Today the sun is out. Fresh air and a change of view feel terribly appealing. I have a book on hold at the public library. I’ll go pick it up.
I walk into the library and head for the circulation desk. As I walk, I hear in my mind the words ‘creation space’.
Oho. I get it. There is library magic arising. Picking up the book on hold was only an excuse to get me here. The real reason I am here—to write a blog post about libraries and creation space. I borrow my book, join the librarian in praising the sunny day, then look for one of my favourite reading-writing-imagining spots.
And now here I am, writing. I have a round table all to myself. Books, Ipod, my canvas pencil case with the words ‘I like big books’ stencilled on it, pencils, and paper are scattered around me. Total happiness.
I love libraries. Libraries are home to me. My favourite place in school and university was always the library. The public library saw me, my sister, and my brother every Saturday, trading our piles of borrowed books for new piles of borrowed books. Even through summer holidays, I never missed my weekly exchange of old words for new.
I love reading and writing and daydreaming in the library, but a library is more than a physical creation space. A library gives me heart and mind space. For me, a library is an entire universe of thought and imagination. Every book on the shelves is a star, a planet, a solar system all its own where I can live if I choose. I and my imagination have joyous permission and example from every writer whose books live on these shelves. Their ideas and words whisper to me, “Come and play.”
I never say no to this invitation. I know magic arises every time I say yes.
Sometimes I need a creation space wider than my studio and my single imagination. Sometimes I need to connect with other imaginations. A library is a space of all possibility. Wandering along the shelves in the public library, I introduce myself to new-to-me writers and new-to-me ideas. We connect, and my world expands. What I thought was possible becomes infinite.
Yes, libraries, I love you. Thank you for your gifts of infinite creation space and magic.
The first thing I learned was the basting stitch, an easy up and down of needle and thread through two layers of sky blue gingham cloth that would eventually become an apron.
The basting stitch was simple. All it required was attention to keeping the stitches balanced in length so the layers of cloth held firmly to each other. The thread I used was a vivid red, deliberate contrast to the colour of the gingham. It was easy to see what had already been stitched, and what now needed my needle, thread, and attentive eyes.
I am thinking of my Dad, and how he taught me to find threads of joy and use them to stitch my days together.
It was my heart and all my senses he taught me to use, rather than needle and thread.
Every day, as I grew up, I stitched firm the colours of morning clouds and wild sunsets.
Every summer I stitched the feel of my bare feet on wet sand as the tide went out. I stitched the smell of thick earth under the trees when August afternoons were hottest and I found the deepest shade.
I stitched into my life the smooth, cold taste of chocolate ice cream for dessert after supper. Two round scoops each for me and my sister, one scoop for our brother who was much younger than us and still sat in the high chair next to Mom.
Every night I stitched the quiet sounds of my Mom and Dad talking in the kitchen after we three were in bed, stories read, blankets and teddy bears tucked around us, kisses on our cheeks.
Here in my life now, I stitch each day together against the grey grief that threatens to pull me apart. I stitch, with careful attention, the threads of joy my Dad taught me to find and choose. Vivid colours, lengths of joy and love sewn to balance sadness, to hold me firm.
There’s something my Dad would say to me when I was very young and I had fallen.
“Upsy-daisy.” And then he’d pick me up. Set me on my small feet, brush off my knees, make sure I was okay.
Dad, I’m not okay right now. I need to hear you say to me, “Upsy-daisy.” And pick me up and set me on my feet again.
My Dad died exactly two weeks ago.
I miss the sound of his voice the most.
I miss talking with him. I miss sitting together, saying nothing at all, watching the cedars move in the summer wind and the clouds chase each other across the sky. I miss finding the perfect, smooth, grey stone, and passing it to him as we walk.
There are no words for these feelings, though I make the attempt. Trying to capture and still the king tide as it pulls and pushes.
I hear my Dad saying impossible has never stopped me yet. So true.
I woke this morning with an image from the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in my mind.
It is near the end of the adventure and of course the stakes are deadly. Harry is on a broom, roaring around high amidst a storm of flying keys. Yes, these keys have wings. He is trying to catch the exact right key to open a door. Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to get through that door.
This is perfectly me right now. I have less than 8,000 words left to capture for my Nanowrimo draft. There are loads of words and ideas whirling around me at the moment, but I need to touch the exact right ones to continue my writing.
True I do not need the exact words. Close to exact will do. Helpful words. Words that will point me in the right direction when I come to rewriting.
