I once went on a solo artist’s date. Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way coined that phrase, aptly so. She encourages her readers to take time to go out and about, preferably alone (we are able to more likely hear our inner self when alone), and explore art, nature, and people in settings or locations where we might not typically go. Art galleries, cupcake shops (oh, there are some fantastical, beautiful cakes on display, my friends!), parks, riversides, museums, festivals; in short, any location where our creative juices begin to flow. She reminds us that ideas are formed when we least expect them: it is in the association and connections that our brain makes in seemingly dissimilar things that creativity seeds itself.
So, I drove myself to the lake (it has to be near water!) with a coffee and a sandwich (I was ready for hours of sowing the seeds of creativity!) and enjoyed my first solo artist’s date. For a first date, it wasn’t too bad. I often go to the water but I have never sketched anything, other than my beloved birds. (And I sketch birds only because a birder recommended the activity as a way of remembering the bird’s details in order to identify it later.) After sketching the beach and the lake, after sketching the grasses that grow haphazardly along the sand banks, and after attempting to draw the horizon which was mind-blowing beautiful (but smudgy and I don’t know how to draw smudgy), I came to this satisfying (for me) insight: sketching is just not my thing.
But, the alone time, the coffee, the mindfulness of my afternoon…that was soul-satisfying. I think my authentic self is creative, just not in a sketch-y, draw-y kind of way.
I truly love to explore the arts and am inspired by them, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a painter. I get some of my best ideas or inspirations when I am out and about. And I enjoy contemplating about the journey of the artists. Maybe that is why I am so intrigued with their diaries and notebooks. (Often beside the works of art, the curator has a display case highlighting the artist’s notebooks and journals.) Those treasures are truly fascinating to me. I’m inspired by the journey.
My husband (who isn’t the least bit interested in art) will often accompany me on a gallery visit and his comments are so interesting – he pays attention to the most obscure things; so obscure, they are creative, I think. (When I tell him that, his eyebrow goes up.)
His home would be the baseball park. Occasionally we take the family to a professional ball game, and I must admit, if one goes with an open mind, the game, the stadium and the fans are truly fascinating. I love to watch the fans – they are so full of joy! Oh, why is it we never see the wave performed at an art gallery or museum? (Hey, kudos to the old masters who gave us this old scroll – let’s do the wave.) To me, I have learned that baseball games are synonymous with joy and exuberance and just being a part of that scene is fun.
My new awareness of creativity has taken me on an interesting path as I am now discovering creativity everywhere – it’s limitless (like the experts told us).
Last week I learned that a camera man in L.A. takes photos of discarded couches that he spies along the street curbs. He finds them, snaps a photo, and is compiling them. He has hundreds already. When I tell this story to people, they look puzzled and ask me, is that art? Yes! You betcha! I think his novel way of interpreting society and its values is very creative. His photos reflect so many societal attitudes – throw-away society, impermanence, homelessness, cheaply made products, etc., etc. I immediately thought of my parents’ couch and its longevity! In their time, products were well-made (with pride and care) and not thrown away as if they didn’t matter. Instead, a sofa represented home, the family gathering place, a safe haven, security and endurance. Oh, yes. I think I get the photographer’s point. And that’s creativity, at its best – his take, his slant on life, or his slant on garbage. I will never look at a couch at the side of a curb in the same way again.
On Saturday, my friend told me that her neighbours had gone camping for three weeks and while camping in the woods that they often photograph chipmunks and send the photos to her. I laughed aloud – chipmunks? My friend chuckled and told us her neighbour sets up elaborate props and scenes (and food) so that when the chipmunks visit, he photographs them – his camera captures the chipmunks in hilarious settings! Well, that’s too funny, but creative. Who would spend time on vacation doing that? Apparently someone who sees the funny side of wildlife, and since I believe that’s novel, I guess it’s creative, too.
When I was much younger, I was always on high alert to find my true calling in life; I spent many a meditation session, contemplating my navel, as they say. When my friends would tell me my strengths, or make suggestions, I dismissed them. (I would think it has to be deeper than that trait.)
I realize now that it is not about the destination or calling, it’s about the journey of life. How I live my life is my true calling. At least, that’s what I have begun to finally realize.
And I will have many callings because my journey takes me on many different, divergent paths. One day I am a stay-at-home mother planning the next picnic for my kids to enjoy (just like my own parents would do), and suddenly I find that I am opening a children’s clothing store and feeling very at home as a business woman. On both occasions I was totally immersed in my calling, convinced that life just couldn’t get better. I was made for this, I thought.
When I cared for my father during his illness, I assumed that my calling was now as a caregiver. When I didn’t particularly feel at home in that calling, I felt uneasy. What is my calling? Is this it? Why am I so sad, depressed and anxious all the time, if this is my true calling?
It was only when my father was dying that I found my true gifts. Gifts of love, patience, kindness, compassion, understanding and service. Gifts that flourished within me to help me care for my mother when she, too, had Alzheimer’s disease. Without those gifts (the lessons that I learned) when caring for my father, I don’t think that I would be the person who I am today. I know that I would not feel so blessed and so full of gratitude as I live now.
And, yes, creativity is one of the gifts that I received…no, found, during my journey of caregiving. I accept it and am grateful for it everyday. Not as an artist, but as a co-creator of my own life.
Now it is in awareness and recognition of it that I am learning to feed it: maintaining an open mind is full-time work! I practice it every day – letting go of old routines that no longer serve me; letting go of resistance to change; asking for help and support more often; accepting change as a good thing and not as a bad thing. Letting go of ideas and perceptions (critical self-talk) that no longer serve me. These are small ways (but profound ways) that I maintain an open mind.
So, you might find me this summer at a ballgame (when I would rather be reading) or at a restaurant that I have never been to…all in the practice of staying open. And you might hear me say yes, when I really would rather say no; or saying no, when so often I say yes.
But the wonder of this journey – this practice of staying open – is that I feel so free and authentic. I am gaining power in saying no. And I am thinking that I always had the power (just like Dorothy finds out in The Wizard of Oz). Creativity, expansiveness, authenticity, power. All gifts.
And here’s another interesting thing about creativity…it’s contagious. Because I like to think that maybe, just maybe, one person reading this post will now go out there…and paint a smudgy horizon.