Creativity, Sacredness, and Bravery

August 13th, 2008

I love the project that Kelley of Dragonfly Reflections has created for herself. She decided to combine the essence of Creative Every Day 2008 and Sacred Life Sunday and do 100 days of sacred art. I mentioned to Kelley that the whole Creative Every Day project has made me much more aware of how the act of everyday creativity is a sacred act, as is art-making for me. It's all about slowing down, connecting with your still small voice, becoming aware of your surroundings, tuning into your life, and creating something from it. That something doesn't have to be grand. It might be farm fresh tomatoes that you sliced with care on a cutting board lined up with bits of goat cheese that you put together for a snack. When you can slow down enough to notice the blood red tomato, it's tight, but fragile skin, and pulpy interior, it connects you to life itself. You create an arrangement on the cutting board that is pleasing to the eye, you enjoy the taste and texture and feel grateful, you make some small impact on the day, which may be simply pleasing to you, but may ripple outwards in its effects in untold ways.

just waking

Every awareness and bit of creation seems to remind me of our impermanence. Is that the point? I certainly know that it is helpful for me to be reminded of my own and my loved ones mortality. Sometimes life can seem endlessly long. Life is full of mundane moments, each piled on the next and it's so incredibly easy to get caught up and lost in them. Another bowl of cereal for breakfast, the laundry needs to get put away, the litter needs cleaning, you have some family bbq to go to, you forgot to get stamps, you stub your toe, it's raining, you can't find your keys, someone is rude to you, life speeds by like this.

In the past, it's often things going wrong, some kind of crisis that wakes me up and reminds me how short and precious life is. It's a beautiful realization that can often lead to changes for the best, changes that were hard to make when stuck in the should's and have to's of a life that seems infinite and linear. The trick is to remember. It seems that once the crisis blows over, it's all too easy to fall back into old patterns and ruts. Perhaps life can't be lived full tilt, 24/7. I don't know. I've not managed it long term. But I wonder. Is it too much pressure to live each moment as if it were your one and only? It certainly takes a certain recklessness, abandon, and big time bravery. But the rewards are amazing.

050608_1842 One way I've used to wake myself up in the past is to imagine what I would do if I had a year left to live, and then do my best to do those things. It's a good exercise to think about and if done honestly can help direct you towards those things that make your heart sing. In my early twenties, my answers included that I would travel to the Caribbean and swim in crystal blue waters, spend more time with family, tell those I loved how much I loved them, and make lots of art. I did those things and I'm so glad I did. I've been considering doing this exercise again because of Patti Digh's challenge to think about what you'd do with 37 days left to live. This is the premise of her blog which led to the book, Life is a Verb, that has just been published. I think many of my answers would be the same now as they were in my twenties. I'd still want to spend lots of time with loved ones and express to them how much I love them, I'd still want to make lots of art (though I probably wouldn't be nearly as concerned about wasting materials or conserving paint or canvas. I might get a bit bigger and looser and more experimental with my brush strokes. I might paint with more abandon. I might paint with my whole body and soul and I'd certainly not give a crap about what any one else thought about it. Now, wouldn't that be liberating?), I'd also want to finish up, in some format, my book about living a creative life, which has been floundering a bit. I think I could pull out a handwritten version of the book in that month. Something collaged together to leave behind for others on the creative journey. 37 days wouldn't be enough time to have children. But that's something else I'd like for my life.

Wow, 37 days seems incredibly short. I know I'd be very sad. I'd want to sit by the ocean at night and look at the stars and write notes to my loved ones, give away my art to people I think would enjoy it. I'd cry and kiss the hubster and sleep in his arms with the kitties around us. But I'd also laugh and dance and sing and be silly. I wouldn't want to spend those 37 days depressed. I'd have an ice cream sundae for lunch and french toast for dinner. I'd draw on the walls. I'd take a long bath and walk around in my underwear or whatever was comfortable and freeing. I'd get my body painted and take cool pictures. I'd go on my favorite roller coasters and scream. I'd to on a whale watch. I'd visit the hollow tree near where I grew up and stand inside it, tuck a note into its branches. I'd cry some more and laugh some more and then leave this life in peace. What do you think you'd do with 37 days left to live? Is there anything unexpected that comes bubbling up when you think about it. Sometimes we don't know when our 37 days has started. Life is unexpected like that. What will you do with the knowledge of what having 37 days left means to you?


Well then, I wasn't expecting to go off on this when I started this post. I write posts like I make art, letting it flow. For more on this topic, I'd highly recommend Patti's book of course, and also Mark Nepo's Book of Awakening, which is excellent. It seems like all our challenges, being Creative Every Day, Sacred Life Sunday, Be Brave and many others are all about the same thing in a way. Living. Being. Creating. Outrageously, fully, with all our heart and soul, drinking it all in, and expressing all that is within us while we're here.

Above is something I was working on last night that ended up far away from what I originally imagined. I had started with the idea of sea creatures within an oval, but once I did the pattern in the background it was clear it was a face! I think I'll cut the face out and use it in a future collage, maybe the face of a mermaid.

7 Responses

Leah, this post was like a knock on the heart or a hit in the head–in the best way possible! I feel invigorated. I feel like I need the whole evening to sit and be quiet and journal. 37 days. What would I do to fill and enjoy those precious days? I would spend it with my family, I have no doubt. I would wrap them in my arms and tell them how dear they are to me. I would travel to York, England with my Mom and sisters for scones and tea at Betty’s. I would climb Ben Nevis with my husband and then tattoo my chest with his coat of arms! I would go swimming in Walloon Lake and listen to my Grandmother tell stories. I would actually be emboldened to paint the pictures I want to paint. I would eat fudge, drink Bellini’s and chai tea. I would go for long walks with my girlfriends. And tell old friends how I love them and how they changed my life!

Wonderful post – very thought provoking. You gotta love the questions…..

Hey there! Loved your post. That is an awesome book, is it not? May we all grow more fully into our fearless, authentic selves!

So much ((goodness)) in this post, I love it. What struck me most was how everything…and I mean everything in life is connected. It’s really rather mind blowing when you think about it. From the people we meet here online, to challendges that help us brave our demons, to ideas that make us see the world differently…it’s awesome.

Bravo to you for being part of that great change. You my friend are brilliant!

beautiful thoughts, leah. i read patti’s blog too and i’ve been wanting to write for her 37 days contest, but just haven’t been able to put anything down in writing. i’ve been focusing on living in the moment, something i’ve not always been very good at because my brain is always racing so far ahead of me. 37 days. around our house, we try to live by a phrase coined by my dh: “life is far too important to be taken too seriously”. good thing to think about… that’s what keeps me centered. k

Leah – thanks to your pointing the way several days back, I went to Patty’s blog (and bought her book – boy am I glad I did). And I started a list and realized that everything on it is something I can do right now. So I quit making the list, but the idea that “right now” is as good as ever has stuck with me. Thanks for this delightful lead – and love your artwork in the book!

One of my earliest posts was called “Love is a Verb.” I think it follows the same thought line of Life is a Verb, about the importance of paying attention; living and connecting in real time, which is probably how I’d spend my 37 days (hopefully not sleeping. I’d want time to spend with people but also to write more letters to my children so they will be able to know me when they are much older). I’ll check out the book, thanks for the lovely post!

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