Tag Archives: creativity

Art and happiness flow from love and work.

Jeannette on her blog introduced me to #dangerdust, some stealthy design students who have taken chalkboard art to a new level. I browsed samples of their works, many of which are illustrated quotes, and this one immediately joined with the theme of design to start a new phrase, “designing my life,” floating around in my head.

dangerdust JessicaHische_DSC_9440_

Who is Jessica Hische? I wondered, at the same time knowing that I couldn’t in good conscience take her on as a life coach, a woman who would try to comfort me with quotes as I avoid housework. I’ve found that true comfort can only come from getting at least some of the put-off tasks accomplished.

She is a graphic designer, and perhaps she was just talking about herself when she made the statement quoted above. I hope so, because she’s a little young to be giving advice to the rest of us. But her website is so lovely and clean (those must be really passé descriptors in the design world!) that it makes me want to hang around… procrastinating?

I know that creative work is a tricky thing. Whether it’s a cooking project, sewing or writing, sometimes I dink around and putter about nervously, and even do some other kind of work until suddenly I feel that all my brain-ducks are lined up and I can get going. So which is the work that I should be doing — this is funny, old as I am — for the rest of my life?

Yos 05 G cook 2
camp cooking

At her age Ms. Hische can’t have known the variety and richness of a life like mine, full of so many kinds of work for art’s sake and also out of love for so many dear people. What they say about the breadth of education one can get, the amazing things one can learn and create and enjoy, when one is a woman at home — I’ve found it to be true.

I do know also about the great fatigue and all the interruptions and unfinished projects that are the bane of a mother, but as I look back I also see the clothing and costumes I conceived and made, the gardens I designed and brought to fruition, the realms of knowledge and culture I explored on my own and with my children: history, the arts, theology and literature, for a start.

There was ample opportunity to learn to cook, and I got my children started as well in that skill that can be a loving and reverent creative act. The simple labors of housecleaning go a long way toward making a home homey. I haven’t had to choose which one kind of work to do, thank God. And I thank my husband, who did engage in mostly one occupation, making it possible for me to have this good life.

haircut clip
42 years of barbering so far

I never thought about my life as something to design, so that little phrase that came to my mind doesn’t connect to anything real. Most of the kinds of work I’ve learned to do as artistically as possible can be seen as flowing from love for other people (housework and cooking) or love of the created world (gardening, reading and writing). I wish everyone could have so many happy and useful tasks to do, a long series of gifts that have almost fallen in my lap.

At this moment someone might accuse me of procrastinating, because it’s true, there are several (hundred) things needing done around here. But haven’t we all heard that A Woman’s Work is Never Done? No need to ever be bored! I think I’ll just rest in that reality and work at being thankful for it.

Kinds of Poetry – Tolkien vs. Jackson

Jackson apparently thinks the characters Tolkien gives us are too simply good to be fully believable to modern audiences, and so he feels obligated to “complicate” them, to give them internal conflicts other than the ones they actually have, in the hopes that we will better be able to relate to them.

I’m quoting from this article in the Nov/Dec 2013 Touchstone Magazine, in which Donald T. Williams explains how literature, while delighting us with its art, is more powerful than history or philosophy to nurture our moral vision, or to corrupt us with false images.

With the help of quotes from Sir Philip Sidney, who wrote Apology for Poetry in the sixteenth century, he shows how “Tolkien was very consciously and deliberately following the literary tradition that flows down to us from Sidney through Dr. Johnson and C. S. Lewis.”

Peter Jackson the filmmaker seems to be flowing in a different stream. But he is an artist, and of course will impart his own soul to his work. I wouldn’t expect him to give us The Rings, because that has already been done, and he is not J.R.R. Tolkien. But it is unfortunate that he has changed things to the degree and in the directions he has. Williams points out specific ways in which the characters who inspired us in the books disappoint us in the movies, and makes these general remarks:

By this process of negative moral transformation, in other words, we reach the place where beloved characters are unrecognizable to Tolkien’s fans, and those fans feel betrayed. And they are right to feel so, though mostly they do not understand why. It is because the difference between the books and the movies is not just one of necessary adaptation to a different medium. It is that the author consciously followed the Sidneyan tradition while the adaptor is either ignorant of it or doesn’t understand it or has rejected it.

Read the whole article here.

Everyone lies naked on a bed of nettles.

I ran across this article, part of a series on education by Anthony Esolen. In the course of describing how the modern world wars against our children’s souls in ways our ancestors didn’t experience, he touches on the topics of play, and why we don’t want to be stimulated, and silence.

I think of the Lord speaking to us, in His silence that communicates so much: “Be still, and know that I am God.” And that is how I know that these issues are crucial. Some excerpts:

It is noise, rather, that is the absence, both of the significant word and of the fullness of being that silence allows us to hear.

…how petty and dreary a thing it is to be stimulated. The stimulus is the prick or spur you dig into the side of an animal. Imagine the horse, slow moving creature when he is content, with his large sad eyes. If we are to make use of him, we must apply the spur.

It is essentially a pornographic world, where everyone lies naked on a bed of nettles, and every new thing is dead before it is born.

Silence is so great a blessing to us because we cannot use it. All things truly creative, which partake of the spirit of play, send their roots deep down into silence.

Read the whole article, Life Under Compulsion: Noise.

I did it for love of manzanita.

I am reposting this story from two years ago for the Hidden Art of Homemaking discussion at Ordo Amoris. It’s about one of my projects that illustrates some of the difficulties and satisfaction of interior decorating.
 
A botanical theme has emerged.

