really is about a mood that you want to convey.

Roshan: And mood is such a delicate thing conceptually.

Roshan: I'm holding my hand like this because I feel like when you have a mood or a feeling, it's so ephemeral and then you're trying to translate it into something concrete.

Roshan: So how do you do that?

Roshan: In the most delicate way.

Roshan: And that's where I think really spending time with it and kind of grooming it and pairing it back and just giving it its way of breathing is so important.

Roshan: But I've only figured that out after bumping along the way and creating some clunky pieces, too, where afterwards I publish it, I'm like, I don't know.

Roshan: It just feels like it's just a little too.

Roshan: There's, like, too much in it, or there's just pieces that aren't as polished or refined or soft as they could be.

Marshall: Is it really minimal?

Marshall: I'm talking about a really minimal poem.

Marshall: Is it kind of sometimes just even crafted in your head before it even hits the paper?

Marshall: I don't assume that every poem is sat at a computer.

Marshall: You looking at a blank page going, I'm going to write a poem.

Marshall: Now.

Marshall: I figure some of these come to life while you're driving or walking.

Roshan: Yes.

Roshan: Oh, my gosh.

Marshall: And you actually create it and build it within your head before it's ever put down somewhere, right?

Roshan: Yes.

Roshan: Usually when I'm driving, when I'm walking.

Roshan: Pretty much nailed it when I'm in the shower and when I'm halfway asleep.

Roshan: So all of these moments where I can't actually write the thing down and you're forced to be alone in those moments.

Roshan: Yes.

Roshan: So they're very quiet, alone moments.

Roshan: Which is good because I do need that for just thinking in general and focusing.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: There's usually moments where I'm like, okay, this is short, so it's good.

Roshan: So I'll remember it.

Roshan: I won't forget it because that has happened before.

Roshan: Sometimes there's just these Nuggets that can come to mind, and there's just a knowing that that is the complete thing, and I just have to jot it down and then put it out there.

Marshall: What blows me away is how something so succinct can come out of a life that must be full of clutter like everybody else's life.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: Like your thoughts are, there's a million thoughts a day.

Marshall: There's noise around you, all of us, right.

Marshall: There's just so much around us.

Marshall: And yet somehow you can filter through it all and achieve this.

Marshall: Doesn't that do you ever reflect on that and think, wow, that's amazing how that's done.

Marshall: And all their stuff goes away.

Marshall: And this is left, right.

Roshan: Thank you for saying that.

Roshan: It's interesting because that breaking.

Roshan: I still wasn't sure how it would hit people.

Roshan: I wasn't sure if it was too quiet at risk of being boring even.

Roshan: But then people started to respond to it.

Roshan: And to hear both of you respond to it is incredibly encouraging.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: I would say, like, these days I do meditate a lot.

Roshan: I would say that I really try to adhere to this concept of total meditation where you're trying to be mindful and meditative pretty much like through every cycle of the day.

Roshan: That takes a ton of time to work on, become disciplined.

Roshan: In early days, I would say.

Roshan: Yeah, lots of competing thoughts.

Roshan: I was doing art at the fringes of life, if I was doing it at all.

Roshan: So really my corporate job was the focus, family life was the focus.

Roshan: And then you go through a bunch of things that really shake things up, and you do have to get clear on what is the priority and what is your mental state like and what is your mental health like and overall wellness.

Roshan: I went through a process of getting to a place where it's more and more quiet and I can focus in on certain subjects and contemplate and then write.

Roshan: But yeah, it hasn't always been like that.

Marshall: I've shown Sarah this book I really love.

Marshall: It's called The Mindful Writer by Dinty T. Moore, a professor down the US.

Marshall: It's a little red book, and it's written from a very he's not a Buddhist, but it's written from a Buddhist perspective and has lots of quotes in it.

Marshall: Often there's a quote and then there's a little paragraph by him kind of playing off that quote or adding something of his own thoughts to it.

Marshall: And the thing I took away from that book more than anything is the idea that when you're writing to really question the purity of what it is you're writing and to make sure that what you're doing is not being, I guess, maybe influenced or possibly even poisoned by another agenda by some thing else you're trying to do and say other than just be very pure and honest in your thoughts.

