Dance Me Across The Page

'Old Coyote Trick (Joy)'--Cat Fink
Old Coyote Trick (joy)

It’s not a day to be outside.  Wind and cold rain.  Grey sky.  The birds are hiding out in the snuggest places they can find.  Even the neighbour’s Irish Setter has not been through our yard on his usual patrol of the neighbourhood.

Like the birds, today I am in the snuggest place I can find.  In my studio, on the couch, Doctor Who blanket laid over my legs.  Vivaldi concertos playing on my laptop, and the heating turned up two degrees warmer than usual.

So much of what I do in my life is a search for major and minor comforts.

Today my big comfort is writing by hand.

I always write my first drafts by hand.  Moving a pencil across the lines of loose leaf paper is soothing to me.  There is a sweet, slow rhythm in this movement, a connection of mind and body that grounds me as I go.

Writing by hand is a waltz.  The sway and turn of my pencil forming patterns of words feels like the shift and slide of my feet on a dance floor.  Here is something created by my body and mind in partnered movement.  Each completed pattern of 1-2-3 is another thought, another sentence.

Of course I write on my laptop, too, but that is a different kind of dance.  The rhythm is staccato, my fingers hopping from key to key, my thoughts hopping as well.  I don’t feel partnered.  No, this is me at a high school Friday night dance, with the coloured lights flashing, the music at a full volume bounce off the walls, my feet pounding invented rhythms, loads of energy tearing through.

If I want a lyrical piece of writing, I begin with pencil and paper and hand.  If I want an in-your-face piece of writing, I go straight to the laptop.

If I had to choose only one set of writing tools, it would be pencil and paper.  My writing moves deepest by hand, and that is what I am always reaching for.  I want the place that touches the heart.  For me, that is pencil in hand and a waltz across the page.

______________________________

My heart

an invitation

dance with me it says.

We bow, step and turn,

my life marked out in breath and beat.

A path of love

a walk of light,

and when I reach your door

my heart to yours

an invitation.

Dance with me.

The Way Through Is Love

ibuiltmycastles
I Build My Castles in the Sky

I led a writing workshop last Saturday.  In the conversations and the writing, two life experiences showed up common to everyone.

Early in our lives, we discovered we loved creating with words, images, music, or movement.  Then later, someone told us with great certainty that we would never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, an actor, a you-name-it creative person.  Invariably, the someone making this pronouncement was in a position of authority or trust.  We were told by parents, teachers, and peers.

When this happened to me, the someone was a university art professor.

I heard “You will never be an artist.” and I stopped drawing for seventeen years.  Mine was not the longest gap.  One person in Saturday’s writing workshop was coming back to her love of creating after fifty years.  I have met people who never recovered from the experience.

This happens not only to those in the arts.  This happens to all of us.  We love doing something.  We have a dream.  And then someone says to us, “You will never be.  This will never be.”

Why does someone tell another person, “You will never be.  This will never be.”?

What makes someone so sure they know another person’s future?

I don’t know the answers to the questions I ask.  What I do know is that the way through hearing “you will never be” is love.

I left the visual arts degree program after hearing “you will never be.”  I still grieve the loss.  I wonder what I would be doing now, what kind of life I would have if I had stayed.  And at the same time, I know the life I did have prepared me to return to the art I loved and claim the title of Artist as mine.

During the years of not drawing, I kept my love of making things with my hands.  I found other ways to create.  I crocheted and embroidered and sewed.  I learned to weave, loved it, acquired a floor loom, and took over the extra bedroom in the house as my loom room.  I learned to spin and dye yarn.  My family and friends were the recipients of all this making.

I began calling myself a fibre artist, and loved how I felt when I used those words.  They felt like me.

Then I discovered a new love, weaving tapestry.

I saw complex images in my mind, the tapestries I wanted to weave.  But I discovered I was not able to recreate the images on paper, in preparation for planning the woven piece.

The Universe stepped in to support my love of making, and offered me two things.  My sister introduced me to the book The Artist’s Way, and I discovered there was an art school ten blocks from my home.  I said yes to both.

Love brought me full circle, back to drawing.

My love of creating with my hands would not let me go, and I listened to that love.  It helped me find ways of making that carried me through and healed me of you-will-never-be.

If someone says to you, “You will never be”, let yourself feel the hurt.  Then find a way to walk back into what you know you love, and walk through.  Love is your power.  I believe in you.

_______________________

In this post:

Book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Penguin, 2016.  Originally published by Tarcher Putnam in 1992, and republished by Tarcher Putnam in 2002.  Julia’s website is at http://juliacameronlive.com/

Life Is Not A Test

 rainbow.alexiscreek

Life is not a test.

