This morning I was confronted by a sweet fragrance, an elusivefamiliar waft. Was that the honeysuckle? I know I've smelled it in previous Springs, but it took a few moments to identify--to remember--to recognize that those modest and faithful boxwoods, encircling the patio, are in flower and emoting their delicate perfume. I smiled in gratitude for this moment of sensory splendor--this breakthrough in memory. How many Springs have to pass before I am on a first name basis with this occasional odor?
I've been thinking a lot about patterns of behavior and how the repetition of work can lead to moments of breakthrough or growth just as these stoic boxwood are having their flowery moment. These past months I've been developing a practice of writing and sketchbooking. (sketchbooking: the practice of filling a sketchbook with images, ideas, practices, thoughts, new methods, skribbles, lists, found objects, collage, bad ideas, dreams, paint, etc.) The sketchbook is a warm, generative place for taking risks, experimenting, and practicing. It is my friend, my log, my history, and my plans and goals. It is page after page of possibility. I try to contribute to it daily and through this repetitive process make discoveries, dig deeper, and hopefully have a moment, a page, a scribble that smells really fragrant.
Similarly, my writing is a daily practice. There are three parts to this effort. The first is Field Notes. Everyday I track forrestrial observations, how many eggs I collected, the weather, what I cooked for breakfast. (You get the idea.) This pseudo-scientific practice of mine helps me to attune to whatever stood out to me that day and also helps me to keep track of my accomplishments and progression in my projects. The second part is my daily artists pages. For three pages I write whatever garbage thoughts are hanging around in my jumbled mind. I commit them to the page in hopes that I thereby de-clutter the brain for more creative productivity. What I have found is that this process has not only been a method for confronting my anxieties and depression, but a place to delve into the shadowy parts that aren't easily accessed. I have to make friends with these shadow-parts, and sometimes, I get stuck hanging out with them longer than I like, but the daily writing keeps me going, keeps me working through the muck. The third kind of writing is creative writing. This I do less frequently than I'd like, but I have real, good intentions (see my goals in my sketchbook) of more faithfully writing for art and for others to see.
I think my artistic practices are not unlike Pat's gardening. Unfortunately because of how time and growing seasons work, his cycles are longer and may take weeks, months, or years before a break through, a blossom, or a fruit is born. This weekend, he received two Chestnut trees from his parents for his birthday. They will work hard for many years before generating their first breakthrough, their nuts. How many cycles of dormancy and growth, of cold and warmth, will they practice before generating this new thing that they are genetically programmed to make? It's really fascinating to imagine that nut of creativity is present in these two stick-like plants and will someday, years from now be realized.
And over these years Pat will learn where plants will thrive and be happiest, how to coax the greatest yield, how to surrender to the grateful moments of growth and productivity, or how to accept the natural phenomena beyond control that may squelch your well-made plans. In either case plodding ahead, and practicing will lead to growth and new discoveries.
Happy first--official calendar day of SPRING!!!!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.