When the Soul Dares to Breathe

In high school, I was somewhat of a wallflower, afraid to take any steps forward or, perish the thought, step apart and outside any socially-approved box.  Yet my proclivity to whimsy eventually gave me away in my senior year’s art class when the teacher noted that my sculptures – while exhibiting a rather orderly framework – still possessed a “whimsical quality”.  Through his pair of greatly thickened eyeglass lenses, he had perceived my soul’s gasping for air.

My college art teacher was the first to explain why we students were so sensitive to criticism regarding our artistic endeavors…  “These are your babies. You created them. Because they come from within you and are an extension of your own hands, you will naturally be protective of them.”   So, we learned to listen carefully, weathering the stinging critiques from peers and mentors, as one might glean some new direction for a future work.

Of course, I did better when I kept my glasses off and used the watercolors to wash the shapes and block images in place…we were painting along the estuary, so the sailboats and docks were far more interesting when I stopped looking at all the details and captured only their essence.  So, too, were the Victorian homes that we painted on location the next week’s assignment.

“Keep your glasses off, Annette” was my teacher’s friendly admonition.  Thus, I followed his advice and discovered a freedom that corrective lenses had long denied me.

These days, I am emerged in the practice of creating; this time as a writer and soon to be published author.  As in anything I perceive worthwhile, I tackle the task head-on with a child-like optimism, followed by learned self- doubt, then a convicted “I can do this” on to a more cautious “I must be crazy to think I can pull this off!”  I am reminded of a story shared in English class about the relationship between the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda; on days when her mental acuity often lingered on the fragile precipice between real and imagined, threatening imagery, she was comforted by her husband’s assurances that it was indeed the world that was crazy, not she; not his beloved!  The guy was obviously pure genius.

Most hours are spent in unending repetition:  edit; edit; proof; rewrite; edit; toss; rewrite; edit; walk away; edit; bury for twenty-four hours; reread;  edit; , proof some more… Eventually, the essence makes itself known …and Voila!  Like my watercolors years earlier, images slowly emerge and juxtapose with some surprising happenstance of words.  To write is to find out what one thinks.

So, I The Implementer – the one who has walked others’ ideas from beginning to end, breathing life into others’ goals –  is now at the helm; it is my turn to be The Visionary.  My first collection has gone to print; I have successfully communicated a “vision” and, with God’s hand, found an illustrator who could translate my words into a breathing pallet.  We “meshed” and her paint brush picked up where my pen left off.  Such is the grace of God watching over the smallest of our human endeavors.

Thirty plus years later, I still remove my glasses often, so that I may cull the necessary from the excess weeds constantly blurring my thoughts; hoping again to find the right words to cut through into that whimsical realm of my soul…