It has been a while since I’ve been able to write a post, but I found this scrap in my journal and it opened something about chaotic, uncertain inner periods.
“In creative process, there is the inland sea and there is the book or dance or symphony—masterpieces, competencies, mediocrities—that litter the beach to be seen, to be turned over, to be heard. Art is the jetsam of the great submergence.”
Ruminating with Cassie
I was sitting with my dance friend, Cassie, on a grassy knoll in front of the grand, historic Barnstable County Courthouse. It crowns a hill overlooking the marshes of Cape Cod Bay and a winding picturesque village Main St. where Oz, a zen-y clothing store, and Nirvana Coffee House thrive. These days, if you have county court business, you enter an airless, badly lit, utilitarian building erected behind the original edifice.
Cassie and I drank our lattes and luxuriated in the October day. It was what we would have called unseasonably warm except that no one really knows what is seasonable. Cassie related how she had been sleeping more than usual this summer. I asked in what form. Long nighttime sleeps and naps. Her sister reported the same. When I asked what the sleep was like—full of dreams? Restful? Rejeunvenating or troubled?—she couldn’t really pin it down…I told her about the terrific dystopian short story I had just read. ‘The Sleep’, by Caitlin Horricks, is set in a fictional depressed, forgotten, no-place North County town where the inhabitants gradually begin to sleep through the winter, hibernating like bears, and how this changes their economy, materialism, and relationships for the better. It is a wry story, yet I had found myself thinking What a good idea! and wondering if I could actually sleep more…And here was Cassie’s real life tale of sleeping more.
In the beginning of my recovery from surgery, I could accomplish one thing a day—make a meal, or take a sponge bath, or gather my laundry together—then had to rest for the remaining waking hours. After a few weeks, I could do two things a day. Eventually I recovered the stamina to live normally. Sort of…These recent weeks are full of strange ambivilences, hesitations, preemptings, suspensions. My capacities have returned yet nothing flows with ease. The air shakes. The sky broods. All around we meet upheaval. Bad news, sad news…
Silicon Valley techies lament how the devices they created are eroding our ability to be and stay focused. Devices are, in a sense, dementing us. I think about the balance of stimulation. Too much stimulation, especially chaotic, irrational, disjunct stimulation, is exhausting and destabilizing—like blaring raucous music or never shutting off bright lights. There is so much bad news and sad news moving in our palms. I see my own ability to handle overstimulation eroding. I once easily rebounded, now this all depletes me. I am uncharacteristically oversensitive, take any little thing personally, am less resilient, and I also worry about this weakness, adding shadow to a deepening dimming. As well, heavy tropical weather arrived in New England weeks ago and refuses to leave. Sleep sounds so appealing. Doubtless, my psychology friends would accuse me of being depressed but I know depression and this is not the same flavor.
I shelter myself in my ground—my breathing, my body in gravity. I breathe myself down from alarm. I move gently and feel my flesh as it circles and arcs. My daily practice…I know one thing for sure, this is a time to be kind to myself and, because I am not the only one working hard to keep head above water, kind to other people.
I return to the inland sea image. I am an artist and meditator and have spent my whole life in the strangeness of creativity which mostly isn’t a bright star but, rather, long sojourns in murk. I have huge faith that this time of sluggishness and of wanting to sleep is the time of brewing. Much is moving, shifting, reassembling, and falling apart. I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I don’t know if this will end well. Not every piece of art is gold and shimmer. In fact, every piece of art is its own color and dimension.
At the end of our companionable time together, Cassie and I crush our spent cups. I am utterly grateful for an afternoon with a friend. The sun has gone behind the sage, somber courthouse enveloping us in shadow. A quiet witness to our conversation, it does not hand down a judgment on our concerns for ourselves or for humanity.
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