12 Reminders for the Creative Life

The brain learns by repetition, repeat exposure, reminders. Often I’ve had insights arrive in my gray matter—sweet aha moments that soothe my worries and send waves of relief over my weary soul—only to just as soon forget those insights and find myself back in the mire of suffering, straining to recapture the relieving thoughts I once held firmly in my grasp. Thankfully over time I have learned to keep note of my insights (and others’) to revisit them as often as needed. This gives my brain opportunities to review and marinade in the sweet, sweet wisdoms of life.

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There Is a Vitality

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.” — Martha Graham

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October Flora

A pretty magical weekend. Nathan picked me up at my front door around 8pm Friday and we walked downtown for a beer at The Local prior to meeting up with his friends and seeing a brass band at the Dakota Jazz Club. Everyone was in a happy mood, we sat at a long table, crowded among others, a full house. The wine, water, beer was poured and shared; the frites and flatbread and escargot were served and enjoyed; the trumpets sang, trombones moaned, the tuba bellowed underneath. Continue reading →

Marquette, Michigan: Then and Now

Eleven summers ago, I sat at a picnic table at the Lower Harbor and experienced Zen for the first time in my life. I was seventeen years old and unaccompanied at the Harbor. I spent an hour there, midday, late July, noting my feelings and the world around me on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. The sheet of paper has helped me to remember the concrete details of that day, but my conscious memory has held onto the remarkable feeling of serenity I experienced there, without needing words as a reminder.

A fat man passed by on a bicycle, looking over to smile at me. A group of young teens sat together under the shade of an old tree, chatting and laughing. A mom and dad swung their gleeful toddler daughter between them, hand in hand in hand. A middle-aged couple stopped mid walk to turn to one another, give one another an efficient peck on the lips, then continue on. Eventually, a few young men, college age, approached me timidly to ask if they could use my table for a game of beer pong.

Lake Superior, as it often does, occupied the Harbor like a poised lady, her ample presence extending for miles and miles before the naked eye. Some sailboats stayed moored to the dock, some crossed the water in the distance, and some paused, anchored somewhere along the horizon.

As a child, I spent two weeks each summer visiting extended family in Marquette, as an alternative to summer camp. My uncle, a charismatic Irishman, lived in town and was my proud host. He spoiled me with ice cream, beach visits, cable television, and by offering freedom and respite from my immediate family and life back home.

*     *     *

After that particular summer, my life got busy and I never made it back for the traditional two-week visit. Life, between then and now, had some big things in store for me. Later that same summer, I fell in love for the first time. I graduated from high school, went on to graduate from college, lived in Europe for two years, did a good amount of flailing in the sea of my own life for six raw years between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and at age twenty-five moved back to the Midwest, around which time I also thankfully spotted a lighthouse—a stabilizing worldview—amid the sea of my experiences and influences. Most recently, I have spent three years living in Minneapolis, a big girl in a big city with a big-girl job, finding my stride as an adult.

*     *     *

I returned to Marquette for a visit this summer, age twenty-eight. The flight from Minneapolis was inexpensive, I needed a break from work, and I wanted to see family. Perhaps more than anything, I craved a visit with Lady Superior.

Things are still a bit hectic with family, now just at an advanced stage in time and development. Weddings have happened; babies born; addictions kept like fickle lovers; mental and emotional illness descended like hungry vultures on vulnerable prey; death’s door opened and closed; hearts broken and left ragged edged; new things seen; dirtier jokes told; new friends made; new words to say.

Hearts kept beating all that time, too, including my own. All that time, the waves of Lake Superior kept lapping up against her shores, and a great reserve filled the Harbor, offering a stable resting place for boats and weary souls—just inside the break wall, just past the lighthouse.

This visit, I took an evening walk down to the Lower Harbor, alone again, and allowed the serenity of time and space to sweep through me once again. This time, though, the calm was not bumped into by accident but rather consciously conjured. Lines from a Wallace Stevens poem breezed through my mind, just as wind glides easily over the surface of placid water. The trees around are for you, / The whole of the wideness of the night is for you, / A self that touches all edges, / You become a self that fills the four corners of the night.

I found a park bench facing the water and sat down. A man passed by with his dog, both grinning. Seagulls flew over water and perched at the apex of the boathouse roof. A photographer captured his young female subject in twilight. A briskly walking woman chatted into her cellphone. The sailboats stood stately in their assigned spots.

The lighthouse lay far out at the end of the break wall, and I gazed for a moment at its consistent blinking light. I held the image steady in my mind’s eye. What I knew in that moment, clearer than ever before, even in the evening light, is that there is a safe harbor in the self, despite the rigors of time and experience, despite the ties of family and social obligation, and despite the sometimes-stormy seas one must cross to arrive at oneself.

I knew then and I know now that I will always be able to find my way home in the world and in myself, eyes tracked to the beaming light; and there is a spot just for me, safe at harbor, to rest for the night.

–dkp

A Saturday in the Life

As much as possible these days, I play the game of intuition on the weekends. I have designed a “no plans” lifestyle for myself, which allows for complete freedom of being during my non-work hours. The game of intuition, for me, means acting as instinctively as possible, moment to moment, from basically the moment I leave work on Friday afternoons until going to bed on Sunday evenings.

