What did I love?

I don’t promise coherence in this post, it is an early morning (public) musing. I do it here for lack of a conversation partner at the moment, and because this blog, as opposed to artcalling, has only a handful of followers, most of whom understand the context of transition and the place between stories.

Recently, on a friend’s recommendation, I ordered David Whyte’s, ‘Crossing the unknown Sea, Work as a pilgrimage of identity’. I’m halfway through it and what I’ve read so far is spot on for me at this point in in my journey to a new story.

One thing he says is that in childhood, we  have all had an intimation of the work that would fulfil us as adults. Whether we are able to keep true to that vision or not is something else, of course.

For the life of me, I can’t remember wanting any profession at all (this in itself is a key!). Though, for a brief time, inspired by my love of horses, I wanted to be a vet.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawing and painting. I never aspired to be an artist because I already was one. Working with my hands and creating informed every part of my life.

I think the crunch for me and my work came in the way that purity got overlaid once it interfaced with the world. I was fortunate to have parents who nurtured this direction and gave me every encouragement to follow that path. But they and their friends were a bit in awe of artistic ability, so immediately I felt special because of my  ‘talent’.

Too early on, creating beautiful things became my sole source of praise, and self-worth. I think it took me an entire adult life to start to reclaim my art for myself, and disengage it from the outer trappings of approval. David Whyte speaks about diving deep down to the core of our work where we are engaged in larger conversations with unknown forces hugely distanced from the usual criteria of professionalism, income generation and success. He says that without this larger conversation, nothing will nourish us, we won’t find the passion or renewal needed to progress and grow and become fulfilled in our work.

When I think back, though to childhood, what did I love? Certainly art materials, I still rejoice at the colours in a new set of oil pastels or paints. But I equally loved being outside in every season, and playing  in nature. And I adored and still do adore horses above all other animals. I loved playing by myself, making up stories, writing them down and making little books, cards and other gifts for my parents. I wrote poems a lot. I made doll’s clothes. I made jewellery. I crafted a tiny desk and chair for my mother who loved miniatures. I specialised in calligraphy in high school and college-  encouraged by father who loved my handwriting.

Now, I find, I am happiest being left alone (figuratively) in my studio to do what I want. I paint, and sometimes I write, sometimes I make crafts as gifts, I actually am inexplicably stockpiling a number of finely crafted tiny books, pin cushions, and crocheted hearts to give away. Why is yet to be revealed. After decades of concentrating so desperately on generating an income from my art, gift giving is becoming an increasingly prominent activity which I find fits who I am now and is extraordinarily fulfilling.

Aha! the insight, this is what I loved best to do in childhood! I’ve paid the dues for 40 years, (and they were often fulfilling and enervating years) doing work on commission, meeting deadlines, haggling prices, administrating my freelance business. But these activities all took the joy out of creating.

And now I am free to follow what I loved most as a child, to just make stuff and occasionally give it to people. But also to be outside much more, to garden and walk and go and visit the horses down at the end of the village.

I still feel an approaching vocation that I sense will find me when the time is ripe. It will be exciting and meaningful in the new context of social engagement and ecology. It will be collaborative without a doubt. It will use all of me, not just the making things with my hands part. And it will demand that I contribute who I am, who I am becoming,  and not just what I do.




6 thoughts on “What did I love?

  1. Hello old friend from across the ocean. I love your new blog. It really speaks to my search for authenticity as I walk further and further from the addictive recognition that has been part and parcel of my professional career. I love the “white space” metaphor. While meditating again after 40 years, I spend more and more time there…..quietly and gloriously ‘unrecognized.’

    • Hello dear one, how nice that you found me here. Thank you for letting me know where you are with your own life, I often wonder when we haven’t talked in awhile. I am so glad you are finding the peace to meditate again, and that you are managing to detach somewhat from your high powered professional life. I loved this quote found on another blog:

      The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.” ~ David Orr, Ecological Literacy
      love, Sarah

  2. So enjoy the blog. Have been going through a lot of transition – some quite painful and difficult but have found myself somewhere that i like with kindred spirits. The hardest part about change, i think, is giving up/letting go of the familiar sources of feedback and leaving room for the ‘white space’ and finding that life doesn’t simply continue,it is often richer and certainly more peaceful.

    David Whyte’s book is a constant companion -i dip in and out.

    • hi Kay, thanks for commenting. Good to know someone out there is reading. I just touched back with Charles E’s ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’ and he understands the between times through and through. There is a lot of solace there. And I agree, the David Whyte book is also a real help and encouragement for following one’s heart. Here is what I just read from Eisenstein:

      It is quiet natural to first apply familiar solutions to new problems. Perhaps only their failure awakens us to the idea that the problems are of a different nature than we supposed. In any event, we are arriving, many of us, at that place of not knowing what to do.
      I have perhaps oversimplified things a bit. It is not that we spend half our lives in benighted impotence until we awaken to true understanding, purpose and creative power. Instead we go through phases when we believe in what we are doing, when life more or less makes sense, and when we hope and expect our efforts to bear fruit.And they do, for a time, but as we grow in that world we begin to question our assumptions. Our tools don’t work as well anymore; we cease believing in our goals or in the possibility of achieving them. We approach a resting phase, an empty phase. Immersed in a system that never lets us rest, that condemns laziness and pushes us toward ever-increasing busyness through economic pressure, we have trouble accepting this phase. We tell ourselves we must always be doing something. Time’s a-wastin’!

      He then goes on to say there is a time for urgency as well, but that the situation, like the birth of a child, usually tells us when to push! cheers, Sarah

  3. hello Sarah – just been re-reading some of your blog posts. i enjoy the exploratory nature of your words – lots of helpful connections and space to make sense. transition is i am finding a permanent state! The more i stay with the transitions the more stilled i find life is. the more content too – from time to time…

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