"The true voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having fresh eyes." -Proust
I have been reading World Enough & Time by Christian McEwen. She interviews the Scots poet, Thomas Clark. She asks him his advice on homework for her students that are aspiring poets. His answer was not what she expected, and applies to any of us who wish to make room for whatever it is we are reaching for:
"...choose some simple task, something very ordinary and non-utilitarian, and...repeat it at regular intervals. For example, one might climb a hill, pick up a stone, carry it back down, and the take it up the hill the following day."
This made sense to me in a zen koan sort of way. He calls it creating "a continuum"– a space where a counter-story can occur. In my case, it is important for walking to be involved, as that is already a counter to my habitual mind. I decided to walk each day to a certain tree across the road, and leave something there, and bring something back. Yesterday there was a beautiful indigo and orange butterfly lying on the path. This approach reminds me of Joseph Campbell's advice: If something isn't working in your life, change the metaphor.
In choosing my tree, I did not try to reason it out. (Why did I choose the one grand tree that was no longer living?") Nor did I try to make sense of what I was doing, or wanted to happen. It is more like adopting that childlike ability that knows "
when to be still and watchful, so as to bring just the right people and creatures toward us. It was easy, and the magic was everywhere." *
I first noticed the enchantment of returning to the same place after many trips to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I began to feel the reciprocity, as if the place also remembered me. I feel this same force at play in my work: the depth that develops with returning to a theme, an image, an idea. It counters the cultural pressure that art is all about the next new thing. Or that we don't have everything we need.
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.
Reflections on the Art of Living