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Thoughts on Creativity — Newsletter #44
A'musings #13 (Jan 2010)


by The Creative Edge Board of Directors:
  • Marlie Avant
  • Laura Carley
  • Kyla Cyr
  • Donald Mathews
  • Carol Mathew-Rogers
  • Barbara Rose Shuler
  • Illia Thompson
  • Patty Waldin
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    Laura Carley:

    [Laura Carley]

    A few weeks ago, I began to think of what I might write for the New Year. I thought about how my writing last year was triggered from a meditation on the number "two," a numerological reduction of 2009. So it was a logical progression for the number "three" to jump into my mind, continuing in the 2010 reduction. I quickly dismissed the idea, though. People might start to think that I am "into numerology," and that just didn't seem consistent with my self image.

    As is often the case when I try to suppress an idea, the more I searched for a more unique, profound, or entertaining subject, or at the very least, less numeric, the more "three" spoke. "What about me? What about, three? How much more profound can an idea be... than the trinity?" And so it is, number or not, the concept of the trinity and personal variations in attributed meaning and geometry have moved me throughout my life.

    As an a young Catholic girl, the concept of the Holy Trinity and it's sacred importance was etched in my mind from First Communion catechism class, onward. In college, as I found myself drifting away from much of the dogma of the Catholic church, I was still attracted to the triangular power of the trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were slowly replaced by more everyday concepts of Mind, Body and Spirit.

    The evolution toward my ideal trinity took root shortly after college. It began with what I found as a profound symmetry of beauty and truth, truth and beauty. Then came the relationship of beauty and love. Finally all three, beauty, truth, and love formed the points of my perfect triangle.

    Years later, the points had not changed. At times, I might explore their inter-relationships, working with abstractions of philosophy, aesthetics, and creativity. Or I might expand the geometry, having the triangle give way to a pyramid, with the top point approaching my conception of highest self, or God. Such musings might arise after a heartwarming gesture, a resonating line in a play, or an exceptional serene sunset had stuck a particularly uplifting chord.

    The current form this trinity holds in my imagination is that of three tethered cords, with a light source at the top illuminating the upper half or so. Beauty, truth, and love converge in the lowest darkness, as complete depression, as their existence is unseen and unrealized. They bow out in the center, then converge again in the highest light, as perfect joy. Between the extremes, an infinite number of triangles form patterns of understanding and creativity, to be observed so long as the light hits. When the cords are struck, an infinite combination of vibrations may sound, sometimes in resonating chords, occasionally in perfect harmony, all in the music of truth, beauty, and love.

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    Kyla McCollam:

    [Kyla McCollam]

    Since my husband observed that it seems I'm always looking for things to do, I've been noting that my doing mode of being is quite driven, even when I play.

    So, how am I playing? Swimming is one way. Since I never learned to swim and at least have buoyancy on my side, I am approaching it in a creative dance-like mode. Basically, I bob around and incorporate a modeling of "the strokes" with other experiences of yoga, tai chi and made-up moves that have evolved from being in the comforting, relaxing womblike flow and warmth of the water which is at 90 degrees. I prance, swirl in circles, do pushups and swing using barbells for support. Often I tread water and visit with swim pals about food, exercise and other processes that grab our attention. We bond over the aches, accomplishments and challenges of our changing bodies, and over making adjustments, by sharing our wisdom. An element of humor and lightness is easier to achieve in the water; it brings a dimension of clarity to the unique problem-solving areas of an aging adult.

    Another way to play is watercolor painting. To be in the moment and engrossed in this meditation is always a treat. Everything seems charged with discovery. It is like going to the ocean after a winter storm and finding a ribbon of shells strewn for the pleasure of gathering. The child at water's edge sees in the broken shells treasure to be taken.

    Painting forges my relationship with the things I love the most: the surf, sky and sand! It is a compelling and challenging experience of soul informing magic. Sometimes mountains and trees have captured me. Flowers, birds, pets and free form are engaging.

    There is the kinetic experience of using a brush to find the strokes' flourish. The visual stimuli of watching the pigment flow into the wet paper, and swirl, and start to crawl, which is the best time to cast salt on the surface to watch it crystallize. Later, I put the painting on the wall of my bedroom to ponder the results, gleaning and spending time seeing, soaring and settling in with my images-my own creative marks.

    A poem I wrote long ago comes to mind: She (the sea) shares her wares, sifts through and softens my matters and awares. Reminds me of something from Lao Tzu. The sea, the softest of stuff, wears the rock, the hardest.

    I am thankful for watercolor and swimming, to help me polish my hard edges and soften into the essence of my metaphors playing along the edges of my developing creativity.

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    Donald Mathews:

    [Donald Mathews]

    I recently listened to an interview with Abraham Joshua Heschel, the late Jewish Theologian who wrote the book God in Search of Man. The main theses being God needs man to do the work of the world in support of life, all life! Heschel felt all religions supported this belief through a call to action—the action of living our lives as an evolving art form in service to the ever evolving human and other needs of life. Heschel was an activist and marched with Martin Luther King. And, he understood the central importance of our creativity!

    Now unlike Heschel, I am not an activist at heart! I tend to find it hard to take sides and rather like to see both sides of most issues. For me an attitude of inclusiveness is the best choice for understanding issues and finding my own choice if there is to be a stance or action when I am called to it. Perhaps this perspective comes from all of my analytical training as an engineer or maybe just old age realizing most issues are really gray rather than black or white.

