Last week, after totally geeking out on a late-morning discussion with a new partner -- about the changing demands of higher education, myth-busting and -building for MBA grads, and the inherently objectifying nature of English as compared to Native American and East Asian languages -- as we are getting up from the table, my colleague politely inquires as to what I've got going on for the rest of the day.
"Oh," I smile vaguely. "I've only got one meeting after this."
What I fail to mention is that my next meeting is with a grove of Redwood trees, located in nearby Tilden Regional Park. Once I return to the car, I will exchange my sensible geometric flats for trail runners and a healthy slathering of lavender-scented SPF 50.
Truthfully, I see this type of "appointment" as essential to my work. Perhaps you share my conviction, which is that in order to do meaningful creative work --
A human being MUST be vigilant about tending her own inner fire; keeping it strong and vital enough to coax new forms into being, and keep them alive.
For me, these energizing appointments look a lot like sitting in the mottled shade by the creek, or abandoning the computer in the middle of the day to read and write longhand in the blue chair by the window --
Because these are the things that calm my mind, feed my hungers, stoke the flames, and instill that divine feeling of being fully engaged in Life.
Which we need to feel -- even just once in a while -- if we are to keep going with it all.
And yet -- living, as we do, in a culture that fetishizes the story of "working hard" and "crushing it" and "sooooo-busy"-ness -- there nevertheless persists an inherited voice in my head, which whispers whenever I prioritize solitude or other inner-fire-stoking activities, and which seems to favor unsavory words like un-productive and self-indulgent and time-wasting.
Perhaps you are familiar with this voice.
It's the one that makes you feel ever-so-lightly-guilty for doing the things that give you energy -- even as you go ahead and do them anyway!
Which seems rather counter-productive, doesn't it?
And which is why -- when my sister-in-law gave me a book of poetry by Mary Oliver and I read A Summer's Day for the first time -- I breathed an enormous sigh of relief.
Reading it, I knew that here was an artist who had found a way to be completely shame-free about what she needs to do in order to get her work done...
... So much so that theworkitself invites everyone who reads it, to give themselves that same permission.
I read that poem (after years of believing I was "just not that into poetry") and immediately felt the huge gratitude that comes with finding someone who gets it -- just a little bit more than you do.
Then, this weekend, in her most recent collection of essays, I found this gem:
"Deep in the woods, I tried walking on all fours. I did it for an hour or so, through thickets, across a field, down to a cranberry bog. I don't think anyone saw me! At the end, I was exhausted and sore, but I had seen the world at the level of the grasses, the first bursting growth of trees, declivities, lumps, slopes, rivulets, gashes, open spaces. I was some old fox, wandering, breathing, hitching along, lying down finally at the edge of the bog, under the swirling rickrack of the trees.
"You must not ever stop being whimsical.
"And you must not, ever, give anyone else responsibility for your life."
This week, I invite you to forget that inherited voice and get in touch with your own inner fire -- that deep life force that has the power, when properly fueled, to create and sustain from nothingness.
The part that makes its own wild choices, without waiting for permission or approval.
The part that's asking you -- now -- to do what you must; to forge a Great Work.
Tell me -- what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?