Tag Archives: The muse

What I love most about teaching

15 Sep

Tools of the TradeWhen my student is beyond excited. When they have that look in their eyes. When I know that something clicked, an alignment occurred with their soul. We are together for an instant in this blissed out moment that feels like the entire universe exhaled an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’

Last week, Jim asked if he could take his picture home to work on. He was so excited to show his parents his work in progress. He’s been in class close to 16 weeks, developing his style; drawing, painting, penciling what he loves- reptiles, lizards and snakes. He is a walking encyclopedia on everything reptile. He is also a connoisseur of morning glories. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Recently, he’s adopted a new tool- Derwent Inktense Ink pencils. He uses an easel, inventing his style of working as he goes- experimenting with different papers, pencils, techniques…and last Thursday- BOOM! Lightning struck and he was hooked. The muse had him by the tail and it was just the coolest thing to witness. He grew exponentially, expanded beyond his old story of his ability and I was able to see THAT MOMENT.

‘Oh wow’ he said to himself, looking at his picture, his hands full of pencils and paintbrushes, ‘I love this. I love this.’

When class was over, as he’s walking out the door, I saw that he also had the case of the studio’s Derwent pencils. Around $150 worth of these amazing things, cradled to his chest.

So I’m like, ‘Er…you’re taking the pencils too?’ A bit hesitant to let these things walk out the door.

His face was absolutely shining, as he said so seriously – “Yes! I promise I’ll be careful with them. I promise! Is it ok if I borrow them, since no one else is using them?’

In that moment, I could see the monetary value of those pencils was absolutely nothing compared to the value that they had to him, this gifted 13-year-old artist who had just discovered an entire world of wonder and awe in a case of pencils. We had discussed the price of him buying the exact set earlier in class that day, so he knew what he was asking.

‘Yes.’ I said.

He didn’t even say thank you or goodbye, (which he does every time, because he’s a polite and gracious kid) he instead just turned and floated toward his mom, clutching the pencils and his drawing.

Is that not connection we’re all longing for? A direct pipeline to joy? This is what is sustainable. Find the things that expand you, that inspire you to become more of who you are. It’s not about ‘Am I ‘good’ at this or any other external marker. It’s about what fulfills you. And that is always an inside job. How do you find a way to let the radiance out? What is it that tickles your fancy, that you do just for the sheer delight of exploration and creativity?

‘Oh wow’ (you overhear your soul say), ‘I love this. I love this.’

And honestly, it feels exactly like the entire universe is exhaling an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’ -through you.

All those pretty, pretty colors…

24 Mar

While I have been an artist all my life, I have only recently come to terms with being OK with not necessarily fitting into the ‘real’ world Ipretty colors walk out into every day.

I have always resided primarily in the magical world of my inner life. And these two worlds are not overly compatible. The trick has been, to use a biblical phrase, ‘to be in, but not of, this world’. Far easier said than done. It is something we all have to figure out for ourselves anyway, which is why, I suppose, Jesus wasn’t overly busy handing out instruction manuals.

In weaving, it is the warp threads that give the foundation, the anchors over and under which the weaving will happen. What are the warp threads of your life? What anchors you and holds you? What is your foundation? Your comfort?

For me, it is my experience of the unity, the oneness and the sacredness of everything on our planet. While not an overly unique or unusual perspective, it allows me a powerful foundation from which to create. Warp threads are not typically sexy or exciting. But they allow the pattern; the beauty to be.

Most of the time I would much rather focus on the weft, those horizontal threads which make the beautiful patterns, colors and designs. This is where most creatives hang out. In the beautiful colors, often to the exclusion of everything else.

I am slowly learning to appreciate the stability and strength of my foundation threads. I am learning that being strongly rooted in the everyday, ordinary world where money, food, shelter, time and schedules are necessary and essential is actually complementary to my creative process.

The bringing together of these two very different but necessary worlds has been my most difficult lesson. And I am by no means done doing it.

So now that I have reconciled myself to not being ‘normal’, and not ‘fitting in’, paradoxically, I have an extraordinary feeling of arrival. Of finally fitting into my groove. And I know that while I had very little to do with my fortunate arrival here, in this space of belonging, I also know that it could not have occurred without me.

