overcoming creative resistance

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I have a difficult relationship with creativity.

Creativity seems to be absolutely essential to my wellbeing, to making me all of me. I feel an almost constant and fierce desire for creative efforts.

And yet, I confront my own incredible resistance to it. The resistance wins, more often than not.

Sometimes, I think of the problem as a matter of being able to allow creativity. That, say, conditions must be just right for my creativity to emerge and flourish.

I think that maybe I need daylight hours in which to do my creative work. Or I need a particular environment that is somehow unavailable to me. Or I don’t have the right materials. Or I’m not skilled enough. Or the planets are not in alignment. Or the Muse is absent. Or. Or. Or.

Kind of sounds like excuses, eh?

And then I think that it’s not really a matter of engineering conditions to allow creativity. The problem is really a matter of eliciting creativity – calling it forth.

This involves setting the intention to do my creative work, committing to it, and forcing myself to carry through despite conditions.

I managed to prove to myself that this is possible. And fruitful.

Still, such commitment takes both courage and self-compassion.

I am not whole if I am not creative. If my creativity is suppressed, part of me is missing – a pretty important part.

I have looked long and painfully at the reasons my creative soul hides. I have learned a few things.

The world is a pretty scary place for that corner of my soul.

She is not at all convinced of her own absolute legitimacy and worthiness. She has no assurance whatever that she is loved and wanted and safe. And she just knows it’s totally not okay to get messy.

It is a matter of compassionately taking her hand and showing her it’s okay to come out. Indeed, showing her that the world is not whole without her.

It gets better with practice.

Intention, commitment, action.

the world we want

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What would the world look like if it was actually built on compassion and cooperation, instead of greed and competition?

And why isn’t it?

Why are we all bound to a system that serves us so disproportionately, often runs counter to our values, and suppresses some of our best thinking and abilities? Why is so much suffering in this world tolerated, and somehow accepted as normal?

I believe that the human spirit is essentially good, positive, loving, compassionate, creative. How is it that the world runs on a model that is, ultimately, counter to the human spirit?

How we get by in this corporate-run world is a strategy of how and what we sell of ourselves, and how good we are at that, instead of how we creatively engage with our environment and community in a shared effort to survive and thrive.

We find whatever we can about ourselves that can be used as a commodity. The ways we sell ourselves are often at odds, too, with our actual capabilities and dreams and aptitudes.

We are often forced to settle for satisfying the compassionate, creative parts of us – the best parts of us – in side gigs or charities or hobbies or not at all. For others, those best parts are submerged under addiction, depression, crime, or poverty.

Everyone is forced to participate in this system orchestrated by greed. We are forced to fund the misery of wars and give the lives of people over to them for no good reason. Children are starved, tear gassed, warehoused with tax dollars we spent time earning eight to five. We dutifully, unthinkingly serve as corporate bottom lines while those corporations run roughshod over the earth – our earth.

It’s time for a new model.

It’s encouraging to see the gilets jaunes protests in France – An impending fuel hike may be the spark, but the bottom line is oppression – and they’re just not having it.

The Occupy movement here in the US also signaled discontent with a system that’s not working for so, so many.

Around the globe, it is clear there is unrest, dissatisfaction with the way the world is run right now.

It’s time to change how the world works. It’s time to fully become the amazing, compassionate, creative people we are – to finally claim ourselves for ourselves, together. We have to somehow work towards a new model.

I’m not sure I know exactly what the new model looks like, but it’s no reason to wait. We cannot afford it. We need to move toward the world we all want – one filled with good, creative people working together, not for profit dollars and soaring stocks, but towards the highest and best for us and the earth.

circles

veru11_8_18bI made my first penny rug about 2006. This was a piece of black wool felt cut into a circle, maybe 8 inches in diameter. On to it, I blanket-stitched smaller circles in a variety of colors, in a circle. The blanket-stitching was purposely very visible in black thread atop the bright colors.

This penny rug was the first of many, many penny rugs I made. They are called rugs, but they are usually decorative table mats or wallhangings. Each one was entirely hand-cut and hand-stitched, all by my own design. They were all very colorful, and often created in a family of colors – say, blues or browns.

I was inspired to make the first penny rug after a trip to Indiana, during which I toured a historic home. It contained many original furnishings. Among them was an actual small floor rug, created penny-style, very faded and worn. I had never seen one before, and I have never seen another quite like it. I could not get it out of my mind.

I came home and did a little research, discovering that penny rugs were a Civil War era phenomenon. Old wool clothing and blankets were repurposed to create the rugs. The penny part came in supposedly as pennies were sometimes inserted to weight the rug. I’m not buying that part of the story. If you’re repurposing your old wool clothing, you’re pinching those pennies, too. Besides, wool lays down all by itself just fine.

