Honeypot, teabag, and carved lizard from Oaxaca. pen on paper, Nov 1 2014.
Those little Florida lizards must have gotten under my skin. Without really making a conscious connection, I put together this little still life the other night, remembering a carved and painted wooden lizard from Oaxaca we had bought in Mexico. (He's actually red and green with white dots.)
It feels good to be sketching a little bit again. Between Jonathan's book and a lot of professional work this fall, I feel like I've completely lost momentum for my own writing and artwork. That's OK -- this is the way my life has always been, doing creative work in intense bursts -- but I'm anxious to get back to it. I came back from Florida with some ideas I want to pursue, and the refreshed and rearranged studio is also an encouragement. Sketching every day is such an important practice: like sitting down at the piano for fifteen minutes, even when one can't actually work intently on a piece of music, it's a matter not only of keeping your hand in, but a reminder that this is an important part of yourself, not to be neglected or forgotten. Creativity isn't like exercise or flossing or all those things we do because we "should" or because they're "good" for us; it's more like breathing. When I'm away from my creative pursuits for too long, I'm away from myself, at my peril. The result is far less important than the doing, and over time, even the simplest and seemingly most insignificant efforts accumulate into something that can be seen and felt.
For that reason, keeping a sketchbook has become important to me, the same way a diary used to be. My blog has replaced, for the most part, my diary, but my correspondence with certain friends also provides a figuring-out-of-things function that seems to matter even if I rarely go back and re-read earlier letters. I have less need or desire now to create a record, but writing and sketching provide signposts of where I was, both in physical actuality and in my head, and they somehow organize my thinking and help me to understand myself.
It makes me immeasurably happy when I hear from readers that they've been encouraged to draw or write or take up some other creative pursuit again.
Music, on the other hand, is different: like the other arts for me, it's a continual personal challenge and emotional expression; but music is also both personal solace and intentional relationship and teamwork: feeling oneself as part of an ensemble, contributing one's best effort, and giving to others - the audience - in a very direct way. It's the most direct thread I can trace back through my life, all the way to my earliest memories. I can't draw it, and I can barely find words to write about it.
What, in your life, is like that? For I'm sure, if you look deeply, there is something.
Yesterday, we celebrated All Saint's Day, and there were two baptisms. The choir sang the offertory hymn - Ralph Vaughn Williams' magnificent "For All the Saints" - in front of the chancel steps, and this gave us a connection with the congregation we don't usually have. As we sang, I looked out at one set of new parents with their beautiful little daughter in her christening gown. They weren't usual parishioners, and they didn't sing, but they looked happy and a bit bemused by the gloriousness of the music; they smiled back at me. And I looked at a very old man in a front pew, someone who is always there, and who's spent his life in service to others, now unable to stand, but his lips forming all the words of the hymn he knew by heart. New lives, middle lives, old lives: all the saints.