The Creative Epiphany – Every 17 Hours, here it comes again…

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Every 17 hours or so I try to get some sleep. Some nights it is effortless and deep and other nights not so much. So then I lay quietly listening to the music of the night, as they say in Phantom of the Opera.

“Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness  stirs and wakes imagination. Silently the senses abandon their defenses. Helpless to resist the notes I write, for I compose the music of the  night…

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor. Grasp it, sense  it, tremulous and tender. Turn your face away from the garish light of  day. Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light,  and listen to the  music of the night.”

Read more:  Phantom Of The Opera – Music Of The Night Lyrics | MetroLyrics

My experience in the hours from 11pm to 3 or 4 am are not quite so romantic. I hear the crescendo of ice cubes falling like freighter sized shards of arctic ice from the icemaker into the plastic, clattering container way out in the kitchen. I hear the crickets outside – the incessant cricketing – I know it means they are trying to attract a mate. Holy Cow, how can that take all night long and require such a deafening screeching. I hear the distant train, the far-off siren, the flutter of an outdoor creature….perhaps an owl or a bat. Coyotes howling. I hear my own stomach growling, contents of my innards slurping along the tube they are in like a waterslide ride. I hear things I cannot explain. The house has a life of its own; it creaks and groans as it cools and settles. Pipes snap as if they are breaking; the fridge hummmmmmms. Rumbles and …. or was that thunder? Will it rain? I listen for rain. No, it is the wind picking up.

In addition to that roar of auditory stimulation I hear the louder thoughts in my head and I see images randomly presented to me in a rapid fire stream of almost unconsciousness. It is on like ping pong. There will be no sleeping tonight. Obscure fleeting ideas, not fully formed and recognizable, fling themselves at my screen. The colorful day’s activities parade past the inside of my eyes. Who was that person I saw do that amazing thing….did what’s-his-face really say what I thought I heard him say? So worried about my friend who has cancer. Am I going to have to call the handyman again about the thing? That movie did not turn out as good as it was supposed to be. I wish I had bought that cowhide rug I saw. I have always wanted a cowhide rug. Why can’t I find the size canvas I need? I think paint is on sale. Did I remember to call the lady back about the insurance? Who was that person who waved at me – did I know her? Why is my hip hurting. I think I forgot to plug in my phone.

None of this makes any sense to me in the dark purple of my room in the middle of the night. It is an exercise in fruitless thinking. It is never ending and always changing providing nothing and yet it is everything…. in my simple mind world. But I solve no world problems. I have no illuminating realizations. How we can truly save the whales and end world hunger and make that horrible weed go away and die – the one that is choking and devouring our outdoor spaces around the globe. Those solutions do not come to me in the knot of my covers inside my fetal position with my pillows scattered. The night has been a failure to sleep and to solve.

Except once in a while – once in a great whopping while – a super duper idea will come to me that seems pure genius. Usually it’s an idea for a painting composition or a blog or a third book or a recipe or a unique vacation or a great original quote from me that everyone will remember or a creative solution to some issue I needed to finish. If that happens, I force myself to sit up and write it down on the tablet next to the bed. Far too many brilliant ideas were totally lost to me through the years by believing that I could remember them until morning. That is a big mistake, waiting until morning. You have almost always lost the magic by then. You have sacrificed a glorious something for the comfort of not getting up to write it down. Lazy, slovenly you. You need to learn to use the night. It rewards you in unexpected and wondrous ways and you feel productive and smart when you take notes.

On the other hand, occasionally you’ll wake up and read your “notes to self” in the morning and they make no sense at all.

the hot dog faucet was slick. i want to sit in. my third arm would not paint. chasing the rock was weak paint. he was under the cowhide rug. the weeds strangled the whales.

When that happens, you give it a couple minutes of thought and if nothing sensational and worthy of your thoughtful time comes back to you, then you just forget it. Days later you might get it. Or not.

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The Creative Epiphany – Evidence of Wildness

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Staff Photo by Richard Cowen, Woodland Park, NJ

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Everyone has  a little Wild streak in them. Some people lovingly nurture it land others find it cause for concern. Really? How could anyone find Wildness threatening? I think Wildness is one of your best friends in your entire bag of tricks. She will take you far on a gloomy day – well, any fine day too. She will show up instantly sometimes, triggered by some tiny thing, and then you can ride her until darkness and maybe even beyond. She will teach you things about yourself that you never knew.

When the Wild child rears up in my spirit and my mind, adrenaline flows. I strive to keep it alive and kicking for as long as is practical, because it feeds my artistic soul and also because it keeps me ageless. Anything that you are able to experience in your life-long existence that helps erase age barriers for you is a rare and golden treasure. Hang on to that stuff.

If you were here I would ask what those Wild things are for you – the things that you enjoy doing that make you forget your age and any other raggedy old irrelevant hang-ups you might be carrying around with you like a child with a worn out blankey.  You need a bucket list of resources to go to when you need to value each and every minute of the days of your life and remind yourself why you are glad you are alive. Stayin’ alive. Still alive and a little bit Wild.

