Give it Light

What is calling you?

What are you waiting for?

How many years will pass you by?

…Fifteen years ago, I was working in musical theatre, auditioning, performing, singing, dancing, and teaching.

And then I stopped.

I buckled down to pay the bills with an office job; I went back to school.

The years flew by, and one day I realized that my musical life was stored in a large heavy box, lodged behind stacks of other heavy boxes in the darkest corner of our basement.

And those Minimalists would tell me that, if I hadn’t opened the box in the last fifteen years, it was time to chuck that box into a dumpster.

Then, a few weeks ago, just beneath the duct tape stretched across the cardboard flaps labeled “my musical heart,” the box cracked open, beaming one small pinpoint of light.

A choir festival…

The invitation reminded me of my choir festivals from high school. There would be three days of intense rehearsal and then a concert on the fourth day.

A summer choir festival! It sounded like the perfect opportunity to see how I liked singing with a choir again—a short commitment, and, here was the key: no audition required.

I signed up.

And then I agonized over my decision.

My brain protested and thought of every reason why it was a bad idea: It was a full-weekend commitment, I wasn’t sure I remembered how to read music or harmonize, I wasn’t sure I even liked choir music, and, oh yeah—it had been fifteen long years since I had sung in public.

I had to talk myself through dread and anxiety right through the drive to the first rehearsal, walking into the building, and putting on my name tag.

I was barely coordinated enough to pry open the metal tab on my mustard-yellow packet of music—but whether or not I was ready, here I was.

The conductor got right down to business. We warmed up and quickly transitioned to learning our first piece of music.

…When I am nervous, my voice gets stuck in my throat and comes out as a muted squeak. I had to breathe deep and stay focused on the conductor and blending in with the people around me.

Luckily, my fellow altos were friendly and kind. Most of them had sung with the group before.

After the first rehearsal, I still wasn’t convinced that singing with a choir was the solution to my vocal nerves and distress. It was only my determination to meet my commitments that made me return for the second rehearsal.

And then…on the third day, my heart opened. I knew I had made the right decision.

It was the sound of rehearsal (my favorite sound!)—the sound of people singing, blending, and supporting each other—

It was the sound of the language of music—like traveling back to my homeland and reconnecting with family…familiar and heartwarming—

Pianissimo

Decrescendo

Eighth notes, quarter notes, and a sixteenth—

Breath

Phrasing

Rest

It took me three days to acknowledge that music is not only good for my soul, it is critical for my soul’s survival.

…The fourth day wasn’t any easier, though. It was Concert Day, and my hands were so sweaty, I spent most of my energy trying not to drop my binder…but I sang. I had learned the music better than I had expected. I harmonized, and I blended. For the first time in years, I felt part of something beautiful and transcendent.

***

…If there is something in your life that you want to try for the first time or try again, I encourage you to take the small step.

Push past the fear and dread—

Listen to the voice in your heart and give it light.

It is never too late.

Everyday Beauty

Whenever I take pictures, I’m most likely to take 100+ pictures of a shoreline at home or sunlight through the trees…

Like this small harbor shot…

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…or this shot from our bike ride on the 4th of July…

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But I also love the unexpected color and light that happens–

When an everyday intersection strikes you as beautiful, and then you look up even higher to discover two rainbows…

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A Little Bit of Everything

It is Sunday Fun Day, and I’ve been listening and watching this world, looking for wisdom all around me. Here are a few creative beauties that have kept me going lately:

My garden continues to be a source of inspiration. This has been our best year for hydrangeas so far.

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A few months ago, I asked for podcast recommendations, and my friend J— recommended Creative Living with Jamie. Jamie Ridler has created an online studio where she shares blog posts, art classes, and Behind the Scenes with Jamie (my absolute favorite!). There’s so much great artistic inspiration on this site. I hope you will check it out.

I’m also into Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. My favorite interviews so far have been with Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman (so funny!), Carly Simon (fascinating!), and Sarah Jessica Parker (intriguing!).

Anne Lamott did a Ted Talk! Just Awesome.

…and the Tony Awards are on tonight! What more is there to say? Can’t wait.

 

Replenish

April was a busy time for me if you couldn’t tell. I wrote only one post—spending most of my days on lists of things that must be done.

It has all been positive vibes though, and sometimes, when you put your eyes to the sky and ask for help, the universe sends you exactly what you need: connection with friends, quality time with family, a walk somewhere familiar…and a walk somewhere new.

Instead of creating over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeding my soul and nourishing my heart.

—And I realized that this is all part of the process. We cannot create all the time. Sometimes we are only observing and learning…replenishing.

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Sweet Spring

I write this morning from my couch. I’ve sipped my first mug of coffee, and I need/want! another cup, but there is a sweet beast snuggled at my side. He is curled into a little teddy bear ball. His back leans heavily on my leg.

I cannot don’t want to move.

It is a lazy morning wrapped in quilts and softness. I want to savor the quiet and peace of the day.

The beast snores in agreement. His nose nuzzles into the couch pillow.

Our Japanese maple dances shadow puppets across the window blinds as the sun beams break through. A bird trills her morning song, calling down the chimney and interrupting our coziness.

