First let me say Happy New Year to one and all. Always in Don's wisdom he chooses this time of year for the board members of Creative Edge to reflect upon what it is to "create." And always, somehow quite magically, my New Years Resolution seems to unfold in the process of this reflection. Thank you Don!
And so once again, I stand on the threshold of my own creative edge and muse upon what it is to be an artist.
I suspect I will never fully have that answer and I must say, the exploration and process of self-discovery has become over the years, so much more important. I am learning to be content with the blank pages of my life, as well as the places where I imagine I have made glaring and or subtle mistakes. I find I am far more willing to sit quietly without a lot of judgmental inner dialogue and simply feel the discomfort that is brought up in me. Simply being aware of "being aware" of my own inner responses to the presence of what is, feelings sometimes subtle and other times agonizingly intense, is somehow helping me to merge into the outer world with fewer abrasive edges and it is from this space of connection that I first begin to catch a glimpse of what it is to create and be in communion with my inner and outer community.
Once upon a time, there were three sisters standing at the oceans edge, witnessing a sunset. One sister complained that it wasn't as beautiful as the last sunset they had seen and walked away. Another sister became distracted and losing interest, walked off to join the other now absent sister, complaining that it was too cold. The third remaining sister, so lost in the beauty of the moment became so absorbed in the sunset that she and the sunset became one. When she finally joined her sisters, little did she know that she carried the sunset's imprint home with her and if she let it, it would transform her from within and help guide her life. That night she felt deep stirrings of sadness within her. She thought of her grandfather who had passed away and of how much she missed him. She stayed with her feelings, and images of her grandmother came before her in her minds eye. She felt into her Grandmothers heart and the tears fell gently down her cheeks. Tears they had both held for so long. She felt a deep sense of connection in that moment. Then in her minds eye she was at the ocean and before her was the sunset. She remembered how her grandparents had always dreamed of seeing a sunset over the ocean... but their lives had never taken them beyond the borders of their small farm in the Midwest. She then gently drifted to sleep wrapped in feeling tones that magically gave her a sense of belonging and a deep connection to something greater than herself.
In her dreams, her grandfather visited her. There were no words exchanged, however when she looked deep into his loving eyes she knew what she had to do .The next day she took out an old discarded canvas and began painting. Before her eyes the image of the sunset unfolded... her hand seemingly guided by the brush. It wasn't the same exact sunset; for it too had transformed and merged with the many places within her that had seemingly faded into the horizon of an endless mystery waiting to rise once again... anew. Her heart felt such expansion that there unfolded a deep desire to share this intimate sense of communion that she felt. Once again she saw her grandfather's face before her. His loving eyes twinkled, and he gave her a little wink and then his image gently faded away. She tenderly picked up her painting... looked at it for a long while and then smiled from depths she never knew she had, knowing all the while that a wish would finally be fulfilled and she was so blessed to simply be the loving instrument.
This is, I believe, the real secret of what it is to be an artist. To be awed by and present with the beauty given us in each moment, to be imprinted by it, to nurture this intimacy, to surrender to the inner transformation that unfolds and open to the birth of a new creative expression... and selflessly, out of a simple desire moving from deep within the heart... to release it back into life's stream... honoring the flow... completing the circle.
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The Edge Loop Trail is one of my favorites. While challenging, it offers rewarding views like no other trail I know. The trail begins near The Intention (1). If answers are sought to specific questions, make sure these are securely packed prior to departure. Questions that are only vaguely packed are often lost in either The Bogs (3) or Imagineland (4). Following the left fork of the trail (clockwise). \
Continue the subtle accent into the woods of Metaphoria (2). This terrain is lush with thought and imagination. Analogies grow abundantly. The sweet perfume of metaphor fills the air. Solutions to many problems may be found in the rays of light that trickle through the foliage. As the trail begins it's sharp decent, it may be appropriate to turn back, having enjoyed a nice stroll through Metaphoria.\
The path ahead descends steeply and then seems to disappear completely in The Bogs (3). This section of the trail is unmaintained. Bushwhacking though distracting thoughts, trudging through judgmental muck, and navigating the mires of confusions are to be expected. Visibility is often low and conditions are often impassible. On a good day, however, this section is not only passible, but enjoyable. Stones and logs in the Bogs, which otherwise would be tiring obstacles, serve as stepping stones. On warm, sunny days, the likelihood of being greeted and guided by a fairy muse is increased. The fairy muses generally keep to the realms of Imagineland (4) and Creation Circle (7). Though when the sun shines brightly or when grace smiles, a wondering fairy muse may fly over The Bogs and guide the wondering bushwhacker along an enchanted path. \
The brilliant meadows, crystal crags, and mysterious underground caverns of Imagineland (4) reward those who make it through the bogs. While similar to Metaphoria, Imagineland has far less rational thought and far more vivid sensations. It is a wondrous place, but be cautious of the breezes here. It is easy to get caught up in the thermals on a flight of fancy and be let down in another area, such as the Reflection Vista, or The Bogs, or even at the Trailhead. To guard against such derailment, it's a good idea to tell a fairy muse of your intention not to get carried away.