Marshall: I'm just paraphrasing that's what I took away from it.

Marshall: But that really getting down to your most honest, authentic, pure self.

Marshall: And I guess that was a process probably for you when you're ready to drink, too, right?

Roshan: It continues to be, I would say.

Roshan: I don't know if that would ever end.

Roshan: I love that, by the way.

Roshan: That just really struck a chord.

Roshan: I think that deepening of awareness, the expansion of consciousness, like all of that is something that I've been trying to grow my understanding of more, I would say, through this poetry and visual art journey, I knew where I was, even from a spiritual standpoint.

Roshan: I thought that I had things sort of like locked down and figured out and grew up in a very traditional home that way and had a lot of, like, Unconditioning to do and stripping away to do and then figuring out actually sort of what was what.

Roshan: And that's where I think I reflect on that and know that there's just still more and more to do and their oldest will be.

Roshan: But, yeah, mindfulness as a writer, I don't know that you can be sorry.

Roshan: I should step back for a second.

Roshan: You can write without being mindful, obviously.

Roshan: But the more mindful you are, I think the more true you are to what you are trying to express.

Roshan: And it really is agenda free at that point where there's really pure and specific focus on what you're trying to convey.

Sara: This makes so much sense to me and also with what you were saying earlier about spending time meditating, which is not something I do intentionally, but I'm working harder and harder to think of my intentions and to focus on tasks at hand, even if they are just driving or just preparing to meet Marshall for our projects or being with my children or getting some exercise.

Sara: And I noticed on your Instagram just recently you posted something that said I think it was recently intention is powerful energy.

Sara: And at almost 46 years old, I keep saying I'm 45, but now I get to say I'm almost 46, almost 46 years old.

Sara: This is something I'm just learning now and again.

Sara: Totally thought I had what I thought figured out.

Sara: Totally thought I knew who I was.

Sara: And just now thinking and realizing unless I sit down and attend what I want to do and who I want to be, and unless I take those moments, however mundane, but to be mindful in them, I'm lost and possibly spinning out of control.

Sara: I mean, I never really get out of control.

Sara: I'm pretty boring, but out of control from the neck up.

Sara: Do you know what I mean?

Sara: I was talking to my teenage daughters last night and they were both mentioning that I overthink everything I said.

Sara: Well, yeah, I do, but it doesn't go anywhere.

Sara: I'm just constantly overthinking everything and it's spinning my wheels all the time, like Marshall was saying, waking up with this energy of heavy thoughts.

Sara: But you didn't ask for them.

Sara: You were just minding your own business, sleepy.

Roshan: Yes, they are your thoughts.

Sara: Yes, they're there.

Speaker E: Marshall, wake up.

Sara: That's what I'm thinking.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: I actually hear somebody's voice in the night call my name.

Sara: I hear that sometimes it's not there.

Sara: It's myself, I think.

Marshall: Yeah.

Sara: Really?

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: You don't recognize your voice.

Marshall: I think about the artwork that you went with for your book and what a perfect pairing.

Marshall: This very simple in so many ways.

Marshall: A circle, which for me also can look like a sun.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: And the way it's just almost like moving very slowly, quietly across the sky.

Marshall: How did you come to settle on that artwork that perfectly represents the writing inside?

Roshan: Thank you again.

Roshan: I sort of just had a vision of it as soon as the title and this has happened, I think with each of the books, I knew it was a thing.

Roshan: I knew I was going to write it and I knew what it looked like.

Roshan: And I don't know why that happened the way that it did.

Roshan: It just did.

Roshan: The same thing happened with part of the unknown.

Roshan: I knew what the title was.

Roshan: I jotted it down in the margins of my notebook while I was writing some other pieces, and I knew I was going to come back to it.

Roshan: And there's just something around that.

Roshan: It seemed to be a crystallization of all the things and the topics and the reflections that I was already writing about it's.

Roshan: Like I was prewriting it.

Roshan: And then the title came and then I continued writing it, and then I skipped it all up and then packaged it into this thing.

Roshan: And it saw the cover and it was just very big and simple, too, at the same time.

Roshan: Same thing for Breaking.

