I’m on summer vacation time this past week. My internal clock finally adjusted itself. It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww. I am now in summer mode. Hooray!
Summer mode means my time stretches. Becomes casual and bendy. I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family. Six-ish. Noon-ish. Eleven-ish.
I like ish-time.
I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time. Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece. On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there. He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night. Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.
On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.
This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away. After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge. To wander through summer. Let my days stretch. Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is. Let ish-time lead me where it will.
Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago. Thank you for the gift.
It’s the Summer Solstice. My husband calls this the lightest day. (The Winter Solstice is, of course, the darkest day.)
We have sun and the bluest sky. There’s a breeze running through the house, in and out the open windows, playing tag with itself. It’s carrying the scents of cedars and maples, warm from the sun. There is the dusty, sweet smell of arbutus leaves, and the perfect scent of wild roses blooming next to the studio window.
The house is quiet at the moment, only George Winston’s Forest album playing on my Ipod.
I am at my studio work table, writing. Iced coffee at my side, in a decades-old McDonald’s “Good Morning” mug. Another mug next to it, half full of cold water from our well.
This is Heaven.
My days are made of Heaven moments, when I remember to become present to my life and notice what is here.
These moments remind me of my Dad. We began going for walks together when I was three and he was thirty-three.
Our walks were slow, not only because of my toddler legs. We were slow because we were busy noticing beauty, pleasure, and joy, noticing the day we had around us.
Stop and notice the perfect, round, grey stone at our feet. Notice the feel of the wind pushing against our bodies, and the sound it makes as it moves through the branches of the fir trees. See the clouds scraping the tops of the hills, leaving tatters of white behind. Notice the hot, earth smell of the dust clouds raised as we step, and the sound of crows we cannot see, squabbling over something they both desire.
This is beauty, pleasure, joy, receiving the gifts the day offers me.
Yesterday I didn’t do so well at noticing. Now I am making up for it, deliberately moving slowly, feeling one by one the pleasures of today.
It is blazing sun outside my studio window today. The thermometer says -10 Celsius. Even with the brilliant sunlight, I do not go out without doing up my coat all the way to my chin, and adding hat and mittens and snow boots.
Contrast and preparation. Like the weather, that’s what is happening in my studio today.
Here is the contrast. I want to be playing with my book draft, but there are other needs today. What I call ‘administration’. I am frustrated. I want to be doing one thing, and need to be doing another. Ugh. Contrast.
And here is the preparation. I have to do the administration in order to smooth the path for my writing and drawing to get out into the world to be shared.
The preparation part of my creative life is the time and effort spent on meetings, questions and answers, contracts, proposals, emails and phone calls. I try to like this part but, honestly, today I don’t. Even though these things are a necessary part of the path, I’d rather be writing or drawing. Today the administration feels like it is in my way and it’s pissing me off.
I have tried to readjust my attitude. My adjustment dial appears to be momentarily stuck.
I know this would be easier if I wasn’t so growly today.
How do I solve this?
I write my morning pages, asking myself this question. I don’t get an answer. Rats. Now I’m writing my blog post, asking again, hoping for a solution and a settling of my pissed-off-ness. Nope, not yet.
The past two weeks I’ve been experiencing one of the things on my list for living a creative life—Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.
Drawing and writing give me great joy. I mostly create alone, and this works for me. I hear my heart, mind, and Source clearly. There is peace in this, and an awareness that holds both energy and ease.
Lately I have been visiting with my artist and writer friends. Meeting for lunch. Going for walks. Sharing what we are each creating. Asking for and giving advice and points of view. Laughing a lot. Appreciating. Being inspired. Making notes of books to read and websites to view. New resources to play with.
We talk about creativity and life. For us, these are threads that wind round each other. Impossible to separate. I know I wouldn’t want to.
Thursday I sat across from a friend, at her round wooden table. The table was high, and I am short. I put an extra pillow on the seat of my chair. We had pens and paper. We wrote.
There was peace in this space, and the quiet act of creating in the presence of another. My friend and I know intimately the feel of writing alone. This day we chose to write together. There was joy in this. I feel it again as I tell you.
There is power, too, in creating with a friend. Familiarity, love, and acceptance of the creative process. Friendship, love, and acceptance of the person across the table. This power is ease, and it let my words flow. I looked up and saw my friend moving her pen across the paper, her words taking the shape of a new story.
Grace was given both of us in this time and place. Grace, joy, friendship, and writing. A perfect afternoon.
Thursday I had my last session with my coach. Yes, I am a creativity coach-artist-writer-blogger who has a coach. I should say, had a coach.
For this past year we have been talking, every two weeks. Sometimes emailing in between the talking.
I’ll tell you how I feel right now. Sad. I am going to miss our biweekly conversations. I am also elated, excited, pleased with myself. I keep hearing ‘I did it!’ popping into my thoughts. I am grounded and balanced within myself and my life. I feel like I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program. I feel like I just ran a whole marathon.
So what did I do that has me celebrating?
Last April I got very honest with myself. I looked at my nineteen years as a professional artist. Looked at my writing and my blogging. At my book with the half-completed second draft. At the creativity workshops and coaching I was doing.
I loved all I was doing and creating, loved the connections and community I was building. But I had no focus. It all felt very random, with no clear path ahead. My usual way of working was feeling chaotic rather than organic.
This is where I am, I said to myself. Where do I want to go? How do these pieces of my creativity fit together?
I am the kid who always says ‘I can do it myself’, and does. Not this time. I need help, I said to myself, and Source heard my request.