Surrender Point (5) waits just ahead. Leave your pack of intentions and thoughts at this point. Trust that your conscious content will be returned, though likely altered, at Reflection Vista (6). It not possible to give an accurate description of what takes place between Surrender Point (5) and Reflection Vista (6), as conscious observation is not permitted. From what I've gathered at Reflection Point, this is a path of profound experience and insight, a sliver of mystery ensconced in the glow of undisclosed light. Reflection point is a good lunch spot. \
After being nourish with insight, venture forth inspired. Halfway up the gradual path toward Integration (9), a trail marker indicates an optional detour, the Creative Circle (7), which is a must for artists. At the fork on the rim of the Creative Circle, do not be tempted by a short cut (right) which leads straight toward Expression Falls (8). Take a left and go the long way around again and again until the art is refined. \
When finished, which is felt more accurately than measured, head toward Expression Falls (8). This winding path is best when the falls are flowing well, though often worth trekking even when dry. Keep a close eye out for the trail, as many false paths in this area lead into more bogs. Follow the foot bridges over the bogs and finish the hike in Integration (9). \
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Almost all the leaves
Have fallen from the maple
A red blanket of pine needles
Lies thick on the ground
Winter air is crisp and cold
As sun arcs low across the sky
Like a stone at the bottom of a hill
A strange lethargy has me in its grasp
My body is heavy, thoughts are sluggish
Inspiration has deserted me, prods me not
I am content to remain hidden with my stillness
Content to rest in peace by the fire
As I searched for the muse in December, this little poem came to me. Interestingly, I wrote a similar poem earlier in February last year. I seem to be in a long cycle of hibernation, waiting for a call to creative action, or maybe inaction as I stretch toward my 76th year.
I am reminded to "trust the process." There is a deeper direction beyond conscious knowing that in its strange way takes everything into consideration. My task is to pay attention to what I am supposed to do with respect to what is going on around me and in me. This is what I consider being "present." Often what is happening seems far removed from my conscious goals. However, in the long run, I end up where I are supposed to be or accomplish what really needs to be accomplished. This is how creativity unfolds! This is being on the edge!
I again am reminded of Biblical Ecclesiastes—there is a time and season for every thing under the sun and the only thing we have really, is choice. And, perhaps the courage to follow our heart's call when the choice is apparent. It is the willingness to pause, be quiet and also the willingness to step forward and take action when the muse or heart calls. Always the answer is to be found within us!
Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a small group of twenty at a conference on Elderhood. As a working group we were asked to explore a specific topic using our experiences in life to guide us. Nine other groups were exploring different topics. Answers emerged through our rich sharing of personal stories over nine hours on three days building on what others in our circle brought forward. Each sharing stimulated the next, rounding out our theme. Each day we gathered in the evening to share progress in the full group. Important thoughts and stories also came forward during meal time and leisure time. Clearly, it was the rich personal interactions of the journey not the conclusions of our focus that fed each and everyone of us about the meaning of Elderhood.
The true legacy of Elderhood is passed on when we are open to sharing ourselves fully and intimately making room for each participants piece of life's puzzle. Not just in telling what we think is important. But rather being true to ourselves, in action and interaction with rich compassion for our fellow travelers on the journey.
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Barbara Rose Shuler:
Where am I today?
Well, my attempt at making sourdough starter has entered its fifth day; it's the first phase of making sourdough bread from scratch. Did you know that bread is being baked today (by other people) from same sourdough starter that originated in Egypt at the time of the building of the pyramids?
After regular feedings this week, the "hooch" is forming, which is a thin, clear layer of alcoholic substance on top of the yeast-beast that has been bubbling and brewing. That's a good sign... I think. But no previous experience combined with contradictory writings as to how to accomplish it makes my experiment a personal leap into the unknown. The bubbling mass may end up a gooey flop. Then I'll order that Egyptian starter.
During this starter-tending period, I watched myself become weirdly addicted to a television series—one of those tense, serial cliffhangers with spies and counterspies, politics and clashing agendas driven by alarming threats to the civilized world. Alas, I fed the addiction, which expanded, not unlike my yeasty mass, into an embarrassing accumulation of rented DVDs of previous seasons of the show sprawling in uneven stacks near the TV screen.
Apparently I reached my limit of this diabolical obsession yesterday, when the last of the DVDs coughed up its final episodic opiate. Fearing that my IQ had dropped at least 50 points, I emerged from the compulsive haze more or less intact, not needing to plunge into another season. Whew!
Sober now, save for lingering effects of hooch aroma, thoughts turn to the impending sale of a newspaper syndicate for which I write. These media changeovers are familiar to me; I've been through a few.
The budget tightens to streamline accounts for the prospective buyers. Jobs are lost. Content suffers. Stress pervades the workforce. Nowadays in the newspaper business, one senses the inexorable shrinking of the medium.
Arts writers resemble canaries in the coal mine, more vulnerable to the vapors of change than mainstream reporters, sports columnists or feature writers. That's me: the canary in the coal mine, wondering if the new regime will be friendly to the arts, to my weekly essays.
