I just was backpacking with my youngest nineteen-year-old daughter, Hannah, high in the Sierra Mountains. We spent most of our days walking through high alpine forests, massive expanses of granite punctuated by startled deer and once, even a large, scurrying prairie dog, although we couldn’t be completely sure.
Every day we hiked to a new remote mountain lake, carrying all our food, shelter and kitchen stuff on our backs. In contrast to these effortful mornings, we would spend, upon arrival, pretty much the rest of our day sitting upon large, quiet boulders that bordered these serene and impossibly blue lakes.
To have multiple hours to just sit and watch the shadow patterns of the trees upon a lake change as each hot day drew to a close was such a nice break from my normal routine of driving in traffic or just trying to be always as productive as possible.
There just was simply nothing that needed to be done.
The conversation meandered for hours, naturally around all things contained in the relatively new life of a 19-year-old daughter and those of her father. The subject of writing in college came up which lead to art making in general. We spoke about how, even though you can’t see what you might do in your life, what will inspire you, move you, that something always appears.
Something will break the stillness, the quietness of your day, your life, and awaken you.
I spoke about this blog and how I never know from week to week what I am going to write about. However, something always comes along that holds a glint of inspiration. Something in the week will inevitably sparkle.
It is like this with making Art too. Something just always happens that can turn an afternoon of making art from effortful to extraordinary.
I was considering this idea, staring out at this very still, calm landscape not quite sure how to say what I was feeling when Hannah perfectly summed up the loose ends of my thoughts by so eloquently saying, “I just love to be around things that remind me of my smallness.”
I think this is really at the heart of it. We probably are much, much, smaller than our life. Maybe we can’t really control all that we hope we can. And maybe this is a good thing. Maybe our art, our life, is actually going to work out anyway. Maybe the enormity of our life and all that swirls around us, whether it is what we are trying to make in our art, or for our dinner or even what we might have to do that seems hard and scary doesn’t have to be.
Maybe we are being carefully held, swaddled and surrounded by a huge life that only will reveal to us just what we need, just when we are ready. You merely have to wait and be paying attention, to see. There is no small measure of trust involved. Faith really.
I don’t always know this. Mostly I am too busy to remember. But when I do I feel calmer and more hopeful.
The hours passed that afternoon in unbroken stillness until suddenly, a fish jumped right before us, breaking the glassy stillness of the lake. It startled both of us. My heart skipped a beat and I knew without even looking at my daughter that she was smiling too.
In gratitude, Nicholas