Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reflections on my first writers' and artists' retreat

I am in awe of the women (and Tim, who calls himself the "Token Boy") with whom I’ve spent this weekend. The vivacious personalities, the glowing faces, the creative spirit, all a masterpiece to behold. A stack of glamour magazines would not hold a tenth of the captivating beauty these women exude.

I am fuller, better, more well-rounded and grounded for having been with them. They embraced me with gracious acceptance such that I felt safe to take a step out and read my writing to them out loud. The profoundness of that moment, the sacred circle of art on display, I will carry with me.

Artists they are, every one. They hold their creativity with dignified playfulness. Poets, painters and textile artists gathered for the weekend. Others have embraced art forms I’d never heard of until now. Rug hooking is much more intricate and inspirational than the cheezy kits my sister used to get under the Christmas tree, which was what my mind originally conjured up when I heard the term. Somewhere deep, my hands want to try it.

Altered books, mail art, visual journaling... sometimes I think Myra makes up new ways to package creativity and gives them each a name. Others will see and take it up because everything she breathes into is filled with vivacious passion that draws others in. Before long, we’ll all be clipping cardboard like those who wore Jackie’s dented pillbox hat.

Myra has pursued and seized everything I want to eventually become. I behold her, admire her, and I think I am a bit envious of her.

In each of these people, I see glimpses of who I want to become.

Unabashed like Nancy
Calm like Anne
Refined impishness like Dolly
Stoic and wise like Lucy
Brave like Delores
Centered like Linda
Staid like Pat
Articulate like Megan
Faceted like Tim
Open like Brenda
Stately like Penny
And stunningly radiant like Ann.

For Ann’s gaze and attention to fall on me is a blessing. For her to spend time talking and listening with me about fine literature, about my hopes and dreams, is like basking in something divine.

There is an open trap, waiting for my stumble. To strive for approval, to attempt to impress. I’ve learned the lesson in my head that this will adulterate true creativity, that art is first for me. But there is always a gap in me there.

I admit with a blush, most poetry still bores me. Yet, it’s worth sifting through to find that one that sticks in my fibers, grabs my experience and packages it in another’s words. Someone knows what I am going through, yet they do not know me at all. Maybe one out of five poems I read will resonate with my soul this way. Therefore, I can only expect a small percentage of my poems to appeal to any readership.

Appealing to readers IS NOT WHY ONE WRITES POETRY.

Poetry is a creative outpouring of the soul. It is therapy. It is repair. It is search and seizure of meaning amidst life’s chaotic mess. We write it because it rises up from our core and it is precious. If someone else enjoys it, that is wonderful. If it is printed or purchased, that is a prize.

Not many people live on prize winnings. Few of these captivating, accomplished artists I’ve met this weekend have “made a living” on their art, from what I can tell. I think Nancy may come closest, because she engineered a farming business that provides goods and materials for other artists. Some have retired and enjoy some unencumbered time to contemplate and create. But most have “day jobs”. And of those who do, most are therapists.

I come away with the question, why are so many artists therapists, or why are so many therapists artists? I think the ability and skill it takes to “be with” another enables one to “be with” self in such a way that the juice of life flows out. (Either that, or the profession of counseling is so contorted and crazy-making that one must make meaning of it or join our in-patient friends for an extended stay!) I am sure there are many more theories to throw at this question. One thing seems certain to me, there is an artistic quality to all healing. The healing journey is one of refining and re-creating self. To walk with others on that journey is to take in a gallery of humanity. It is to behold the fine arts of courage, tenacity, honesty, forbearance, forgiveness and surrender.

I think it’s starting to make sense.

I came here with my typical naive, foolish mindset of either-or… a pipe dream that I could choose a time to transition from something to something. Art and counseling are tied together. I think I am ever getting better at both. It is not late for either. (Oh, how the rat race has distorted my perception of time!)  I owe a debt of gratitude to these women who taught me that personal evolution is a life-long journey, to which there may not even be a "destination", except to join with the divine creative Center.
Perhaps my discouragement with counseling has been my message, my invitation to invest in myself as an artist. Perhaps the process of creativity will give me the courage and fortitude to jump through necessary but annoying hoops to continue to establish myself in my chosen profession.

Dear God, thank You at long last for some answers. Not many, but a precious few to guide me. I think this may be my 7th visit to Lost River. Six previous trips I pursued You doggedly for answers about purpose and meaning.

The answers were not in systems theory
Or in Ed Friedman
Or in Larry Matthews
They were not in my small processing groups
They were not in my genogram or in the triangles
(although those people and tools have been very helpful and enlightening)
Even in self-differentiation and a yellow pad in the woods, You were quiet.

Isn’t it just typical? When I had no agenda, when I embraced uncertainty with abandon, when I quieted myself and let go of grabby demanding, here You are.



At October 21, 2010 at 3:27 AM , Blogger little hat said...

Sounds like quite a retreat Violet. I like the way you write. It feels like a letter from a good friend.
well what to comment on. You talk about art and creativity and counselling; about not striving for approval; about poetry, then aboutpersonal evolution and finally give a supreme being some credit.
I have to start by declaring my lack of belief in any God. I find that there is a surprisingly high proportion of Americans with a religious belief declared on their blogs. I have not found any australian bloggers who are believers in such a public way. I think it is an American phenomenon.

Perhaps all I can say is that I can identify with each element of your piece except the last. I can assure you, as an elder, tha the journey continues and the process of learning about oneself and others never ceases to entrance me. In fact when the learninfg stops I think it will ne time to shuffle off this mortal coil.
I regard myself as a creative artist with a fascination for people and their stories and human behaviour. Strangely I live wth a counsellor so perhaps that is how I have sought out the mix you speak of. She loves it but came to it late - in her forties.

Re writing. I think that if each of us is honest we want and need an audience which is why writing in public eg this blog, is different from writing a personal journal. We know it will be read so we adjust our art to accomodate that.
Keep writing.
Someone out ther is reading.

At October 23, 2010 at 3:32 PM , Blogger violet said...

I'm not sure if you'll stop back by and read this, but I want to respond anyway.

First of all, thank you for taking me seriously by reading and making sincere comment. Yes, we all love to know that someone has read, heard and appreciated what we put into words.

"Like a letter from a good friend"... I'm trying to evolve from a journaler to a writer. So, maybe a letter is somewhere in between. Any suggestions you can offer as I move in a more intentional direction rather than just pouring my guts out about what's going on in my life?

I *really* would not like to be lumped in with the typical American brand of packaged spirituality. I agree with you on that. Any time writing flows from my center, it inevitably turns into a conversation with the Divine Spirit that lives within me. Maybe that's why my writing sounds like a letter. I don't wear my faith on my sleeve, as it is deeply personal, but it does tend to show up here where my real mind and soul roam free.

Thanks again for your words. They are a gift!

At October 25, 2010 at 2:53 AM , Blogger little hat said...

I returned, I read, I appreciate. I'll come again. I'm interested in the jorney you're on. Steve


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