Exit Interview

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone.

You’ll have to pardon me, but I’ve always wanted to write that.  And in a small, but possibly over-dramatic gesture, this was supposed to be posted as I drove away.  But, you know, things happen, moving takes up more time and energy than you anticipate, and suddenly it’s almost two weeks later.  You’re in a different city, what is supposed to be your home, you can’t get the zip code or city name right on job applications, keep making weird disgusted faces at the local news (it’s gonna stay like that someday), and you don’t tell anyone because you’re hiding until you’re ready.  And then you just keep hiding because then you get depressed.

But what follows, seems to be the thing to do these days, write her a letter when you leave, a long, prosey, sad goodbye.  It’s because she’s special and deep down, not one of us is 100% positive we’re doing the right thing when, if, we leave.  It’s a little like leaving home (home-home, not adopted home) for the first time.  You know it needs to be done, but there’s still that breaking, no, with her it’s that stretching of the cord that binds you, testing its limits.  New Orleans will always feel like absolute home to me, but it’s time to face the truth.  It’s not mud and swamp water that courses through my veins, but sod and gently rolling hills (at least the politics haven’t changed, guffaw).  I’m a girl of the plains, not born of bayou pirogues but casting off in land-locked lakes.  True, my homeland doesn’t hold as much magic as South Louisiana does (for me), but maybe it’s time I make my own, as soon as this Black Cloud of Leaving passes.  Time to (eventually) find out if living off the land, the land of my birth, is hereditary.  Time to admit I need help, as hard as that might be.  I have a plan, a ten year plan, if I don’t get distracted and my body allows it.  (This morning, it’s running some plays I can’t quite defeat. And thanks for the football love, New Orleans.  I’mma Who Dat ’til I die.)

I will miss her.  God I will miss her.  Eight months before departing and I felt like crying when I thought of leaving, a few days before and it was unreal.  It didn’t hit me until I stood in an empty apartment, about to leave.  Broke down, had to sit in the moving truck until I was sure I wouldn’t run us off the road.  Driving away, a clear image of my soul, my spirit, my whateveryouwannacallit, clawing at 1-10 West, at 1-55 North, trying to get back.  Past the lake, resigned.  (Whatta you gonna do, spirit, swim back?)

So, I will miss her broken streets, her moss-laden oaks, her young earth coating of seashells and river silt, her egrets and pelicans, and wish I could wrap up City Park and take it with me.19_JillEnsley_City Park Magic Tree

2013-12-08 16.11.26citypark_newsunsetI will miss her High Cloud Season, Low Cloud Season.  Every Cloud Season.  Kansas may have big skies, but nowhere I have ever been can hold a candle to Gulf Coast clouds.  Nowhere.  Shut your damn fool mouth.

Fluffy towers that dwarf the sky itself.  If you’re not a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society of NOLA, I highly recommend it.

I will miss Swan River.  There is no other space like it.  Yoga (and so much more) in an old library, with the beautiful mural proudly displayed, and amazing, welcoming people all around.  How perfect is that space.

2014-04-06 09.23.57

I will miss these girls.  So much.  I can’t even say anymore because I will start crying on this keyboard.  And anyway, ladies, it’s not goodbye, just see ya later.johnnysketch1  There will be others I will miss, and I hope you know that, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. Know that I was, and will be thinking of you, but these two ladies, these are mah girls.



So, goodbye Nigerian cab corner (Bienville & Royal).  Goodbye Poo(h) Corner (Carrollton & Iberville).  Goodbye Flagstaff Walk (Jeff Davis walkway between Toulouse & Bienville).  Goodbye to nearly constant music in the streets, any street.  A lone trumpet, from somewhere nearby, a lone sousaphone player, marching up down broken sunset seashell & silted concrete.  Goodbye N. Pierce, where I began my tenure, met lifelong friends, and then came back full circle to depart, but never really leave.

and p.s. thanks for bestowing me this weird cat.  maybe I’ll see ya for Carnival next year.

—————————— Which brings us to today….

My brain can’t wrap my heart around it.

