Art, Coffee, a Robe, and maybe even World Peace

IMG_3127Sometimes, it really is the little things. I woke up early, an hour before I “needed” to be awake. I lingered in bed and read a few pages of the novel I fell asleep to. I listened for the early chirp of sparrows and pigeons and robins. Then I pulled myself out of bed and slipped into a beautiful peacock kimono robe that I bought a year ago. I savored its soft satin feel and breathed in the peace of the moment.

I tiptoed into the kitchen, even though I was alone and live alone, to honor the quiet of the morning. I took the moka pot from the stove and filled it with water and fine espresso ground coffee. I turned the backburner to medium high and let the coffee pot sizzle and hiss. I walked back into the bedroom and made the bed, fluffing the pillows. I looked up at the beautiful piece of art hanging on the wall, that I had only received in the mail a few days before, and smiled.

IMG_3124I took out my phone and took a picture of the wonderful art and posted it on fb and ig. Yes, call me obnoxious, but I have a friendship with the artist and I never thought I would be able to have beautiful, original art on my walls.

I stretched and read a few more pages of the book and then heard the rumble of the espresso pot. I swooped into the kitchen and poured a cupful of steaming, dark coffee. Immediately, I put the fresh grounds into the earthenware bowl holding a small cactus on the counter behind the sink, and refilled the pot with more water and coffee for a second cup. For just a moment, I marveled at the beauty of my well-used coffee pot. The shiny little Italian pot is my favorite way to make coffee and I love its shape and the burned coffee patina on the steel.

It’s a quiet Friday morning. I have one day of work before a long weekend and then a transition to my summer work. I was brimming with inspiration, but sometimes writing has to be well-timed, like plucking the steaming coffee pot off the stovetop before it goes from percolating to burning. I realized then, that the moment was a perfect homage to beauty, inspiration, and pleasure in the little things, which can lead to large things.

I turned on the laptop and instead of scooting into my desk, I sat cross-legged on my bed, my back leaning against the foot rail, laptop nesting against the turquoise sky blue of my peacock robe, so that I could be in full view of the art on the wall.

I sipped coffee and wondered how to pay tribute to a simple morning taking pleasure in the beauty and functionality of everyday, and yet extraordinary, things.

Considering the state of the world and current news, I might sound like a dilatant or even a more modest and modern version of the oft-told, yet highly inaccurate story of “Let them eat cake!” Marie Antoinette.

In honor of my friend’s art and her abundant creativity, I decided to let it fly and I am writing this. The acquisition of the beautiful robe, astounding art, and the mighty moka pot are small choices. They are me celebrating an adult life, and finally coming into my own. It’s not so much about buying “stuff” as it is about freedom and, yes, gratitude. For years, I told myself that I wasn’t worthy, that I couldn’t do something, that something beautiful was out of reach, that I didn’t deserve it. I am so grateful that I have come out of that phase, which was really most of my life.

It’s taken years, and perhaps reaching a certain age, and a lot of inner-self work to finally silence those stories I told myself. I have also silenced (at least to myself) the voices of well-intentioned friends and loved ones, who, either directly or indirectly, seemed to reiterate those stories. How many people do you know who will eat a piece of dessert and then express dismay and guilt that they “shouldn’t have!”? They probably didn’t enjoy the pie going down and then it sits in their stomachs like dead weight.

Mostly, it seems that we, or many of us, are fighting battles within ourselves. I understand those battles like fighting addiction, keeping a romantic partnership alive, and making sure kids are cared for and clothed. Those are worthwhile battles. What about our own internal battles, like finding peace and joy and caring for others? There are battles in this world to fight for:  justice, equality, access to good education, safety, environmental preservation, pick your issue. Those are the battles worth suiting up for, but maybe they don’t have to be battles.

What if, all of a sudden, we didn’t have to fight? What if we didn’t have to fight ourselves, each other, our families, our friends? What if the little and big choices could be beautiful and peaceful?

I am not equating buying a coffee pot with being the Pope. I do not think that buying a piece of art that I love from a friend I admire makes me a humanitarian. I do think, though, that saying yes to ourselves in small ways leads to bigger and braver lives.

What if the small and mundane choices, like my peacock robe, could be small ways of saying yes? Buy the damn robe, it’s beautiful and functional, plus, it’s good to have a robe in case someone comes knocking at 7 a.m.! You want a funky espresso pot? Get it and enjoy the small pleasures of a new (now seven years old) way to make and enjoy the morning ritual of coffee! Is that piece of art you have been admiring for sale? Does the artist have prints, or a payment plan, if it is more than you can chew financially? Support a living artist and maybe develop a friendship with a creative person who will inspire you in your own work!

You are worthy. You are important. You are one-of-a-kind. We need you to take down your armor with yourself and find love. We need you to find peace with yourself. The stories you tell yourself will stick around. Make them good ones. Your peace and love will inspire others, even if it’s silent and subtle.

There is freedom and grace in little moments. World peace may not depend on your peacock robe, but your inner peace that tells you that you are worthy may be the first step. If you are brave enough to speak up for yourself, to yourself, imagine what else you can do!



Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ June 23, 2014

I hadn’t thought about art, or creativity for that matter, in this way. I like the shift in perspective this has given me and I wonder if it will show up in my writing this week. This is a great quote to start the week’s endeavors.

Studio Mothers: Life & Art

Edgar Degas art quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let…

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Creativity in the Everyday

What is creativity? What is art? What does it mean to be creative? What is inspiration?

