“Personal freedom.” I wake from a dream to a quiet message. The midsummer sun is rising outside my bedroom window. I open one eye. The softness of pinks and blues and the orange glow on the horizon coax the left eye to open as well. The poet Rumi’s words “do not go back to sleep” remind me of my new commitment; honor the morning, rise when awakened.
The message repeats itself, “personal freedom.” The words echo in my empty morning mind, personal freedom.
Sleepily I swing my legs off the side of the bed. The old wooden floorboards on the bottom of my feet respond with a familiar creak. My mind tempts me to begin my day grinding coffee beans, but my body ignores it and carries me down the hall and into my studio.
The Pacific Northwest waters shimmer a silvery white in the distance. “Personal freedom” the words begin to dim, threatening to slip away. I grab a piece of paper and a pen and sit down in front of the fireplace to record what I hear.
What if I suspended judgment and acted as if life itself had my back? What freedom would I allow myself? What would I let myself try if I wasn’t afraid of failing?
The sun is moving higher in the sky and I turn my gaze to the 40 x 48 canvas owning the space nearest the windows. My never-ending painting (named for the two years and many changes its been through!)
I am reminded that this painting also came to me in a dream. I woke one morning with photographic images dancing in my mind’s eye. There I was, confidently applying paint to a massive canvas. My body was in motion; knees bending, crouching low, my brush makes contact with the lower left hand corner of the canvas, “keep it loose, don’t choke your brush,” the painter, Kathleen Carrillo’s voice reverberates, reminding me of her instruction in her studio overlooking the jungle outside of Puerto Vallarta. Energetically I extend the brush with my right arm and my body follows, springing up across the canvas, making bold strokes with a confidence unbeknownst to me.
The physicality of writing, I know well. I follow my mentors’ lead, Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg both suggest writing with a fast moving pen and a plain coil bound notebook, nothing fancy. No need to set up expectations. When I am in the flow, the letters change; my body is in rhythm with my mind.
Stunned by the feeling of absolute freedom the painting dream has instilled in me, I am excited, but intimidated. I whisper my secret to the Universe “Thank you for the inspiration, but I wouldn’t know where to begin on such a huge canvas. I am only just learning to paint.” Hours later I am walking home with only my feet and head poking out from behind this canvas that has now taken up residence on my easel.
This morning’s message percolates…’what if I suspended judgement” “if I wasn’t afraid of failing.” I sit on the windowsill staring at my painting, and suddenly I realize something. I have failed on this painting. One hundred times over I have failed on this painting. And you know what? Each time I’ve survived. Sure I’ve let it sit for times (often months) untouched because I’m stuck in perfectionism or wanting to be the painter I will be 5, 10, 15 years from now, but I continue to circle back and begin again. I get myself here, now.
This morning I fill my water cans and squeeze more magenta onto a paint pallet. As I wet my brushes, I remind myself that I can mess up as many times as possible and still, I will come back to this painting. It has become my classroom of sorts. So much of what I now know about painting comes from this one 40 X 48 painting. I’ve learned how to mix from experiencing how not to mix color, I’ve learned about light and shadow, and most importantly, I’ve learned to respond to my inner creative source and allow myself to try.