Use the creative process — singing, writing, art, dance, whatever — to get to know yourself better. Catie Curtis
I’m back in Idaho’s panhandle this week for a several-day immersion into the world of play. There are Book Babies mornings and afternoon stroller walks. There are hours of indoor rumpus time with puzzles and books and blocks and trucks. There are funny faces and games of chase. There is silliness and giggly-ness and sweet morning cuddles. There is all of this and then there are trains. My sixteen-month-old grandson Viren is my host and he is obsessed with trains. Two days ago, at the indoor play park, I felt a bit like a golden retriever puppy, bounding from one station to the next. There was the farmer’s market complete with plastic fruits and veggies, with cucumbers that you’d swear were the real deal, and the mini house with all its mini appliances and the dollhouse inside the mini-house and the toddler farm yard and the netted-in pre-school dream-of-a-gym filled with slides and trampolines and swings that took you high. And in the midst of this indoor toddler town, on a table painted green-grass green and blue-lake blue and brown-dirt brown, lay the tracks of the preschool train and the train’s wooden cars and all the wooden pieces just waiting to be brought to life. And that’s what Viren did while his mother and his grandmother made the rounds. He stood on his toddler feet for well over an hour connecting the train cars together, shunting them forward, watching them whoosh down the train track hill, then picking them up and starting over. This was serious business for Viren, a different kind of play. With single-focused intensity, he carried his mission forward. The same thing happened the next day at the Moscow toy store and this morning at the public library’s Book Babies. It was the train sets that caught his attention and drew him in.
I get it. This single-focused intensity. This full-bodied satisfaction that arises when we allow ourselves to ride the rails of a project that excites us. Our inner engines chug and our whistles blow full-steam ahead when we are on-track, on our own passionate track. Like Viren, I love to socialize, to skitter around on my toes, to be gloriously silly; we are both good at all of this. AND, like Viren, I love to lose all sense of time in an activity that stokes my creative fire. I was thinking about my creative fire the other day as I traipsed through the neighborhoods of Moscow during Viren’s afternoon nap time. Perhaps it was the snow falling in wet globs and sticking to the trees that propelled my thinking forward to winter and the promise of new possibilities. I found my mind settling on a project that is coming Joy Center’s way in January. A group of nine or so Marquette County artists who committed to a practice of creating some sort of art each day for one hundred days is now sharing this powerful practice with the community at large and Joy Center has decided to get involved. And I personally am eager to be a part of this one hundred days of county-wide parallel-play.
And so, here is the challenge: find something that we can commit to for one hundred days, perhaps something that enhances the art we’re already doing, or something that stretches us in new ways. It is the process that is emphasized, not a polished product. And the possibilities are endless. My mind was swirling around with the snow flakes as I walked along Moscow’s slushy sidewalks. What do I want to commit to? I already live a busy life, I thought. I already have a writing practice that gets my inner train’s boiler boiling and other practices that bring me joy. There’s the yoga and the workshops at Joy Center and the skate-skiing and the traveling. How’s a gal supposed to fit something else into this already-packed schedule? It was Viren who came to mind as I forged ahead on my afternoon jaunt. My sixteen-month-old grandson lets fun lead the way him and I’ve climbed on board the fun train, too. Whatever I choose as a project has to ignite me up from the inside or its not worth doing. And it has to feel easy.
“And what does ignite me up from the inside?” I wondered. “And what seems easy?” I trudged through the snow and I mulled it over. It certainly warms me up to play with Viren. And yet, back home, I have to admit that it’s not the model trains that send me into a skitter-dance. As I trudged and mulled, I pulled my cell phone out of my coat’s pocket to check the time and I realized that this handy-dandy invention lights me up, that not only do I love chatting on the phone but I also love snapping photos with its easy-peazy camera. I could do that. Every day I could snap a photo. I could do that at home. I could do that while traveling. And on the ski trails too. Fifteen years ago, I made it a practice to take a photo a day, only one photo, every day, for a year. It was a glorious exercise, one that trained me to see the world with a more attentive eye, how beauty and wonder and color-filled life surrounded me wherever I happened to find myself on a given day. And now, the photo idea excited me — it could be a travelogue of my everyday life or a fashion journal of people on the street or an homage to food or something else that I haven’t considered yet. By the time I rounded the corner to Viren’s street, I was doing my own sidewalk skitter-dance. It’s energizing to feel our inner fires burning, energizing to commit to something that excites us, energizing to be a part of project that connects us to our community.
And it’s energizing to open the door to a sixteen-month-old grandson’s house, to walk right in to the land of toy trains, ready to cheer this little guy on.