Decorating is a homemaking job that I wish I could get over and done with and on to other things. This post is about how the realization of that wish is a long time coming. On one level the story bores me to death, even though it’s my own house I’m writing about, the house I’ve been investing in for 20 years. That should warn most of my readers to leave right now and go read something more entertaining.

What’s makes me want to tell this too-long tale anyway is the way it illustrates how an incredible amount of mental and physical labor can go into what seems a simple project. I suppose I’m not used to this precisely because I’m not into home decorating and haven’t applied my perfectionistic creative energies to it so much before. In a way it’s a larger-scale version of my doll clothes effort: what I envision doesn’t come in a kit.

If I could make a kit out of it no one would buy it. It’s just the best that we could do given our priorities, and with a tract house that doesn’t have enough walls to be cozy or enough windows to brighten the view. The story I tell is also amusing if one considers the output of my mental energies compared to the mediocrity of the results.

G.K. Chesterton said,

It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can. 

I’m not sure what all G.K. meant by that, but he does seem to give me liberty, and even to tell me it is my duty, to spend time on my house and property with the purely physical and aesthetic aspects in mind.

One year ago

So, I push on. Last year we changed the arrangement of the living room furniture so that the pictures on the wall didn’t work anymore. It seemed that the painting that used to be above a couch was too “heavy” after we moved the piano under it. It was then the largest wall item above the largest piece of furniture. Also, the TV had come out of the closet and found a new and permanent place in a corner, and the emptiness above it bothered me for months while I tried to figure out what to put there.

The first thing that came to mind was a manzanita branch such as I remembered my grandmother having in her living room for a while, a natural curio of sorts. Hers had sat on the coffee table, I think, but mine would hang above the TV to fill some of that airspace and balance out the piano nearby. (We’d need to get a smaller something to put above the piano, too.)

I started looking online for manzanita, but I found only small and twiggy, pale specimens, for use in flower arrangements. So I gave up for a while and spent hours looking for a decorative mobile. Nothing pleased. By that time we were in the middle of the remodel, so it wasn’t urgent.

Then in April we went north to Pippin’s place, where the previous winter’s record-breaking amounts of snow had piled up everywhere. As we walked through her forest we saw several manzanita bushes with large branches broken off. My mind started twirling around the idea that I could prepare my own decorative branch. The others helped me choose a couple that might work and we hauled them home.

Nine months ago

I still didn’t know if I could accomplish what I envisioned; I’ve never been one to do woodworking of any sort. I knew enough to trim off the flowers and small twigs. Then it occurred to me that wood needs to dry out before one can work it. I read that manzanita tends to split, so people have trouble making furniture out of it. Maybe my branches would split too much as they dried?

I left them sitting around in the garage for a couple of months and they only split a little bit. On the Internet I read somewhere to paint them with Danish oil to preserve the wood, so I did that. And one of my children said I should stain the trimmed ends of the branch so the whiteness of the wood wouldn’t distract from the lovely smooth and dark bark.

I think this is the one I didn’t use.

It was B.’s upcoming birthday party that put the fire under me to get the chosen branch up in the corner. We bravely screwed two hooks into the smooth new ceiling, and I painted them white so they would fade into the background. Then three strands of fishing line were tied to those, and to the branch.

Soldier was here and helped me position it just so; he’s tall and strong and could stand there calmly holding it in midair while I fumbled with the almost invisible threads. Then voilà! At last, that one part of my decor was in place (now we only had to ignore the empty space above the piano) and all our party guests could admire it. I began brainstorming on a solution to that remaining space nearby.

Three weeks later I dusted the manzanita with a feather duster and the next morning it crashed onto the TV and to the floor. Nothing was harmed. Guess we needed stronger filament. It took me about two months to get to the store to buy it. Then it took another month before B. and I could make ourselves re-hang the branch. See what kind of do-it-yourself-ers we aren’t?

I was sure I knew how to orient the branch, the way Pippin had told me to, but after B. and I got it centered and hung and he’d gone bike-riding, I realized by looking at previous photos that I had it exactly backwards, and it truly didn’t look the best. I tried just flipping it over, and that sort of worked; I only had to re-tie one filament, and we were o.k….except that now the branch was a little closer to the ceiling than ideal, and the top of it was vaguely lined up with the curtain rod, which didn’t look right. I suffered with that all through Christmas, trying not to care. Of course most people said it was fine because no one wanted to go through the difficulty of doing it over.

I had to buy a piano lamp before I could decide what would go behind it; our old one was shot. Piano lamps are expensive! The cheapest one I could settle on was out of stock for a few weeks, so we waited on that. I had looked at so many paintings or other wall decorations, many hours of browsing over several months, and found nothing I wanted enough to spend money on.

So I thought I would saw and paint some wooden birds to hang up there…they needed to be warm and colorful, because the corner with a black TV and a stark naked branch turned out surprisingly modern and chilly. (Maybe what I need is a branch about five times that big, just sitting on the floor behind the TV and reaching toward the ceiling…and permanently trimmed with Christmas ornaments…? )

But then we must return to how I’m not a woodworker, or a painter for that matter. I think it was on New Year’s Day that I felt desperate to make some progress; I decided to spend money and get something. B. and I knew we needed color there, and we knew the parameters of what the measurements needed to be. I bookmarked some paintings, and when B. came home from watching a football game we chose one and ordered it. Whoopee!

The painting arrived and sat on the floor near its destination for over a week. I knew we needed to be in the right mood to even talk about putting it up. In the meantime, one day I got a burst of courage and all by myself re-did the lines supporting my manzanita. I think it might be as much as an inch lower. A most satisfying inch.

Last week we hung the picture. Those are giant poppies providing the splash of color. I hope Mr. Chesterton is happy and won’t mind if I get back to my sewing and reading now.