Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Composting with Ursula Leguin


"I do what the poet Gary Snyder calls "composting" — You let everything you do/learn/think/read/feel sink down inside yourself and stay in the dark, and then (years later maybe) something entirely new grows up out of that rich darkness. This takes patience."
Ursula K. Leguin

As an artist, I've been feeling dull as a brick lately, in contrast to the influx of inspiration that came to me from my trip to England this summer.  Well, being knee deep in renovation and repair of my home, and family responsibilities, can do that. Should I get depressed about the contrast, the seeming loss at present of those elevated insights and just plain sights?  It's harvest time now, almost Mabon, and I'll gather apples in grateful celebration among the (construction) debris.  Composting.......composting the house at the moment.  What I experienced this past summer will surface, in time, it's voice isn't lost.

I love the biological magic, and poetic metaphor of Composting.  There's the  Great Round every time I take my left overs to the compost pile - everything gets transformed, broken down and remake, rots and gets seeded again, including me.  When I was younger the so-called dry periods were almost unbearable.....I had to be in full creative intensity all the time, or there was something wrong, I didn't measure up.  Gratefully, I can say I'm glad that has been replaced with patience, and a tiny bit of wisdom I've gathered over the years, knowing that my creativity is part of the Round as much as anyone, or anything, else.  While my art "composts" along with the rest of me,  I reflect on a few more good words from my favorite writer, Ursula Leguin:  

"Writing is my craft. I honor it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honored by it."

"One of my favorite things the poet Shelley said is, "The great instrument of moral good is the imagination."

"And while I'm quoting quotes, Socrates remarked, "The misuse of language induces evil in the soul." That's a good one to remember when listening to a politician or reading an advertisement."Webthing brings you to navigation links

And of course I can't resist bringing in the Black Madonna when I reflect on the Great Round of the Sacred Compost Pile, because I see Her magic there in the rich, teeming, transforming soil every time.   I've shared it before, but I never get tired of the  overlay, the mythic "songlines", that trace the ancient pilgrimages to the Black Madonnas of Europe (which are still going on).  One of the most ancient, and significant, was the famous journey that concluded at the Cathedral of Santiago at Compostella,  the endpoint of "The Camino", the traditional pilgrimage still made by thousands today across Spain.


Pilgrimage routes to Compostela

It's believed that the earliest pilgrimages were made to the "Black Madonna of Compostella", a very ancient effigy. Compostella comes from the same root word as "compost". Compost is the fertile soil created from rotting organic matter, the "Black Matter". The alchemical soup to which everything living returns, and is continually resurrected by the processes of nature into new life, new form. Matrix/Creatrix. Matter. Mater. Mother.
"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened."

5 comments:

Valerianna said...

Wonderful post, Lauren. I'm right with you, I'm surely doing so many things OTHER than art right now, its challenging.... so I breathe and remember that the fallow fields aren't dead, they are just prepared and waiting to receive.

Reading a Leguin book right now... do you have a favorite?

Joel Le Blanc said...

A wonderful post and very timely for many people, I imagine. Just as the soil, the plants and the animals require that time of hibernation, sleep and healing, people need time to go to ground and "compost". I really love that term, by the way, especially as I am learning to compost for my garden for the first time right now.

It's the same with the human body... most healing and restoration of cells occurs while sleeping. The body takes minerals and nutrients to build back tissues while we rest. Athletes can't train every day, because their muscles and bones get stronger on the days that they rest, and this process is interupted when they push themselves too hard.

I think being an artist is similar to being an athlete, sometimes.

Lauren said...

Hi Valerianna and Joel (wow, it must be almost Spring where you are, Joel).....thanks. I agree - being an artist is a bit like being an athelete.

I love almost everything Leguin has written, but perhaps my favorites are THE TELLING, and FOUR WAYS TO FORGIVENESS. I've spent so many hours living her her worlds, I almost know the road maps............

T said...

Didn't Shirley MacLaine make the el camino walk?Being an artist is not akin to anything else. The muse has no boundaries, no rules, no timetable. She is what she is, when she is.

KatsMeow said...

I love your post. I do the same thing of saving stuff and letting it meld together in another view of beauty. Only instead of composting, I call it scrapping but essentially it is the same thing. Lovely reminder of what beauty there is deep inside us.

Thank you.