I'm remembering words from a book seen last week: "Life is short. Art is long."
It's true. Art trumps pretty much everything in the span of human existence. It's what remains when civilizations fall away. We do art to remember ourselves, to forge new destinies and to claim our humanity. Art is an everlasting compass by which we locate meaning, purpose and the living well of creativity.
Maybe a few canaries will swoon as the media adjust to prevailing technologies and fashions in communication. But they'll be back. And the arts will continue to thrive in many forms, from expressions of great beauty to cleverly crafted stories that hook us, like that TV series.
Where am I today? Just musing that art is perpetual, same as a good sourdough starter.
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My uncle, Dr. Werner Warmbrunn, wrote a New Year's Letter after he celebrated his 85th birthday
deciding that writing his memoirs allowed there to be a trace of his life after he is gone.
Condensing Herman Hesse, he stated, "Every human being is marvelous and worth of attention."
Also, the question arose, "All I wanted to do, was to live the life that wanted to be lived. Why was that so difficult?" Werner, younger brother to my uncle by nearly a decade, became the person who advised my parents on the education of their daughters. Werner suggested Antioch College, the place that I attended, that gave me clues to the life that wanted to be lived.
I go back to the fall of 1953 as my father's black Chrysler drives onto the campus that will be my home. This small college, the freshman class less than half of the Forest Hills High School (New York), graduating class, in the flat Ohio countryside. My camp trunk taken to the second floor of the uninterestingly named dorm: North Hall, or was it South Hall?
After my parents speak farewells, I stand under an already blushing maple tree, place my head against the rough wood and let tears fall freely, knowing I am leaving the past, and after regaining composure, the black car holding my parents and younger sisters, becomes a distant speck then disappears. I walk the steps up to my room, place everything nearest the door, the desk, the bed, half of my closet, nearest the exit. Do I really want to be here?
My California roommate arrives, Alice Gerrard from Berkeley, holding a large guitar case. Alice, long-haired, full of life, seemingly at ease. Instantly, I feel that I will learn as much from Alice as from classes in this remote location. Alice bounces as she walks, her beauty raw, so real that I feel like a replica of myself. We head toward the cafeteria, share table space with other freshman, and I become present. Sensing a threshold, my mind walks across. It isn't that I want what I feel Alice has, easy-going, popular, not a serious student except of guitar music and folk songs. What I receive, an inspiration that I can be anything I choose. It was during that first year I understood the roots of education, to draw forth. I allowed myself to be educated, and I discovered that I wished to be "She who draws forth." My years at that small liberal arts college, trained me for the life that wanted to be lived.
In many ways, I still live that life. Thank you, Creative Edge participants, for being those who educate. And of course, special appreciation to Donald. Enhance the first Saturday of each month (except summer) by coming to 8 Stratford Place, Monterey. Most of the time, you will meet me there.
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Lying on an automated gurney, looking up into the fearsome electronic recesses of a
CT scanner is as good a place as any to do a present life summary-I guess.
Anyway, that's where I was. And that's what I did last weekend, while a blank-faced
lab technician busied himself with whatever lab techs do when diagnosing mind-body-soul aberrations.
My life summary wasn't very impressive. And it didn't take very long.
Not a whole lot to be proud of, I decided. Not a whole lot to regret either.
I've made some foolhardy goof-ups over the years.
Most of them were due to spontaneous heroics based on flawed information.
Like, "I didn't know the gun was loaded." The rest, I decided,
were probably inevitable due to my stubborn gullibility. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that almost all of nature means well, is basically trustworthy, and well worth Loving...
I've come to recognize that Loving easily, with all my heart, has been a primary multi-faceted gift driving most of my life. Lying there on the gurney, it occurred to me that grand, heart-bursting loves stretched like hyper-links back through the entire network of my fondest memories.
Rasputin was my first, a scruffy gray kitten, who was totally mine for less than two weeks-- some seventy-two years ago when I was only three. Yet my memory of him remains so vivid that I could draw for you the striped "M" pattern between his tufted ears.
When mother discovered I'd developed a ringworm on my neck where he snuggled and purred, she gave Rasputin away. Neither the bowl of painted turtles, nor the yellow canary's sweet song could comfort such a loss.
Barbara Thompson was my first attempt at "Best Friends." Thick black braids and beautiful doe-eyes, she was a classmate who lived four doors down the street. I was fascinated by her embroidered dresses and her every move. Unlike me, she seldom spoke and was very shy. And, unlike me, she had a sister to play with. Our friendship was bewilderingly one-sided... And then the Thompsons moved away and left me all alone again...
Since those insights within the scanner, I've observed my network of memories gradually reconstructing itself-without distorting events-- into love-driven contexts.
This process feels mysteriously stabilizing. I suppose I've blundered into a kind of do-it-yourself therapy, with Love providing the source of illumination.
Nothing new, I suppose. Haven't we've been told over and over about the "Light at the end of the tunnel?"
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