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Let It Come

Much credence is given to the phrase and concept of “letting go.” We hear it all the time in popular psychology, and I’m personally fond of the phrase. However, it’s opposite rings true, too: “Let it come.”

Let it come. Open yourself up to receive. Feel the expansion of your heart chakra. A momentary flush of vulnerability may accompany this opening — an impulse to coil back inward. Sit with the feeling of that response; acknowledge it as a defense mechanism, and then recognize your ability to dispel unnecessary defenses. Allow the fright to pass. Know that you are safe. It’s OK to open up; it’s OK to receive your deepest wishes. Let your wishes come back to you as if they were boomerangs that sprouted wings along their journey and returned to you even brighter, even lighter, and even more refined than when you sent them out as wishes.

It’s all coming to you.
You need not meet it halfway.
Your search is over.
Let it come.

–dkp

Delaney books

On Too Much Reading

At the turn of 2015 I vowed to stop reading. It was truly a new year’s resolution to close the book, close the browser, close anything displaying too much text. I was fed up and sick on information. My gluttony was intellectual and spiritual, as I sought wisdom, instruction, knowledge, validation, and answers in everything I read. I cannot say when this behavior took hold, but it advanced and accelerated in college and hardly slowed afterward. I had always read voraciously to nourish and inform my soul, never slowing to consider the side effects, because no one ever said that reading was bad for a person. No one ever let on that it could make one feel overwhelmed, uneasy, dizzy and disoriented, ill by over-consumption.

The resolution did not stick, and of course, it wasn’t really meant to, not forever that is. Still, no more than twenty four hours passed before my reading habits resumed, not even slightly curbed. I gulped articles over work breaks, downloaded books in PDF format and read them on my monitors in intervals between tasks. I fell asleep with volumes of poetry and essays beside my bed. I practiced Dutch with local newspapers and gorged the etymology of unfamiliar English vocabulary. My hungry eyes raced across pages like the eyes of a ravenous man scan the contents of a buffet. I had always wanted to taste it all—until I did not want another morsel.

During a conversation I had with my father roughly two years ago, he stopped me mid-sentence and, in efforts to rectify one of my runaway trains of thought regarding my relationships to writing and reading, said, “But honey, reading is an escape; writing is an expression.” He went on to encourage me to practice more of the latter, even if it meant less of the former. This struck me as an at once bold and inspiring assertion. The realization was there, though, and made explicit: The acts of reading and writing are complements, and a balance must be struck, tailored to each literate individual. Reading does not have to be an escape, and indeed my undergraduate training was in reading actively rather than passively, but admittedly I had been grazing words, sentences, essays, articles, and books constantly—only occasionally stopping to digest. Full digestion, for me, means reifying my reading experiences by putting them into my own words, by writing about how those experiences influence me.

The gluttony persists. My constipation, too, persists, and this blog post is an attempt, once again, to abjure. This time not to abjure the act of reading entirely, but to renounce its primary claim on my time and vital energies. For a spell, that is. I shall turn my attention to writing more prolifically. I shall detoxify my system by abstaining from too many new impressions and by purging those which have gone stale and clogged my system. I shall let that which has gone into me find its way back out.

I will not hold myself to refined expression. This is an untried experiment for me and ipso facto will be messy and unpredictable. For once in my life I shall not balk due to arguments of quality versus quantity. My intention is to spew. My intention is to get messy, to let go of words and see how they arrange themselves on the page.

I am ripe with education and experience, skin nearly bursting to share what is within. Others may now take a bite of me. And my hope, of course, is that the menu will become more appetizing with practice and with time.

forest maribel caves

A Letter To My Spirit

I wish this was a jungle for you. I wish, with each sentence passing before your eyes, you felt as if you were cleaving tropical branches, evading layered leaves, parting brush underfoot, following the sound of falling water, perspiring from every pore, gaining valiant speed, hurdling natural obstacles, running to the rhythm of your own savage heart. I wish, for your sake, that you felt truly like the animal that you are, acquiring abrasions on your skin as a testament to your expedition. I wish I could conjure a foreign landscape, a terrain for you to uncover, feel, make your own. I wish these words could elicit the dilation of your pupils, lengthen your limbs, climb your cliffs for you.

They cannot. I cannot.

What I learned lately is that life is a mastering of topography and currently I am a prairie – untouched, un-bended by breezes. I am
flat
bland
monotonous
straight
dull
content.

Forest branches, proving to be ineffective rungs, have already severed my vessels. Hot blood red and everywhere. Mountain air has left me light-headed, comatose, thin. I have toppled into wasted valleys and been carried along by unstopping streams, flushed into oceans much too vast, those oceans now tucked securely in my pockets, those glaciers melting and trickling down my temperate thighs. I have trekked my way home through swampy, leech-infested marshes, hanging my head heavy and low the whole way, dragging with me my own languid limbs. I have knocked on Atmosphere’s door, asked if I really belong here on Earth.

I have arrived at a meadow.

Yes, studio apartment, solitude, a letting go, a candle and cigarette lit, belly full of food, I am roughly the most joyful person on this planet. A stretch of meadow before and inside me, a buzzing of bees, a budding of flowers, a space to run and roam and roll on steady stable sturdy sassy soil. I am the bliss beneath my blisters.