Browsing various posts lately, I've loved that lots of people have been listing their gratitudes, from those celebrating thanksgiving, to those dealing with a recent diagnosis of cancer, to those who seem to have made it a regular part of their daily practice.
I'm aware of the power of appreciation. Quite literally, that which you appreciate grows in value. I have many things I'm grateful for, but I'm also prone to wingeing (complaining reduces joy, the sages say) and even the title of this blogspot is an alarmist protest to try and halt the escape of inspiration. So the list I'd like to make now is the list of the muses that didn't flee. The people and landscapes that have nurtured and inspired me over the three and a half short decades I have been inhabiting this (be)mused and (be)wildered self.
Sometimes I forget, what a pedigree I have!
Mother - fine artist and image maker. Inspired me to know that you just stick with it. Even when the toddlers drink your turpentine, and the black dog of depression sniffs at your throat. Just keep pushing that pigment. Trust the daimon on your shoulder.
Father - the same really. Incredible discipline of someone who is self employed and takes himself to the easel whatever the mood, the extent of the hangover or the economic climate. Painter of wild skies and fleeting kudus. And financier of the education that has given me such a bedrock. Thanks dad.
(Actually having two artist parents can be kind of daunting for the germinating creative self. How high the bar? But the example they give is that it is possible to make a living from your art, if you are stubborn and uncompromising enough.)
Grandfather - the 'word of the day' games, the star-gazing lessons, the nature lessons, the stubbornness (Oh yes, we have that in abundance in these genes)
Grandmother - also a writer, like grandfather. Encouraged stories to breed in me.
And recently, I have realised how much that is alive in the branch of my family that I know less well - thanks Geli!
My mother home schooled me for the junior years. And though I am hopeless at team sports, choir singing and long division, I believe that bush classroom of two preserved my baby creative soul.
When I did go to school, one English teacher saw some frustrated kindlings of wordsmithery in me and fed me combustibles to keep that flame going - poems, stories, big ideas.
Lindy Roberts - what a muse you were. Theatre design teacher at university whose incisive clarity and wisdom spirit were sounding depths of inspiration for me. She taught me about paring down. She taught me how to take a brief - ie how to really listen. Whalebone woman.
Junaq - when I beached myself at the Buddhist Retreat centre all broken and sore eight years ago, how could I have known that I would meet this tiny bird-like redhead who grew up in Fort Jameson and played with my grandfather as a child? She taught me so much more than meditation.
Stacy Hardy. Its so rare to find someone you can truly work with, to create a shared library of references, so that when you say - 'it should be like the scene in...' and they know exactly what you mean. I miss Ms Hardy, although its also been good for me to be on my own and hearing my own voice for a while.
Mavundla. Come on, lets do it again, guy!
Sister. What a friend you have been. To work with, rant at, intuit with. I'm so blerry lucky to have you.
As always, far, far too many to name. I have a host of creative souls who inspire me in ways they will never know. But right now - top of mind - dear Janine, you are one of those who never went away. And you'd better bloody well not do it now.
Standing still has never been one of my strong points. I seem grounded and serene. But it has taken a rigorous, sometimes nauseating effort to just stay put, when all I've wanted to do is run, but something deep in me just says, shhh. Sleep on it. And I've let the roots grow a little deeper.
I'm not sure if I expected that B and I would last as long as we have. I think something bigger than me kind of insisted on it. But there have been many times, many reasons, when either one of us has wanted to run. And we haven't. Something has always intervened, to smack me in the face and make me see - that this is one muse that ain't going nowhere. And for this witty, brilliant, wounded, infuriating, wordy, care-full, holding soul, I am so very very grateful.
And then the landscapes. The spaces that have and hold the muse spirits. The watery dens, the vibrating hillsides of candelabra aloe. The winding river, crowded by gregarious trees.
When there haven't been people, when its just been me and my whirling vortex thoughts, and the feeling of being alone, I've always, always known that there is no such thing as an empty landscape. Rivers, rocks and mulching leafbeds all have their songs and their gossip.
Some places that have sustained me:
The River. Yes, that River. The one that hugs the curves and smiles its smug smile in the dry season, and churns with hungry violence in the rains. The one that eats the land we build on, but gives it back on the other side. The one that taught me that destruction and creation are two aspects of the same smile.
The red soil green scrub of eastern cape aloe fields. The white and aqua froth of east cape beaches.
The mountain,its arms folded, waiting.
The beautiful women who have captivated and enchanted me, who prompted me to lyricise inappropriately, night after night. And some men. But mostly, you, goddesses, who don't even know who you are.
Its late and I'm in Cape Town and I'm affected by the wine and the gravel-crunching feeling of being with a friend who, who -
is not sick but
whose life has presented her with a huge and extraordinary opportunity to heal.
What is a touchstone exactly? Is it something you hold in your pocket, like a familiar pebble, or is it a mightly monolith that you pilgrim to, and lay your hands on and it makes you feel whole? How dare we say that a pebble has no consciousness? Some rocks I've held in my hand and felt more pulse than I have off the vacant-faced mall wanderers of the suburbs.
Ag, whatever. We all need a touchstone.
There are those, who stayed still. And praise be to them. I've needed them.
Finally, something I've never really sought, never really had, but (I guess), always craved.
I love the instant gratification of reading your comments, and your posts, and seeing the mirror flash this way and that, picking up an aspect here or there. Adding another colour, deepening a half-thought-through observation. I just love this medium. And all you museful beings. Thank you.
Don't go away now.