August 2, 2016

Leaning into the Unknowable

Photo by Scanlon Carter Photography

I recently had two very beautiful women come and visit me in my home to interview and photograph me about my practice as an artist living in the Upper Yarra Valley. The day prior to their arrival I reached for the phone many times to call and cancel their coming, with many internal voices chattering in my mind. The voices said that I'm not really an artist, that I am too distracted by the endless tasks of motherhood and too enslaved by domestic drudgery to still call myself an artist, that I'm too heavy and morose to offer anything life-giving to their project, the narrative of my winter having been the grappling in the labrynthine darkness of my underworld, attempting to befriend the Minotaur, grappling at the interface of the seeker, red-thread in hand, and the abandoned and outcast aspects of my own psyche. In the face of this I was feeling altogether not sparkly enough, not successful enough, not productive and polished enough to be interviewed.

The ask of this meeting brought me face to face with the fraudulent feelings I have whenever I am asked to state my occupation. I write "Mother and Artist" or "Artist and Mother", but really who do I think I am kidding, to think that either of these activities were a "proper" occupation, despite the fact that they have wrung every ounce of effort and persistent force of will, blood, sweat and tears from my being for the majority of my adult life. I thought that maybe in coming they wouldl feel obliged to include me in their project, and despite my obvious inadequacy, would feel obliged to include me rather than hurt my feelings, so that maybe I should save them from the discomfort of having to either reject or tolerate me..... 

Another, deeper part resisted the urge to hide under my bushel and so by default of my not following through on any phone calls, they arrived on my doorstep on a Friday morning and I ended up having a beautiful morning of conversation and connection, delightfully losing myself in the fumbling attempts to articulate the bones of things that are often left unspoken to. 

I wrote this in the aftermath of their visit, grateful for the questions and the quality of listening that asked for more of me, rather than less. These are some of the ways that I feel I am an artist, regardless of success or productivity, these are some of the ways I come to belong to myself.

"I feel that at its best, the experience of making art, song, poetry, or at least the receiving of the inspiration for these things, is a deep listening at the interface of self and that which is beyond the self, a moving towards what is vulnerable and unformed, tender and ephemeral, in order to receive something new about oneself or the condition of life. Often the things received in this place are far from grandiose visions of salvation but rather gentle and intimate homecomings, private revelations of understanding about the patterns and shapes of our wounds and our gifts, and a sensing of what the balm might be. 

I feel we have so much to learn at this time about how to bring ourselves as a people into a greater balance and a deeper respect for our planet and for all living things, I feel we have so direly lost our way and that the answers for how we can reclaim our integrity will not come from what we already know, but from what we are gifted by our attuned listening, our stillness in the moment, in our receptivity to a higher wisdom, in our capacity to sensitively receive guidance from that great creative river of life. We will learn to protect the earth by deeply listening to the consciousness of the Earth itself. She will teach us. 

In a sense there comes to be a leaning into the unknowable, a moving across the threshold of what is known, to see what medicine we can find there. There is less and less agenda for me, and more of a seeking of what feels in my body to be true. This is not an easy thing in this time, it is my daily task to bring myself to this endeavour of embodying into the moment and receiving the inspiration that life is asking to birth in me, rather than attending to the thousand and one distractions that pull me away from what is deeply true. And many days I fall short, many days I sleepwalk through, full of forgetting, believing in lack and the separation, my shame or stories of blame. 

I feel that there is a great deal of trauma that exists in the bodies of many of us in this modern world, and for me my art practice has been a way of speaking to what it is that exists beneath the experience of trauma, I feel that I am asked to source the remedy for my own disconnection, I am asked to break through my complacency and humbly drink from the wellspring of creation. It feels to me that there is a sense of personal salvation that opens to me when I open myself to receive from the beyond, from nature and the earth beneath me and all around me, and the vast and mysterious cosmos above me, to be alive to the way that life is asking us to be made anew in every moment, to create for ourselves, in sovereignty, a new reality that serves the whole of creation. 

I would like to surrender more deeply into this process of creativity, to come more deeply into this service to creation, be more courageous at the threshold, to become more comfortable with the feeling of annihilation in the wake of belonging less to the world and more to the void of creative potential, have less fear and less need to control and say yes more deeply and more often to losing myself to the making new. 

There is always a great deal of discomfort for me at the beginning of a creative birthing, a battling with distraction and lethargy and complacency, requiring a force of will that feels momentous to muster. And then always for me the finishing of a piece of art is very similar in feeling to falling in love. It holds that sense of elation and wonder, of madness and joy, of open hearted recognition and devotion, as though a part of myself that had been buried and unformed has been made visible to me, brought from darkness into light, born of the heart and life-giving.

There is a part of me that endeavours through my creative expression to become the channel that is open to receiving life's capacity to create itself anew, cultivating an attunement of the psyche to receive a gift from the mytho-poetic strata of life, a willingness and capacity to be blind and unseeing in the realms of shadow and of grief, facing one's own discomfort to become more deeply at home in oneself. I feel that art and life are inseparable in this sense, the art a distillation of the living one does, an expression of where one's attention has been in all the moments of our days.

What matters to me now as an artist seems to be more about what matters to me as a human, inseparable from productivity, the valuing of the beingness behind it. How do I make myself a receptive instrument for divine guidance, sick of the inadequacies of my limited solutions, defence mechanisms, self protections? How do I let go and trust that there is a magnificence at work that I am worthy of receiving? What is life most deeply asking of me at this time? And what am I carrying that impedes the flow of creation through the bones of my being?

I feel I have lived much of my life from outside of my body, often very disassociated, conditioned as we all are in our modern world by an individualistic intellectualism, deeply saturated in an underbelly of grief for what has been lost. In the vacuum of my own uncertainty a deep keening arises, for true intimacy and authenticity. 

As I have journeyed deeper into this life I have discovered that all the magic comes when I enter deeply into the body, into the dance, into the heart and the womb and to the web of life, within which I am embedded. It is as simple as this really, this coming home to a deeper more embodied, more embedded self. But this has been momentous work for me, it has taken all I have. 

My creative offerings are the gifts, alongside the children I have birthed, that my body has given me when I have stopped long enough to listen. They are the microcosmic gifts that may or may not reflect something at work in the greater macrocosm, but which I offer up all the same, as the only true thing I have learnt about what matters in this life."