Roshan: It just it made sense to me because it felt like the break of day.

Roshan: That's sort of an interesting time for me, too, because it can sort of feel like the end of something and the beginning of something.

Roshan: Yeah.

Roshan: There's a mood to it.

Roshan: Sometimes the morning mood is a little bit melancholy, and that's okay.

Roshan: And as a poet, I love the melancholy space.

Roshan: Anything kind of like dark and broody feeds my soul.

Roshan: But yeah, I don't think a lot of people know this, but my name means new light, as in like morning light.

Roshan: And my mom used to talk to me about that when I was a kid.

Roshan: And it always felt like something special to me.

Roshan: And I feel like I've felt like with Breaking, that was a moment to kind of bring more of myself into that piece in that symbolic way.

Marshall: Is it not painful being in some social situations where when you're someone who thinks so deeply and thoughtfully to be able to put it out in the form of poetry or art, and then you find yourself in situations where sometimes you're surrounded by people who are all just talking about things on a very surface level.

Marshall: Right.

Sara: Is this something you speak of?

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: Sometimes we're talking to neighbors or whatnot.

Marshall: And within moments, as soon as you say something that's maybe a little bit more introspective or maybe trying to explore a part of your spirit or soul, you can make people uncomfortable and you can see it when you've done it.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: And then you go back to that place where I guess we're talking about the snow at the end of the driveway.

Marshall: Right.

Roshan: Right.

Sara: The new kitchen.

Marshall: Yeah.

Marshall: I'm not trying to say poor us.

Marshall: I'm just trying to say it can leave you sometimes walking away feeling a little bit alienated.

Marshall: Right.

Roshan: It's such a good thing to talk about, actually.

Roshan: I have noticed in myself over time I was great at extroverting when I was younger.

Roshan: I was very social, love being at and about, going with friends, all that and for work, I was used to kind of being on always, so always presenting, always speaking in front of leaders and things like that.

Roshan: And it was cool.

Roshan: But I found over time the more that I have spent more time with myself and with my art and nurturing that I have become more and more a hermit.

Roshan: And over the last few years, that's literally what I tell people.

Roshan: I'm like.

Roshan: I'm actually like a closet hermit.

Roshan: And I think maybe not a closet hermit anymore, just a straight up hermit and moving more and more into the country like Patrick and I live at Newton now, which is between Milbank and Milford.

Roshan: And lots of people know anime and Milbank beautiful alpaca Pharma.

Roshan: There is there's lots of cool farms out this way.

Roshan: And I think it's the solitude combined with the opportunities now to just spend so much time focused on creative work that that is what we gravitate toward and that quiet place that feels like healing from all the things that we've been through in life.

Roshan: We both have our histories and our stories and our baggage.

Roshan: Yeah, there's something now where we just crave quiet and peace and focusing on that and sustaining that for our kids.

Roshan: Our family overall is now like our number one priority.

Roshan: And we've been talking about that a lot actually, lately and trying to figure out how do we just sustain things and live more and more in this zone of sufficiency instead of trying to chase and chase and chase and really just also show the kids that this is what's possible if you figure out who you are, what your voice is, and that you have this ability to create and really do whatever you would like to do.

Roshan: But yes.

Roshan: So coming back to your question, Marshall, it does present awkward situations and there are times where I don't always feel like going out or doing the thing that we may have committed to doing.

Roshan: But I also think so many people are feeling that because of the isolation through the pandemic.

Roshan: So there's so many different factors that kind of feed into it.

Roshan: There are times where I surprise myself too and I push myself to go out and then I enjoy just chatting about just regular everyday things.

Roshan: Like the kids were home again for two days this week because there are snow days, but they're not regular old snow days anymore.

Roshan: They still have to do online school.

Roshan: And that really does it sucks.

Roshan: What is she going to say?

Sara: Is she going to say what we're all thinking?

Sara: Yes, she is.

Roshan: It really does suck.

Roshan: And that's just having kids is like one of the most humbling and just like everything changing experiences in life.

Roshan: So I think that too has sort of shaped our home life and how we approach everything in general.