Linda is a Master Coach. Yes, the capital letters are deliberate and appropriate. She coaches CEO’s and entrepreneurs.
Linda listened to me with her heart and her head.
I have a bad attitude around business, I said. Business and art don’t belong in the same sentence.
We can do this, she said.
Over twelve months we shifted me, my life, and my creativity into focus. We talked about the nuts and bolts of what I was doing, the energy and feel of what I was creating. About where I was and where I wanted to be. We used our heads and our hearts. Feeling and knowing what was right for me, and what was not.
Two (of the thousand) things I learned from Linda:
Feel and think. My heart carries my dreams and inspiration and path. My head carries the organizing and details, the process, the nuts and bolts of building. When I connect all of this, the whole of me, I see clearly the next step in front of me. I feel the energy of the people I am connecting with, and what they are asking for. I see how this matches my inspiration, the workshops and coaching, the words and drawings I will create in response.
Use everything. Instead of pushing away what I don’t like, I get curious about it. What does this feel like? What is it telling me? Why is it showing up? How can I use it? I am fascinated at how there is always a way to turn something around and let it inspire me.
Linda has been my Believing Mirror. She met me exactly where I was, and saw the future me as I wanted to be. Step by step she walked with me into that place. Transformation.
What is best? I am now my own Believing Mirror. I see where I am, and I see where I am going to be. That vision of where I will be pulls me forward. It creates the space for me to walk into, and the steps to get there.
Today’s polka-dotted weather. Sun. Cloud. Hail. Rain. Sun. Thunder. Wind. Repeat. A smorgasbord. I am leaving my studio lights on, even when it is the sun’s turn, because in five minutes the clouds will be sailing in and taking over.
Jazz, piano and violin playing off each other, a conversation, harmony and counterpoint.
Raisin bran and milk and demerara sugar for breakfast in my Blue Willow cereal bowl. Raisins sweet and chewy. Milk cold. Flakes getting progressively soggier as I go. I eat them, when they are soggy, only to get to the raisins.
My pen with its sky blue ink.
Water from our well, poured into my Shrek the Third glass. Hard water with a lot of minerals and iron in it. I think of the cartoon I watched as a child. Popeye the Sailor who ate his spinach to get strong. All I do is drink my water.
Reading a new novel. Death in Florence by Marco Vichi. Chief Inspector Bordelli who drives a noisy Volkswagen Beetle and smokes too much.
Discovering a new-to-me author who’s writing I love. Thank you, Marco Vichi, for offering me a new treasure chest of words and ideas and story. All translated from Italian.
Yes, a satisfying list. Perfect things that happen every day for me. That give me happiness and joy.
A few months ago I watched a documentary about happiness. Someone had come up with a Happiness Formula. My happiness equals my brain’s happiness set point (didn’t know I had one), plus my life conditions, plus my choices. According to this formula, my life conditions only make up 7 to 12 percent of my happiness. My choices make up 40 to 50 percent.
There is the key. What am I choosing? And what am I choosing to notice? Where am I placing my attention?
Well, today my attention is on writing, weather, music, the raisins in my cereal, sky blue ink, cold water, the novel I started reading at breakfast, and appreciating the author I have discovered.
My life contains so much every-day happiness. All I need do is be here, right now, present to the gifts I am being offered. Choosing to notice. Choosing to let the cereal in my bowl catch my attention, the taste of water from my well, the colour of the ink on this piece of paper. Things on today’s happiness list. This is my Happiness Formula.
I am thinking about the second draft of my book. The one I put aside last September.
I am coming back to it. I’ve made a pact with my friend who is also writing. She’s close to the end of her first draft. We both need someone to write with, partner, give us each that extra push to reach the finishing line by the end of the summer. Tell us in a sure voice, yes, you are doing it, almost there.
Chocolate and iced mochas, cafes and beaches will help as well. Bribery works.
I wonder, as I look at my half-done second draft, why I wrote the first draft. What sent me to the page? Who was I writing for when I sat all those days at my studio work table, moving words and pen across the paper?
I can give the usual answers. I was writing for me. Writing to understand what I experienced. Writing to make sense of the path I walked.
These are all true. Not specific enough, for me, right now.
What was it that sent me to the page with enough words to fill a whole book?
Here I have to pause. Feel back to where I was when I began the writing. Not think. Feel.
Like all I create, it was the push of an idea. You might say ideas are thoughts, and thoughts are not physical. This may be true for you. Not for me.
My ideas and thoughts carry weight. I feel them in my body. No two feel exactly the same. This idea to put words to my experience was heavy and insistent. It sat in my belly, all of my belly. It was very sure of itself and its importance. It would not leave. The only choice was to birth it. Sit at my work table and write. Day and day and day. Let the idea flow as words from belly through heart to hand to ink and paper.
The insistence and sureness and sheer weight of idea into words is what carried me through to the end of the first draft. This, and joy. Joy runs as a thread through all my creating.
These things sent me to the page.
I tell you what I know for sure. Without that weight in my body where the idea sat, the writing would not have happened. That weight was the connection between the idea and me. That weight told me the idea was real, here and whole already, even though I had yet to write a word.
Now that the first draft is done, and the second draft half-done, paused and returned to, is the idea and its weight still here in my body?
It is. I feel it now, sure and insistent and whole, waiting for me. I am not going anywhere, it tells me, until we are done.
This feeling is a gift of knowing. It has carried me, and continues to carry me, as I write. This knowing is all I need to know. This book will be.