8.1 Something Old

As we ease back into JAR blogging, and while uncertainty and profound change swirls around us in eddies, we have decided to explore the maxim: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Today, something old.

JODI

There is comfort in the old and I like that (even when I am always wanting to rush forth into the new or novel). I was reminded of that this week when it was finally cool enough to pull out my favourite jumper. But this isn’t an article about how much I love that jumper or how it drags up memories which have not been entirely laid to rest.

My “old” is two fold; both are forms of retreat.

The first is my poetry; a retreat in terms of space for daily moving meditation. My tools of quiet are scissors, glue, fragments of book text, cardboard, photos and a willingness to let go and allow poetry to form up through the text. This is where I can be most free and held at the same time. Where I can be true to myself but also in service to others.

Spark and Essence #19 Jodi Cleghorn 📸 Michael Rogers 📖 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

My second retreat is a formal commitment to silence and withdrawal. This has been a decision to delete my social media and messaging apps. I am in digital seclusion and I have not been more at peace in a long time.

Silence has extended to music, podcasts and recorded classes. There has been nothing but bird song and the intense symphony of multiple small children in my corner of suburbia and their emotional state in any given five-minute block.

Digital seclusion is a stillness, solitude, silence and simplicity I know well though it has been more than a year since I have retreated like this. I am not at all surprised to find myself here.

Spark and Essence #13 Jodi Cleghorn 📸 Chu Son 📖 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Both are old, but unlike my jumper, neither are worn or pulled out of shape, no matter how much time I spend in them.

ADAM

Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill for inspiration and sing about the grief.

So sang Bono in “The Fly,” the first single from the album Achtung Baby, an album which, in sound, was a radical departure from The Joshua Tree, the album that made them stratospheric rockstars. Both albums are brilliant in their own way. 

I like the old for the anchor that it can serve in our lives. The old can be a sense of certainty, a foundation, a building block. The old can be the rituals and traditions of family, the liturgy and recitation of beliefs forming the locus for who we are and what we are. The old becomes the central tenets we adhere to.

The old is what we are an apprentice to. We learn from the old, the ancient, the wise who have travelled before us and said, “This is what I have found” in their voices of poetry, music, dance, philosophy, faith. 

When we have learned enough to not be ignorant, but too little to be wise, we draw the anchor, relocate our position and fix ourselves to a new point to see how far we have travelled, or moved away from, in our own individual transformation and development, perhaps seeing those fixed points we used as our focal point in a different way. As another constellation to map our progress.

And in all this we return to the maxims and mantras of the masters, the proverbs and parables of the prophets, and understand them in a new way. It means returning to what was our first love, our awareness of what some would call vocation, or ministry, or calling, the idea that initially sparked our pilgrim’s progress. 

I like tradition for the symbolism and meaning it conveys but I look for ways that the old can be communicated for the new, in order that I may point them back to the old. As a teacher, I teach not to draw attention to myself, but to help students focus on what has come before them, to help them understand how to create their own foundations.

RUS

Our lifetimes provide us with more moments and memories than we know what to do with. Sometimes, we hold on to the older moments that keep us prisoners to our past, where we allow regret or desperation to grip us in our present. They are tempting, though, aren’t they? They lull us into “what-ifs” that make us believe the past is still attainable.

It is not.

What we are afforded from our past, however, are moments of great strength that serve us in different ways now. For me, that’s time spent living in a cabin along the shores of Chesapeake Bay. Instead of letting the “what-ifs” grip me, I embrace the still-present smells of the cool brackish waters mingling with the clays of the ancient cliffs around me, the sounds of a low-flying heron looking for a sunrise snack, the feeling of cold grains of wet sand formed around my feet like customized, natural sandals protecting me from the pin-pricks of fossilized teeth, lost millions of years ago by the sharks that inhabited these waters.

When I first experienced these things 33 years ago, I savored them for the moments in which they were born, and sometimes with the people with whom I so graciously shared them; today, though, I cherish the tranquility and solitude they bring me in the most hectic of hours; they bring peace to a present that is often far from the days living in a hand-built cabin in southern Maryland.

From this that is old, I do not wallow in regret; I bask in the glow of experiences gained to sustain my balance, my peace, on this long journey that carries me decades beyond those first hours spent along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where I pondered my own existence among the cliffs that held fossils millions and millions of years old.

We are gifted with what is old; we are lifted by what we take from it.

Challenging Times: Stay Close to Creativity

If you are anything like us, you are struggling in these days of despair and derailment to focus on giving your creative energy the time and space it is desperately demanding. We are, no doubt, out of alignment, and there has never been a greater call to pull our collective mindful acts together and allow our inner creativity to thrive.

We — Jodi, Adam, and Rus — are staying as close as we can in supporting each other’s creative efforts during quarantines and lockdowns as we work together throughout the world to stop its deadly spread. We, ourselves, are separated by continents, yet, our energies that we are pulling together are as strong as they have ever been.

It’s not easy, though, and we know many creatives are struggling out there to continue working on their writing, their music, their art, no matter what that might be.

We established this Collective to create a sacred space for the three of us to share our works, to challenge ourselves to take greater risks as artists, and to challenge other creatives across the globe to do the same. We took a break to focus on our own works as we did our best to manage through the challenges of domesticity.

In this time of our greatest crisis yet faced in our own lifetimes, however, we feel more empowered than ever to breathe new life into this sacred space, to share our focus in creating new works, and to encourage you to do the same.

Below, each of us shares two things: where we find ourselves in this unprecedented time, and what we are working on to keep our creative focus. In the comments below, we encourage you to do the same as well.