Spring is calling us to start the day—

to start a new season—

the season of sunshine, play, and new blooms—

the season of change and possibilities.

 

The Danger of a Good Book

You know it the moment you read the first page— or even the first sentence. You have started reading a good book, and you must be very careful.

You have a life to live. You have responsibilities.

Sure, it’s the weekend, but your List of Things to Do really must get done.

Okay…you may read for an hour.

A good book is always over too soon. So you force yourself to read slowly. You bookmark your favorite pages. You highlight each beautiful phrase that rings true. You shake your head in wonder as you turn to the next page.

The author spent time researching, writing, and crafting each word. You want to savor each word. You should not rush to the end— even if you want to know what happens next.

When the end arrives, you sit in silence…breathing slowly…trying to steady your heart.

Sleep, Creep, Leap!

When my husband and I moved into our house many years ago, the backyard didn’t have any landscaping. It took us some time to budget for a garden, and we decided to start with planting a flower garden on one side of the house.

Of course, on the day we designated for the project, I thought we’d dig the plot in the morning, plant in the afternoon, and then we’d sit back and watch our garden flourish in the sunny days that followed.

(There seems to be a theme on this blog, and perhaps my life, of grand plans followed by reality checks!)

Unfortunately, the Georgia earth did not share our vision. We spent the entire first day chiseling through rock and compacted clay, sweating and swearing, with our shovels clanging in protest.

We regrouped the next day and mixed planting soil into our small border plot. We planted some colorful flowers and a two-foot camellia.

My dad loves to garden, and during one of my visits home that spring, he gave me clippings from his perennials. He wrapped them in wet paper towels and plastic wrap. My mom gave me seeds from her morning glories, and we packed the seeds and clippings in a shoe box, snug in my suitcase, for my flight back to Atlanta.

(I’m happy to report I made it through airport security without being strip-searched or arrested for plant smuggling, but you might not want to try this yourself.)

We planted the clippings and seeds, and we watered our garden and tended it over the hot Georgia summer. Over the next few years, the garden evolved, and some of the original plants blossomed as we’d hoped. The sedum, euonymus, and morning glories from my parents’ garden adapted quickly.

The camellia grew steadily and surprised us with beautiful pink blooms every January and February—before spring even started!

After success with the first flower bed, we decided to plant a similar border on the other side of the house. While the first garden was very freeform, the second border was planned to be more structured with a line of shrubs.

We bought three azaleas, which are native to Georgia, so we thought they would thrive. However, the second garden was prone to flooding—and maybe we didn’t dig the holes deep enough, or maybe the soil was too acidic (or not acidic enough?). Either way, during the first spring to summer, we watched the azaleas fry and die.

We tried another set of azaleas the following year, and again we had the same result. The third year, we tried a new shrub type. I didn’t learn its name. I didn’t want to feel too attached.

We tended the shrubs…We watered them, but we didn’t over-water them.

We watched and waited.

They didn’t grow much, but they didn’t die…it looked like they were going to survive.

My friend commented that they were working beneath the surface.

“Have you heard the expression?” she asked, “The first year they sleep, the next year they creep, and then the next year they leap.”

Her gardening advice was on the mark, and our second garden grew from an orange mud puddle to a thriving and soothing green space. Like the first garden, we added clippings from our family’s and friends’ gardens, and we eventually learned what worked for that environment.

Nature has given us Sleep, Creep, Leap—and, if you’ll take a bit of a leap with me here (ha ha!), I believe we have the same stages in creativity too.

Sleep

Sleep is the vision stage of creativity, and it comes from sleeping, dreaming, or daydreaming. It is the time when a color, idea, or story appears in your thoughts, and you begin to think, “I wonder what would happen if…”

This is the stage of researching and gathering ideas and seeds from your community. It is the stage of drawing preliminary sketches in your journal.

You buy some supplies. They gather in the corner while you stare at them, and they stare back at you saying, “There’s never a perfect time to start.”

Creep

During the Creep stage, you’ve planted your idea, and you’re ready to give it some care. You spend dedicated time nurturing your vision.

It is the stage of writing and editing, painting and layering, molding and baking. Your vision moves slower than you expect, but it is still growing.

It is also during this stage that your idea may shoot in a different direction, or maybe your original idea reaches a stopping point. The shrubs get flooded or the leaves are fried in the sun. You might need to start over in a new direction with new information.

It might not feel like it, but your vision is growing beneath the surface, giving your art foundation and strength—gathering nutrients to feed the buds above ground. You are in the flow, your vision has a quiet momentum…

Leap

In the Leap stage, your project has been nourished. The roots that grew during the Creep stage give it strength. It has survived the seasons, cold, heat, flooding—and coming into the spring, it is stronger than ever. All the work you did during the Sleep and Creep stages has allowed your vision to leap ahead. Your art is blooming wild.

Time to Reflect

As we transition from the sleepy winter into the potential of spring, I invite you to reflect on the color and light that inspires you.

Do you have an idea that is ready to grow?

What seeds are waiting to take root in your art?

What can you do to nourish your creativity?

Here’s wishing you patience and peace with the Sleep and Creep stages. May your creativity continue to leap and bloom.