home-keeping heart

are we there yet

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.

Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.

Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O’er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.

“Song” by H.W. Longfellow: Keramos and Other Poems 1878

As Longfellow says “to stay at home is best”.  But is it?  It feels great to be in a place that feels safe, protected and predictable. This is the land of  known and previously explored territory.  Home is being on familiar ground.  You know exactly where you are.

The challenge in keeping creative process fresh and alive, is to balance the need to keep things safe, predictable and orderly, with the need to explore unknown, unpredictable and potentially dangerous new territory.

It is relatively easy to imagine yourself standing with one foot in order and one foot in chaos. But maybe this balanced stance is more a place of action or experience that is way more complex than imagined.  That place where there is just enough safety and just enough danger, is a space of surprises.  Strangely, this place needs to be repeatedly found and/or rediscovered anew.  There is no guidebook that consistently works. The entrance way (at least in my own personal creative process) seems to be through tolerating frustration, giving up control and welcoming resistance to new, accidental or unplanned experience. That dark and uncomfortable stuff has to be encountered each time. Maybe as Longfellow says, we need to be

“baffled and beaten and blown about

By the winds of the wilderness of doubt.”

Each voluntary encounter with the unknown builds resilience for the next journey along the creative path.  Maybe that is what is meant by practice.

 

Remember to forget

remember

For me art shouldn’t be a fixed idea that I have before I start making it. I want it to include all the fragility and doubt that I go through the day with. Sometimes I’ll take a walk just to forget whatever good idea I had that day because I like to go into the studio not having any ideas. I want the insecurity of not knowing, like performers feel before a performance. Everything I can remember, and everything I know, I have probably already done, or somebody else has

Robert Rauschenburg (1925-), American artist, quoted by Michael Kimmelman in an article about Rauschenburg, New York Times, “Arts & Leisure” section 2, August 27, 2000, p. 26.

Remembering and forgetting are key parts to the incubation stage of creative process. Images and/or ideas found in the foraging and gathering stage begin to simmer and cook.  In this chaotic broth, knowledge remembered is then forgotten, or let go of.  This alchemical creative process is transformational, allowing something new to emerge.

Once an experience is understood, remembering and forgetting is possible.  This transformative process of memory allows new learning, as well as a flexible and adaptive response to life.

Unsinging Bird

bird

silence

.is
a
looking

bird:the

turn
ing;edge of
life

(inquiry before snow

e.e. cummings

Look up….Look waay Up

giraffe

Head in the clouds. Feet firmly planted on the earth. This is the optimal creative stance. Why?

Groundedness and solid, secure connections provide the safe supports needed for creative exploration and the transformative risks that give life meaning.  Dan Siegel writes about cultivating the ability to become grounded in the tripod of mindsight

Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in…The focusing skills that are part of mindsight make it possible to see what is inside, to accept it, and in the accepting to let it go, and, finally, to transform it (Siegel, 2010)

Being grounded in the tripod of Mindsight involves openness (receptivity to whatever comes into awareness without censorship, which allows clear seeing); observation (cultivating the ability to observe yourself in the midst of reactivity, which creates space); objectivity (developing the ability to remain present without identifying with particular thoughts or feelings and/or being carried away by them) (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation 2010, New York, NY: Bantam Books).

In the optimal creative stance the feet firmly planted on the earth support a “head in the clouds” creative exploration. A multitude of vantage points, perspectives, options, hopes, dreams, imaginal possibilities and treasures may be found spending time appreciating the awesomeness of clouds.

Here is a short and beautiful meditation on clouds, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, creator of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

Lost and Found

lost and found

The Little House of Lost Play (Mar Vanwa Tyalieva) by J. R. R. Tolkien

We knew that land once, You and I,
and once we wandered there
in the long days now long gone by,
a dark child and a fair.
Was it on the paths of firelight thought
in winter cold and white,
or in the blue-spun twilit hours
of little early tucked-up beds
in drowsy summer night,
that you and I in Sleep went down
to meet each other there,
your dark hair on your white nightgown
and mine was tangled fair?

We wandered shyly hand in hand,
small footprints in the golden sand,
and gathered pearls and shells in pails,
while all about the nightengales
were singing in the trees.
We dug for silver with our spades,
and caught the sparkle of the seas,
then ran ashore to greenlit glades,
and found the warm and winding lane
that now we cannot find again,
between tall whispering trees.

The air was neither night nor day,
an ever-eve of gloaming light,
when first there glimmered into sight
the Little House of Play.
New-built it was, yet very old,
white, and thatched with straws of gold,
and pierced with peeping lattices
that looked toward the sea;
and our own children’s garden-plots
were there: our own forgetmenots,
red daisies, cress and mustard,
and radishes for tea.
There all the borders, trimmed with box,
were filled with favourite flowers, with phlox,
with lupins, pinks, and hollyhocks,
beneath a red may-tree;
and all the gardens full of folk
that their own little language spoke,
but not to You and Me.

For some had silver watering-cans
and watered all their gowns,
or sprayed each other; some laid plans
to build their houses, little towns
and dwellings in the trees.
And some were clambering on the roof;
some crooning lonely and aloof;
some dancing round the fairy-rings
all garlanded in daisy-strings,
while some upon their knees
before a little white-robed king
crowned with marigold would sing
their rhymes of long ago.
But side by side a little pair
with heads together, mingled hair,
went walking to and fro
still hand in hand; and what they said,
ere Waking far apart them led,
that only we now know

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