Last night I got a small block of uninterrupted time. And realizing that I'd been hungry all day for the process of creation, I sat down at my computer to see if I could invite something into being.
This is what emerged -- as usual, a combination of several different images -- and I decided to name her "Agnes, preparing," thinking she must be preparing for death. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, but then this morning I read this in McNiff's book, Trust the Process:
"Creation is a process of emanation. Nothing will happen unless we start working and allow the practice of our particular disciplines to mix with the streams of ideas and experiences that are constantly moving through daily life. These streams are never blocked. Therefore, the practice of creation involves the ability to tap into them...
The experienced creator is forever intrigued with the unplanned results that emerge from faithful practice... As with birthing, the practice of creation requires a continuous respect for that which takes place autonomously and in its own time. The creator is a necessary participant, but like childbirth the process is not controlled by the person who serves as the agent of delivery.
Creation also has a destructive aspect. The angelic offspring are accompanied by bothersome demons. As Nietzsche declared, the artist must break things apart in order to create anew. Even Picasso felt that every major creative act carries a shadow and its share of negativity. The results of artistic expression may bring relief, joy, and harmony, but the process thrives on tension. Conflict and uncertainty are the forces that carry the artist to new and unfamiliar places. Creative practice can be viewed as a ritual of preparation, readying the psychic household for unexpected guests and fresh combinations of familiar things..."
The process of creation seems to necessitate a certain amount of time spent in that uncomfortable place we call "liminal space:" the place between what was and what is to come. We don't get to control our going into that space or our coming out; we just have to trust that truth will emerge when its time comes.
I suspect that what this passage -- and Agnes -- are telling us is that part of our preparation for that which lies within us, waiting to be born, will be to step aside and allow certain other aspects of life to die. And therein lies the conflict and the tension. It's not like this is an unfamiliar process: When we enter into relationship, we say farewell to the single life. A couple expecting their first child must say farewell to the freedoms they experienced prior to childbirth. A child leaving home must say farewell to the relatively pampered existence of family life. But the transition between what was and is to come are rarely as smooth as we might wish.
As I write this, I'm hearing Anne Murray's 1996 recording of "I know too much:"
You live and learn to crash and burn; Come out of the ashes even more alive. You make your mistakes -- whatever it takes -- But know when to hit the brakes and when to let it slide.
You can come crying on my shoulder But don't ask me to show you the way: As I get wiser, as I get older It seems like I've got less to say
I know too much: I've seen the light And I've been lost in the shadow of doubt. I know too much to give up on love And I know too much to ever try to figure it out
What would I do if I were you? Take my advice don't take advice from me! There's no wrong or right no black or white -- Just shades of gray as far as I can see.
Promises, rules and hearts get broken; Plans and minds and people change; One door slams and another door opens -- Don't ask me I can't explain
I know too much I've seen the light And I've been lost in the shadow of doubt. I know too much to give up on love And I know too much to ever try to figure it out.
I know these lyrics because I used to sing this song with a group of friends called "Those Guys from Orcas." I'll post a youtube video of it here so you can get an idea of how the song goes, but I warn you -- we are definitely NOT professionals!