It Need Not Be
Many of you will be familiar with the following quotation:
Let me put it into a little bit more context for you, though. Perhaps you have also read Gift from the Sea and know this, but as I was re-reading it the other day, I found it helpful to read more of the chapter that the quotation is from. I was also keeping in mind that the book was written in 1955. (My edition is the 50th anniversary, 2005). I think it’s useful to return to these iconic texts to see how far we’ve come, and well, not come. Lindbergh talks about how women, now that they’re not stuck in the home, have to be careful not to dissipate “our energy in more purposeless occupations, more accumulations” and “more possessions.” She writes about the German word “Zerrissenheit – torn-to-pieces-hood” in which a woman will be “shattered into a thousand pieces.” She recommends, “quiet time alone.” “It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem, or saying a prayer.”
So there it is.
I’ve given up that mythical “trying to strike a balance in life” thing, and now I really just strive to not be shattered into a million pieces. I try not to go in too many directions at once. Just a manageable number of directions. An interesting number of directions.
I’ve been gathering up a little clutch of books that inspired me when writing my essays, Calm Things, which seems a long time ago now. The Lindbergh was in the stack, and so was Doris Grumbach’s Fifty Days of Solitude. Annie Dillard’s books, of course. And Sharon Butala’s Perfection of the Morning. May Sarton’s journals. Louise Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance, about motherhood. A few others, though there are some I probably don’t even remember. And of course, from my vantage point now, I realize they are all, with the exception of the Erdrich, written by white women. The good news, is that there is such a wealth of essay writing by women of colour available to us now. I’ve read a number of the books on this list but there are lots more for me to discover.
But to the point Lindbergh makes: “It need not be an enormous project or a great work.” Yes. I’ve decided to learn how to photograph flowers. My goal is to make a photograph I like enough to have blown up large. I mean, huge. Well, as huge as I can afford. That is how I will know I met my goal. The project, really, though is not an enormous one. The plan is just to learn a few new things every week. Seems reasonable, right? I’m not asking myself to make a “great work” but something that I like. And I’m quite easy to please. So how long might this take? A few months? A year? Stay tuned….
I’ve been looking for inspiration on Instagram, naturally, and there are a lot of amazing flower photographers. But one, I think you will enjoy is Natasja Sadi’s Cake Atelier in Amsterdam. She makes makes sugar flowers, yes SUGAR flowers, and then photographs them.
I don’t know where I’m going to go with the flower photography, but I’m hoping to come up with something a little different, you know? I won’t be making sugar flowers, but I do want to challenge myself.
Well, one thing I do know….the flower can always be changing…..