A Fool's Garden

Personal encounters with nature, creativity and belief

February, 2018


By on February 24, 2018

Catkins, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’)

The catkins on the Harry Lauder off the deck are lengthening.  The yellow haze of pollen hidden in the orange-gray is beginning to show as each of them grows longer, dangling along the crooked and curving branches.  It is far too large for this space, one of many mistakes an early gardener makes.  Yet I delay trimming this shrub just for the catkins these few weeks every spring.  The stretching of them feels personal this year.  Feels a part of me reflecting back and forth between us.  I too feel on the edge of bursting out in color and fecundity wishing the breeze come dance with me.   It is a luscious sense of the season, both in the garden and in my life.

I finished a painting this week.  One of the few I have done; such a surprise at 60 to discover this talent that has laid latent, unknown and untouched.  I am stunned by what comes to such a degree that I fear appearing boastful or disingenuous as I share them – an embedded cultural no-no.  I choose to ignore the fear and am overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness received in response.  This time last year, I would have told anyone who asked that I have no ability in this direction.  Art in the form of painting and drawing belong most especially to a brother.  A sister has played with her own hidden talent.  All of us were exposed to our mother’s art; her paintings hang in each of our homes.

An early recollection rises of mom walking around our dining room table, middle of the day, placing broken chunks of leftover drywall in front of each of us seated there.  I was oldest and in third or fourth grade.  It must have been rainy and she must have been fed up with an onslaught of “nothing to do”.  What I recall is her pointing at the white, lacy ceramic bowl in the middle of the table filled with plastic fruit with one order, “draw!”  She kept going round behind us, likely a cigarette in hand, giving comment, suggestion, instruction.  I was busy erasing my lines when she grabbed my pencil, “like this.”  Her hand stroked the surface, laying brief strips of lead down to form the line of the bowl’s pedestal.  “Quit trying to be perfect.”

Ah, there it is.  Since I retired I have been on a trajectory of untying those knots of perception.  Rooting out self-limiting thoughts.  Pulling them into the light, poking at them, prodding, exploring them: where they came from, why I hold them.  What sense of security and surety had they provided that I nurtured them so?  Turning all of them inside, out and upside down.  Shaking them hard to see what falls from the pockets on to the floor.  Then getting down on my knees, nudging my nose up against them, laying my head from side to side to see how the light shining upon them, at this angle, reacts.

I have been thinking a lot about creativity.  I am reading about the neuroscience of it.  I am encountering references to its bleeding into people’s lives in one conversation after another.  But what has most impacted me is the actual experiencing of it.  I have delved into its expression in belly dance which started working at me.  A confrontation with fear and acceptance, rigidity and abandon.  I plunged into a writing course that pointed down the path of storytelling and its framing of every life and everything in each life.  An entirely fluid process we culturally think of as concrete-sure.  And, with that shift in perspective, freedom began to blossom and painting budded forth.

I think that perhaps it is not so much that a buried ability is coming out of the dark.  Rather that it is more a matter of having opened myself enough that this underlying stream of creative desire is able to rise to the surface.  The space is there, the openness.  The warmth of welcoming light makes its seeds burst open.  It has no other choice.  It is as natural as a catkin opening its pollen to Spring.

Tribal Impression, Bordeaux


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