I believe that your creativity is largely dependent upon your ability to stay Young and Wild and Free. How many really grumpy old people do you know who have shriveled up and stamped out any smoldering ember of Wild fire in their souls? We all know some of those. And you don’t necessarily have to be old and grumpy for that to happen. Please let’s not allow that to happen to us.

These Wild things work for me:

Certain music can transform me back to eras when I did not even have to try to capture Wildness….it was always there, because every single day was new uncharted territory for me, as if I was a wondrous babe in the green woods and it was all dripping dew of possibility. Come to think of it, the entire 4 years of college was like that for me, music and all…. all of it. A 4 year Wild streak.

Riding a Harley with that special person feels nice and Wild to me.

Watching animals in their natural habitat. Seeing Wildness au natural.

Leaving on a trip or an adventure.

Painting and writing often set off my Wild nature, because there is such complete freedom in those pursuits.

Of course there are others….and I thought I would include an experience that I had just this morning, purely unexpected and thoroughly fascinating, just in case you might be interested. It set the tone for the entire day and now here I am writing about it.

I was out walking around the big mile-long loop of the open space central park area of Palomino Park, south of Denver, the community where I now live, at 7:45 am. I see these two animals tearing around in circles right where the soccer fields are – they look like scraggly dogs from a distance but when I get to within 20 yds of them I see they are coyotes, there in broad daylight. A couple of people and I stopped to watch them because it was an amazing thing to see – obviously young, lanky legged and skinny, but probably old enough to mate – running and playing just like my dog used to do with his friends. They were oblivious to the people watching them, making big wide circles at breakneck speed and then tumbling over each other – playing chase and tackle. Then one of them runs right into the orange net behind the soccer goal and gets all wrapped up in it and starts frantically thrashing around for three  minutes or so, and we all sort of panic, grabbing for our sell phones to call animal control but then he/she gets untangled and the two continue their play. We all watched for 15 or 20 minutes when they finally ran off to the high grassey area around the duck pond and the pool – I think they must have an underground den in there because they totally disappeared. Right into the underground of a very populated area…..where little kids play long into the dusk and people walk teeny little hors d’oeuvre size doggies. Pretty incredible way to begin my day.

It was a little glimpse of Wild, but enough to want more. I think I’ll go paint now.

The Creative Epiphany – If Not Now, When?

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Are you by any chance contemplating throwing yourself into a huge creative project of some kind? The kind of undertaking that involves an enormous investment of energy, time, dedication, perseverance, determination, problem solving skills and bullets of sweat? Not to mention possible disappointment. But also to mention the possibility of great gratification and success.

Does the thought of the thing haunt you? Do you toy with it 24/7 in your mind? Do you have a love-hate relationship with it? You would love to do it but you would hate to have to actually spend the time to do it? Could you live without ever doing it? Or would you always regret that you did not? But if you decided to take it on, and you were wildly successful, would that not be fantastic?

Being on a creative fence is a sharp and uncomfortable perch. You are kind of tortured by your thoughts, feeling poked by spiking jabs of doubt. It is a real pain in the ass. Because after all, that is what it’s all about – the doubt. You constantly inquire of yourself, could you actually pull it off? Are you up to the challenge?

Deciding to do this creative thing would not be hide-able. Everyone would know you were working on the thing. And all your fav people would say WOW.  Some would even go on to say Yippee for you! Go for it! Others would remain nearly silent, behind mocking, eye-rolling  expressions that revealed, Oh brother, here she goes again. How is she ever gonna do that. And they walk away to go pick up their dry cleaning.

Would not doing this creative project thing mean you are just a chicken? Or would it reveal your wisdom in knowing what is just going to be too much for yourself? Playing chicken with yourself means that you pretty much meet yourself coming and going as you circle around and around the thing idea and if you fail to swerve you run head-on into your own self and your un-engaged goals, absorbing the impact and proving your grit and resilience….and you decide you simply must accept the challenge because it has hit you so hard….or you abandon that fruitless game of monotonous dodgeball and make other goals, sacrificing your big dream. And the doubters are thrilled. They can’t wait to see the next crazy game you play with yourself. They are keeping score.

But perhaps gutsy you proceeds with your plans and dreams for the thing and yet along the way at some juncture during the doing of the thing you then actually allow the doubters to insert themselves midstream. You let them monopolize your thoughts. And what if the result of that is you never manage to finish the thing or make it a success, after being obsessed and absent for weeks at a time and spouting off enthusiastic progress reports over your busy shoulder to anyone within talking distance? So what if that happens?

What if the sky falls and pigs fly?

Some would say you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Either way brings periodic agony. Each way brings uncertainty. Big deal. Why don’t you swallow your pride and proceed into the unknown territory of the high achievers? You will find many friends there, all of whom were accosted by doubters as they fought to clear the path to their dreams.

The Creative Epiphany – Yawn

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Perhaps you don’t know that from time to time we bloggers here at WordPress are given a “prompt” or an idea for a blog entry. It is up to us whether or not we take on the challenge. To tell you the truth, I have seldom done that…..and I probably ought to accept the “prompt” challenges more often, because they do inspire and it does “prompt” us to think and ponder and express ourselves on many subjects we might not choose for ourselves.