Suddenly, gone.  Suddenly, quiet (my god it’s quiet). No neighbors on their porches, no streetcars, no brass bands practicing in the street.  It does hurt.  I’ve never missed a city like you miss a person.  The first full day in my new apartment, listening to ‘OZ and I couldn’t stop crying, and laughing.  I haven’t been able to listen to it since.  What have I done?  What I needed to do, but painful all the same.  Like I told the good, good friend (thank you, Kim!!!) that came down to help me leave, “it’s like ripping a Band-Aid off, OF YOUR HEART”.  Always one for the false joke, the hysterical histrionics.  It’s going to take some time, happened so fast.  And there’s a large chunk of my heart that will forever and ever be covered in Spanish moss and iron lace. There’s so much more I wanted to say, but it’s so much that I can’t quite wrap my arms around it. Maybe it will come in time, maybe this is fine the way it is.

(Two pairs of socks, three blankets, and I cannot get warm.  The cat is none too pleased.)

So, if you’ve made it this far, and you’re in the NE Kansas neck of the woods, come to our small pop-up-ish holiday art sale this Saturday and Sunday (Nov 13 and 14) at 1146 Connecticut (in the renovated church) in Lawrence, KS.  There will be hot cider and pumpkin bread and awt.

 [all images copyright Jill Ensley, thank you very much. and if you want to see the photographic progression, check here. I’m hoping to update it soon.]


Advice For the Old at Heart

fb old

Oh, this old chestnut. That thing I made years ago and still think is SOOOO funny.











Obviously, on this, the first day of my 37th year, I realize I have been very successful and successful people share their secrets and give advice to other people for being successful.  Of course, this is not actually my current situation, but I do think I’ve learned a few things, so why not write a long-winded blog about it.  All the kids and new moms are doin’ it (plus, this is pretty funny, considering how much I hate all the random numbered lists clogging up the tubes these days).

1.  First and foremost, watch out for Bottomless Pits of Need.  They will hurt you.  They may not even mean to, in fact, they probably won’t be able to comprehend how it keeps happening.  But know it’s because they need constant attention and validation, and when you cannot provide those things for yourself, you seek it anywhere.  They’re validation junkies and junkies don’t care about anything but their next fix.  The more malicious of the type can be called “Emotional Vampires”, but many of the Pit People are actually great people, at their core, and do not intentionally mean harm, but their gaze is directed outward, not inward, and you should absolutely be wary of anyone who cannot spend some time alone.  (This goes for romantic interests AND friends and relatives.)

2.  (And on that note) Spend Some Time Alone.  If you’re like me, this is fine and dandy, but some people find this akin to climbing Mount Everest.  Do it anyway.  You need to learn some things about yourself before you inflict them on someone else.  Yeah, sometimes it sucks, looking at yourself, laid bare, imperfections and Things You Need To Fix.  But, do it anyway.  For instance, I’ve learned there are three things that I will not tolerate (specifically, in a relationship, any relationship, romantic or platonic):  1. Lying. I don’t care if it will hurt, I would rather know the brutal truth.  No matter how bad it is, lying about it is worse and will ALWAYS come back around.  2.  Consistent drug abuse.  I don’t get it and I won’t be around it.  I’ve seen addiction on a loved one and I’m not signing up for that again.  3.  And here’s the childish one, but important all the same.  I, personally, need to feel special.  Not doted on, not suffocated, but special,  unlike the others.  An effort needs to be made, a mutual effort.  Yeah, that last one ain’t the most beautiful, but there it is, and it’s honest.


Yeah, I miss these cats.











3.  Hang out with your grandparents more, if you still can.  Or you get to be 37 years old and realize there was so much more to learn.  Truthfully, there always will be, but cherish your elders, if they’re good people.  If they’re not good people, leave them be.

4.  That said, don’t feel bad about cutting toxic people out of your life.  Drop them like a bad habit.  Seriously.  Even if they’re relations.

5.  DO feel bad about inadvertently cutting good people out of your life.  Make more of an effort to stay connected, especially with relations (this is one I’m still working on).

