And the whistling wind…
There are days when the paint flows off your brush like water down a string. And days when it feels like you’re poking clay with a stick. When you feel like Sisyphus in a song by the late great Jesse Winchester that I used to listen to back when the world was young. “So I play the fool, but I can’t sit still. Let me get this rock to the top of this hill.”
The first book I ever read about the real life of an artist was Daybook by Anne Truitt. Originally published in 1984 , long before it was easy to record your smallest thoughts and put them out for the world to read in blogs or self-published e-books, Daybook was Truitt’s journal, created over a period of seven years as she determined to come to terms with the forces that shaped her art and life.
I come back to that book often. Here is one paragraph, written on July 6, 1974.
“Balancing intuition against sensory information, and sensitivity to one’s self against pragmatic knowledge of the world, is not a stance unique to artists. The specialness of artists is the degree to which these precarious balances are crucial backups for their real endeavor. Their essential effort is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without any idea where they will end up. They are like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, peering into a blinding rain. And they have to do it over and over again. When they find that they have ridden and ridden – maybe for years, full tilt – in what for them is a mistaken direction, they must unearth within themselves some readiness to turn and to gallop off again. They may spend a little time scraping off the mud, resting the horse, having a hot bath, laughing and sitting in candlelight with friends. But in the back of their minds they never forget that the dark, driving run is theirs to make again. They need their balances in order to support their risks. The more they develop an understanding of all their experience – the more it is at their command – the more they carry with them into the whistling wind.”
Tonight I am balanced in the affection of good friends, in a glass of wine, in music. Tomorrow will bring either flowing water or the weight of stones.
What do you carry with you?
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