As dusk gives way to night on this my second day of a silent retreat, I am feeling blessed. I have a renewed understanding of my role as a co-creator with The Creator. I am staying in The Hermitage at the Franciscan Monastery and the quiet of this place (if you discount the constant police sirens in the surrounding neighborhoods) has been the balm that my mind needs. That and finally having the opportunity to read Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water 10 years after I bought the book.
The “interesting” thing is that my daughter, Em, “found” the book on our living room bookshelf and had been carrying it around with her all of last week. She even insisted on sleeping with it a couple of times. Of course, I decided that now I wanted to read the book and placed it on my nightstand, only to have to search for it again in the pile of favorite comfort objects in her crib: toy camera, wooden block inscribed with her birth details, seashells, a ball, etc. So, I was able to hide the book amongst the things to take on this retreat, because I took it as a sign that the time to read it is now. And, that last bit is an understatement.
There are too many takeaways from this book for me to enumerate here because I am still trying to digest them. But the most obvious insight is that I had Em at just the right time, because in order to be an artist, I also need to recapture the wonder of a child, that part of me that believed in time and space travel, that I would be an ice skater, that I was a warrior princess (Cinderella, Snow White – get thee behind me!), that trees have wisdom, that all things are connected and communicate, that anything, ANYTHING can be.
Em is my teacher now, and I have to admit that I haven’t been her best pupil at times what with laundry and grocery shopping and dishes and…and…. I am also horrified at my potential to be the destroyer of her sense of wonder and possibility. Heaven forbid that I be that person. To quote my husband from his blog, “In so many ways I just need to slow down!” I realize that all these years of working away from my art has had a corrosive effect. I have become rusty like the Tin Man, not fluid, lithe and sleek like a young child racing through a meadow, cheeks pink from the exertion of running and the joy of being alive and in the moment of play that seems to transcend time. That child is still in me, I see her when I dance with Em with no form or ballroom patterns. I see her when Em stops me on a walk to examine a violet or dandelion flower with no sense of time or urgency to be anywhere but looking at the flower peeking up from the crack in a sidewalk. I see her when Em takes my hand and says, “Play” and we build magnificent, impossible towers with Lego’s or blocks.
Em is also my greatest ally in the creativity process and I plan to be hers when the world closes in and tries to strip her of her wonder through criticism, innuendo, scorn. I understand now that I am going through an unlearning process – a letting go of ego, the need for self-control, to self-protect, to mitigate risk: all the things I have learned along the way that made me a great corporate citizen but that have exhausted me.