Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 36): Comfort

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!


  1. Oh, did you see me today or something? Back to wearing my apron, my new SAW necklace, playing Jonatha Brooke's and making a little Squam Shrine on my desk....I love the pic and can't wait for you to get here.

    Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter and thanks for the inspiration on the journal pages. I really need to try that myself.

    Big hug for you, my dear and funny friend!


  2. OH MY GOD...... that is hilarious!!!! Where's my headlamp?

  3. you are too funny.. miss you guys so much, can we have mid-way retreats in between!
    Happy birthday to your gal.

  4. It's amazing how much learning can be compressed into one small block of time. Yes, yes, yes - (or should that be no, no, no) we need diversity in our creative lives. You and me and many others have chosen to be a part of a family or different families. I think ultimately it is acknowledging and accepting value for our creative aspects, making time for them at the expense of other things and people that is helping us to stake our time and place and help us to grow. We are not one without the other. I'm still coming to grips with this myself. More as it develops! So welcome back and thanks for your honesty and humor through it all.

  5. I don't do anything artistic these days, but I still feel creative in the way I parent and live my daily life. I love living vicariously through you and other artists and I am comforted knowing that some people find/make the time to intentionally be creative beings. Someday I will be there. . . or I won't, but I'll still be reading blogs about people who are able to do it all. Thanks for writing about your creative endeavors, and Happy Birthday to our Guangdong sister :)

  6. I loved this post! Your insights always speak to me on such a personal level. May you always have comfort and growth.

  7. I pulled my apron out this afternoon and was soooo tempted to put it on :D

    Love your idea of creating work stations - never occurred to me before, but I'm definitely going to put that into action!!

  8. Dear Lis-I am so glad you had such a wonderFULL time at Squam...but I am so glad that you are back here with us:) Selfish of me I know...seeing as how you had such an amazing time!!

  9. Lis - thanks for visiting my blog and for your lovely comments. I dropped by here and got a huge dose of envy - I so wish I could go to Squam! Sounds like a wonderful time. Looking forward to getting creative with you and the other Unravellers.