A more likely explanation is that pennies could have been used to trace the smallest circles.

I’m not sure I buy any of the explanations I’ve read. No matter. For whatever reason, I became driven to make these things (and still struggle with the urge, complicated now by my vegan views!)

veru11_8_18aThrough the years, as I labored over these creations, I’ve given much thought to their design and materials. It’s all very simple stuff, really. Mostly solid colors and circles. Mostly carefully chosen, repurposed textiles. That’s pretty much what you’re working with most of the time.

But the more I worked on these things, the more symbolic they became to me. In later years, I titled them. I gave much thought to what the circles represented, how they related to each other, and the space around them. I carefully considered textures, stitches, colors, and the repurposed history of the textiles.

In the end, it became obvious to me that they comprised a metaphor for individuals and communities, a subject very dear to me. Each circle was like a person, and there it was fixed in place in a community of other circles – a panoply of colors that worked whether they were randomly placed or carefully selected by tone. Together, they all danced.

And then within the array of circles, that original circle was overlaid by two or three other, smaller circles, a small unit of its own, a tribe or a family, if you will, within the larger community – creating its own history.

I suppose it seems silly to imbue this much meaning onto my lowly craft, but, it is, in fact, there when I look at, or make one of my creations. There are always deeper significant nuances to each particular work, as well.

The very lone circle itself – it is both finite and infinite, isn’t it? Like each of us.

unfinished pieces

Unfinished pieces. Packed up to be given away, or already bagged up and thrown out. Except that when I walked in today, I suddenly saw these boxes, and what they held, and it startled me.

I kept hoping, I kept hoping all along it would come back to me. And I kept all my fabrics, and my papers, and glue, and threads, and paints, and letters, and inks and little treasures that just delighted me. I kept hoping it would come back to me.

But throwing them out, giving them away, it’s such a giving up.

That’s the real thing, though. There, in that box. Unfinished pieces. Of me.
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good things

downsized_0421031331My little metronome goes beep beep beep, and my feet keep time with it. It’s the perfect cadence, and everything just works. I feel like I could just go and go and go. Why oh why have I not been running? It is my fix. I missed it and didn’t know it. I forgot how things click into place while I’m running.

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Ai Weiwei bicycles installation

And other good things. The IMA – Indianapolis Museum of Art. The giant fountain out front, Robert Indiana’s LOVE, and Ai Weiwei’s According to what? exhibition.

 

I was taken by surprise to be moved by “Straight,” but then, how can one not be moved by that?

And you can’t help but be amazed by the artist’s abilities. He works in wood, or marble, or rebar, or tea, or ancient pottery, or chairs, or bicycles. He seems to know what to do with them, and how to do it. And always burdened with his message. How does one get that? Is it just being unafraid? Is it not feeling barriers?  The photography made me feel the same way. Here this fellow is out of focus, but I’m good with it, it tells the story.

Robert Irwin's Light and Space at the IMA
Robert Irwin’s Light and Space at the IMA

And then there’s the things he says. Like

“For artists and intellectuals, what is most needed is to be clear about social responsibility, because that’s what most people automatically give up. Just to protect yourself as an individual is very political. You don’t have to march on Tiananmen, but you have to be clear-minded, to find your own means of self expression.”

Watching for stars tonight, but, aha, not exactly in the country anymore I’ve discovered.

march eight two thousand one

We had named it long before we ever set eyes on it. To the boys it was a certainty; to me it was just a dream. Then, one day we drove by at 55 miles per hour. It was AW who turned the car around, drove up to it, and knew it for what it was. It was our place, our dream, our hope, A’s harbor, and J’s low-tech farm. To AW, it was perhaps unfettered messing about with old cars. It was every invention the boys had ever imagined. To me it was … open windows in the summer, birds wheeling overhead, space, time, freedom, paint on canvas, love.

And to all of us it was a delightful, unfolding mystery. We had no idea at the start of it all what a mystery it was. The house itself was at once a naked statement and a truly guarded secret. The past it held was hidden from us, but tempted us and drew us in. The land and its relationships, its actions, seemed so apparent from the road as we drove past, but proved to be a complex puzzle and, in a way, one that couldn’t be solved – though that was the daily battle.

Now, though still new to this life, we are immersed in it. We find that after all the other paths we walked down, and there were many, this one is new and it’s fresh and it’s a little scary.

One day, as the windows of my bedroom blinked without opinion upon me poised silently on my knees, I heard two words. My heart paces a little now as I think of it.

I am still wondering about those words. I’ve waited a while to comply, but comply I must. Halfway will not do the job.

Pray. Write. It almost frightens me to say it.

