Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Unfinished Song and that Place of Uncertainty

In the early years of our courtship, my husband was a student.  He had returned to college to finally get his Bachelor's Degree.  In fact, that's how we met--he was my student at Fairfield University in a class for adults returning to university after many years.  You can read the story here.  

We stayed friends even after he graduated, but then later grew apart.  A few years after that, we reunited.  He sent me an invitation to his graduation at Wesleyan University and I sent him a copy of John McPhee's wonderful book Annals of the Former World.  It's about geology and I imagined this was the perfect gift for a man who loved the ocean, the earth, trees and flowers so much so that I teasingly called him "a nature boy."  

During our early days, he would often bring me gifts of pretty rocks that he had found during his trips into the fields.  He also brought me wild flowers that he found along the side of the road and had clipped with his handy Swiss army knife.  I have always loved wild flowers!

In fact, when I was little, my mother used to take me for walks in the hills of Stamford, Connecticut.  We were supposed to go to church on Sundays--that's what she told my dad--but instead my mother took me to Nick's Variety for a Coca Cola and then we drove right past St. Gabriel's and into the country, where we would sit on the hill, drink our cokes, watch the clouds and then afterwards,  pick Black Eyed Susans.  

My mother told me that Black Eyed Susans were her favorite flowers.  Oh, and she also loved peonies and sweet peas and roses!

Today, Dr. Thompson (yes, he went on to get his Ph.D. and we eventually married) now live on a farm in upstate New York where we have fields of wild daisies.  He created a cutting garden for me, filled with zinnias, gladiolas, peonies and by special request--Black Eyed Susans.  I cannot look at them and not think of my mother, who has been gone since 1997.  They hold such strong memories for me.

This is the power of flowers.  If you think about it, you probably have one particular flower that holds memories for you.  And if you inhale deeply, you might remember a special person, an event, a time of your life that warms your heart and perhaps still haunts you to this very day.  

You might even feel a sense of confusion, loss, or even upset.

And that's okay.  In fact, this is a good thing for creativity.  Perhaps this memory holds unfinished business for you--a kind of musical note that hangs in the air--breathless--still waiting for a response.

As a creative person you need to know that all these messy, unfinished feelings, these confusing thoughts--unrequited love, haunting memories, and half-song songs--well, they are your material.  These are the things that drive you to create.  

So, my advice is to embrace the messiness of life!

And here's your creative prompt.  Take this story wheel (that looks a lot like a daisy, I know!) and use the idea of "flowers" as your center hub.  This is your connecting image.  Then write the "petals".  By this, I mean, write (or draw or paint or create a song) the images that radiate out from the topic of "flowers." 

Explore your thoughts, memories and imaginings relating to the idea of a flower.  Each petal should be it's own story.  For instance, one story could be about flowers your picked as a child and another could be all about your wedding bouquet, or that prom corsage, or the dozen red roses you gave to your Aunt Lydia on her fiftieth birthday.  

Don't worry about how these seemingly disparate stories relating to the idea of flowers will connect.  For now, just explore a variety of memories (real or imagined!)  Follow your intuition.  Forget about order or chronology.  The big picture will emerge later.  Trust me.

For now, stay in that delicious place of uncertainty. 
And most important of all, have fun!

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