Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mirabai Starr on Art and the Need for Fallow Time

Fallow Time
by Mirabai Starr
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When speaking of art, we most often think of the finished product whether it be a painting, a drawing, a performance, a sculpture, a poem, or another expression of creativity. Today, I invite you to consider the evolving process of creation as described by my friend Mirabai Starr who believes, as I do, that each of has the capacity to offer something new to the world. It does not come quickly or easily, but few things of any depth or value ever do. Mirabai writes:
A miraculous event unfolds when we throw the lead of our personal story into the transformative flames of creativity. Our hardship is transmuted into something golden. With that gold we heal ourselves and redeem the world. As with any spiritual practice, this creative alchemy requires a leap of faith. When we show up to make art, we need to first get still enough to hear what wants to be expressed through us, and then we need to step out of the way and let it. We must be willing to abide in a space of not knowing before we can settle into knowing. Such a space is sacred. It is liminal, and it’s numinous. It is frightening and enlivening. It demands no less than everything, and it gives back tenfold.
There is a vital connection between creativity and mysticism. To engage with the creative impulse is to agree to take a voyage into the heart of the Mystery. Creativity bypasses the discursive mind and delivers us to the source of our being. When we allow ourselves to be a conduit for creative energy, we experience direct apprehension of that energy. We become a channel for grace. To make art is to make love with the sacred. It is a naked encounter, authentic and risky, vulnerable and erotically charged.
The muse rarely behaves the way we would like her to, and yet every artist knows she cannot be controlled. Artistic self-expression necessitates periods of quietude in which it appears that nothing is happening. Like a tree in winter whose roots are doing important work deep inside the dark earth, the creative process needs fallow time. We have to incubate inspiration. We need empty spaces for musing and preparing, experimenting and reflecting. Society does not value its artists, partly because of the apparent lack of productivity that comes with the creative life. This societal emphasis on goods and services is an artifact of the male drive to erect and protect, to engineer and execute, to produce and control. Art begins with receptivity. Every artist, in a way, is feminine, just as every artist is a mystic. And a political creature. Making art can be a subversive act, an act of resistance against the deadening lure of consumption, an act of unbridled peacemaking disguised as a poem or a song or an abstract rendering of an aspen leaf swirling in a stream. 
Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
Article from Richard Rohr and Center for Action and Contemplation,
 Nov. 12, 2019.  

Adapted from Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019) 159-160.
Image credit: Marion Greenwood (standing in front of mural painted for the WPA Federal Art Project, detail), Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, June 4, 1940. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

"Aphrodite in Brooklyn and Other Mythic Voices" - Illustrated Collection of Poems 1970 - 2010

I stopped writing poetry somewhere in my late 50's (and as I write this, I am recently entered into my 7th decade). I still keep a Blog, and I still make art..........but I don't know where the Muse of poetry went, it seems She abandoned me somewhere along the road. So this is the trail of my poetry, all I have really, from the early 1970's to the last poems.

I find these poems are touchstones along the path, lucid and sometimes numinous artifacts that, by touching them again, enable me to renew my acquaintance with those luminous moments of insight, love, loss, and above all, the sheer beauty of being alive. Beyond that, there is a pattern, a woven pentimento that glitters  beneath each seeming surface, a pattern that enfolds me from young adulthood to old age and belongs to all and none of those "identities". There is a voice here  I recognize as uniquely my own. Archiving these poems in this little collection, even better, having the pleasure of illustrating them............. has allowed me to hear that voice again.

I believe that it is important to cherish, archive, and share those moments, those touchstones, in whatever form they may be expressed, be it storytelling, poetry, visual arts, music.............. they are a Gift to the world we each can make, uniquely rising from each unique life.  I have no extended family now, no parents or siblings or children or grandchildren who would value my work or thoughts, so I make this Collection for myself, and as a Gift or Offering to any of my friends who happen to like poetry, and to any fellow Wayfarer who may chance upon it as well. If you find a resonance here with your own voice, I am pleased indeed.


Love is Saraswati's river
flowing through our lands.

She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.
She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

she neither takes nor gives:

we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her.

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.