Roshan: It's just from the baseline of it has to be practical and it has to not tax all of us energetically because we figured out we just don't operate well when we're trying to move too fast.

Sara: That is such a good thing to realize too.

Sara: And I remember moving quickly when I had my first child when she was a baby.

Sara: And I remember thinking, okay, when you go to meet with your friend, go meet up with your best friend or whoever it might be for the first time with the baby, is that I need to lay out the idea that this isn't about us.

Sara: If this baby cries or needs something, everything today is about this baby.

Sara: And before any other of your friends have kids, it's a hard thing for them to grasp onto.

Sara: I've told Marshall many times.

Sara: I made sure that I didn't tell, like, on the phone with my friends.

Sara: I made sure I wouldn't talk about my kids.

Sara: I kept asking about their lives, not that they dictated that that was a choice I made because I didn't want to lose my friends and be the boring person that talks about your kids all the time.

Sara: Do you know what I mean?

Sara: And now that they've all grown on and all their families have grown and they've had children, when I've talked about that with them, they're like, you totally could have mentioned something.

Sara: But it's that sort of protecting the space that you have with your little family as well.

Sara: And understanding like, this is what we do in our time.

Sara: And if we are going to go into your space, it is going to be all about the kids.

Sara: But again, I took a big piece of that part of my life with me now and still hermit very often because I want to protect the quiet time and the family time and not over commit to all the other things that you could do if you want to.

Sara: We were joking about the breaking book club here.

Sara: How many book clubs have you been invited to in your life that I can't.

Sara: I'd like to read a book when I can, but I cannot join ten book clubs.

Sara: Happy that you buy ten.

Sara: Please go.

Roshan: Do people do that, though?

Sara: We have other hobbies.

Sara: We are creating art and we're doing other things.

Sara: Right.

Sara: The ramble I had there, but I think it made sense.

Marshall: Yeah, there's a lot of good stuff back in there.

Roshan: No, that was really good because I was like, yeah, I hear you.

Roshan: I don't know that I could join the book club right now without feeling a certain amount of anxiety.

Sara: I don't know if I can commit to having that red.

Roshan: Yeah, no, I can't.

Roshan: I don't know what I'm doing, like next Tuesday.

Sara: But it's not going to be a group activity.

Roshan: I can tell you.

Marshall: I thought we could wind down Roshan by you talking about somewhere along the way you made a decision, very conscious choice, that you weren't going to succumb to the rat race.

Marshall: Right.

Marshall: And that when I look at your paintings and when I look at your poetry, that for me, represents freedom.

Marshall: That is freedom.

Marshall: But that didn't come without enormous amount of work and sacrifice and probably a cost as well, but you somehow got there, eh?

Roshan: Thank you.

Roshan: I feel like you're calling out so much that this is incredibly affirming and moving for me.

Roshan: Marshall, it's Sarah, both of you.

Roshan: This has been just an amazing conversation.

Roshan: There has been definitely sacrifice.

Roshan: I would say I've picked up and put down the rat race a couple of times, thought I had sort of semi retired and then realized that you don't make a lot of money during the co rate of life.

Sara: But everybody wants hurt you don't you die.

Roshan: It's a shock I really should have done ahead of time, but I'm always optimistic and I think sometimes naive too, in that optimism.

Roshan: I don't know that I want to change it, But I feel like I sometimes have to call it out Because there's some things that I've done were just throwing stuff at the wall and it sticks and sometimes it really doesn't and it dribbles off the wall and you're like, okay, or throw itself back at you or throw right back in your face, you're like, oh, okay.

Roshan: I would love one day just to just focus on art.

Roshan: I think that is really the singular goal at this point.

Roshan: How we get there is a bit of the muddling through at the moment in that limit space.

Roshan: So another limit experience.

Roshan: But I do think that that's where you find freedom.

Roshan: Like when you can align your day to day with what really drives your sense of purpose and joy and you can kind of detangle from any sense of obligation or needing to do something for somebody else.

Roshan: Not needing to sound self serving but where it's not driven by somebody else's agenda or conditioning.

Roshan: That does feel like freedom.

Roshan: It sounds like freedom to me.

Roshan: So that is the goal and we see how close we get over the next few years. I think.

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