6.  And on that note, yes, people can change, but only with a large investment of time and effort.  If you’re up for it, you have to throw yourself on the fire repeatedly, for years, possibly to your own emotional detriment.  But know that if or when you give up, they will most likely go back to being terrible.

7.  Find your home.  It can be a place or a person.  A person is better, since they’re movable, but more rare.  Settle for a place if you have to.  It may not be your birthplace, or the town you grew up in, but it’s out there.  You’ll know it when you see/feel it.

8.  Timing really is everything.

9.  Don’t take small things for granted.  Things like, California sunlight (it’s very specific. ask Robert Bechtle), an unseen neighbor practicing the trumpet, fresh honeycomb, porch swings, digging up potatoes, a change in the weather, streetcars, a quiet walk at sunset (or as the Chinese say, sànbù).

10.  Lead by example, not by screaming at people to change.  People will shut down, get defensive and only think about your faults and how to throw them back at you if you preach outside of a church.  No one is flawless, but no one will listen if you don’t walk the walk.  If you want to change the world, start with yourself.  Don’t showboat your actions, but do talk about them, when appropriate.  That is how you win hearts and minds.  It took me awhile to learn this, and I often falter (see: this post).  But frankly, I don’t have the energy to yell and scream anymore.

11.  On that note, don’t EVER, EVER say to someone, “but you don’t look sick”.  I don’t care who it is.  If you know that person has been having problems, this is not a pick-me-up.  Even if that person just has a bad cold, these words don’t help.  It does not make anyone feel better, especially someone who has opened up, who may hate to talk about their sickness, but feels so bad they have to bring it up. That phrase, as innocuous and well-meaning as is seems, tends to make the sick (especially the chronically ill) feel even more isolated because you’re just one more person who doesn’t understand.

12.  Try your best not to assume, about friends, family, strangers especially.  Most likely, you don’t know the whole story and there are reasons behind every action, inaction, and words spoken.  You know, maybe that person next to you doesn’t want to chit-chat because they’re trying not to throw up.  Maybe that girl doesn’t want to converse with you because she’s just having a really bad day, not because she’s a “bitch”.

13.  Do not get distracted by the success, or perceived success, of others.  This is especially true now that most of us are connected 24/7 and we’re all “marketing our own brand”.  Stick to your own goals, what makes you happy, and what you can actually get done.  And don’t think you have to do everything as quickly as everyone else.  Some of us take longer, and you know what, that’s just fine.  Everyone should probably take a little longer.  Marinate, bitches!  (yes, still working on this one myself, but it’s a damn good reminder.  I actively weed out people from my social media feeds that distract me.  yes, they’re fine and good people, but I can’t get bogged down by their active marketing. ya herd. I definitely take longer than everyone else though.  got that one squared away.)










14.  ELDERFLOWER CREAM (with Irish moss & vitamin E).  Trust me.  And don’t just keep putting it on your forehead for years, thinking that’s going to be the problem area.  Because then you get to be 36 and you catch the light a certain way in the bathroom mirror and OH GOD WHAT ARE THESE TINY WRINKLES ON MY CHEEKS AND UNDER MY EYES *slather slather slather*  I mean, my forehead doesn’t look too bad though.  (I used to buy mine at Soap Plant in L.A., but it seems to be a popular blend you can buy under many labels.  I just bought this one to replace the other version.)  Also, try not to bake in the sun too much.  Since moving New Orleans, and frequenting the Gulf Coast for beach trips, the sun damage has taken a late toll.  But hey, at least I don’t LOOK sick. GAR GAR GAR GAR.

15.  Be confident, not just because you think you’re good enough and smart enough, but because you’re not alone. You’re unique as a person, the collection of you, but you’re not alone.  That thing you’re thinking about doing, about creating, about showing to the world and you’re convinced it will work (until the doubt creeps in), know that you’re not alone.  You should want to share your story, your love of certain flavors, your series of weird paintings because we are not alone.  Someone out there will get it.  And the chances are, if one other person will get it, a few others will too.  I’ve realized I have a special kind of self-doubting arrogance that seems to fall more on the artistic types, but can sometimes be perceived as plain ol’ know-it-all-ness.  Or I don’t.  I don’t know.  Sometimes I feel like that’s how I’m perceived.  Let’s get one thing straight.  I don’t know anything, and I know everything.  So do you.  But definitely don’t go around telling people you know everything, that means you know nothing.  People who know things don’t need to tell people, they show them.  It’s probably the best writing advice I’ve ever received and it’s just as hard in day-to-day existence as it is on the written page.  Don’t tell, show (yearly blog posts not included).

