I am still decompressing from Squam ... I find myself wandering around both aimlessly and a tad frantic as odds and ends seemed to pile up in my absence. I am like an old dog scuffling around the house looking for a misplaced chew toy and then distracted from my task by a squirrel or passing truck. Add to my list of things to do: one birthday party tomorrow for Cowgirl who will be turning six. I joined her for lunch today at her school and I am concerned for my sanity tomorrow as we will be in a bounce center for 2 hours. Lunch only lasted a half hour and I was blinking and twitching before I left!
But today is a more leisurely day and as I pottered around the house, I was thinking about what comforts me. As much as I love travel and new adventures, I am happiest when I am back in my routine with lots of fresh ideas and inspiration. And I discovered something about my working habits while at Squam: I do best when I have a number of projects going on at one time. Today I pulled out my large journal and began painting a background; while waiting for it to dry I grabbed a smaller journal and started filling in random color there. With paint still on my palette, I started two art postcards. I then returned to my first piece, added an element and then cycled my way through the lot again.
One exercise Sarah Ahearn had us do at Squam was a timed prompt circle. Each person was given a card with a prompt on it, like "stencil a word on your piece" or "paint something in a color you dislike." You had only 2 minutes to do your prompt and then the cards were passed to the left and you received a new prompt. There were about 12 prompts and it got pretty frantic as people ran around the room grabbing paint, collage materials, sharpening pencils or paging through a book for an image. One woman next to me declared "I won't be drinking coffee at lunch" and while it was nerve-wracking, it was also liberating. There just was no time to agonize over details; I had to go with my gut and allow the ideas to just spill out. And when my board got hopeless messy, I had to adapt and readjust. While the piece I ended up with in no way matched what I had hoped to create (something soft and whimsical; totally wanting to paint like Sarah) I do love what I created. I feel like it captures the spirit of my creative life right now.
So returning home and settling back into my practices, I find I am trying to capture that more spontaneous, intuitive way of creating I tasted in Sarah's class. And I am realizing my natural tendency is to set up lots of work stations and move between them, all in an attempt to sidestep the intellectualizing part of my mind. And when I am working in this way, my attention is 100 percent focused and there is no room for worries, fears, doubts or judgments. It is creative meditation in motion!
I find comfort in this realization and comfort in returning to my practice refreshed, cleansed and enthused. One truth that settled upon me after a couple of days of healthy lake gazing was the fact that my life does not need to be an either/or situation. Living a creative life encompasses all aspects of living, including the prosaic and dare I say mundane. I think there is this notion of being completely free of the practical world and just living in this wonderland of creating 24/7. I don't think that exists nor do I think it would be healthy for me. I do know I've integrated creativity into my life and it will always be there. I no longer feel anxious about "losing it" or having it diminish in any way because I have to spend my day at work and then caring for my family. It will be there waiting for me when I am ready. What I did learn from Sarah were some "tricks" by which I keep in touch with the wellspring of ideas and inspiration and which I will turn to when I feel stale or uninspired. (And I am excited Sarah has a book coming out which is available for pre-order through Amazon - it is called Painted Pages and it looks incredible!)
I am recalling that my style statement, clarified over a year and a half ago, is "Cherished Creative." As I settle back into my homey life, I savor the details of my day that awe and inspire me. I turn to my artwork whether it be my camera, paint table, sewing machine or kitchen and celebrate those details. Cherishing and celebrating, that is what gives me great comfort. It puts me squarely in the middle of being me and being present for my life.
What brings you comfort? How do you create space and time for comfort in your life? Are seeking and comfort compatible states? Or is a level of discomfort necessary for growth? A cycle much like breathing - in, and out?
(An inside joke: inspired by a comment from a fellow Squammie who wrote she was in her apron and headlamp wandering around the house listening to Jonatha Brooke, here is my homage):
Lily, I'm coming for you!