Friday, January 27, 2012

Sharing our gifts

These last two weeks, I've been reading In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1983, ISBN 015-144525-7), an old book of collected works by Alice Walker. She also wrote The Color Purple, one of the few books I had to buy for myself after seeing the movie, and I loved the book even more. In this collection of her older works, she writes about everything from the women writers who inspired her, to her involvement with the Civil Rights movement in the States, to what it means to be an artist. She's also given me the names of a few other books I've put on hold at the library; authors I've never heard of, but now want to read.

The part of the book that has given me the most food for thought is the essay from which the book gets its title. In it, Alice writes about the connection between spirituality and creativity, and reflects upon the generations of black women whose creativity died within them during years of slavery and serfdom... but whose sacrifices have led her to her own creative spirit. It's a beautiful piece of writing, and it has me thinking about the creative impulse that lives in each of us.

It dawns on me that I live a pretty privileged life... to have the ability and the time to exercise my creativity for my own happiness' sake has not been something that women have always enjoyed. I would guess there are many women in my own city that don't have time or place to be creative. And yet, most of us, no matter how busy, find some way to flex our creative muscles... we cook, we quilt, we decorate our homes, we sing, we do something that helps the spirit within us to express itself.

I've always been a somewhat artsy person, thanks to parents who encouraged creativity. As a child, I dreamed of being an artist one day. In grade six, I learned to make sunsets with pencil crayons, and figured I'd go far. Then I ended up in a school play... and dreamed of being an actor, singing on stage and wowing the crowds. But all too soon, those dreams faded as I came up against the reality of making a living and being a self-supporting adult. The bonus was that I could take my guitar to school and teach my students through music... so my spirit wasn't completely stifled. Underlying all of these efforts at self-expression, though, was a creative outlet that I didn't even recognize.

I was writing. All the time. Letters, journals, poetry, stories, my own historical records. I have two boxes of scribblers, stuffed duotangs, photo diaries and journals, boxes crammed to the limit on a shelf in my basement. So is it any wonder that I'm moodling now? It's just what I do.

Alice Walker's essay underlined for me the fact that we all have something to say, and we find many, many different ways to say whatever it is, whether with quilts or photos or curry dishes or moodlings. These things are our gift to the world, whether anyone notices or not. It's easy to tell ourselves that what we have to say isn't important, that it doesn't matter, that it's not necessary, but that's the oldest cop out in the book. It is necessary to our mental health, and besides, gifts are meant to be shared, maybe not on a large scale, but with those who care for us at the very least.

Alice Walker expresses this beautifully when she writes about her mother:
"Because of her creativity with flowers, even my memories of poverty are seen through a screen of blooms.... And I remember people coming to my mother's yard to be given cuttings from her flowers; I hear again the praise showered on her because whatever rocky soil she landed on, she turned into a garden.... I notice that it is only when my mother is working in her flowers that she is radiant, almost to the point of being invisible -- except as Creator: hand and eye. She is involved in the work her soul must have. Ordering the universe in the image of her personal conception of Beauty." (p. 241)
We all do this ordering of the universe in various ways, because the creative spirit exists in each of us. If we don't find ways to express it, something within us, and in the world, is that much less healthy.

Gifts are meant to be shared. How are you sharing yours?

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Even before I got into moodling online, I found the work of this Southern Alberta watercolour artist to be quite inspiring. Gena LaCoste's sharing of her art, especially the landscapes and horses, makes me so happy... check out http://genalacoste.blogspot.com/

2 comments:

  1. This posting was very touching for me. I consider the best piece Alice Walker ever wrote to be "Beauty; When the other dancer is the Self." Touchingly personal, it gently moves to heart of our human struggle to love and accept ourselves, with all the imperfections in our make up. I first heard the story when a priest read it aloud and then spent an entire day drawing out the fullness of its message. Your post moved me like that.

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  2. "Beauty..." is the last essay in the book. I loved it, too.

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