This requires the biggest leap of all: claiming myself as an Artist. For so long, I kept this a secret, locked in a box in the very, very center of my heart. It was a tiny bird that I fed lovingly, kept it warm holding it close, tight in my hands, whispering all my secrets to it, but utterly unable to let it fly.
In the sixth grade my teacher Mr. Nyegard told me, “You could be a writer if you wanted to. You could be anything you want to be.” He was sitting in a bright red, child-sized chair, knees pushed up into his chest, leaning towards me with his eyes wide, gesturing his hands wildly at the future he wanted me to be able to see. He believed in my potential and encouraged me to believe also. I was desperate to believe him, to believe such a thing about myself—the girl who sweat too much, had warts, cried herself to sleep sometimes, and loved books more than anything. I had trouble internalizing his faith as my own, but I held tight to the memory, turning it over and around in my mind and watching the way the light would catch it.
Many years later when I was going to college at Oregon State University, I had a writing teacher named Ehud Havazelet. Ehud’s torso was square and solid, his arms and legs like four lines drawn on but not belonging to him. In class, he would sit on a table, legs crossed, his arms spinning in all directions as he talked. He reminded me of a bird—with his sharp nose; bright, wild eyes flashing behind his glasses; hair that rose off his head like feathers. He told us that writing was about telling the truth and that we would find the truth somewhere between our hearts and our stomachs. In his office one day, I told him that writing had become difficult for me, had always been difficult, because the truth was so precious to me that I stored it in a box on the highest shelf, a box that I could hardly bring myself to touch, let alone open. He told me that I had to be brave, that he wouldn’t ask if he didn’t think I could. The force of his words made my eyes burn.
And now, I find myself beginning again. I am realizing that as much as talent or skill, art is about showing up and being open to what arises, and being brave enough to manifest the truth.
“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” ~Sharon Salzberg
Writing is my primary artistic practice, my calling, but I enjoy many other forms of artistic expression as well: collage, blackout poetry, Zentangle, doodling, mandalas, quilting, sewing, mixed media, found objects, web design, painting, drawing, and singing.