Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dead Days

release of what is not
was not
could not be
what is over
get down into the dirt
back to the earth heart
the worm core
that center place
where all things blossom
blue fungi blooms
around the heart wood

there is life inside of death
the spider creeping over white eyes
terrifies because it is so gentle
the way the rain is gentle
as it seeps into the mud
creating momentary sculptures
mud people first people
a frothing pulsing hot birth
bursting through the carapace.

It is not the birth we expected.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

lovedrunk freewrite in which I do something that scares me

I have no idea what I am going to write about.  None at all. I am writing about the blank page.

The last hour or so has seen me flitting around on twitter, peeling at my cuticle, reading the New York Times Sunday magazine, and thinking about working on the novel.  A procrastination snarl.  I am fairly famous for them.  They feel usual.

This is unusual, though, this blogging 'off the cuff' about nothing when I have at least 10 blog ideas in my mind.

What is really interesting me right now is my novel, and the play I am getting ready to workshop, and the opera I am dramaturging.

And this.   I've been thinking about my spiritual path.  I'm a Sufi.  To me, this means a seeker who is lovedrunk-- not just with the Divine, but with the world.

It has taken me four years of deep practice to define myself as Sufi.  A novice.  Learning slowly.  Its great, this slowness, learning something that takes many years to deepen into instead of something I'm supposed to 'master' after some six week course.

But  I'm not very comfortable with labels, and I'm even less comfortable discussing my spirituality.  That said, something has shifted and it feels innate.  Permanent, somehow.  A part of my core self.

To be lovedrunk is just what it sounds like.

Let's say I find myself holding a grudge.  For example, a woman I respect belittles a child in a crowded room.  I'm too shocked to respond before the moment passes.  I want to forgive her, but I simply can't.  She's made me feel powerless.  I can't shake it.  I want to shake her instead. 

Then one night I have a glass of wine, and another, and maybe one after that.  My heart is like a singing bird.  I happen to think about the person and find that the grudge is gone.  The love has returned.

Tipsily I dial, the phone is miraculously answered, I gently tell her how I felt and we make up.

Sufism finds ways to get to compassion, forgiveness, and love without the actual wine, and eventually embody those feelings not just in ecstatic states, but always.

The process is not always pretty or pleasant.  It can feel tough, though it can also be blissful.    I am a Sufi.  I needed to say that. 

Now to work on the novel.

*painting by Pakistani artist Shafique Farooqi

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Fabulous Hat or How Limitations Can Increase Creativity

I used to tell myself, 'I'll write when I have more time'. The opposite is actually true. The less time I have, the more feverishly I work. There is no time to second guess myself. Deadlines are genius. I love other constraints, too. They push my creativity in directions I wouldn't think to go.

The hat in the picture recently won first prize in the Garden Club of Virginia's 2009 rose show, category creative. The constraints were: make a modern creative arrangement using roses as the predominant flower and involving a hat. Take inspiration from the life of Richmond philanthropist Grace Arents, 1848-1926.

There is a haunting, ghost-like quality in arrangement's use of negative space. The choice to use a metal mesh hat form with a cloche shape evokes a bygone era, but the sweet pink roses and silvery leaves hint at something enchanted and hopeful. This hat tells a story.

It was made by my mother, Rosanne Temple-West Jones. She says that she wanted to invoke a sense of spirit and memory.

I'm giving myself one week to make some art involving this hat. I invite anyone else who feels like it to do the same, or make up your own constraints.  Write a story, poem, painting, etc. and I will post it on the blog. Thanks for the inspiration, Mummy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rilke, Limbo, & Snakeskin Leggins or: How Do I Make a Living Doing What I Love?

I want my job to pay my rent and a plane ticket to a meditation retreat in Bali. I also want it to be ecstatically satisfying, and this desire has had me holding every failure, success, regret, and thought pattern up to the light for scrutiny.

I’m getting there. I love what I do, but I’ve been trying to incorporate more of my artistic self into my herbal business because bringing out people’s creativity is a core piece of who I am, I’m great at it, and many of my clients tell me that they want help in this area of their lives. However the mystery remains; how to make it happen?

Rilke says that we need to love the questions themselves. I’ve been a Rilke fan since 14 and he’s always been right. But with my burning question searing a hole in my head, I decided to sign up for a group firestarter session with Danielle LaPorte, the author of Style Statement, and White Hot Truth, a blog that has been helping me get to the heart of the matter. Danielle is genius at inspiring entrepreneurs to fuel their businesses and lives with true passion.

About 19 women and one relaxed man gathered in the beautiful home of novelist and blogger Aidan Donnelley Rowley, to learn how to capitalize on work we love. I walked in fairly terrified, intimidated by thinking of entrepreneurs leap years ahead of me, but mostly made sleepless and queasy by the feeling that I was on the precipice of some deep change. Change is scary to me. It helped that everyone in the room radiated excitement and warmth.

Danielle was reassuring without being cloying. She spoke of the Bardo, the Tibetan Buddhist word for the liminal states of being: in-between places, limbo. I relaxed then. I reminded myself that I’m fairly comfortable with limbo. The first prize I ever won was for limbo queen when I was three. The one I’m experiencing right now in my business is normal. Deep exhale.

Danielle, like Rilke, believes in questions. Here’s a sampling:

  • If you dropped acid and wrote your business plan, what would it look like?
    Write that first. Then write your business plan.
  • What are people interested in when you talk?
  • What do people thank you for?

Danielle was also very full of practical advice about how to increase your blog’s subscription list, how to budget time efficiently, etc. Her attention to the aesthetic and spiritual aspects of business (i.e. truth and beauty are as important as the bottom line) resonates with me deeply, so she’s a perfect teacher. And if (the boss of me) artistic self would rather hear it from a dread-headed philosopher in a grey cashmere sweater dress and green snakeskin leggings, then I’m very lucky such a one exists.

By the end of the three hours, with the help of some of the other wise ones in the room, I began to see where I’m headed.

** Awesome image found on Max "Bunny" Sparber's site