Barbara Rose Shuler
In the early days of the Creative Edge, the organization hosted a number of events featuring a young man by the name of David Whyte, who had recently stepped courageously into a new life dedicated to poetry as a portal to creativity and the life of the soul. That life-changing moment for David came at the end-of-year Brugh Joy conference at Asilomar in 1987. And it made a strong impression on Donald Mathews.
Donald writes: “The next year [at the Brugh Joy conference] going into lunch with the idea to start Creative Edge in my mind, David Whyte sat down beside me. Seeing this as a sign, I asked him to be the first workshop facilitator in my new organization. He agreed and Creative Edge was born.”
Over the years I interviewed many of the presenters from this then yearly Asilomar event in Pacific Grove on my radio talk program “Discovery.” It was natural to bring David into the studios in connection with his Creative Edge appearances. David’s close friend and colleague, the extraordinary Irish priest, raconteur and poet John O’Donohue also came through Creative Edge for a workshop or two. He and David separately appeared numerous times on Discovery thrilling the listeners with their humor, wisdom, poetry and glorious ways with the English language.
Both men went on to become well-known and highly regarded in the international arena, touching millions of people through their writings, recordings, appearances and many ways of serving their fellow humans. Sadly, as many of you know, John passed away suddenly 7 years ago, a huge loss to those who knew him and connected to his effervescent spirit.
Until recently, it had been many years since seeing David, though from time to time I touched into his writings and recordings. I remembered him as he was in his younger Creative Edge days just setting out in a new self-created profession and being well received.
When a friend suggested attending one of his workshops last year, the timing was right. So between the end of October and this month, I plunged into not one but three events with David and his collaborators. One took place on Bainbridge Island, Washington, one in San Francisco and the last two weeks ago at Asilomar.
Often there is both sweetness and poignancy returning to a person or a place remembered fondly after a span of many years. And so it was with these excellent gatherings. Gone the young-man poet and storyteller. In his place stood a strong and vibrant elder who had mastered and refined the form of his public appearances, bequeathing to his audience a unique alchemy of wisdom, vulnerability, humor, depth and profound invitation to the creative edge of being.
He spoke of John and the grief of losing this friend who was closer than a brother. He talked and read poems of other deaths, including his mother, and expressed us how he learned that the conversation with a loved one does not end with death. It continues in a new form with its own rhythms and directions. He told stories upon stories on themes of solace, pilgrimage, loss, harvest, forgiveness, courage, friendship, laughter, work, engaging with spirit and more.
He encouraged us to consider deeply what he calls the “beautiful questions.” What is my relationship to the unknown? What is the old self that is about to leave? How can I cultivate a sense of presence equal to the losses I’ve been given? How can I inhabit vulnerability in a robust way? What is the promise I needed to promise all along? And many more.
David’s beautiful daughter Charlotte joins him, working with his administrative staff. Also, wonderfully, she appears as a singer during musical interludes created by Owen and Moley O’Súilleabháin, two gorgeously talented singers, speakers, composers and brothers from Ireland that David refers to as “the lads.” They add richly to the quality of these workshops. And Charlotte is achingly lovely as a songstress—such a sweet pleasure to see father and daughter working together in this way.
As David Whyte’s relationship with Creative Edge served as part of a springboard to his true life’s work, so too I think the person he has become exemplifies magnificently the vision of this organization. In Donald’s words: “To search our inner-most feelings and intuitions in regard to our relationship with the world, express creatively what we find and finally share the results publicly, this is the creative edge, the risk of sacred artistry!”