Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~ John Muir
I was born in the spring just as the dogwood trees began blooming in the mountains.
Lacing the green hillsides with lobed, white flowers, stretched out from terraced limbs, the arrival of flowering dogwoods prompts a renewal of a childlike knowing that I am filled with equal creative potential. I connect with the power that is offered that opens, petal by petal, within me.
I walk for hours under canopies of new maple, poplar, and oak leaves, stepping with buoyancy and letting ideas rush in. I pull my notebook from my back pocket and scribble strands of fragmented thoughts, eager to get it all down before it playfully dances off.
For a mile or two, I will continue to collect ideas like lightning bugs in a mason jar, careful to return the lid so nothing takes flight.
And then, as quick as a late afternoon spring tempest rises over the ridgeline in swirling, dark clouds, I’ll tamp down the flow, cranking back the valve in full turns.
The chi that pushes blossoms and green shoots and pine cones into being is the same creative life force that is within each of us. Divinely sent like clockwork to every living being, it is lovely, welcomed, and threatens to overwhelm us.
Pull us under.
Back home, I will set the small notebook aside and pick up a task better suited for much later in the day. (There’s a window each day from 4am until 11am or so that is electric with creative possibility. If I squander those hours with errands, phone calls, or emails, I will have to wait until the following day for the pops of electric thinking to return.)
On this day, I will knowingly choose to hold myself back. The hope-filled and confident person I was when the first few inklings that creativity’s angel wings were billowing and stretching out for flight has gone; only a dotted-line silhouette of her remains.
When I rise the following day, I will be hungover with regret that I opted to give more muscle to Fear (of Judgment), more oxygen to Safe. Drugged and numb with self-admonishment, I’ll recommit to staying with the work today, regardless of where it takes me.
I return to the woods and search for wild iris along the banks of small creeks. Their hearty cleverness and effortless beauty are just the tonics I need. Wild iris knows enough to plant itself near water and in acidic soil, giving its roots, leaves, and perfect, blue stars of flower petals all the nourishment it needs.
Our creative courage has similar requirements.
We need to place ourselves near the source waters of our inspiration, be that in nature, quiet, a favorite chair, a book-lined library, a vibrant art museum, or a bustling cafe. When we scooch up next to the heat of our creativity, we can recognize that the desire to pull away is our signal we are onto something.
We can choose to feel the fear all the way through, staying with it, and then witness its leaving.
We can vow to stay in our seat no matter how edgy and nervous the arcing amber light makes us feel.
Before I turn back toward home, I stand on a creek bank and watch the water move without effort over and around mossy rocks. I know in an instant, my job—our job—is to be like water when in the creative thrash.
Coursing forward with joyful enthusiasm, yielding around obstacles, and never stopping.