    But, I like the idea of God or The Divine or Life in search of us to live our lives as a creative art form in service to community! In graduate art school in search of my own artistic expression, I remember for the first time believing my life and how I lived it was really my truest creative expression. Objects of art I made were secondary.

    As I write this, I received word that my spiritual mentor and teacher, Brugh Joy has passed away having shared his final experiences publicly on his web site while fighting a return bout with pancreatic cancer. It was Brugh who helped opened my heart to all that occurs, both in life and within me, with compassion and understanding—to not be afraid of what is different or disowned in my self or culture. Rather, to look inside my self for the muse's often still small voice for creative possibilities for the current or other situations. And, to understand the deeper voice inside every person is unique and needs to be respected with compassion. When we do the hard personal work to know ourselves and follow this deeper inner guidance, this is how we build relationship and community and serve life with the short time we are present in it.

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    Carol Mathew-Rogers:

    [Carol Mathew-Rogers]

    There is a photograph hanging in my short, white-walled hallway, next to a portrait of my favorite dog Spirit. It hangs with other artwork, regally matted white on white and surrounded by a shiny, silver-toned frame. I pass it by at least a dozen times a day as I go about my daily business, and most of the time I don't even notice it. Today, though, as I walked into my office, the image caught my attention in a new way, and I stood for a few minutes in appreciation.

    The photo was taken by my Aunt Lynda, a highly skilled photographer who takes her camera to all our family functions, documenting our lives in her very personal way. Although she is willing to take the obligatory group photos and formal family portraits, she is more interested in capturing candid vignettes of our lives. She narrows the focus of her camera, bringing to life bits and pieces of her surroundings that otherwise might be missed: rounded rocks in a dry stream bed, the shadow of a family pet, the back of a sleeping child—these are some of the images that come alive with her attention.

    In this black and white photograph, taken during one of our yearly family camping trips, she has narrowed her focus down to the close-up activity of three human hands. A small glimpse of a toweled hip is the only indication of a presence beyond the hands that extend into the photograph from three directions. Two of the hands belong to one person—slightly weathered, a few wrinkles, but clearly the hands of a woman. A simple engraved wedding band on the left hand is the only adornment revealed. Stretching up from below, a young girl's hand joins the others—skin unlined and soft, veins still hidden from view. All three hands are centered above a stack of flat rocks whose sharp right edges are highlighted by an unseen sun, and whose left sides are lost in dark shadow.

    In this new moment of awareness, I am struck by how this image of two people building a stone tower reflects so much of my own creative process. Since I am the woman in the picture, I know the story of how this event came to be: We were on the shore of an alpine lake and I decided to build a rock cairn. It's a small tradition I started many years ago. I was joined by my niece Cara. I remember how much more fun it was to have her working with me. Her enthusiasm mirrored my own, making the creation all the sweeter. It became a collaborative project that affected both of us: the thrill of creating something unique out of found materials, the camaraderie that bound us together for a brief moment in time, the satisfaction of completing a project and even the pride at having the family photographer snapping pictures of our efforts all made our moment of creation personal and fulfilling. The feeling of connection and community was intense—we were making our mark on the world, albeit in a very small way. It would not have been the same if I had been working alone.

    I have found, over many years of making art, that this feeling of connection is an important one for me. Many artists are content to create in their studios, isolated from others until their artistic project has been birthed. Some artists need nothing more than being able to create; they don't need or want others to view their art. More artists need the validation of showing their completed art, of seeing how others are affected by their work. And some artists, like me, are much more interested in the process of creation, rather than the finished product. My attention is drawn to how the act of creation makes me feel; to how creating with one or more people changes each of our experiences; to how the finished product affects those who have the opportunity to view it. This process, in all its varied permutations, is what feeds my soul. All the ways in which artists engage in their creativity are valid —no one way of expression is better than another. For me, though, on this day of brief insight, the gift was recognizing once again what I valued and appreciated: the gift of emotional connection, the gift of love that came from a moment of creative expression on the rocky banks of a high sierra lake.

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    Illia Thompson:

    [Illia Thompson]

    ODE TO THE CREATIVE PROCESS

    Ode to preparation
    the choosing of themes
    pursuing poetry collections,
    a hunter not quite sure of the desired quarry
    until the prize arrives
    ready to be nurtured
    into the next offering.

    Ode to students
    passing through
    creating the edible
    each story as food
    suitable sustenance
    perfectly plated
    presentations.

    Ode to those
    seated so soundly
    listening with open hearts
    absorbing through pores
    honest words of others
    speaking own writings
    dispersed for the gathering.

    Ode to the faithful
    whose presence lifts me
    into delicious delight
    onto space of purpose
    at our weekly table
    as well-placed words
    craft the essence of story.

    Ode to emotions
    the fullness of pleasure
    the familiarity of sadness
    the preciousness
    of connection
    and, oh, the joy
    of serendipity
    as frequent visitor
    its close cousin, humor,
    not far behind.

    Ode to the journey
    pathway unmarked
    yet clearly visible
    before each turn
    proceed with caution
    sprinkled with certainty
    and a tinge of wondering
    steps slower and surer
    than in years before.

    Ode to gratitude
    in the shape of surprises
    as each day offers
    another way to serve
    and lessen lingering loss
    of loved ones departed.

    Ode to satisfaction
    as words hold hands
    between caring covers
    and story firmly placed
    may easily be read
    over and over again.

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