January 2015

Kyla McCollam:

Goethe, a master of words, wrote during midlife, “We talk far too much. We should talk less and draw more.” I learned this as I read Huxley’s Doors of Perception. Huxley goes on to say that he “would personally like to renounce speech altogether and communicate everything in sketches,” which he calls, “momentous signatures,” and wonders if a “person able to decipher their meaning would soon be able to dispense with the written and spoken word altogether.” About speech, he goes on to say “there is something futile and mediocre . . . about speech.” Contrast that with “the gravity of nature and how her silence startles you, when you stand face to face with her, undistracted before a barren ridge or the desolation of the ancient hills.” He then admits, we need to know how to handle words effectively “but at the same time we must preserve, and if necessary, intensify our ability to look at the world” directly “without generic labels,” or, “explanatory abstraction.”

I repeat his advice, “to look at the world directly.” He had just described an experience with peyote where he was absorbed with folds in clothing, flowers, and a chair. The ability to be with something, as when we draw, paint, or just look at our art, our “momentous signatures”—just take them in . . . without labeling, judging, explaining, or using our futile words to attempt to clarify, justify, and bolster up our “momentous signature.”

This impresses me with the worthiness of embracing and being embraced by the creative process. What is that state when we are so immersed that we lose track of time? Is it a moving meditation that suspends the words and should it be done regularly? Should there be creative break times to exercise the right side of the brain?

When I look up a description of creativity I see: imaginative, ingenious, inventive, original, resourceful. All of these qualities are valuable. I wonder if the practice of creating nourishes these qualities, and should I encourage this to happen.

Recently, my husband was away for ten days. I was going to get together with friends; then I decided to spend time alone. On my morning walks, I admired an oak tree and decided to paint it. I spent three days—just me and that tree. At first, I planned to do it in one session like most of my paintings. It was more than I usually attempt, but my time was open. It was just me and that tree—sort of a vacation. I didn’t need to go away—well, maybe I did go away. It was my time to purr, see, create—and truly fill my time with this experience. It was an experience of creating a “momentous signature.” I made a move toward significance—to be a force of nature.