Pray. Write.

The prayers flowed, but the ink would not. Write. Write about what? Why should I write? What do I have to say? What, may I ask, do You have to say? There are many messages I could send with my pen. Unfortunately, it has been my conviction that the truths I’ve arrived at would just drift off into space rather than explode with effect on my targets.

Perhaps, though, it is possible that a finger is poised near the veil, ready to lift it off and let one see. I suppose that means I should be very careful about my target and my intent. I think I know, however, that it is not my intent at all here. And not knowing or understanding the will of that intent, but in humility and fear, I will write with love, out of love. Perhaps I may even find that it is I who wears the veil.

Writing is a journey in itself.

Words discovered hand-written on the two sides of a single page buried in what appeared to be a new notebook, the one I took with me to start my new job.

Pray. Write.

by a thread

IMG_7422Last night dreams just seemed to tumble through my head one after the other, rich and crazy and busy and wild.  I didn’t get up and start writing any of it down, but I wish I had, because it seems clear that my unconscious has something it wants me to hear.

I know one thing. I was about to take flight in a fighter jet. I was cool with it, too. The invitation came out of the blue, so to speak, and I didn’t hesitate. I knew I wanted to go up in the fighter jet, and I would.

Then there was the strange group of people, an unlikely mixture of fundamentalists and progressives, all sitting at a group of big tables. One of the fundamentalists was holding forth, everyone else keeping politely quiet, until finally one progressive guy just burst out laughing. And the fundamentalist turned, full of offense, toward him. But the progressive guy just somehow managed to de-fuse the moment while simultaneously giving himself and the others time to speak.

How about the scene where this huge machine was going to be moved from wherever-it-was-we-were to, I think, Washington D.C. It was some sort of mammoth machine, an innovation created locally by an individual, at their house. It was discovered, however, and certain people realized how important it was, so it had to be moved so it could be used. (Ah ha!) And then ensued this amazing scene of a gigantic train operation, as preparations were made to oh-so-carefully move the machine and all that. People scurrying about everywhere, and various pieces of equipment and cranes. Everything busy and purposeful. It seemed as if it was all in disarray, but in fact it was just the commotion of things gelling toward the objective. And over there was Midgley, leaning against the big fender of an industrial-sized truck, just smiling at me, wordless.

IMG_7421These are just the bits and pieces I can recall. A very hopeful set of clips, though, I would say. And as always, there’s so much value in trying to capture these things, writing them down. Even as I was writing the preceding paragraph, I suddenly knew what/who the machine was. And the progressive guy, I’m guessing that’s the old right brain finally piping up, scoffing at all the left brain nay-saying. (Thank you, Mike!) The fighter jet, well, that’s pretty transparent.

I stay perched on this precipice, though, don’t I? Still not quite willing yet to let myself fall and see my wings unfold, as Ray Bradbury suggested. I’m held back by mere threads at this point, but so far, they’re still holding. Need to find my little scissors, my snips. I could probably just bite them with my teeth. That’s all it will take, just a step.

“There’s something you haven’t said, something you haven’t done, some light that needs to be switched on and it needs to be taken care of. Now.” Hugh MacLeod.

whales, waterspouts, wind

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chart with course and fixes marked on it
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from the log, down in Lake Erie
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from the log, off the coast of Nova Scotia north of Owl’s Head

So with all this sorting and packing, I am discovering all sorts of little treasures, lost memories, happy mementos. Yesterday, I chanced upon the only remaining pages of the log I kept many, many years ago when I set out on a long sailing journey, double-handing a wooden yawl. It made me happy to see it.

 

 

For some reason, all that remains are some copied pages of the log, spanning about three months of time. The log picks up at Harbor Island heading into the North Channel at the top of Lake Huron and covers the trip to Owl’s Head Bay on the Atlantic coast of  Nova Scotia, via the St. Lawrence Seaway. The rest of the log, and the originals, are gone.

The rest of the log covered the rest of the trip, from Owl’s Head Bay all the way down the Atlantic coast to the Bahamas, then sojourning there for a few months before returning up the coast to the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. Those pages are forever gone, deliberately burnt in a fire long ago. Wish I had them now, though, because the incredible memories are getting fuzzy.

pen & ink I made of one of the views while sitting in harbor
pen & ink I made of one of the views while sitting in harbor

 

Anyway….. Fun to find these pages. I can see as I leaf through them how I grew comfortable with the cruising life, and how I enjoyed every damned day no matter the weather or the difficulties. Whales, waterspouts, wind, tides, locks, storms, mountains, fog, freighters, submerged rocks, cities, isolation, birds, people – it’s all there.

I was very alive, very aware. The whole point was the journey. It still is.