These questions were asked by my friends and me in side conversations in the senior year of high school while we were supposed to be doing homework. In college, we pondered them in late-night discussions with tea and hot chocolate in the dorm rooms and our apartments. We spent hours discussing and debating the answers to these and other big questions of life. Now in adulthood, we spend less time asking the questions and more time living out the answers, even when we are not aware of it. When I think about deeper meanings, I look to these women who shaped me.

These women are a smart bunch and I took pleasure in their company in high school and college. Now, I struggle to maintain friendships over hundreds of miles and through the clutter of busy lives. These same women are creative: they knit, paint, sew, draw, garden, write, quilt, teach, take photos, identify birds from far away, key out plants, ski with agility, raise dogs for service, raise bees for honey, make toys for cats, solve problems, skate in a roller derby, mother their own children, mother other children. Some have started their own organizations or small businesses harnessing their creativity and harvesting their talents. They are mothers, wives, single, and working hard professionally and in the home. Thinking of them inspires me. However, in the midst of their company I never really considered myself creative, but I was a secret wannabe.

It was in time and distance and getting out of a funk that I found my own creativity. I unashamedly look to them for inspiration and passion. I find it now as we carve out community, on-line and together.

Usually when one thinks of creativity and art, one thinks of the great artists, composers, and writers. Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Neruda, and Beethoven come to my mind as some of the greats. Ask anyone on the street and they will think of different, yet equally famous names. The problem with this idea is that it leaves creativity and art to the few of a generation who have immense talents and are recognized for it. What about the rest of us with creative impulses? Does it have to hang on the wall of a renowned museum to be art? Do the notes have to be performed by a leading orchestra? Do the poems have to be translated into multiple languages before people recognize the beauty?

What about the tune you whistle as you go about your daily run, shower, and drive to work? What about your child’s masterpiece on the refrigerator? What about the four-line rhyme you wrote to a loved one on a homemade valentine card? Those are works of art as well.

Humans tend to create things. We build buildings, we sing songs, we knit scarves, we tell stories, we make chalk art on the sidewalk, we remember a beautiful day and share the memory. Everyday we create in lots of small, little ways. Those little actions become the bigger acts of creativity:  we build families, we build communities, and we hold each other together.

For those of us spiritually and religiously inclined, we think of creativity as a divine act. We may pray to God, our Creator. I love being able to pull the divine into our everyday lives. Creativity isn’t just for supreme beings and it isn’t limited to a handful of people in a generation for their artistic and literary talents. Creativity can be found in every single one of us. The challenge is finding it, using it, and remaining inspired.

Creativity doesn’t have to be limited to paintings or poems, sculptures or symphonies. Creativity is different for each of us and it can manifest itself in many surprising ways. Here are some acts of creativity that I have come across that I admire and hope to emulate in my own daily efforts. A first grade student who could imagine a world without pollution and who then described his vision to me. A harried thirty-something mom who took old carrots, old celery, and some leftovers out of the back of the ‘fridge and turned them into a nourishing stew for her family. A grandmother who lovingly took old ripped blue jeans and patched them with love and scraps from her rag bag. An out-of-work dad who came up with fun, no cost adventures for his two kids while he was home. A co-worker who figured out a way out of a tight spot,and then saved the day and an organization’s reputation all at once.

Those acts of love and creativity will last much longer than the stew or blue jeans. The memories of a loving family will last generations. The silent, unspoken heroes last longer in our hearts than a statue mounted in a community square.

If we know what creativity is and we recognize it, how do we find it when we’re tired, out of sorts, or suffering an annoying headache? Sometimes creativity comes not because we are waiting for inspiration to strike, but because we work and struggle through our blocks. A friend of mine, a talented writer, says there is no such thing as writer’s block. She said sometimes you just have to put the words on the page, no matter how bad they seem in the moment. Maybe on another day, in the editing process, those words become exactly what one needs. I love that idea. So, even on days when I don’t find inspiration, just by plodding through and trying, I may find the seeds of creativity planted.

Sometimes it helps to have inspiration. It also helps to know what inspires you. Do you have a favorite song, a favorite album, a favorite band? Playing music that inspires you may help you write a novel, but it might also help you through the drudgery of washing dishes and making beds. I keep inspirational images near my desk at work: pictures of loved ones and friends, ripped out pictures from magazines, framed art, and cool postcards all help to give me vision. Sometimes they’re just there to look at as I battle procrastination to meet a deadline. Occasionally, though, we can become blind to the most beautiful art, and even blind to disaster and misfortune. The never-ending headlines of war, destruction, and pain tend to become white noise. Even the most ghastly neon green paisley wallpaper will fail to startle the eye if stared at long enough! It takes creativity to recognize that and inspiration to help shake us out of the despair.

Sometimes it’s movement, a run or a walk. Sometimes it means looking up and truly seeing. Sometimes it means looking deeply within and really seeing what we don’t want to see. Sometimes it means making lemons out of lemonade. Sometimes it means crying when there aren’t even any lemons to be found. Sometimes it means ignoring our own pain and being there for someone else. Sometimes it means listening and not saying a word. Sometimes those silent, simple acts are all it takes. Sometimes it takes bravery to know they are not enough. Sometimes it means knowing it is broken and can’t be fixed. Sometimes it means holding tight. Sometimes it means letting go. Sometimes it’s enough to acknowledge that we are alone, sad, and feeling uncreative. In those acts, we can find truth, we can find meaning, and we can find our own divine acts of inspiration and creation. We also find that we can pick up the fragments and create together. Sometimes it’s enough to know we are not alone in the world.