Inspiration and Perseverance in the New Year

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Nature Mobile by Adair Heitmann

Recently, a beloved mobile, one I made while I was in college, was accidentally broken by someone other than me. The mobile was special and sentimental. I constructed it late one night in my college studio apartment in Syracuse, NY. The hanging sculpture was of delicate, transparent shells and two pieces of elegant driftwood. I’d found the objects in nature while dreamily beach-combing and camping on Sanibel Island, FL. I fancy myself a good artist in two dimensional works, 3D however has never been my forte. Add to that the subject of balance, I was out of my element. Mind you, I can balance a checkbook and I strive to live a balanced life, but creating actual poise, stability, and equilibrium using fishing nylon, lightweight shells and small pieces of graceful wood was a challenge.

I hadn’t taken a class in weights and measures, nor was I a mathematician or scientist who could assess, evaluate, and compare sizes and weights to calculate stability. I was an artist! I remember vividly the night I spontaneously made the original mobile. It was my very first mobile and I ventured into unknown and nervous territory to even consider making it. Yet, I was inspired to do so. The creative process was hands-on and immediate. I felt my way through the act of gauging the position and stability of the little objects. I was more of a creator and the act of tinkering was new to me. Yet, I knew I needed to keep going, persevere, make adjustments, adapt angles and lengths, and I trusted the balance would present itself. When it was finished I loved its simplicity, it was Zen-like. I hung it in my tiny apartment and upon college graduation the mobile came with me, survived being packed and unpacked during seven of my moves, and always found a place on view in my home. The mobile was never a center-stage type of artwork, but every time I saw it, I felt proud of myself for trying something new and constructing something outside my comfort zone.

You can imagine how I felt when I found it, decades later laying flat on my desk. The supporting strings made of fishing nylon were old and weak. I could not blame the accidental mishap that caused it to break. I put it aside until I had time to fix it, I knew the persistent process I would have to undertake and I knew I’d go into an anxious tinkering approach in order to fix it. I made the original mobile spontaneously, using trial and error kinesthetic experiments. I had to go back into that same state of mind and hands-on method to fix it. It also was important to me that I fix it myself. I live with the mobile king and could have very easily asked him to repair it. But it felt imperative for me to restore the damage.

Our college-age son watched my process and progress. Over the winter break he was home and on his computer at the kitchen table while I was fiddling and messing with the mobile two feet away. He saw and heard my frustrations, he witnessed my starting over again and again. He observed, all while working on his own projects, my searching for spools of different invisible threads from my multi-compartment Norwegian wooden sewing box with six trays. He didn’t say a word, we were in parallel productive modes, but, as a parent I knew it was a teaching moment. If he saw me get annoyed and stop, it would teach him to give up too soon on his own endeavors. If I got angry at myself for failure, remember, equalizing weights isn’t my strong suit, I would be teaching him by example to let disappointment get the best of him.

I hung in there, remembered my former college self in my solo, small, second floor apartment and kept tinkering. Slowly a solution appeared and I mended the broken mobile. Is it exactly like the original? No. Is it good enough? Yes!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Hang in there and use the art of hands-on tinkering to create your next solution.

Glimpsing a Possibility

dwell_in_possibility_photo_1_“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”
-Ishmael Beah

Joyeux Noel

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Adair Heitmann 2015

When I was a kid, growing up in the Presbyterian Church, we’d sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve by candlelight. The overhead lights would dim in the huge, fish-shaped sanctuary, with cathedral-height ceilings. The congregation hushed, candles were lit one from another, then the magic began. We sang all three verses of the ancient carol, Silent Night, slowly raising our candles in unison, then reverently lowering them.

As a youngster the feeling of majesty and awe, and even a connection to a deeper and broader, unexplainable mystery filled me year after year. This connection to my own sense of spirituality stayed with me as I grew into an adult. I’ve explored Buddhism, Paganism, Wiccan and other earth-based religions, Shamanism, Native American teachings, and Transcendental Meditation. Now a Unitarian Universalist, I’ve found a home in which I can have all my personal, eclectic beliefs, and still be part of a community.

Christmas time comes and how the heck do I celebrate? I still believe in a presence of Love and Grace that is bigger than I am, because I’ve felt it’s comfort over the years. I still believe in Santa Claus, don’t you? Santa certainly brings joy to the season. I love the pagan-based live fir tree in our living room, adorned with colorful lights, and handmade ornaments, chronicling our interests, friends and blended family traditions.

Every year I wait to be presented with a Silent Night experience. I don’t go looking for it, it always come to me, when I least expect it. Last Saturday night it’s kind elegance entered our family room. Having a teenage son who loves history, he chose the movie, Joyeux Noel, to watch with us while we enjoyed carry-in sushi for dinner. The movie is set in December 1914. Based on true stories, it dramatically portrays an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front that allowed soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other’s way of life.