16.  There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.  I am absolutely still working on this.  Absolutely.

17.  For the love of Pete, teach your children how to make things.  Because when they get older, they will (probably) cherish those memories much more than any toy or cheap plastic gift (except for Legos).  Go skating, make candles, grow things, eat those things, make dinner with those things, make your own ice cream, finger paint, make leaf rubbings, learn how to sew, ride a horse at least once if you can, go to camp if you can, rescue animals, learn how to care for animals, (no matter how small), catch lightning bugs (fireflies for somma yew) and let them go, play in mud, indulge them in whatever musical instrument they pick up, put down, pick up, make sock puppets, homemade play doh, and build stuff out of whatever you can.  A good childhood doesn’t have to be expensive.

Much love,



Until Spring

Let the countdown begin.  Give me until Spring to sort it out.  Give me more time with her.  One more flat-planed Fall bike ride, one more Autumn in City Park, one more Halloween, one more Superbowl (ya ‘erd).  One more carol in Jackson Square, one more freak snowstorm, if we’re lucky.  One more Carnival, one more season of stress and release and multiple costume preparation, one more roll in red and black.  One more season of avoiding Jazz Fest and contemplating French Quarter Fest.  One A few more levee walks, nights of drinking and dancing, go-cup strolling, porch sitting, more time with friends (ladies, you know who you are).

I’m not done with her yet, but I feel the end coming, can no longer ignore the pull reversed.  I never actually thought it would happen, but there it is.  Reasons, so many reasons.  In the end, family and future, my inability, physically to “go it alone” anymore, my desire to begin to build something lasting.  I see it clearly, just need to make it happen.  I love you, New Orleans, dearly, would still lay down my life for your continued existence, but I know now what the future holds and it’s time, or rather, will be time.  But give me eight months to say goodbye.

It’s true, things are not looking great (financially) right now.  I look for jobs every day, send out countless resumes.  As anyone who reads this might know, it’s not always easy, especially when you voluntarily quit your primary job.  You’re supposed to suck it up, forge ahead and DEAL WITH IT.  But, since leaving, the chest crushing anxiety attacks have ceased.  I no longer deal with that medication, with that issue.  Of course, there is the other issue, the one I don’t really like talking about, but it IS an issue, the gastroparesis (you can look it up, but it won’t tell you everything).  I know no one really understands it, so let me explain just a little.  Imagine you had to eat like a baby.  Imagine you live in an amazing culinary city and you can only eat very little, and only things that are easy to digest (even though, yes, you constantly test the waters to see if you can get away with something delicious. sometimes you pay, sometimes you get by. you just don’t know when a flare-up is coming, especially since a lot of it is tied to your cycle and THIS GIRL hasn’t had a cycle in six months (but that’s a WHOLE other issue)).  When it’s bad (as it’s getting right now), you only eat solid food once a day, when it’s really bad (as I often fear), it’s liquids only.  Oh, and plain water makes you nauseous.  It tends to be worse at night and in the morning, so you have this window of a few hours after you wake up until late afternoon where, if you don’t eat much, you can get some things done.  You feel SO much better when you don’t eat, but you want to eat, you have to eat.  Imagine throwing up almost daily, maybe it’s just dry heaving, but still not pleasant.  And the pain, the pain, when it’s bad is like a wide, tight belt of spikes around your entire mid-section and leaves you immobile, curled around a heating pad.  Now, throw a 9-5 job in there, when your nutrition is out of whack, you’re probably a little dehydrated, and sometimes it’s just hard to concentrate.  And, of course, there’s the depression, because this is NEVER-FUCKING-ENDING and it tends to put a cramp in your social life, and of course, your mental and emotional well-being.  Food is much more than sustenance.

