Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art and Life

That sweet night; a secret.
Nobody saw me;
I did not see a thing.
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart.
~John of the Cross

I am hooking up today for the first time in a while at The Creative Exchange. What I love about Lisa's approach is the emphasis on love; your camera in one hand, she says, your heart in the other


In a way, I guess, I'm celebrating. It's been exactly a year since I began learning Photoshop Elements. It was a huge curve for me, and over the year, with the help of some online courses, I've gone from pretty much daily wanting to throw my computer across the room to becoming a fairly competent user. Along the way, I've had hits and misses, successes and failures, some good photos, some bad; I've watched my art grow; but the one thing that has eluded me is a sense of my own creative vision and my own unique style; what was missing was some invisible thing that longed to be expressed, a feeling maybe, something that I could not have articulated, but knew the moment I saw it. 

In the past couple of weeks I've started to see it. Something's coming together, it began with a simple thought to photograph the things that I love and that I've been surrounding myself with for years. The books, vintage dishes and painted-peeling things, candles, shells I've collected on my travels, the flowers I buy each week when I grocery shop; all that I love to look at and be around, that float my boat and even better, feed my soul. It seems simple, but somehow I'd been missing it.

How can we go wrong when we move toward what we love? Not just art, but in our daily lives (which are also art, the blank canvas of our everyday lives...). I was told on Moloka'i that the very foundation of the native Hawaiian spirituality is discernment.  To pay attention, to discern what does it for us and what doesn't, and make a conscious choice to move toward one and away from the other.

As in art, so in life. Or is it the other way around? Not that it really matters. And here, another gift of the dark night.

Thanks Lisa... 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gifts of the Dark Night

If nature can handle the destruction and reconstruction
 of a caterpillar into a butterfly, 
why shouldn't I surrender and trust
 that it can handle what is happening to me?
~John Moriarity 
The book I've been reading, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, has been serious food for this soul. I find myself wondering if it's possible for a book to change one's life, and my answer is I truly think so. A book, a poem or quote or song, an offhand remark, coming at the right time, when by some grace there is even a crack in the veneer, can, indeed, shift things substantially.

I can't say that it has cured me. Obviously, since as I read it, I slipped again farther into the darkness. But I can say that I now have a container in which to hold this experience. One that helps give me patience and tolerance. One that adds depth and meaning, that offers sustenance, hope even, and that provides a sense of understanding, without having an actual clue why, this might possibly be happening.

I have learned that this is a journey of the spirit and soul, as much as, if not more than it is of brain chemistry, circumstance, lifestyle, or genetics. I have re-learned what I've known for a long, long time but had lost sight of; that we live in a world that is myopic and lacks balance, a "solar" world, where light and brightness and happiness are valued over the lunar, which is dark, inward, still, mysterious, fertile. Where pain is avoided, where quick fixes and the hero's outward and upward journey are both preferential to the slow, deep, internal burn necessary for true transformation and rebirth. In short, we live in a world that values the yang, but not so much the yin. And if you've dappled at all in eastern spirituality or philosophy, or for that matter simple gardening, you know that there must always be a balance. That life cannot, does not thrive when it's out of whack. We only have to look around at our world to see how true that is.

Already I am glimpsing gifts from this dark night. I am reconnecting with parts of myself that through no fault or blame have been lost along the way. I have turned to creativity, some days as the only possible way to get through the next moment, and see my vision and art evolving in a way that I could not have imagined. For these things, I am grateful, if not for the dark night itself, and maybe even that is around some invisible corner I've just not quite yet arrived at.

Thomas Moore says it better than I could ever hope to~

The black of the dark night comes from ignorance, not knowing what is happening and where life is taking you. The only choice... is to remain in the present, not bound or deluded by the past, and not imprisoned in a fixed and defensive idea about the future. The worm has to let the transmutation take place. It would do no good for him to plan his wingspan and colors or to wish to remain in the snug safety of the tiny world he has known. The most difficult challenge is to let the process take place, and yet that is the only release from the pressure of the dark night.