There is the saying you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. My plan is to catch my words with honey. Attract them in. Offer them a perfect place in which to land and nest, a place where they are happy, a place that is home.
I am in my studio at my work table. Laptop on and warm and waiting.
Beside me, coffee with milk in one of my favourite mugs. This one shaped as an over-sized teacup, purple with a pattern that might have been thought up by Dr. Seuss. Next to the coffee, cold water in a Shrek the Third glass.
I have my Christmas playlist running. Diana Krall is dreaming of a white Christmas. I love the holidays, and I start up my Christmas music in the latter half of November. This music always puts me in a loving mood. It opens my heart.
Words love open hearts.
Scattered around me on the table top are things that inspire me, make me laugh, hold memories that feel of home and play.
Here is the Pro Yo-Yo my son gave me for Mother’s Day. A mini Etch A Sketch my sister found for me. A mini Spirograph set from my husband.
Gumby and Pokey, Kermit the Frog, Asterix with his winged Viking helmet, two Minions (Stuart and Kevin), Tigger, Totoro, and Hermione. They are my cheering squad, and they are very good at it.
Words love playing. Words love nestling into the homes we offer them.
This is my honey. Love. An open heart. Play. Home.
It works every time.
The words are landing. The next right idea and theme and word thread for my Nanowrimo draft flies in.
It is near 3:30 pm and I am finally writing my blog post.
The word ‘finally’ tells the story. My determination to write is hiding.
There are days when I back away from writing, and this is one of them. I could blame a so-so night’s sleep and the leading edge of a cold for weakening my determination.
These are only invented excuses, looking for something to blame. I know this because this morning, instead of writing, I spend several hours doing other things, and not once do these excuses show up to stop me.
Eventually, I exhaust the list of ‘other things’. I go eat lunch. I read. I look at the kitchen clock a few times. I feel this creeping sense of disappointment that I have not spent the past hours writing, that I have not opened the way into something I love.
I feel a need to analyze why I did not write this morning as planned, but I know that kind of exercise should be filed under excuses to not write. That’s not where I want to be right now.
Love invites me to invent any excuse for writing. Here’s one. Create a list titled ‘any excuse to write’.
My list starts with three words–I love writing. I love playing with words. I love taking an idea or a question, turning it around and upside down and inside out, feeling what it feels like, then turning feeling into words.
I love reading. I love being inspired by other writers’ words. I love finding words in reply to the inspiration they’ve offered me. I love being inspired by writers who never stop writing because they know writing is as necessary as breathing.
I have as many excuses to write as there are words in the dictionary. I have as many excuses as there are new words being invented and thrown into language just to see what happens.
I have a million million excuses to write. My excuse for writing today is to squash that creeping disappointment that I did not write.
There is a pastel drawing on the wall in my Dad’s room at the seniors’ home. Three tall yellow roses standing amid coloured stones, and a backdrop of words repeated over and over. A mantra. ‘I need a shatterproof heart.’
The yellow roses are my Nana, my Mom, and me. The title is ‘Drawing For Anna’. The drawing is fifteen years old.
I wake this morning, thinking exactly that mantra.
I convince myself to write morning pages. What comes in my pages—I need a heart made of silly putty. Bendable, squishable, stretchable. Break silly putty apart and it always smooshes back together again.
Yes, I say in my pages. I need a silly putty heart.
It is late afternoon now, as I write this blog post, and I decide I already have a silly putty heart. All this summer, my heart has been squashed and broken into every shape of every emotion between joy and grief. And every time, somehow, my heart moves back into the shape of love.
A silly putty heart in love shape, I decide, is two hands cupped together, large enough to hold with care all that shows up.
Right now my silly putty cupped heart is holding a lot.
There are today’s naked feelings around my parents’ aging and illness. There is the wanting of a good life and graceful leaving for them, and the feeling this is not terribly possible despite the best we do.
There is the knowledge of being parent to my parents, making difficult decisions, not something I expected.
There is the desperate need of doing something, anything, creative. My heart knows drawing and writing hold me together.
And in this moment, in my silly putty heart, here is the mid-September sun warm on my bare feet, the breeze that smells of the ocean, the rocking of the porch swing as I sit and move my pen across the papers in my lap.
My heart offers me words that soothe and settle the naked, painful feelings. Offers me this moment of beauty. Sun and breeze and the porch swing. The loud cricket choir that begins singing in just this moment.
I wonder, in my morning pages, what to call this mess of feelings that touch all places between joy and grief.