So, I have to make this work, these next eight months.  I have to.  I’m not done yet.  I have to find a way to make art, make it profitable, while working part-time, OR work full-time and maybe, just maybe squeeze in some artwork, when I’m having a good day, when I’m not exhausted, nauseous, in pain, or just blue.

And I hate asking for help, hate divulging my weaknesses and laying all of this out there, but it probably needs to be done.  So, here’s my Etsy store and I do take commissions.   If you wanna see where I’ve sunk all my money and effort for the past two months, come see me at Palmer Park this Saturday (and god-willing, Oct 25th and Nov 29th) from 10am – 4pm.  I’ll be showing under “Holy Crow Studios”, the umbrella for my more whimsical, “accessible” wares.  You can like us on Facebook here.


[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Kurt Vonnegut – Wikiquote


This gallery contains 5 photos.

Ingredients 8.1 – 8.5  |  “I looked down and saw the moon, frozen and still, sending us messages in bubbles.  Some small wishes, wants, hopes and fears, coming to the surface.” Produced: tubs of water to pack the freezer for … Continue reading

My prose-y response to a new Edward Burtynsky exhibit.

Oil Spill #10

Words by JILL ENSLEY. All photographs copyright EDWARD BURTYNKSY.

The Scars of Our Connections: Edward Burtynsky’s ‘Water’

As a Gulf Coast resident, it’s not easy to look at “Oil Spill #10,” (above).   The photograph’s deceptive beauty comes from its vibrant, emerald water streaked with jagged rivulets of black oil.  Taken out of context, it could be a close up of of raw gemstone, yet the horizon gives it away, pushes you back and you see the quiet horror of our collective actions–or inactions–in those dark rivers.  Personally, living in Louisiana, on the Gulf Coast, it’s hard not to go into Edward Burtynsky’s new exhibition of photography, Water, without preconceived notions about oil and water, the result of being surrounded by each one, both threatened and sustained by each.  It’s hard not to view such industry with a critical eye when you live so close to the largest man-made environmental disaster the United States has ever seen.  Yet, most of the world lives near water, it’s human nature, it’s survival, it’s necessary, it’s primal.  And unlike oil, we need it to live.  That’s the uneasy part of the work, of nearly all of Edward Burtynsky’s catalog, his “inverted sublime” worlds, the upside down-ness of resource mining on a grand scale. Water simply brings us to the new frontier, the new commodity and future industrialization and scarcity of the very resource that covers 70% of our planet.  There are companies at this very moment looking into the logistics of shipping pure Icelandic water–from melting glaciers, no less–to areas that have tainted their own supply.  According to UNESCO, “By 2025, an estimated 60 percent of the world’s population will live in water-stressed conditions, and a similar proportion will be without adequate sanitation.”  This is the next big business.

Read full response at Southern Glossary…

“Water runs concurrently at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center through January 19th, 2014.

Can’t make it to see the exhibit in person?  There’s an app for that.”


This gallery contains 2 photos.

Ingredients 6.3 | “Seacomb building, bubbling, absorbing, reflecting.” & Ingredients 6.4 |  “A ridge, a net, a crescent.  Bloodmarked, in an instant, life.” red wine, baking soda, sugar, pomegranate molasses, salt, flour, vanilla extract, pine nuts, leftover coffee grounds Produced: … Continue reading

Precious Again

In a terrible economy, surrounded by unemployed friends, and despite a laundry list of new bodily afflictions, I did something absolutely stupid and absolutely necessary.  I quit my job.
After three years of give and take, the sheer fact that the quality of my work didn’t matter as much as the quantity and the speed finally got to me.  Good enough is not good enough.  There has to be something for slowness, for craft, for attention to detail.  This is New Orleans after all, not New York.