And so today the challenge is “YAWN”.

What makes me yawn, with boredom and mind fatigue? What sends me spiraling toward a deep coma-like sleep? What forces me to tune out of a conversation or a situation with utter detachment and flat-line non-reaction?

Not a lot of things do that for me, because as an artist I am constantly engaged in a dialogue of visual,  verbal and auditory stimulation with my environment. It’s in my job description. But I do admit that I experience with some degree of repetition certain recognizable scenarios and a handful of stereotypically  yawn-inducing types of people  that bore me and exasperate me. In these situations I attempt to be tolerant in spite of my mental, gargantuan, gaping, hippo-like yawn – sometimes I succeed and sometimes not. My best defense is to remove myself from the immediate suck of air that I know is coming, quickly escaping to another location which might be as easily accessible as just 10 ft away from the conversation or the primary person offender, and yet on the other hand it might require leaving houses and geographic places to escape the constant boredom. ( Constant yawning boredom and lack of sensory stimulation was not the reason for my recent move, by the way.)

So what, in general, prompts my apathy and lack of brain wave activity?

OMG – here we go.

People who see themselves as constant victims in life. They believe that everything unpleasant that happens to them is beyond their control; happening to them. Oh poor them! If it is bad and it happens, it was thrust upon them. They accept little to no responsibility for their lives, as if they have played no part whatsoever in its unfolding. They fail to see the consequences of their poor decisions. They have little self-awareness.

On the other side, people who see themselves as constantly entitled in life are also a source of boredom to me. We all know them – the shining ones who believe that life owes them everything. The ego-driven, I’m so great, give me more, and I-will-also-take-some-of-yours kind of person. They want it all and they are not crazy about the idea of working hard for it, and if it looks like they might not be getting it they will find a way. Right or wrong.

Those 2 types of people make me yawn with their oh so predictable behavior. They are in the news all the damn time – you know them when you see them – and you will of course run across them in your personal life as well. They trigger a fight or flight response in me…and since I am choosing my battles carefully these days, I will usually flee. They make me yawn with disinterest and loathing. The toxic nature of their thought processes pollutes my mind.

I like this subject – because yawning is multi-faceted and there is a lot to say. I believe it might be the flip-side of life’s epiphanies….if you have had some epiphany experiences of self-realization that changed your life then I would imagine you are the kind of person who is seldom bored. You are a student of life and always OPEN, like a neon sign blinking, to new and wondrous mental discoveries; people, places, possibilities and life lessons. How can you be bored if you are aware, awake and alert? You must be present to win.buddha

The Creative Epiphany – Wherever You Go, There You Are

fragile From Northern California back to Denver…..

On the fifth night in my new residence, dead tired from unpacking and lifting and climbing stairs and settling in, I woke in the night wondering where I was. It was as if I had been in a coma and regained consciousness, and had no idea of my location. Without moving a muscle I looked around. There was bright moonlight cutting through the deep purple darkness  in long narrow slices made by slatted blinds I swore I never bought.  I was wondering – which window was it? I don’t have a window like this one, do I? What room am I in? Where am I? Oh yes, I gradually realized. Someone had moved my bed across 3 states and put it down in a room that didn’t make any sense to me…yet.

When you change your residence you don’t have to be half asleep to wonder where you are. Moments of confusion come at unexpected times when you can’t comprehend how it all happened, although it was a 3 month process. You need something from the fridge and you open the pantry, you turn right headed for the bathroom and it takes you into the laundry room. If you get up at night for a drink of water you impact the wall where you thought there was a door with such force that you wonder if you broke your face.

Moving is not easy. But it is worth it, if you are fortunate enough to have done it for all the right reasons. In my previous blog post, titled SURFACING, I gave you enough info to know that this move of mine has been a wonderful leap, coming at a time in my life when recharging the batteries of my heart and soul was the right decision. Moving is always a major jolt and a chaotic endeavor, however, no matter how you plan it and attend to details. The members of my family do a lot of it. We are all gypsies who will leave point A and flash forward to point B for reasons of career opportunities, quality of life and being closer to those you love most. They said one night on Animal Planet that all the great migrations of the animal species are made for just 3 reasons – plentiful food, water and mating opportunities. Some things are just universal.

My brother and sister and I were born in Ohio and we have made our individual journeys to the West with relish and perseverance. Kind of like Sherman’s march to the sea. We burned some bridges behind us in the process but it was worth it and no one was injured. Then one of us moved back east again, but south. We Ping-Pong around.

It is an energizing event in life – the move. It wakes you up at your deepest core, at the very least. It requires a great, complicated  thought process to purge and pack. I have it down to a system, having moved about 25 times in my life. Each of those times, I learned more and refined my process. I have dozens of tricks and short-cuts up my sleeves by now, learned in the deep trenches of relocation suffering. My sister says I ought to write a book about it. But I am too busy doing other fun stuff.

I actually enjoy waking up in the night wondering where I am. I look around for clues and it comes to me eventually. And maybe some far off night when the clues in the darkness make no sense at all to me, and the familiar answers as to my location do not filter into my mind, well then…..my moving days will be over.

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