The more awake we are to these things, I truly believe the better people we are. Awareness, after all, is the foundation of so much spiritual work.
My need to write this morning is outweighing my need to be professional – you know, having all my ducks in a row. A few months ago, I interviewed my friend Megan about her journals, and promptly lost the notes. Dang! But the conversation is still alive in my memory and I really want to share her beautiful work.
I’d seen Megan working on her journals in a coffee shop before I even met her. When she figured out that I’d written a book about journals, well, our personal interest was cemented. What I love about journals in general is that they present a safe canvas for anyone who wants to be creative but isn’t quite ready to share it with the world. Open them or keep them resolutely closed: the choice is all yours. Megan’s journals personify this, but they also illustrate another great aspect of journals — art is everywhere. (Say it out loud. Repeat, repeat! Art is everywhere!) You can use a journal as a repository to collect beauty, pain, harmony, or disjointedness. The more awake we are to these things, I truly believe the better people we are. Awareness, after all, is the foundation of so much spiritual work.
When I first visited Megan’s house, before we even got to her journals, I was struck by the joy emanating from her tiny abode. It could no doubt stand to have more than one or two repairs, but it sings with happiness because Megan is living there hanging half-knitted scarves on the wall (the yarn was too expensive to continue), or painting part of a stairwell the most amazing Mediterranean blue (it was a small sale can and she couldn’t resist the color), or – coolest of all – gluing buttons onto the wall in a pattern.
“The house is always changing. When I first moved in and was going through a break up, I turned an entire room into the Jesus Room; it was filled with old illustrations of Jesus,” she told me. Megan is a spiritual girl with a sense of humor, that’s for sure: “I figured any man who could sleep in the Jesus Room would be alright.”
Just as her house reflects changes in her life and mood, so do her journals, which are part of a never-ending process of discovery. She worked intensely in them when her son was a baby and she and her partner were having difficulties and eventually split. They are a longstanding, time-consuming process – not unlike therapy or friendship or, well, spiritual seeking. And she’s returned to them with a fury during other difficult points, handwriting questions, quotes, screeds, and observations.
“You’re an artist!” I said to her, paging through them, and she made a funny face and nodded no and sort of rolled her eyes all at once. She’s a social worker by training, and has worked a lot of with teen mothers. But her journals and house are a great reminder to me – as someone who does self-identify as an artist but often whines about her lack of time – that art can happen anywhere, any time, even between the cracks.
Last week, I was at two friends’ houses and saw this in action yet again — one was my dentist, whose daughter is a playmate of Bella’s. Upstairs, in an airy, window-filled room, Ann has a sewing machine, an easel, crocheting needles, colored pencils, and other accoutrements that she uses as time and desire allow. She’s done some really fun, folksy paintings, which hang on the wall. I love knowing that the woman who drills holes in my daughter’s mouth (ah, poor Bella — cavity prone seems to be her middle name), retreats to this space.
And then I was at Monica’s. My neighbor, she is a grad student in women’s studies, a midwife-in-training, and an activist. Monica is also a craft maven, often wearing clothes she’s altered or bags she’s sewn. While my son was taking a short lesson with her teenaged son, and as she knitted summer tank sweater, I spied this corner of her house that seemed to say it all. A trio of creative tools – guitar, sewing machine, and partially done canvas – all awaited her, tucked quietly, patiently into the folds of her life.
Where do you find space to make art? Where do you record Life? Art is everywhere – repeat, repeat, repeat…