I’ve just returned from a 10-day write-sketch-relax journey which helped remind me how valuable it is to simply be present. I purposely took very little along on my journey — no phone, no laptop . . . a sketchbook, some pens, a small box of watercolors, a tiny journal that would fit in my pocket, and a few small sheets of hand-made paper.
It’s been a very long time since I took such a simple set of tools and even longer since I traveled alone. My goal was to be as much in the moment as possible, while allowing memories and future ideas to surface and be recognized and released. Five days into my journey I knew I had reached a place of being simply present when I was able to sit down on the small balcony of my hotel and paint the picture above.
How did I know? Because the painting flowed from the brush without any fuss or stress. I was able to let my hand and my eye work together, using the knowledge and skills accumulated over time — without interference from the critical, linear brain.
Every sketch I made in the preceding days recorded information, details, juxtapositions, color samples, visual data to be used in some future work of art, but that afternoon, I let go of every idea and simply immersed myself in the moment, the amazing Aegean light, the vibrant red flower, the cool indigo-tinged shadows, the feeling of the April sun on my skin, the faint scent of the sea. I gave myself over to the present moment and was rewarded with a painting that landed on my page like a spring butterfly.
My next task is to remember how to reach that place without taking 10 days off.
When was the last time you felt simply present? How can we invite more of those moment into our lives? I’d love to hear from you on this . . .
When I’m painting/creating I’ve learned to overcome the need to know . . . to let the artwork that wants to be born emerge . . . even if it seems vastly different than my initial idea. These allowed-to-emerge creations are often my very finest work, the ones that really move people. Which is why, despite the unease of uncertainty, I’ve trained myself to release the need to know and embrace what comes. When I let the creative spirit move through my hands, the results are invariably far more interesting than anything my mind could plan.
I’ve been asking myself how to bring this into the rest of my life. I have experienced the joyful synchronicities that erupt when I give up needing to know what will happen next, and how it will happen and have my proverbial ducks all in a row . . . and yet I cling to the idea that I can, should “figure it out”.
Ducks in a row is an interesting metaphor, because if you have ever watched real ducks, they never stay in row for very long — sort of like the bits and pieces of a life. When ducks, or life circumstances, align it is a beautiful thing, a thing to be savored EVEN AS IT CHANGES and reverts to the randomness so prevalent in nature. But wishing the bits of my life would stay in a row is as fruitless as wishing the ducks would stay orderly.
So my underlying theme for this year is allowing my life to emerge, which fits nicely with the word I chose for 2013: Open. I’ll let you know how it goes.
It has been a surreal two months. 60 days ago I was making the final preparations to fly from Tunisia to Turkey with my beloved husband Steve, who had been ill but was, we believed, finally on the mend. We were “on the road again” and the future was brimming with new possibilities. Now I am alone with a Steve-shaped hole in my heart. Some days it hurts to breathe. Some days I am really OK and see clearly that the future is, as always, full of infinite possibility.
As I have been traveling through this surreal landscape of ambulances, hospitals, surgeries, death, burial and bureaucracy it is the myriad small kindnesses from friend and stranger alike that have been the beacons that kept me from stepping into the abyss of deep and unrelenting grief – the kind that borders on madness.
The day of the second emergency surgery, the woman from some rural village in Turkey, dressed in old traditional clothes, who spoke no English at all, but rose from her husband’s bedside, unasked, to bring me bread, cheese and fruit to give me strength to face what was ahead.
The casual friend, met once 5 years ago, who appeared and spent countless hours entertaining Steve and being by his side so that I could run needed errands, do laundry, sleep. Why? Because he had once had surgery in America, and knew what it was to face such things alone and far from home.
A friend of a friend, a man I had never met, who called to offer to drive me the 10 km or so from hospital to apartment and back again because it took 45 minutes each way to make the journey by transit.
The hospital cleaning woman, who stopped to place her hand gently on the head of my sleeping husband and offer a silent prayer.
