Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dogged Dedication

Stick With Love (18'x21") pastel on fabric and fabric applique  (available)

This is a portrait of an amazing athlete named Lady, who lived with my Sweetheart's neighbors. Lady was utterly dedicated to playing Stick. I'd be sitting on the porch reading, sipping tea; there would come a thump: Lady dropped a stick in handy reach for tossing. "Not now," I'd say, looking into her pleading eyes only briefly, hoping to avoid her hypnotizing mojo.

She'd pick it up and drop it again, enticingly. "Maybe later," I'd say, "Not now." Briefly discouraged by my stupidity, Lady soon was re-inspired. "OH! You don't like this one?" and she'd trot off to find another. Once she staggered over with a whole piece of firewood and offered it--"What's it gonna TAKE? come ON!!!"

Soon I'd admit to her superior wisdom--after all, "maybe later"
is the kiss of death to the creative spirit, which I recognized as what was driving my friend; only "NOW" will do. And what joy to watch her brilliant skill express itself! She'd dash and leap and pluck that stick out of the air with the exactness of a temple bell ringing. The ardor of her practice never diminished, until the moment it was suddenly done, and she'd pant in the shade for a few minutes to get ready to begin again.

I do not throw well. Never have. I have asked plenty of skillful throwers to teach me. I have practiced with elbow out, twirling the whole torso around, using power from the torque of the hips, is that it? Still the projectile lands a few pathetic feet away, somewhere irrelevant to where I aimed.

But Lady--the magnificent, Olympic-caliber Stick Genius--always seemed thrilled with our collaboration. Not a whiff of disappointment or criticism, when the stick sailed only a few feet like a shallow infield pop-up, offering no challenge at all. Once, with a big wind-up and heave-ho, I lost hold at the top of the arc, and the stick vanished behind me, faking us both out. "Whoa! Nice one! Didn't see that coming!" were Lady's only comments as she trotted past me with a toothy grin, to pick it up.


Lady also liked to chase cars, and that's what did her in. Now, from the spirit realm she channels these pointers for all ardent creators in any medium:

Do what you love for the love of it; this is where discipline in the practice of your art comes from.

You're born to do it; centered in this knowing, the tedium of repetition, the temporary confusions and obstacles, the splinters in your tongue, none of these really even exist for you.

When it doesn't go where you thought it would: even better.

Never criticize or reject your Friend's contributions. Your Friend is essential to your Work. No matter what comes through her, a botched toss, an awkward sentence, an off-key note, a mucky drawing, Just Go Fetch! There is only the glory of being yourself, or hiding that, hiding from that. Fetch to fetch. You won't get anything from it, there's nothing to get, except the stick you love. Fetch the stick you had before you started, then drop it at the Friend's feet. That's all.

I'll add:

The only thing that can keep you from Sticking with your passion to create is a thought. A thought like, "Maybe later...." which probably fronts for some flavor of fear. Or a thought like, "I am not really passionate about anything. There is nothing Stick-like for me." 

Louise Hay says, "It is only a thought, and a thought can be changed." For me, thoughts don't seem to change much by brute affirmation. And they do change. They change quite naturally, like the weather does, when I realize they aren't actually true, that they really are only thoughts.


Double Portrait of Buddy, 9"x25" oils, '04?

Buddy is another fine dog in the same neighborhood. He herds the UPS truck, and lives on. We do what we have to do.