I realized a few days ago that I live my life as if it’s a test I have to pass. Something in me decided this a long time ago, probably in elementary school.

The test never ends. I never know if I have aced it or failed it. I don’t know who the tester is, or if there is one tester or many. I don’t know what the questions are and whether I’ve been asked one, and if I answered correctly or not.

This explains a lot. It explains why I am keyed up and have to consciously work at relaxing my body and mind. Why I often look at others and feel I can’t stand equal with them. Why I always feel I am being judged. Why I don’t play enough and feel vaguely guilty when I do. Why everything I do has to have a purpose. Why I am frequently not satisfied and pass by my successes, barely giving them and me any acknowledgment. Why I make something, love what I’ve created, then it’s bang—onto the next thing right away because I have no time to waste.

How sad.

I can say, and mean it and know it, that I am happy most of the time in my life. This is true. My heart is open and present and connected and creating. I can feel it, most of the time, loving and joyful.

Yet there is this sneaky background tension running the other stuff I listed three paragraphs back. These are feelings I have been ignoring, that creep in between my love and joy and happiness.

Time to make a choice and let this go.

I choose there is no test. No Test. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

There is only my life and what I choose to create in it. And no test.

I am letting these words, and my choice, sink in. This feels better. This feels GOOD.

My shoulders drop two inches. I can breathe. I can enjoy what I am doing. I can play.

Tigger and Totoro--Go Play!
Tigger and Totoro–Go Play!

Yes. I can play. I can wander out of that stuffy Life Classroom I caged myself in, give the door a slam on the way out, and watch the whole place collapse in a heap. Better yet, invite Wile E. Coyote to blow it sky high with one of his Acme missiles. Right on target. Ka-boom! Wile E. takes a bow. The Road Runner and I applaud. Then we all go play. Dibs on the slide!

Yes. Life is not a test. Go play.

___________________________

Note:  This piece was originally posted two years ago.  I am re-posting it today because these last two weeks I managed to trap myself in the Life Classroom again.  Yes, feeling tested, feeling not good enough and not worthy, feeling anxious for no good reason.  Most important of all, not allowing myself to play.  Today I am choosing all over again.  I choose I love all of myself.  I choose life is not a test.  I choose I am allowed to play and enjoy life whenever I please.

After this post is done, I am playing for the remainder of the day!  Yahoooooo!   Maybe you should go let yourself play for a while today too.

 

The Question Is The Answer

blogpost.mar1.2018

“She would not struggle to answer the questions but would let them do their work.

Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

Yesterday I began reading a book recommended by a friend who is artist and writer.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, is the first novel of a detective series.  The quote is from the closing lines of Chapter Four.

There are no coincidences in life.  Each morning for the past three weeks I ask myself, “What gives me joy?”, and then let the question do its work.  I sit down at my studio work table.  I open my sketchbook to a blank page, and choose a pencil from the collection in the cup beside me.  I let my heart and mind become still.  And then I wait.

The reply is never long in coming.  Yesterday, joy is the piece of lapis lazuli that sits among other beloved stones on the table before me.  Today, joy is the bits of rainbow scattered around the studio walls, a gift of sunlight through the large raindrop-shaped crystal hanging in the window.

Joy is noticing joy, and learning over again how moments of joy are always scattered through my days like this morning’s rainbows, if only I stop and let myself notice.

Let myself see beauty.  Let myself feel joy.

There is a choice here of stopping, noticing, and allowing this to be in my life.  Noticing joy and beauty are vital to my writing and drawing.  I would be neither writer nor artist if I did not choose this every day.

Passion is my guide to creation.  Joy and beauty inspire me to see and feel, and then to ask, “What can I create from this?  How can I mirror this feeling in word and image?”

The questions are the answer.  They push me to seek, to feel my way into creating.  As I create, does this feel like joy?  Does this feel like beauty to me?  The answer is not in words.  The answer is in my feelings.

“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

The truth of what I ask and feel shows up in what I create.  The questions are simple.

What gives me joy?

What do I love?

What is beautiful to my eyes?

What is inspiring me today?

The writing or drawing, while I follow the path of my question, may not be simple but it is always my truth.

What gives me joy today?  The rainbows on my studio walls.  What is inspiring me today?  Jacqueline Winspear’s words that sparked this understanding and this post in reply.

Thank you, Jacqueline.  And thanks, Kate, for the recommendation.

_______________________

In this post:

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin Books, 2004.  A detective novel with heart.  The quote is from page 32.  http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

In the photo, above, is yesterday’s drawing for The Sketchbook Project 2018, Brooklyn Art Library.  https://www.sketchbookproject.com/libraries