Friday, March 29, 2013

NOT NOWHERE: Poetry Friday


One leaf blows
from the withering tree
and happy to be
even though it doesn’t know where—
    not nowhere.

Dia Calhoun

Monday, March 25, 2013

7:30 BELLS: The Fire of Creativity

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 vessel?

 I received some thought-provoking answers on Facebook:

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 stronger.”

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 II. 

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 might add.

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.)

People with 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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

7:30 BELLS: Bearing the Weight of your Creative Stream

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.

Learn to support the bell so it can keep on ringing.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

7:30 Bells: Tuning Your Eye: A Wood Knot Becomes a Rose

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 finding.

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 eye.

LORE OF THE BELL: Tune your eye and you will change how you see the world.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Poetry Friday: Lightning Dance

Lightning Dance

For too long
I have forgotten
the dance.
The beat of blood
feet lifting from grass
arms lifting to sky.

with the sentinel pines
the swooping bats
the night sky thunder
I dance—
   that I
   can conjure

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


“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. Never once.

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.

Reclaim your rapture, and the bells will ring.