Saturday, 21 September 2019

Making space

At the beginning of August, we pulled our trailer out to Seaview, a place where we’ve been camping every year since 2011. It’s very quiet, with only 4 campsites located right on the edge of the ocean. Every time we pull into our campsite, we breathe deeply and feel the tensions drain out of us. This is our special space.

We were coming away from a busy time: a 3 week trip to Newfoundland, coming back to a garden desperately crying for our attention, followed by a family get-together which I think of as our holy hullabaloo. We were tired. People at a certain stage in life eventually realize they are not as young as they used to be.

As in other years, I took along books, journals, my sewing equipment and projects, and my computer. Somewhere in the next four weeks, I trusted that my creative muse would begin calling me. But not right away. First I would rest. First I would stop doing, and start being.

It started well enough: long, long sleeps, afternoon naps, reading, chatting, quiet times. But it did not take more than a few days before my mind began agitating for something else. Shouldn’t you be doing something? I asked myself. Shouldn’t you be writing your next blog? Or maybe work on an art project? Isn’t it time to get moving, get productive?

“It is our tendency in daily life to become goal-oriented,” says Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Creating Space. “We know where we want to go, and we are very focused on getting there.”

Because society encourages us to reach our goals, stopping doesn’t feel so good. I was uncomfortable. How can I get things done, if I don’t set some goals for myself? And there is sooooo much to do! People of a certain age also begin to realize HOW MUCH is still left undone in our lives. What about that memoir I was going to write for my children and grandchildren? And those boxes of photos that need to be sorted? And the one hundred and one ideas I have for quilted art projects? Not to mention the friends I want to invite to dinner, and the commitments I have, and the travel spots on my bucket list?  And how about that blog, eh? And your cupboard full of unfinished projects? So how can I stop? How can I just sit there, not doing something?

As I was thinking about this, a quote appeared on my FB page: “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, [or a special place by the ocean] where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”  (Joseph Campbell )

Almost right below it, just in case I didn’t get the message the first time: “Each of us has the ability to create harmony and peace simply by engaging our hearts. ... if we sit quietly within our space ...” (Textile artist Lorraine Lea Turner)

And yet another post with a quote by former UN leader Dag Hammarskjold: “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you hear what is sounding outside. And only he who listens can speak.”

It was like Facebook was giving me my orders: sit quietly in your space. Listen to your life.

And so I stopped. Sort of. Like a car that slows down, I sputtered along, only more slowly. I started several blogs. One was about basil and how much I loved it.

basil with our homegrown tomatoes, onion, and garlic, a shot of balsamic vinegar: oh, yum.

Another was about rocks: do they talk to us? The blogs went nowhere. I pulled out some artsy things, looked at them, and put them away again. Apparently, stopping is what I needed to do: sleep, read, eat, walk and sit by the side of the ocean. And listen. (Of course, there were other things I did that needed doing, the ordinary things of life -- but my creative work was put on hold.)

Yes, there are many tasks awaiting me. But there will never be enough time to do it all. (People of a certain age realize this!) How can we know what’s important and what’s not, how can we know what to let go and what to dive into, if we don’t stop to listen to our lives?

A few days ago, a friend asked me, “Have you stopped blogging, or have I just missed seeing your posts?”

This blog is my way of telling you what’s been going on.

PS: I’m happy to say that last week I spent part of every day in the studio, and it was my happy place.

a brand new piece...not done, but well on its way. 
And I got back to work on this one, my impression of a Newfoundland fishing village.