Diving into the wreck is from a poem by Adrienne Rich. I find diving a necessary, and often inconvenient, part of being a maker.
For example, right now I am in the middle of big paintings, medium-sized paintings and small paintings, and various sketchbook studies. Everything is out: Watercolor, acrylics, ink, house paint, and oils. I have dreams of swimming laps with layers and layers of clothes on, and how slow and heavy it feels! There are moments of illumination in my studio, but I am burdened with all these unnecessary and heavy clothes. My dream illuminates those familiar mind struggles: This isn't working! What about some cadmium red? Is this finished? Shall I change my vocation? What about becoming a private eye?
The danger of diving into chaos is that the image of rebirth that it holds gets buried in the wreck. I begin to feel defeated and full of doubt. But losing heart comes not only from being ovewhelmed– it also arises from pursuing "success". We all want to be good at what we do, but striving to please the crowd, whoever they may be, eventually wears us down. I know at this point that my mind has wandered off to how am I going to get all these paintings done in time for the exhibit, and away from what I am called to do.
Wallace Stevens said:
It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.
This phrase comes at the end of a poem describing a sublime transforming experience– but even the most glorious occurrences the mind will find a way to take apart! And although I know the dangers of the mind interfering with process, and speak of this to my students– I find myself struggling with a painting, wanting to
it into shape. The focus on outcome takes me away from what I have to offer that is genuine, and from my fidelity to myself and the path I am on. I must be willing to fail to have any chance of moving forward.
It is teaching, actually my students, that help to keep me sane. My students give me perspective, and remind me of all the ways of overcoming obstacles– or more vividly– understanding that the obstacles on the road are the road. Each barrier has a part to play. I remember that what has gotten me this far is my belief that we were each born with a seed, with a unique gift, and this is what we are here to do. It is the ability to offer our gift to the world, no matter how small, that allows us to rise up from the wreck at the bottom of the ocean with a jewel. This jewel brings us back to our center, and overpowers the need to please the crowd.
Here is a banner I have finished, after much diving and wrecking! It was recently installed at Core Pilates Studio, and is based on the poem "Prayer" by Marie Howe.
My question to myself, and to all of you is: How do you leave the crowd and return to your center, to that sense of being on track? How do you remain faithful to what is most important, and what you, and only you, have to offer?