The Way It Is
By William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I thought I’d start the New Year out with a piece from one of my favorite poets that I think might answer some questions for people about why artists become artists. I think Stafford’s poem makes clear what I’ve been trying to express out loud for years. Artists are born with a thread they will be compelled to follow. It’s there from the earliest of memory. The artist will chase that thread of creativity from the time of birth until the time of death.
A person doesn’t choose to be an artist. The arts somehow choose you. I’ve felt the pull of the thread since I was a child and got up two hours earlier then my parents to read novels, books about art and poetry and to write and draw. No matter what practical paths I tried to follow with all good intentions, the wonder that is creativity seemed to be always close in my consciousness and easy to access at any time.
My parents always encouraged me to be practical and safe. They wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor. They saw money as the only survival tool; they wanted me to be successful in a financial way. I can’t blame them for that. They made it clear that I would be the first one in my family to finish college. I did fine in school, and of course I wanted to please my parents, but I never quit feeling the strong pull of that thread towards the arts.
I was constantly stretched in two directions. One practical and safe (psychology, teaching, research) and one magical, (dance, the arts and theatre). My life has been a constant game of Tug-O-War. When I played it too safe and was pulled to the practical side I felt as if something was always missing. Of course I’d enhance my practical life by reading, drawing, cartooning and always being around the arts but the strong tug of that unbreakable thread was always tipping me further towards the magical and the creative. I had to overcome being afraid of the unknown and conquer my fears of free falling without the security of a monthly paycheck and retirement program. I feel fortunate to have been brave enough to do this. When I finally chose to let the thread take me where it will, I started to feel energized (Tug-O-War can wear a person out). Decisions come easily. I do anything to keep supporting my art. If travel presents itself to me, I’ll travel. If a project interests me I’ll become involved in it. If I feel the thread pull me in strange and unfamiliar directions, I follow. I don’t play safe anymore and it’s scary…it’s dangerous…it’s exhilarating. Hanging on to that thread has also kept me from falling into deep depressions, the loss of loved ones and other passing tragedies. The thread is strong and unbreakable and always healing.
Now for the news.
Christmas with our friend Bill…wonderful. Having Patty and John over for Christmas Day…totally fun. Exchanging presents with our kids and grandkids to be finished up on Saturday at Amy’s…crazy fun. New Year’s stay at the Oregon Coast…restful and beautiful. And it’s not over yet. Even more Christmas with Erin, Sara and Jeff…can’t wait. This is going to be the best year!
Don’t forget my monotype class at The Dalles Art Center on January 15th and 16th. (For information call 541-296-4759). There is still time to sign up for my Mexico Class in April. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-365-5119 for more information and a flyer.
“A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
Any comments on your creative threads are welcome!!