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We have a beautiful modern library in Groningen (NL). The extensive English novel collection has sustained me in my 24 years here.

Reading occupies a large place in Rende’s and my lives, partly because we don’t have a TV.

Every week I go to the Groningen library and search for new books. I walk through the stacked shelves talking to the authors of each book that I pull out. I say, ‘Matter! Write something that matters to you so it can matter to me’. 

I get attracted to titles and colours and covers, but 99% of the books I pull out, I put back. It is such a gamble, spending 200 or more pages with someone, in their head, in the world they have created. Where will they take you? To old grudges of theirs revisited? To a vision of hopelessness? or to a new world of hope and magic.

I’m looking for light and meaning…. and love. And Anne Michaels writes because she cares. What matters to her is the world,  so intensely, it edges on pain:

‘on a table graced with stillness and smells, the wild order of plums’.

 Flat on my back, I dug a hole in the sky. I inhaled the sea until I was light-headed, and floated above the island.
Alone, in space, I imagined the Antarctic auroras, billowing designs of celestial calligraphy, our small portion of the sky like the corner of an illuminated manuscript’.

‘On Zakynthos I tended a garden of lemon balm and basil in a square of light on the floor.’

These quotes are from Fugitive Pieces.

I’m reading Winter Vault  now.  I hesitate to quote from it. All I can say is that each word is charged with meaning and purpose. The language is so beautiful, the sensibilities intense and eloquent. Reading it is like praying.

ok one tiny quote:

‘ Avery leaned overboard, dipped his teacup into the river, then set the circle of water next to him’.

The books I love most leave me in a state of constant gratitude;  thank you Anne Michaels for this,  ‘a circle of water’.

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Yes we can

September 24, 2009

I was thinking of the overuse of Obama’s campaign slogan; I just saw it as a heading on an article about creativity. It is , like the happy face, starting to get tiresome.

But no matter what anyone says about this man, he has done something miraculous, he’s rekindled hope.

So many of us, and not just my generation (babyboomer) have been hurt by life and have become cynical.  I was 13 when JFK was shot. My youth was also shadowed by the assasinations of Bobby and Martin Luther King.  And later, much later, like us all, I witnessed the horror of planes intentionally slamming into downtown New York’s buildings.

We’ve had our hopes dashed again and again by corrupted politicians. All of us have wanted to believe in a better world; I left my secure life and good career in the states to spend 6 years living in an international spiritual community, so high was my idealism. Especially my generation of idealists and new agers sincerely believed we could make a difference. ‘Yes we could’. And of course we’ve been disillusioned.

I have somehow found my way back to my early openhearted beliefs in an ensoulled caring world, albeit older and wiser. Granted,  I daren’t believe too much, too hard, too openly, that Obama is who he seems to be. But as he says, he is not going to save anyone, we all have to do it together.

One first step is to start daring to believe again and dropping our protective cynicism.

And I find that creativity is often the means to become engaged again, hopeful, playful and connected to the things that really matter.

LATER: I loved this synchronicity, a friend just mailed me this link to a speech Paul Hawken gave to University of Portland 2009 graduation class.  It is every bit as good as any Ted talk. I know Paul from my Findhorn days and he walks his talk.

Continued from Eric Maisel’s The van Gogh Blues 1

If I were asked to single out the one most important piece of advice in this book, it would be that creatives need to take action in service of their creative work.

Anxiety and indecision keep us procrastinating when we could act. Maisel says that if on a day we take one tiny step toward a creative project, then we can count that day as successful.

He emphasizes how we have to do this even when we don’t feel like it!! ( A big one for me). In my own experience, just showing up at the page, or the harpsichord, or the computer even when I feel dull and empty of inspiration, almost always helps.  Maisel says that taking an action, no matter how small, is the one most proactive healing thing we can do for ourselves. And that it will protect us from falling into a downward spiral that can end in depression and creative paralysis.

He also suggests that we know very well when we are procrastinating/just keeping busy, and when we are doing something in service of our art. For example, clearing out old files can be a way to waste time, or it can be the preparation for a new creative cycle. Only you know which one you are engaged in.

Paraphrasing from the book:

You have to risk unleashing your passion even with the possibility you will be disappointed. Creative people can’t resign themselves to postmodern meaninglessness. They always come back to the belief that a meaningful life can be led and they are obliged to at least try.

You decide every day to matter. You decide every day to live authentically, reckon with the facts of existence, and doing so your  truth becomes more eloquent.

Creating, as a life’s commitment, is hard; it is your heroic work. 

When we are not true to ourselves we suffer.
When we are true to ourselves we suffer.

I do my creative work anyway.

Maisel’s book is based on the premise that people who have chosen a creative life- artist, innovators in science and other fields,  are creating the path as they go. Since they rarely accept authority’s explanations,  they have to find their own ways to create  meaning. Failure to do this can lead to depression.

The most helpful thing I found about this book was the acknowledgement of how hard it can be to be a creative person.  Not only are we faced with our inner demons, the ones who tell us we are worthless, our work is irrelevant, our lives are meaningless, but also the hard facts of existence: that society doesn’t particularly value art or artists. And that to lead a meaningful creative life full of heart, engagement and meaning, you often have to work at something less meaningful to pay the bills.

Helpful on a practical level, Maisel helps creative people confront the hard parts, but also suggests ways to counteract our meaning crises. Here is an example of a meaning crisis: An artist spends 7 years on a screenplay he is passionately commmited to, and it is rejected everywhere he submits it. He sees lesser work produced for great amounts of money.  His crisis is, ‘Can my life be meaningful if I spend it producing work that no one wants?’

Maisel helps artists create a sense of worthiness inside themselves that is independent of outside recognition,though he doesn’t shy away from the grittiness of this dilemma.  By following his advice and doing the tasks set forth in the book, an artist can keep creating no matter what. And that is the most important thing.

Continued in Eric Maisel’s,  ‘The van Gogh Blues’ 2.

Showing up

September 19, 2009

When my life is busy, I tend to avoid the computer. So I’m showing up on the page here to keep some continuity going.

At the moment I have a lot going on. My large worktable is completely taken over by a small harpsichord (or spinnet) waiting to be painted;  I have a small business identity to design; there is a large art health event coming up in the beginning of October and I’ve done two in the last week; and there is my first ‘Re-enchantment’ workshop coming up.

The last is the fulfilment of a long-held dream to combine consciousness-raising with creativity. There is so much to say about it I will save it for another post. But basically it is about ensouling one’s life through creative expression.

I’m also working on my book about creativity and dementia care, and am finishing up the third article in a series of 3  on the same subject for the Journal of Dementia Care.

All this is so welcome after months of no incoming work. Yet it is also demanding patience from me since I was aiming to get my webshop launched in August and have to postpone that for awhile.

More on my new products in a later post.

Hi to all. Wishing you an inspired and creative autumn.