One of my great joys in summer: hanging clothes on the line. It reminds me of childhood and playing in the back yard on a perfect summer morning while my mother picked each shirt or towel or pillowcase out of the wicker basket and hung them one by one on the line. This was way back, before she had an electric dryer, and that’s what women did. Hanging clothes has nothing to do with computers or phones or managing multiple levels of life and work. It’s being in the sun and participating in life. And for the last few glorious summer days, I’ve had this little companion. She just sits there on the clothesline, unintimidated as I hang the clothes around her, and seems to watch me. Dragonfly days.
Monday, August 3, 2015
I just learned from an old classmate that my high school English teacher dubbed me Mona Lisa. I have absolutely no memory of this – although I do remember that she dubbed this same classmate the milkmaid! (not to blow your cover here, classmate.) Miss Hickman was tall, skinny and stooped, she had leathery skin and dyed black hair, and the longest jaw I’d ever seen, she was smart, arrogant, funny and opinionated, and I adored her. She introduced us to The New Yorker, taught us to look down our noses at Time Magazine (popular culture,p.u!) and instilled me with a sense of wonder about George Elliott, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Wolff, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and a host of other twentieth century writers. One time she even invited some of us to her apartment! And introduced us to the idea of a seance. We all sat around her prone body and each put two fingers underneath her, all of us expecting her to levitate. Well, that just confirmed her weirdness and my undying loyalty. But the best thing Miss Hickman did for me was to praise my writing. In a couple of instances she told me that I was the best. (She was completely biased and unfair, of course.) And all through the long years of writing my first novel, through rejection after rejection and revision after revision, her words stayed buoyantly with me. Thank you, Miss Hickman. Love, Mona Lisa.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Last night we watched Words and Pictures, a magnificent movie, and it posed the question, Which is more powerful? Words or pictures? Words, as embodied in the English teacher, or pictures, represented by the art teacher? Of course, the answer is that they are both powerful, and that art, whether written or painted, gives us a new way to see the world.
As writers, as artists, we are in the business of showing people a new way to see, a new way to think. We are in the business of changing the world. Just imagine how many thoughts, how many tomes and books and reflections have flowed from these seven words: In the beginning was the Word. Poetry or spiritual reflection not only gives us new ways of understanding but points to depths and levels beyond our understanding.
And I should add that creativity is not the exclusive province of artists and writers. Creativity, as my guru Hildegard says, is the innate vocation of human beings. We are all called to be in the process of creation, whether building a house, planting a garden, composing music or composing our lives.
I think of my work in therapy this way too. In psychotherapy we come into partnership with another person, opening ourselves to new words, new thoughts, new ways of seeing, and then working to forge and build and rebuild, creating and recreating our life each day.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Welcome to my new blog. I was going to name the whole blog Creative Spirit until I realized how many sites, books, programs, etc. there are with that name. I guess I’m not the only one who thought of that phrase! But of course, the creative spirit is something universal, something all of us have or participate in to some degree.
I also remembered that coincidentally several members of my family have used the word Creative in their enterprises. In the 1970s my mother started a business called Creative Conventions, a service to take people who were at conventions on tours of her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. An extrovert and a Pittsburgh fan, she was good at it!
And my brother K.C. has an advertising company out in Montana called K.C. Hayes Creative.
Who said there are no coincidences?
We each have our own spin on this endeavor, though, and my particular interest is in how spirituality enters into the mix. How do creativity and spirituality converge? or are they actually different words for the same thing? In the end I don’t think you can speak of creativity without including the spirit. John Steinbeck in East of Eden calls it “the glory.”
“Sometimes a kind of glory lights up a man (Let’s include women here, too!)..A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then — the glory — so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished.”
My current muse and role model is Hildegard of Bingen, visionary poet/abbess/composer/physician in the 11th century. She taught a theology so different from that of the contemporary church that it defies imagination to think how she managed to stay within it. Matthew Fox dubbed it Creation Spirituality. Earth-based, sensual, God in female form, Hildegard’s writings teach that the spark of life within each of us is the spark of the divine and that participating in creation, being creators ourselves, is the task of being human.
As I move toward the later years of life, I am inspired to remember that Hildegard “poured outward,” was at her most prolific, in her seventies. Here’s one of her poems:
The air, with its penetrating strength,
characterizes the victorious banner that is trust.
It gives light to the fire’s flame
and sprinkles the imagination of believers
with the dew of hope.
Thus does trust show the way.
Those who breathe this dew
long for heavenly things.
They carry within
with which they hasten to the aid of all.
With the passion of heavenly yearning,
They produce rich fruit.