All the self-care in the world has little effect if I cannot share a cup of tea with a friend and know, tiny wreck or not, I am loved.
“Social change can be seen as a mosaic, taking that which is broken and creating something new. Each of us contributes our own piece to the whole, each in our own way, each in our own time with the gifts and talents that are ours. You ask about possible vehicles for change: question, stand, speak, act. Engage in unruly behavior. Disturb the status quo. Take direct action. Commit civil disobedience. Make art. Build community. Dance. Sing. Farm. Cook. Create something beautiful and then give it away. Find your own monkey wrench and use it with the force of love. Sharpen your pencil. Vote.”
-Terry Tempest Williams
When I look at this suggestion by Terry Tempest Williams, from an interview on the Rumpus, I see myself in there, a social change maker-making art, jam, books, a family, dancing, making my own monkey wrench with daily creative practice in hand bound books. But it is not every day that I feel myself a success. As an expressive artist, I need the loop of audience to complete my process, for feedback, for insight, for reflection, and connection. And sometimes sitting at my desk or the many places in my house that I have claimed as my workspace, this long fertile solitude is not enough.
I thrive in community. I have collaborators; some of whom I get to see at yoga, pet their dogs, or take walks and wonder with. I have people nearby with whom I exchange art dates, sharing skills and investigations. I belong to a group of women creative entrepreneurs who meet monthly, I am part of a Mastermind group, and I have a writing buddy. I am part of a writing group that meets once a month to share work. Many of my collaborators are far away, so we plan tea visits or phone calls so we can catch up and really hear each other. I like to help people with big projects like my friends and their Maple Sugar Shack. I am a good worker. Taped up on our cupboard is Marge Piercy’s poem, To Be Of Use.
“The people I love best
jump in to work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.”
This is why I love to go to a few workshops or conferences every year. I work hard in solitude, I need, crave, and grow when I have plenty of quiet, but I also need the busyness of classes where I hone my skills and refine my perspective. It helps me to feel part of something bigger, to be with other hard workers.
What happens at Powder Keg?
As a teacher, fed by solitude, filled by community, I serve it back to my classes. In thanks, my Powder Keg Writing Workshop at the Ramsdell Public Library showered me with a basket full of so much sweetness, maple syrup, a gift certificate to the book store, and special candies, a scarf with birds on it, paintings and a collage, special recordings, and a sketchbook. I read their messages and I know without a doubt that I am successful in helping them build the necessary ladders towards living in their own creative practice. We meet weekly and I see them grow in leaps and bounds.
All of this serves me so that when I experience a small failure, a rejection of a submitted piece of writing or grant proposal or difficult feedback, I know I am not alone. I have evidence of making a small difference in the life of another.
How about you? What feeds you when you feel like a tiny wreck?
All the self-care in the world has little effect if I cannot share a hot cup of tea with a friend, a sounding hug, a long look in to the eyes of another where deep in that gaze, I recognize myself again, a bumbling human, trying not to step on all the jewels at my feet, aiming to catch sunrise and sunset, smiling until it hurts, salting my cheeks with tears, and feeling seen,
grateful and seen.
I hope however you spend the weekend, you have a little bit of that seeing and being seen.
Here is a gallery of photographs made by Frania Caulfield, from our Powder Keg Public Reading at No. Six Depot Roastery & Cafe in West Stockbridge, MA.