Friday, January 23, 2009
I am an avid journaler, have been for a number of years after reading Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way". Before I started writing in journals I would sometimes sit writing installments in a long letter to my best friend and I noticed that every time I let myself loose in the stream of my thoughts answers and inspiration for use elsewhere would present themselves. So, when I read about 'morning pages' in "The Artist's Way" I figured such a journal would be the way to capture all those gems on a daily basis.
My best friend still receives letters from me, and I from her - her husband says he really admires the way we persist with our epistles in these days of email - but my journal has become an ocean of consciousness, no mere stream! These notebooks, I often think to myself, would be a psychiatrist's wet dream. When the trickle of inspiration became a river I decided I had better find a way to set up a catalog or index so that nothing would fall through the cracks. There is nearly always lag time between the moment inspiration strikes and the moment I formally begin a project, with periods of illumination of details sandwiched between those moments.
To catch all these moments of inspiration and illumination I have begun to cull through the pages and note entries on my desk calendar. This exercise is usually how I occupy myself on road trips to Virginia with my husband or in other oddments of time.
Yesterday I came across an entry which illustrated dramatically the service art provides in my life as I pursue my creativity. The entry is dated September 7, 2008, only one week after I had launched my first blog, with the first post inspired in part by William Butler Yeats' poem "The Circus Animals' Desertion". Here is an excerpt from that entry:
" ... I hate it when I get testy ... As I wrote that ... I realized that perhaps the way to counter this feeling is to just keep returning to that warehouse in Melissa's dream.
"I must admit that the landscape of that dream is where I feel comfortable. You know, it feels honest. Is that strange? I don't mean it to be, but there, there among the discarded things, the broken things, "the sweepings of a street", for me in this time it is one of the few places that feel honest to me!"
Even now, over four months later, when I consider those words I know I hit the mark. There is no pretense in an abandoned place, a forgotten place, filled with abandoned, forgotten things and people if such places are occupied at all. There is no pretense about piles of refuse and decaying structures. Stripped of pretense and lacking artifice such places hold for me "heart mysteries there".
Now here I must note a paradox: I arrived at these heart mysteries in this forgotten place stripped of artifice - through artifice. With ingenuity, inventiveness, I found sanctuary.
Artifice practiced as creativity leads to what is honest, and what is honest is all we need to change the world.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
There is me in my own little world - my newest home, my husband and family, my creative life - and there is me in the wider world, in this case the city of Atlanta. During every stage of my life I have enjoyed access to major metropolitan centers: Columbus, OH; Washington, DC; Milwaukee, WI; Orlando, FL; Norfolk, VA; Seattle, WA; Raleigh, NC. There is something so energizing and affirming about venturing out of my nest, out of my comfort zone, and wandering around among others to enjoy the stimuli of a city. There are discoveries out there, and treasures, and memories and they add zest and joy and laughter to my comfortable nest when I return.
On Sunday I explored a tiny section of Atlanta with a little point-and-shoot Canon, just to see what I could see. What diversity! Outside Hartsfield-Jackson Airport I encountered a massive sculpture of a penguin who looked to have been assembled from quite a jumble of scrap metal. He seemed also to have left some of his baggage on the sidewalk. Maybe, being made of discarded signs and license plates, the penguin decided that bag was too, too heavy!
In Centennial Olympic Park, against the backdrop of a building emblazoned with the sign EQUITABLE I saw the flags of Sweden, Great Britain, and our fair United States fluttering in the January chill. An equitable display indeed, I thought. Further along the city streets I found beautiful relief carvings decorating the entryway to the Candler Building (built by Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola empire and a former mayor of the city) which is over one-hundred years old. It is quite beautiful and I plan to return and take the tour to learn more. Not far from the Candler I found the Flatiron Building, another spot to which I will return. This Flatiron Building predates the more famous structure in New York city by five years.
One of the last gems I happened across in my trek was this stunning steel sculpture outside the SunTrust building on Peachtree St. near the Hyatt Regency. I love the fluid, protean effect achieved with steel.
This feels like a lovely beginning to my sojourn here in the capital city of the Peach State. I am eager to head out again with a more sophisticated camera, in different light, and find more gems to share with you. Enjoy!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Out in the wilds of the mall yesterday - kiosks, food courts and escalators, oh my! - I happened upon a question which I think I had been seeking for some time. Some photos of the Savannah River near Augusta have been tugging at my mind practically begging to be posted on the blog, but I wanted context. I wanted some reason to talk about my love of rivers. I suppose I could have just said simply, "I love rivers," but so what? Why should anyone care that one of my favorite forms of meditation when I lived in Virginia (and before I had a digital camera) was to pull off of the Colonial Parkway and nestle in among exposed roots of trees lining the bank of the James?
This was also before I had thought about trying to draw, so I would sit with a book or my journal and just BE with the river. To sit there, alone, felt like a massage for my mind and for my heart. Nature always does this for me, but a river does it best. So yesterday when I stood in a stationery shop and chanced upon the question, "How will you bring beauty to the world today?", I knew I'd found the context by which to bring a river to you.
Rivers, beautiful, beautiful rivers - beautiful beyond description - etch canyons out of massive rocks; carry mountains to the sea; roar over falls and toss up rainbows; sustain crocodiles and cranes. Long before their energy was harnessed to power anything, let alone our computers and microwaves, rivers were enshrined in myths as the guiding force in the psyche of many cultures. The power of rivers to smooth out the rough places in the psyche, to bring serenity, much as they polish branches and stones is a power to be lauded indeed.
I submit, however, that the power of the river to be celebrated as supreme is its power to be Beauty everywhere and always. Beauty and life for one and all, salmon and Siddhartha alike. Always.
[The top photo was taken from a bridge linking the Riverbanks Zoo (Columbia, S.C.) along the Saluda River with its gardens. I would give this shot the title 'A Series of Tubes'. The second photo is from a walk along the Augusta Canal.]
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The year is a mere twelve hours old and I sit here in a stream of sunshine from the french doors wondering lazily what might be ahead for me in 2009. Oh, I can read the papers, watch the news, check the internet to see what predictions there are for the world-at-large. As for myself I take things day by day, which is why I say I am only wondering lazily about the year newly born.
As a confession let me say that I worked for years to teach myself to live my life day by day, to take things in the moment. I cannot recall what motivated me to "be here now" as the saying has been written, but the longer I persisted at bringing my mind back to the business at hand the more my life began to feel rooted and fruitful.
When I pay attention to discern what the moment asks of me I notice that very often this 'Dreaming Universe' (as "Melissa" has dubbed it) showers me with all sorts of lovely surprises - dewdrops on roses, a bubble to follow down the street, stunningly sweet words from one stranger, a brilliant smile from another, lovely encounters with animals.
One breathtaking aspect in attending to the moment, for me, is the realization that every day I am called to attend to my dreams. Yes, sometimes the dreams are the kind that come to me in my sleep, but always, always, they are the dreams of my heart.
I follow them down city streets like I followed that bubble down the sidewalk (see my post "small things" dated October 25, 2008). I follow them on the highway; I follow them on the train. I follow them at the beach; I follow them in the woods. In this following I have begun to experience the wisdom of which Rainer Maria Rilke spoke: "The universe is wide, but in us it is deep." This following has brought me to the perimeter of a landscape filled with the promise of hope and healing.
In this following I have learned to let myself soar on the wings of dreams. So with apologies to William Shakespeare, whose work I adore, I will "take up arms" ("Hamlet") bearing wings and take flight to survey this land my dreaming has configured.