I love how inspiration will find its way in when I least expect it. I marvel at how I can be wiped out, dried out, seemingly emptied out and then (when my guard is down or more accurately when I have stopped the seeking, the efforting) unexpectedly something wonderful and magical pops up before my tired eyes.
Or should I say my ears? Preparing for a holiday fair, I was in a beading frenzy making bracelets to sell. I was wondering about the sanity of having said Yes to this event as overwhelm was taxing my energy reserves. Keine Lust as they would say auf Deutsch. One soothing balm for me is the voice of On Being podcast host, Krista Tippett. To the archives I went!
When you are seeking inspiration, who do you turn to? I listened to several shows that immediately filled my tank: Ellen Langer and The Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness; Atul Gawande, What Matters in the End; and James Martin, Finding God in All Things. But what really rocked my world inside and out was illustrator/writer Maira Kalman's interview: The Normal, Daily Things We Fall in Love With.
Obviously, I was beading for a very, very long time ...
But Kalman's conversation on how our lives are comprised of all these moments of wonderment and worry, joy and angst, sorrow and delight and how she embraces it all in her art and her writing ... it just sung to me. Her work evokes a deep curiosity and appreciation for all of the details that make up one's world, one's life. That she loves and celebrates dogs in much of her work was a huge hook for me. ("They are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we
live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love. And it is
very true that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our
being blossoms without any effort when it comes to the love of a dog.”) But this!
Okay, first thing ... I totally know my mother is smiling down upon me, nodding her head in agreement over utter wonderfulness of this all. I have no doubt if my mother was still alive, she would have read about Maira Kalman and then clipped the article to pass on to me.
I also know that my mother's closet was HER artwork, her opus, her masterpiece. I understand now why cleaning that closet after her passing was such a monumental task ... and I weep right now with the realization of all that it meant to her and in turn all it means to me as the one who stood witness to its message.
I look around my home and I see how I am my mother's daughter. I see the same love of things ... which is really a preservation of memories, a cherishing of events and experiences and a celebration of richness IN living. The objects we hold on to and cherish speak to who we are and how we love; they bear witness to our hearts and our dreams, our hopes and our aspirations. My mother's closet was filled with shoes and clothes lovingly lined up and organized. She would joke that for a girl who grew up with one pair of shoes, she did pretty well for herself. It wasn't just that she loved nice clothes after a childhood of lack; she didn't merely survive the conditions of her upbringing ... she thrived. And she thrived because she was determined to do so.
My mother never went to college but a university professor once told me "Your mother is the most educated person in this room." And it was true. She read voraciously. She learned through books and lectures and listening to others. She returned to work in her fifties so she could use her money to travel. And did she travel! Stashed away in boxes in her closet were the many postcards and brochures collected on her numerous trips abroad. I also found the letters and cards from the many friends she made while traveling - friendships she maintained over the years and across the sea. I even found tucked away in a dresser drawer the application to renew her passport. It broke my heart to consider her filling it out, hopeful for one last adventure.
My mother was insatiable in her quest for the perfect shade of lipstick. My entire life I have been fascinated by the variety of colors and creativity in the naming of those many tubes of coral and pink hues. She was always put together, clothing, jewelry, makeup and shoe wear flawlessly coordinated. I think it spoke to her sense of self sufficiency and her pride in a life lived fully and with no real regrets.
As I sit with all these memories I find myself considering what - or how - will I be remembered? How am I honoring my life? I've pulled out my sketchbook and once again filling it with images of the things I love, the small things from my day, my life that spark immense joy and love within me. If I know anything, it is that the details will end up being the most treasured pieces of my life and in turn it is in through details that I will be remembered. The stories we create from the details of our lives, that is where the magic and the artistry can be found.
I think of my mother and I remember her morning ritual of a cup of instant coffee (Sanka, thank you) in a china tea cup always ALWAYS with a saucer and a a Stella D'Oro brand Breakfast Treat. Elegance and practicality. I think of her crossword puzzles (which I now do every morning, but never could I aspire to the Times puzzle which she completed ... in pen of course ...) and I am grateful she taught me to be so fiercely myself, to love with no excuses, to follow my curiosity and sense of wonderment and to always, always bring home a souvenir from my journeys.
Once again, I feel the warmth of my mother's love and her encouragement reaching out to support me. I do what fills me with love - my art and my teaching and my home life are all one and the same - but I also know my mother loves all that I do. She is smiling ... and so am I.