“If you've lost focus, just sit down and be still. Take the idea and rock it to and fro. Keep some of it and throw some of it away, and it will renew itself. You need do no more.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
As a writer and craftsman, I know at a cellular level what Clarissa Pinkola Estes means by these words. The process of creativity is, at least for me, not a left brain activity—I can't think it into being. Whatever is being created comes of its own accord, slowly incubates, and layer by layer, emerges. Meeting other artists yesterday, and for the first time, being part of that tribe, I realized what a strange way of life it is. One man who was there makes incredible jewelry from odd things like old piano hammers and radio tubes; another paints gorgeous watercolors of other people's pets. The woman whose booth was across from mine had worked the words Standing Rock into the background of several of her otherwise dreamy acrylic paintings to honor the Sioux who are protecting their land. The owner of the historic house where the show was held makes beautiful stained-glass mandala windows worthy of any cathedral, but also dips wooden walking canes into layers and layers of paint so that they appear to be dripping colors.
Where do all these strange ideas come from? Who looks at an old radio tube and thinks—oh, that would make a nice piece of jewelry? Only someone who's willing to sit with an idea, and “rock it to and fro” while it incubates. The operative attitude has to be one of non-judgment; of trusting that something is emerging that comes through you, but has its own reasons for being. One of my quilts, one that was inspired by my great-aunt Ruth's old, ceramic-faced gas heaters, is going to hang in a condo in Richmond, VA. The person there is moving to the city from her rural home and hopes it will keep her in touch with her country roots. Another, featuring an African woman with a water jug on her head, is going to Ecuador as a gift to a woman who served as a Journeyman teacher in Africa years ago. Quilts always have a story, and art of any kind has its own life.
In this busy, chaotic, maddening world, it's easy to lose focus no matter what we do. We humans get into some sort of manic fugue state, and forget who we are—the same species who drew those amazing running bison on the cave walls in France. We go and go and go, and then wonder why we're tired all the time. There's no better way to slow down than to place yourself in a creative frame of mind. Allow an image to emerge within, and just trust it to take you where it needs to go. Rock it, turn it, let it fade in and out, change shape and form while you simply watch and wait. Eventually, it will present itself fully formed and then your hands can begin the work of delivering it into the world.
In the Spirit,