The people who were always, always at the other end of the phone, day and night, willing to translate, so that we could communicate with the largely non-English speaking hospital staff.
Friends who live in a town 90-minutes away, who came frequently, at a moment’s notice, when it was all too much for me, just to be there and lend a hand, as if it were across the street.
The people who arranged everything necessary for the burial, as I sat numb and transfixed with grief.
The messages from around the world, posted to my facebook wall, in my inbox, sharing love and sadness in equal measure, assuring me I would never be truly alone.
The ‘grapevine’ of communication that manifested unexpected mourners graveside, people I had not seen since we left Turkey 4 years ago.
The plates of food from my neighbors, my landlady’s brother accompanying me to several bureaucratic offices to complete needed paperwork.
The friends who did what was needed to set up a fundraiser for the medical expenses. All the people who have contributed to that fund, many of whom I know are dealing with their own difficulties.
All the people who didn’t know what to say, but reached out and said it anyway . . . and continue to reach out as I try to navigate my way back into everyday life.
Yesterday the bakery man slipped an olive-filled savory pastry into my bag “just to try” he said with a smile. The old man who lives upstairs saw me a block away as he unlocked the front gate of our building and waited to hold it open for me. My neighbor brought me a bowl full of fruit because she had just been to the market and “had too much”.
Each proffered cup of coffee or tea, each piece of cake, each orange, each kind word, each smile . . . every small kindness adds a tiny bit of stability to my wobbly world, and allows me to believe that I will find my way through this treacherous landscape and onto safe ground again.
This Small Kindnesses post today was inspired by the book under the same title, Small Kindnesses, available for free today at Amazon US and Amazon UK. . . . Small Kindnesses is a gripping and ultimately life-affirming novel that explores the power of secrets and the healing qualities of love by Fiona Robyn.
The memorial fund for Steve Kramer can be reached via this link: http://www.gofundme.com/SteveKramerMemorialfund
The moon hangs, a luminous pearl, suspended in the dusky lavender silk sky. Beneath it the sea is rippling pewter, as a ghostly freighter slips through the mist gathering on the horizon, its rigging lights slowing winking on in the gathering twilight. ~August 31, 2012 (the blue moon)
It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that enough IS enough. We are creatures of striving, we long for more. But enough isn’t lack, it is everything we need in this moment. SO at the end of a long week of wondering about my husband’s health, our financial health and the road ahead, I sat on the balcony and watched the blue moon rise . . . and let Mother Nature soothe me with the promise of enough.
The moon was her smile, I felt her gentle touch in the breeze caressing my hair and skin, the waves were her lullaby – sweetly singing; everything is as it should be and there will always be enough of whatever your truly need.
What have you done to make it easy for yourself to engage creatively?
What creative habits are you cultivating?
Do you give yourself physical and mental space to create?
Do you give yourself permission?
Something I did recently for my Creative Self was join Milli Thornton’s 10K Day for Writers over at Fear of Writing. Milli provides two of my very favorite creativity tools, accountability and friendly support, which she offers twice a month without fail. (the next one is August 29th – come play with us!)
Last month during the July 10K days I managed to focus and write the basic material for all four of my FREE eBooklets, a task I’d been dawdling around with for ages! WIN! And I made several new friends! even bigger WIN!! I’m not sure what this month’s target will be, but you can be sure I’ll be there, writing whatever and and lending my support to everyone from fictioneers to copywriters.
I see the 10K Day as providing something in answer to each of the 4 questions above :
~it is setting aside the mental space and time to be creative — a creative commitment to myself, shared with others
~it provides me with permission to spend the day in creative endeavors, free from the tug of competing “shoulds”
~as a monthly event it is helping me cultivate a writing habit
~the wonderful supportive people there make it EASY for me to get into Creative Mode AND the feeling of accomplishment, being able to offer my writing to YOU, makes it easy to engage in doing even more.Care and Feeding of the Creative Self is one of the eBooklets I completed during the July 10K and it’s full of practical tools for doing just that you can get your copy here.