At this moment, we do not care what you are creating, and neither should you. For some of us, it might be an ongoing love letter to our children (even to the unborn) about what we are experiencing on a daily basis; for others, it might be a dystopian piece that captures how you are feeling at this moment. Still others might stray as far away from our current situation and create stories and poems of quiet summer evenings, of unrelated tales of horror, of stimulating erotica; all awaken the suppressed Svadhisthana chakra of creative and fertile energy that yearns to flow freely within and beyond you.

Beginning today, and every week hereafter, we are going to be offering encouraging challenges to you as we share the works we are creating. We must remain as close as possible, in any way imaginable, to pull us through. We all know that unfulfilled and stifled creativity can manifest dangerously into depression, anxiety, and even physical illness.

Here at the JAR Collective, we won’t allow that to happen to each other, and we won’t allow that to happen to you.

Join us, as we come together, and bind our creative energies in an irrefutable, strong force that manifests wellness for all.

JODI

I’m self employed, with a son who is homeschooled so not a lot has changed in one respect and everything has also changed. Our spoodle is one of the legions of internet hounds beside himself with joy to have all his humans home… especially my partner who will ‘work from the couch.’ I had signalled the March equinox as my return to work, after I was hospitalised in early January after a chronic health issue turned acute. While I took clients in the lead up to equinox to get my hand in and my confidence back up, I haven’t actually done client work since ‘officially’ returning to work. I haven’t quite found my centre yet, to be able to offer to hold that space for anyone else.

I am so aware of what I need, in terms of when I need to get up in the morning, the parts of my stillness practice which are non-negotiable for my mental health and general wellbeing. Yet as I flux in and out of great and horrific sleep, getting up at that magic 5am point is difficult. What my partner and I have been doing, is taking the dog down the road for coffee, and talking about what is going on in the world. We are very clear we do not want to talk about world events in our home; it is our sanctuary. I am also very clear about what brings me joy, comfort and pleasure, in small ways. Stopping to appreciate moments which would otherwise have passed unnoticed in different times.

My creative space has been anchored in the return of my daily poem project, The Daily Breath. It came down to the wire for me to decide to do it. Who the hell asks people to pay for art in a crisis, I asked myself when I was trying to decide what to do. People who know the power, the medicine and the comfort which art provides in times of high stress and uncertainty. It is all I am managing at the moment. Somehow time is moving faster than I am used to. Faster than I am able to fall into the flow of.

This too will change and I look forward to being immersed in words in thrive mode, rather than survive mode. I know what I am here to anchor in this time and words are only a part of it.

ADAM

As a teacher, these are different times. We are navigating pedagogy and syllabi and curricula in different ways to meet the needs of our students, some of whom require extra attention and care. We are doing our best at remote learning (not homeschooling) and there are challenges and rewards. There is a sense of apprehension and uncertainty, and how we allow our students to discuss and process these emotions that will determine their resilience. And from it will come good work, and average work, and rushed work. The usual.

As students are susceptible and vulnerable to change, many creatives are keenly attuned to the undercurrents of society and attempting to make them visible and/or audible to the greater masses. And some creatives are unsettled by the situation so creative works are difficult.

I’ve turned to drawing as a grounding activity when I feel words are hard to come by. I began to create single line drawings just over a year ago when there was a tumultuous time of moving house in the first half of the year, and resigning from my old school to start at a new school in 2020.

A single line drawn; a continuous, unbroken line.

The pen invents the existence of the image from the blank space of the page, drawing the white into the pen to reveal the darkness of the solar system beneath. Conversely, the tabula rasa of sight is given vision through the pen, leaking the blackness of the imagination onto the page.

The line takes shape: straight paradoxes, curved obstructions, angular indices, folded waves, circular epiphanies. The brevity of a single line suggests, coaxes, entices or has the complexity of a woven tapestry to illuminate, postulate, seduce.

As it is with words.

Single words.

Verb. Noun. Adjective. Preposition.

When connected together they expand, like the line, to form phrases and clauses. When arranged in single horizontal lines as sentences they give direction and purpose to the shape of the narrative.

Sentences with the lines of tailored couture bestow a resplendence of awareness.

Sentences with the sparseness of underpants and socks bestow a nakedness of understanding.

What are words but a single continuous line.

RUS

As a full-time teacher, serving at both the university and secondary levels, I find this time to be unsettling for both educators and our students. Everyone seems to be doing their best to navigate the right path forward. Fortunately, I have been teaching online at the university level for 10 years, so my focus is on supporting my secondary colleagues and students.

I have been home for 13 school days now, and much of my time is spent helping and supporting my other family members who are as directly affected by the shutdowns and quarantines. It’s what each of us should be doing: staying close, supporting one another, and clearing a path forward in these uncertain times.

I have preserved my creative space in two ways: delving into the world of watercolors, and working on a new piece of fiction, set in 1926 in Argentina. Both of these pursuits are beyond my comfort zone, and yet I find great solace in working on them, as they challenge me in a way that does not merely appease my uneasiness. That would be easy to do with creating and coloring Mandalas (which I still do). This new work in watercolors and writing allows me to get beyond appeasement; it is a surge in new energy that requires new thought, new courage, new focus.

A Challenge:

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way among other books on creativity, encourages individuals to make an “artist’s date” with yourself. We cannot think of a greater time to do this, with one caveat:

This date should be for no less than 90 minutes, and you must rid yourself of any expectation whatsoever to share your work. You can, if you like, later. But those 90 minutes must be sacred and personal, intimate and uninhibited. Abandon any worries about sharing; use this time to reconnect with your Svadhisthana energy.