Friday, November 16, 2007


About a year ago, Jeremy and I walked into a book store where they had prominently displayed on the new releases table a pristine copy of Finding Water, the latest of Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way books. I immediately grabbed it and started for the register, when Jeremy took it back from me and put it back on the table. “You can’t get that now,” he told me. I looked at him, confused, and assumed he was trying to tell me to be responsible about my money. A little over a month later, I tore open some Christmas wrapping paper and unveiled my very own copy of the book. Excited, I even wrote in this blog that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to devote myself to working through it as the year progressed.

I packed the book in my bag when I headed out to Chicago at the end of February to work on The Return of Ulisses at Chicago Opera Theater. I unpacked it, and it sat closed next to my bed the entirety of my time there. Then, it traveled with me to St. Louis, where it never made it out of the suitcase. I took it with me to Berkeley, New York, and then to Frankfurt, where I finally opened the book for the first time. I made it though Chapter 1, and then I packed the book into my suitcase and brought it with me to Vermont, where it gathered dust on my desk for seven weeks.

Finally, now that it is the middle of November, realizing that time is running out for me to keep some grain of my resolution, I have picked up the book and begun reading it and working through it again. I am going to state here, publicly, that I am going to try to devote the next 11 weeks to completing it (it is organized into 12 weeks/chapters, like the other books). Hopefully, by publicly declaring this, I will be shamed into keeping my promise to myself. We’ll see if that works...

This week, I reviewed Chapter 1, since it felt like eons had passed since I did it this summer. The most interesting part of the experience was the Artist Date, the date that I must make with myself once a week in an effort to "romance"my inner artist. While I have been pretty diligent about doing my morning pages everyday for the past four years, I find artist dates very hard to keep. I always tell myself that I have so much alone time already, why would I seek more of it out? Well, today, I discovered part of the reason why.

My date with myself today was to explore the Rue de la Monnaie, a cobblestone street that is in Vieux Lille (Old Lille) and is lined with various shops that occupy all the historical buildings. I had walked up and down it with Alice many times, because that is where the doctor’s office is (I’ve seen this doctor more times here in the last week than I saw my own doctor in the states in the past two years). There is a strange orange wall there that I have been meaning to get a picture of for weeks now (since my first visit to the doctor for my cold a couple weeks back), so I decided that today was the day.

Armed with my camera, I set out exploring, stopping at all the shops I have been wanting to visit since my first visit to the doctor and taking pictures along the way. As I took pictures and window shopped, I noticed that I was starting to take in the details and beauty of what was around me and began to get rooted into the present. All the alone time I spend on the road is a dangerous trap – it is easy to become focused on dreams and the realm of lofty ambitions that have no root in the work. Getting a bit more rooted in the present keeps me more focused on what I am doing right now and all that I have right now. After wandering around exploring Vieux Lille for a couple hours, it was so much easier to practice afterwards. I had nothing to prove to myself – I just had the tasks that I needed to accomplish in front of me, and I really enjoyed doing the wood-shedding that I needed to do today.

I came across this quote in the margins of the book the other day, and it stuck in my mind during my work this week:

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I think I get that now. At least for now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are so lovely - glad you're reembarking on the journey - it inspires me too! Can't wait to see you... hope you like that I visited - I'm a little tipsy, and missing you and thinking of you, and wishing you were awake right now!