January 24, 2010

Winter Writing, Painting Winter

The pictures and stories in the news about Haiti continue to bring me to tears. All of the people remain in my prayer and thought and I offer my practice for their merit. All too soon such events go out of the news and we return to our little concerns while the rebuilding, the suffering goes on. Few among us have not wanted to drop everything and rush down there and hold one of those bereft orphans. The thought in the mind is also the holding so we can continue to care for them through good thought, and we can contribute money to their cause.

Saturday I went to a writers gathering. A small group of Olympia poets and writers come together monthly for critique of their work. I was part of the first group that organized this in 1995-96 at Jeanne Lohmann's home that was in the South Capitol area. Jeanne moved over to the west side and the group went with her. Gradually changes occurred and it is now referred to as Fusion. At the equinox or the solstice, the group meets on a Saturday afternoon and shares poetry exercises as a small writing workshop.

This is the first Saturday workshop I've been to because more often than not, we have a one-day retreat and I haven't a choice about it. This time I had the chance to attend. Poetry writing exercises abound in the world and it's always fascinating to see what kinds of things people come up with to stimulate the writing impulse. Myself, I don't think about it as exercise but rather a creative continuum. Sometimes some things work and sometimes they don't. Not all the soups I make in the kitchen are outstanding. Sometimes the soup is just good. Sometimes, something to eat. Sometimes unforgettably delicious.

Lately I've been painting more than writing so I'm a bit dry where words are concerned. This is not writer's block it's just the way that I've kept the gears oiled. As I've mentioned, I've been experimenting with keeping writing and painting going at the same time to see how the creative mush plays out, to see how they feed one another. It's extremely difficult but at the same time, I've found images that I wouldn't have suspected are there. We can only do one thing at a time so when I pick up a brush words fall to the background. By the same token, when I pick up a pen, images are extremely clear. I think in images moreso than words. The poem comes forth like a painting in my mind, a clear image, but then I use words to make the poem which feels like a painting.

I don't think any painter ever succeeds in painting the painting exactly as it appears in the mind. And perhaps it's the same for the poet. The poem we write is not what we suspected. Perhaps it's why we have to begin again the moment a work is finished. We have to try again to say what cannot be said. We have to put ourselves in that terrifying moment of creativity when we know absolutely nothing, don't know if we can survive ourselves in the act of creating. That moment of artistic terror (perhaps that's too dramatic a word) does not last but a split second, and then one goes on and makes a mark on the canvas or puts a word on paper. I think we can't know where we are going.

Motherwell says that his aim is to paint the canvas as beautiful as it was when it was in its blank, white existence. Perhaps that's what we do in meditation too. We clear ourselves of baggage and allow the bright, shining Self to appear as naturally as it is, untainted, pure. Then, when we get off the cushion, we recreate ourselves with the palette of our experience and make our life in all its color, shape, action, activity, and form as beautiful as the bright, clear, shining Self.