A good stare

“Are you having a good stare?” Patrick asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “I’m sorting through the noises in my head, trying to figure out which ones to listen to.”

“Nothing better for that than a good stare,” he replied.

I had just been sitting there, staring, for several minutes.  Not that I could entirely help it, having injured my knee a couple of nights ago, I was something of a prisoner to my couch.  This most recent trial which has rendered me unable to walk for the moment is one of a growing list, accumulating over the past several weeks, the whole of which was producing a very great cacophony inside my skull.

After a bout with frustration, cussing, and tears upon first getting up this morning, after finding my knee not seemingly any better and dealing with a phone call from one of those financial companies that takes advantage of the unemployed by proposing sales positions to them, I crab-crawled to the couch, propped myself up, and proceeded to stare.  To stare and to sort.  There is something here, I told myself.  I’ve just got to find it.

Then a book caught my eye, the book that we had used as our wedding guest book, called Passage by nature artist Andy Goldsworthy.  Patrick handed me the book upon request and I resolved to look through it until I found some calm, some perspective.  Art is good for that.

And the pages began to speak.

Goldsworthy is not an artist in the traditional sense of the term–that is, he does not use brushes or paints or pencils.  He uses nature.  He goes out into a forest or a field or onto a beach and he creates sculptures out of what he finds there: leaves, rocks, sticks, dirt.  He creates something unnatural, something special, out of the natural elements and then leaves it in the surroundings as an accent.

I was first introduced to Goldsworthy by Patrick back when we were first getting acquainted.  He recommended Goldsworthy’s documentary Rivers and Tides.  I admit when I was first watching it, I was tempted to think this man was a bit loony.  He was making sculptures out of sticks and rocks. What good was that?  What eternal purpose did that serve?  But as I watched, as he creates and talks about what he’s doing, I couldn’t help but be drawn in.

His sculptures are really cool. But what’s really striking, and what pulled me in again today and left me with the perspective that I sought, was his confidence and his resourcefulness.

He would just go out and make these things.  He would take what he had and do something fascinatingly different with it.  Then he’d photograph it, first how he made it, but then he’d let nature take its course and he’d show the effects of the wind, the water, the rain, the snow, the seasons.  He learned about the physical properties of these natural mediums, what they could and couldn’t do, and he learned this through trial and error, through failure and success.  He made what he could with what he could find, and not something just thrown together, something carefully and skillfully crafted.  His works demonstrate time, energy, thought, calculation.  In some cases, sacrifice and daring, as you realize where he must’ve had to stand or to reach or in what kind of weather he was doing this construction.  It was art, but it was careful and hard work. And he made it, he invested all that in it, and then he essentially just let it go. Such whimsy, such freedom.

He lives in a world of business transactions and financial markets and corporate ladders and stock portfolios, where he’s made a life for himself in fields and forests adding his quiet, subtle accents.  This world, if he listened to its voices, would no doubt question his choices, his purpose, his sanity even.  And yet, he creates.  He does not explain or justify or defend; he creates, he adds, he experiments, and he delights in the whole process.  And he persists, and doors have opened, and he has created all over the world.

I have felt stuck lately.  Physically and financially.  I have looked around me and said to myself, “I can’t do anything with what I have around me.  I don’t have anything to do anything with.  I don’t have the money to pursue artistic dreams, to create.  And if I did, the artistic markets are oversaturated with product anyway and there is no room for me.  It would be a waste.”

But what if, rather than looking around at what I don’t have, I looked around at what I do have and built things out of that?  What if I refused to feel limited by my available resources, but chose to let them inspire me into doing even better work?  What if I wasn’t afraid to invest my time, my energy, my soul into something that might blow or wash away?  What if I was content with a gentle ripple rather than a big splash, or a little change rather than a huge revolution?

What if I wrote a blog post for the first time in 9 months? 🙂

There’s, at least, a beginning…

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