Every Friday I start and finish work half an hour earlier than usual. With precision timing, this allows me to catch the bus into town. I walk through the Mall, up the hill (my town really only has one hill, but it’s steep) and to the Cathedral which sits on top of the hill, looking out across the city and the river. I walk under the organ loft and through a door marked (annoyingly) “Choristers Vestry”. I slip into the room beyond with the incredulous relief of a caught fish returned to the cool, shadowy waters of its pool. In the Choristers’ Vestry I am safe. I am at home. For the next hour and a half, I join fellow singers and friends. We work hard – I often think that I work harder in that time than I do for the whole rest of my week – and we make music.
It is during this time that I realise afresh just how blessed I am. My weekly routine includes and revolves around beautiful music, not only listening to it but helping to make it, being swept up in it, working with talented and inspiring people to bring it into being. How many people get to say that?
It’s not just that, though. These people with whom I spend time are friends in the truest sense. They have become family. They have shown me love and caring, and allowed me to show them love and caring. They have been with me in darkness and remained with me as I am journeying into light. They have been God to me at times when God has seemed far off. They have been safety to me at times when I have had none in my home town and in my home. Now they are gracious enough to share my healing with me.
And then on Sunday we get to sing amazing music together. How could I be more richly blessed?
Laurie R King on Mozart: “Frenzied gaiety and weeping put into music. The agony of the man is at times unbearable”.
Yesterday, someone asked me what I was reading. I happened to be reading the poetry of Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Now, this is a man with, to quote Adrian Plass (another favourite), a brain the size of a planet. And a heart and spirituality to match. His poems are not easy. They are not lovely. They deal with the darkness and light of humanity, of the world around us. They are not easy to understand. They are richly layered with metaphor and meaning. They are not something you can read in the ten minutes before going to sleep, or with your mind on your dinner.
But, being a polite and well-mannered individual, I obligingly explained what I was reading and handed over the book for her perusal. Her response: “Poetry, how lovely! Poetry is so soothing, don’t you think?” I was hard-pressed to reply.
Poetry is not soothing. Not as a general rule. Some is, of course – but that’s not its role. Poetry is not there to make us feel better, although often it does (a happy by-product?). Poetry is there to reflect us, our experiences, our hopes and terrors and the very world we live in, in a mirror of words. Poetry is there to make us think, to make us see who we are, who we were and who we can be. Poetry gives us glimpses into our very soul. It’s not there to be pretty, or soothing – it’s there to sear itself down into the very core of our being.
Why would I want to be soothed when I can have the world opened up right in front of me?
I have been doing a lot of thinking about creativity. Where it comes from. How it works. Why sometimes my mind flies from idea to idea; why at other times I stare helplessly at the blank page that mirrors the state of my mind. Why sometimes fear is what keeps my mind silent; why at other times the poetry in my head outshines the anxiety and makes it down the shaft of my pen and onto waiting paper.
And here is what I have realised: when thinking about creativity, I mix my metaphors. Creativity is a flame, the first glow of the candle’s wick, so vulnerable that the merest breath of air transforms it to nothing more than a wisp of smoke, a memory so faint you can barely hold onto it. It must be nurtured, protected, until it burns strongly enough to light a whole room. A whole mind.
And yet, in apparent contradiction, my creativity is also water, a flow. Living water, clear and vibrant. Up until recently, the flow has been choked by weeds and debris. What used to be my creativity became a trickle of pollution, muddied liquid reminding me only of what I used to have. Healing has cleared some of these cloying weeds and while I can’t yet say the flow is strong, the water is running clear again. I am grateful.
Some of my friends have blogs. Some of my friends are amazingly creative. And I am inspired by them. So now I too have a blog.
Back in March my oldest friend (oldest as in the length of time we’re been friends – not her age) said that she wants to try to put herself into the world. She is an incredible person, vibrant and intelligent and creative. There’s a lot that she can put into the world. Now this is my haltering attempt to put myself into the world – and to convince myself that I’m worth putting into the world.