Friday, October 5, 2012 to the music

St. Francis Dancing on Water
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM

I'm a visual person. Who likes to write. When I write, I like to listen to music. The proper tune sets the mood...transcendental transportation. The senses are inextricably bound.

Enter Julia Cameron. She began her career at the Washington Post. During a stint at Rolling Stone, she met filmmaker Martin Scorsese. They married, had a daughter, and collaborated on three films before divorcing. Cameron wrote about her personal descent into a drug and alcohol-induced hell in her memoir, Floor Sample. Once in recovery, she discovered an inconvenient side effect of sobriety. With no glass of wine to lubricate the process, Cameron experienced writer's block.  The personal discipline she developed grew into a course on creative unblocking. The method was spread word-of-mouth. Constant requests for her course syllabus led to a book, The Artist's Way.

One element of her creative process is the Artist Date. She describes this as "a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly 'artistic' - think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration."

When we venture out - especially out of our comfort zones - our creative neurons fire. When we are fed by music, art, play, beauty, the spirit is nourished. We behold. And are emboldened.

So color outside the lines. Any dishes in the cupboard with chipped edges? Break them and make a mosaic out of the broken bits: an homage to life. Be fearless. This is my mantra. Death to that false god, What Other People Think. Hear Julia's words about perfectionism:

"Perfectionism doesn't believe in practice shots. It doesn't believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that 'anything worth doing is worth doing badly'...and that, if we allow ourselves to do something badly, we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner's work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn't know how to say "Good try" or "Job well done". The critic does not believe in creative glee...or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter." Ever spent an afternoon or a phone call with Ms. or Mr. Perfectionist? There's not enough good sherry in the world to dull the onslaught.

Julia again: "Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention...the capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention." Me: Take a look around. What's really hanging in the closet? Ghosts of old sizes and shapes, of past ages and stages? Be gone with them. De-clutter. When I surround myself with space, I find space within.

I have no Puritan genes but I'd bet some Fauves are in the mix somewhere. An exponentially great grandmother of mine came from France. She was shunned by the good women of the small Georgia community where her husband farmed. All because she wore lipstick. And, gasp, rouge. Oh, mon Grand'mere, you really are my people.

Julia likens life to "a spiritual dance" and says that "our unseen partner has steps to teach us if we will allow ourselves to be led. The next time you are restless, remind yourself, it is the universe asking 'Shall we dance?'"

I hope you dance. I do...more at sixty-one than ever before. My amazing enthusiasm makes up for my blatant lack of coordination. When Ellen comes on, I get up and move with her. I quit ironing when Nora Jones sings. And I get all fired up when Alicia Keyes belts out my song, "Girl on Fire".  Hey you, the one over there in the corner. Quit writing my report card. Get off your rear.  Go forth and paint. Play ball. Sing. Anything. Never learned to knit or cook? It's not too late. Just do it. And have a jolly good time.

If arrogance is fear's armor
- heavy, hot, and cumbersome -
then humility is filled with holes like lace, 
light and airy. 

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