Such is life.

(This is my obnoxiously long response to the prompt: ‘Write a bit about yourself ‘ for my Etsy Shop)

Drift, wait and obey

26 Jan

kiplingToday is one of those days. I feel a shadowy presence roaming along the borders of my consciousness. I sense it there, unformed; a half-life seeking birth and expression. Its lack of definition offers me unrest and dis-ease.  I understand. I used to let these vague feelings of non-being  permeate my entire day, my entire being – I identified with it. Now I realize that I am (rather considerately) being warned that the ground is about to shift under my feet and that I must pay attention. Knowing this, I will happily go about my business without the depression and ennui that once took my days. I am waiting for the birthing of…something.

I know now that ‘The Daemon’ is in charge. The daemon is the ancient Greek concept of our genius- that outer entity that is half responsible for our creative work. As Elizabeth Gilbert shares so brilliantly in her TED talk on ‘your elusive creative genius’, we are not solely responsible for our creativity- our job is to just show up at the desk, in the studio, wherever we do our work. The Genius’ job is to provide, well, the genius. We must put the work in, we must ask the questions, we must agonize over the problem at hand. And once we come to that frustratingly terrible impasse, that point at which we often give up in frustration- that is the moment the call goes out. My yoga instructor told me last week that you are not really ‘in the pose’ until you are ready to come out of it. Right? The Genius is just like that. It’s when we are calling it a day that the real work has been done.

I once heard a lovely story about Monet. It was said that he had a spot in his garden where his neighbor would often see him sitting in the sunshine, doing nothing. ‘Ah, the life of a painter- all work!’ joked the neighbor. ‘Indeed’ said Monet, ‘when I sit here, you are watching me work. When I paint- that is the easy part.’ When we are inspired- filled with the spirit of the thing- it takes us over and it moves us. There is no thinking, just doing, and we rarely have doubt concerning what is to be done. Beautiful clarity, flow and fitting of things together.

When your daemon is doing its thing, however; offering no resistance is the key to one’s sanity. It is best to just ‘drift, wait and obey’.  This was Rudyard Kipling’s mantra and was also successfully used by Harold Arlen, the famous Hollywood composer, who  seemed to have brilliant song lyrics just fall into his lap. How did he do it? ‘I drift, wait and obey.’ Like Monet, and all creatives, he had agonized over the problem at hand, tried to come up with his own brand of amazing, but just couldn’t get it. Then…he let it go. Went for a drive with his wife as the story goes. Suddenly he was scribbling away like a maniac in the car, the words for Somewhere Over the Rainbow appearing in dazzling perfection for The Wizard of Oz.

Allow for this drifting. Be patient with waiting. It’s hard for me today, I want to be busy. I want to feel ‘productive’.  However, I know better than to fight it. I know better than to help the butterfly out of the cocoon. This birth must happen on its own terms, in its own time. Will it be stunning? Amazing? Fireworks of brilliance? Who knows? Far more likely scenario: a subtle revelation of something incredibly obvious that has finally moved from my head to my heart – a slow burning thing that will change my life from the inside out.

I put my pens and paper away today. I will do as Kipling did- take a walk in the lush Sussex countryside  snow covered suburbs – and be at peace with the process. My process. I welcome the help; glad the Muse has shown up as anticipated. I call, she comes. That’s the job of a genius after all. It is helpful to know this now, to know that I must watch and wait. Many times over the years, I have given up in frustration, only to stay closed as the many signs appeared that were to guide me to my next adventure. I called, The Genius showed up- and I missed it, cursing her lack of attention.

But she is my other half, for better or for worse, in sickness, and health; my ancient partner in creativity and life. Maybe I’ll light a candle to honor her coming – or burn some incense. I think she’d appreciate this more than a plate of cookies with milk, the typical offering for quasi-real people who magically enter the house bearing gifts. It’s comforting to know my work is done and I can have open mind rather than obsessive mind. I can allow time to work on my breathing and create the necessary inner space for transformation.

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