Last week I posed a
question: The stone girl in the fountain holds up the vase spilling bright
streams of water—like the streams of creative power. Yet she’s bowed by the
weight How do we keep the force of the creative flow from shattering the
I received some thought-provoking answers on
From Shaula Zink: “ .
. . the flow is the very thing that keeps the vessel from shattering. If the
vessel had to contain it all, the tension would build up more pressure—that has
to give somewhere.”
My reply: “Sometimes
I feel the force of all that bright streaming will wear away the rock.”
Shaula replied: “Ah,
but the wear is the essence of life. It’s our tears, our trials and triumph. It
shapes us into who we are. The wear is unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to make
us “less than.”
From David Pecchia:
“A stone wears away permanently while a person becomes worn-out from exertion
of any kind, but only temporarily. Fatigue passes and leaves us incrementally
What true and marvelous
insights! They made me wonder why I really do believe—why I know--that I could break
“permanently” from the force of the creative stream. Why am I so different? Probably because I
have a mild form of manic-depressive illness (bipolar illness)--called Bipolar
TOUCHED WITH FIRE is Kay Redfield Jamison’s book about the fascinating relationship between
artistic temperament and manic-depressive illness.
“Characteristics . .
.also link the manic side of manic-depressive illness with artistic temperament
and imagination. Many of these are
related to the fiery side of the manic temperament, and, when coupled with an
otherwise imaginative, observant, and (ultimately) disciplined mind, they can
result in literary, musical, and artistic works of singular power. The sheer
force of life, the voltage, can be staggering in mania, and it often singes
if not scorches the ideas that come in its wake . . .” and the people too, I
Although I’ve never
been manic, I’ve often been hypomanic (a lower level of mania). The “voltage”
of hypomania is more than staggering enough
for me. Jamison comments that the
hypomanic state correlates with maximum artistic production. (Those in full
blown mania often don’t think coherently enough to produce anything.)
manic-depressive illness on any level can die, and often do die--from suicide. So, for me, bearing the weight of the creative stream running
through the urn is a real issue: the stone could crack, the stone girl fall.
This makes the question of
how to stay well while letting the creative stream flow critical for me.
I’ll explore that in
next Tuesday’s 7:30 Bells post.
LORE OF THE BELL: Understand the nature of the bell--to keep it from breaking.
I saw this fountain on a walk during a break from an amazing day. I'd worked on three different creative projects. When I saw
the stone woman, I understood why, though I felt exhilarated, I also felt exhausted.
The stone woman holds a vase spilling bright streams of
water. She holds it on her shoulder. Her creativity is a great gift flowing out
of her to bring beauty to the world. She loves it, is blessed by it, and yet is
also bowed by its weight.
I named her Eustress. Wikipedia defines eustress as “positive
cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of
fulfillment or other positive feelings."
Yes. But it is still stress.
As wonderful as it is to feel your creative power
flowing, as exhilarating as it is to be a ringing bell, both take their toll.
Next week I’ll write about supporting the bell tower. For unless the stone woman
is strong enough to hold the bright water surging through her, she will fall.
Unless the bell tower is strong enough to hold the bell, it will fall.
LORE OF THE BELL:
Learn to support the bell so it
can keep on ringing.
On Saturday, I walked
through Point Defiance Park on a glorious, almost spring day. I was searching for
twisted and knotted sticks for a project. Although I saw trees and hikers and even an
eagle, my attention was on the search.
And then on the
I’d pick up a stick, turn
it this way and that, searching for what it might show me. One piece, a madrona
branch, had gorgeous gnarled knots. Marveling
at its beauty, wonder struck me: the gnarled knots looked like roses—black roses.
That’s when the bells began to ring—from possibility, from seeing in a new way,
from the firing of imagination.
What I look for as I
walk through the world, changes what I will see. This is true whether I’m
looking for a stick, or for kindness, or for beauty. Some call it synchronicity. I call it tuning my
LORE OF THE BELL: Tune your eye and you will change how you see the
“Tonight I learned how to dance a poem.” I wrote that last
fall in my Word Mess (journal).
At night, when the world sleeps, I push back the furniture
and dance, improvising to music. What a relief after sitting cramped at the
computer. Movement, a beating heart, a reaching arm—my body finds its reverie in
music. Those moments when the body stops between steps are like the white spaces
between stanzas in a poem, like the
silence between movements in a symphony.
What joy this free dancing brings me. How the bells ring. Dancing hasn’t always been this way for me.
When I was little, I loved to put on music at home and dance with joy. I took ballet once a week for fun. Then twice a week. This is a photo of me at the school show in the 5th grade, dancing Jo in Little Women. I chose the moment in the story when Jo sold her hair. First, I danced an undecided Jo outside the barber shop, then a shorn Jo (wig) emerging from the barber shop.
I had no idea then that my joy in dancing was about to vanish.
In 7th grade, someone at the ballet school (Cornish) decided I had
talent and promoted me to the advanced “daily” class, with mostly high school
girls. It was daily grinding work, daily rigor, daily criticism, daily fears of
not being good enough. Ballet is about being in the right place (the body) at
the right time (the moment in the music)
Never once did a teacher just
encourage us to go out on the floor and dance freely, improvising to the music.
So how did I reclaim the dance?
A few years ago, a doctor told me to exercise my upper body to
alleviate pain from computer work.
I tried Tai Chi. But, like
ballet, the body has to exactly follow a prescribed sequence of steps. My life
has enough rules. Then I tried dancing, nothing formal, just moving to music.
And loved it. My eleven-year-old dancing self returned.
Here is another line from my Word Mess: “Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Movement does.”
Now, dancing at night, my heart and body respond to the
music. No censure. No judgment. No one else’s steps to learn and follow. The
only requirement: attention and response. My mind is completely
engaged in listening to the music and feeling the emotions evoked, my body completely engaged in responding. Meditation in movement. And with that all consuming attention comes rapture.
Rapture is exactly what happens in intense moments of living
when the bells ring.