When our son was young, we read a book together about this amazing historical event. Tears dripped down my face as we read about the soldiers, French, German, and Scottish, all singing Silent Night together. Fast-forward to this past weekend, watching, Joyeux Noel. When the acclaimed tenor turned soldier starts to sing Silent Night, alone, unarmed on high ground between the trenches, the hair on my arms stood up. My heart opened, my soul smiled, and I wept tears of mercy and kindness and hope. Tears of charity and clarity. I was given a blessing in my own home.

This holiday season, no matter what you do or don’t believe in, I wish you moments of peace, decency, and dignity.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to grace surrounding you when you least expect it.

Finally, Someone Who Understands! Thank you Misha

Mikhail-BaryshnikovNo longer will I feel guilty when I don’t want to talk with someone while I’m creating art in a community artists’ studio.

No longer will I feel ashamed that I don’t know Suzy Q, Barbi X., or John Z. when asked, “Why don’t you know them, they go there all the time?”

No longer will I apologize for getting snippy to my family when they interrupt me while I’m trying to choose which monoprint to submit to an exhibit, while reviewing art prints at our kitchen table.

Now I can proudly proclaim, “Don’t you know art is a very slow and fragile process? Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov told me so!”

While exercising this morning I heard on NPR about Baryshnikov’s Art Center in NYC, marking its 10th anniversary. Hearing Baryshnikov simply state the obvious changed my day, my week, and my world. He says that art is a fragile process and artists need privacy and space to create. I know that! Thinking back to when I had a separate studio space I remember those as the glory artist days. But I wanted more in life and co-created a multi-faceted, multi-use home and life. Yes, I adore our teenage son, but can’t a girl dream about “space, and light, and privacy?” That is just what Baryshnikov created for artists in New York City, an environment in which artists of all kinds can go and create to their heart’s content. Well done Misha!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Even if your kitchen table is filled with college tour brochures, applications, and forms, keep your vision of space, light, and privacy on the horizon.

The Power of Downshifting

1956_MGA_Rick_Feibusch_2012When I was a teenager I learned how to drive a stick shift on my father’s vintage 1950’s MGB convertible. He’d bought it from a neighbor for $1.00. Pulling a cord tucked into the inside of the car door, opened the door. I took the solid hard top off to cruise in style to high school and the plastic windows slid side-to-side. To slow the car down, without applying the brakes, I learned how to downshift. Using the clutch and gear shift I changed the manual transition to a lower gear to slow the car down.

This past spring, I metaphorically downshifted,  I slowed my activities down and simplified.  I had an abundance of good things but too little time. I needed to take several volunteer and professional responsibilities off my plate in order to open space for other priorities. You can read more about it in the essay I wrote for the Fairfield Writer’s Blog, A Writer’s Choice: My Seven Steps to Saying Goodbye to Something I Love. Wanting to have more time to be with my high school senior in the college looking and applying process, I felt sad letting all my volunteer work go, but I knew the benefits of a calmer Mom. The hardest activity for me to stop was one that I’d been leading for seven years. It was an on-going Writing Critique Group,

However, the previous winter, my boss asked me to lead a different kind of writing group on the Saturdays that I was already working. Agreeing to it I planned on leading both, totally different writing groups, in two different libraries. Now, as I prepare for the new group starting in September, I’m  reminded that the Universe works in mysterious ways. Last spring I downshifted to ease off and allow space, in doing so I let go of something I deeply enjoyed. Yet, I gained being more available to our son. More time means I can access my humor more often. Now that I’m developing my curriculum for the new Creative Writing Workshop that I’ll be leading on the third Saturday of every month starting September 19, 2015 at Pequot Library, I’m back in my inventive flow again.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Trust that when you let something go, you might be surprised at what the Universe puts in its place.

Navigating Times of Change

autumn_leavesHearing dry autumn leaves crunch beneath my sneakers, I’m reminded of the seamless process of evolution. As artists, writers, parents, friends, lovers, and grownups we are expected to weather change fearlessly. However, if we watch nature closely, conversions happen slowly over a long period of time.

In this season of gratitude, of closing windows and hunkering down for the winter, I appreciate the following quote. It inspires me to allow for shifts to happen at their own pace.

“Transition is the natural process of disorientation and reorientation that marks the points of the path of growth. Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations: Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to change — until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpole’s tail shrinks away, the leaf falls, the bird molts, the hibernation begins. With us it is the same although the signs are less clear than in the world of feather and leaf, the functions of transition times are the same. They are the key times in the natural process of self-renewal.”
– William Bridges

Creativity and wellness message: For this season, allow transition to be the way in which your life unfolds.

Creative Gifts: Respond to What’s Inside You

drumming manEnjoying Japanese food and a glass of Chardonnay last night with a friend, I listened as she told me about joining a local artist’s collective. She is renting studio space, outside of her home. My friend was so happy to be back in the nest of like-minded creative souls. I was so lucky to be able to rejoice with her.

She said, “I haven’t painted, I mean really painted in 20 years.” I nodded, “I understand.”

Her longing, that she turned into bliss, reminds me of a quote from Joy Harjo’s book Crazy Brave.

“If you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts, they will turn on you, or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.”

Creativity and wellness message: Start today by listening to your inner drum beat. Respond to the calling of your gifts.