For three years I worked for a music-based non-profit, one of many, (sometimes too) many non-profits in the City That Care Forgot.
I started as an hourly merch clerk and ended up with the made-up title of “Operations/Artistic Director”.  We all wore many hats, titles often meant both everything and nothing.  At any given time, my title could have been (and probably was at some point), Webmaster, Administration, Donor Relations, Development, Merchandise Manager, Program Coordinator, Graphic Designer, etc. etc.  I saw many people come and go, won out when it became a me-or-her situation, and held on when it was suddenly just two of us running the day-to-day.  I learned new skills, was treated fairly most of the time, and was helped out on more than one occasion.  Being raised the way I was raised meant that I would take on anything with little regard for myself.  I cannot blame them entirely for occasionally treating me like a grunt when it may be partly my fault. Perhaps I put myself in that position, not seeing the petty forest for the cut-throat trees.  We often joked, the ________ pastime was rolling people under the bus.  I saw it done on many occasions and due to management and a few jaded codgers who’ve overstayed their welcome, had to deflect it more than a few times myself.  I barely shared in the few-and-far-between moments when our hard work paid off, when a local high school got instruments for the first time, or a musician was presented with a new sousaphone.  I could go into the dynamics of this place, the reasons behind the madness, but why bother.  I’m out.  I have left the Island of Misfit Toys and I don’t think I realized just how toxic it was until the very end.

The view at my new job.

It was a year ago that I knew I was not in for the long haul.  After another employee departure, I took over the large auction and art market portion of our yearly benefit, that drains us of all our energy and sanity for a good four months.  This is not a task for one person and I did have help, but I’ve seen that event drive out the two people who previously organized it (we make bets on who is going to cry first on that magical day if that gives you an idea).  I knew I could only do it once and I knew then and there that I would quit before the next one.  Still, free rent, health care, a decent salary, and use of a car kept me in check.  Yes, and the kids.   I saved one program from the chopping block and then drew some strength from that, from seeing young kids have an opportunity to play with world-class musicians.  It reminded me at least a couple times a month that despite the office politics, there is some good to this.  Yet, it became increasingly difficult to make that good happen.  Not an autonomous organization, it often felt as if we were ruled by whim and committee.  Had we been given the room to run and fall, maybe we wouldn’t have fallen but been able to make bigger strides instead of merely trying to constantly keep up.  Frustrating does not even begin to describe it.  Towards the end, I developed daily migraines that have since ceased and I’m convinced that part of my other health problems emanated from the stress and depression.  Good thing I don’t have health insurance any more!

The key to my new apartment made me giddy and liberated. Had to take photo.

Going back to that building, life seems impossible, dull and dreary, inescapable.  It’s like going back to visit a cage you’ve been in for the past three years.  When I took that job, I knew it was not for me.  I needed a job to stay in New Orleans and after graduating with my lucrative Fine Arts degree at the ripe old age of 30, I felt like I should probably start being “profesional”.  I saw opportunity to move up there and though I am grateful for what I’ve gained and learned, I also knew when I could give no more without ruining myself.  I became a tense, anxious, angry, and depressed person and I finally got tired of living like that.  It took me three days to decide to take the job, and one day to decide to quit, in mid-October, a birthday present to myself on my 34th year.  When I did leave, when that weight was lifted, I could not help but feel a little like Rapunzel escaping from her tower.  I had to quit everything I knew in order to live again.  I had to climb down six floors to see my city again, to remember her as she was when I first fell in love.  I gave up half my pay, health insurance, free rent and the use of a car, all for happiness and a chance at life as I saw it when I was sixteen.  There’s something about a comfortable life that breaks me down, traps me in the mundane.  I couldn’t move forward, even though I had more money, more space.  I need to feel the necessity.  I need things to be precious.  Sometimes you don’t enjoy the things you have because they came to you without struggle and sacrifice.  Sometimes, I feel I’m talking out of my ass.  But there is some truth there.  I feel it.

Just now, I sit in my own apartment, one I have to pay for, so we all know what’s expected of this arrangement.  I hear streetcars outside my window and I get to worry about bills and food and transportation and the future just like (almost) everyone else.  Except, I don’t worry about my job.  I work as a hostess in a beautiful, slightly crazy French Quarter restaurant and when my shift is over, I get to leave it all there.  I don’t have to lug it home and sit with it throughout the night.  I don’t make enough to pay the bills and will have to figure out a way to finally make my art profitable.  But, now is the time.