beauty, writing, & the soul

“The church has given considerable attention to [the Platonic ideals] Truth and Goodness, to theology and ethics. But too often Beauty has escaped us, or we have tried to escape from it. This is partly because of its innovative, experimental aspect, its way of reaching for originality or a new way of expressing an old standard. In many Christian circles this is felt to be dangerous … because beauty can neither be controlled nor programmed.” –Luci Shaw

“The artist must be obedient to the work…. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’ And the artist either says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses.” –Madeleine L’Engle

“If an image shows up, often uninvited, I am called to stop everything and pay attention…. There’s a cost to it, in time, in energy. But the rewards are great. When a poem is finished after many drafts, when it has settled into what it was meant to be, I sometimes echo Dorothy Sayers who exclaimed, on finishing a novel, ‘I feel like God on the Seventh Day!'” –Luci Shaw

“The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, creative writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves, ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’ Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, in trust that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath … and gradually come in touch with our own riches.” –Henri Nouwen

These quotes best say what I yet cannot and speak of what I’ve been missing. For the better part of two years, this part of my soul has lain dormant. It came out of its slumber last week, setting me off on poem-writing spree as if it’d never left. My best guess is that the great looming cloud of an eventual relocation to Japan, together with the major life changes of marriage and motherhood, stripped my soul of its creative efforts for a time. I tried to write, but it just didn’t work. It was forced and contrived — I just couldn’t think of the words I wanted to use. I often blamed ‘pregnancy-brain,’ but since the cloud has cleared, I can see that it was so much more than hormones: every part of my soul was caught up in survival mode, not just the poet. I couldn’t sing with conviction. I couldn’t laugh with abandon. I couldn’t be strange and silly with old friends. I couldn’t choose restaurants, not having a desire for any real tastes. It was a strange season of life. And for whatever reason, it has ended.

I love the metaphors that accompany gardening: I truly feel today like a well-watered soul. I feel like an old part of me has budded and opened up, and the possibilities thrill me. A new way of living to discover! And no life-changing moves or happenings in the foreseeable future.

There is much room for growth here. I have a bit more understanding as to the purpose of the prior post. God is good, indeed.

(All quotes taken from a compilation book called The Christian Imagination, Leland Ryken, ed.)


2 thoughts on “beauty, writing, & the soul

  1. I was interested to read your blog. As a parent you may be interested in being part of a university study I’m involved with. It’s about how infants and children develop. It wouldn’t take much of your time, and it’s a great way to contribute to knowledge by reporting on your own experiences. For more details go to the following address after copying it into your browser window, Best wishes,Melissa

  2. the boys (big and small) are still sleeping and i got up early to catch up on my email. so glad i looked at your blog. you said just what i’ve suspected about myself for a long time…i feel that certain numbness that comes with operating in survival mode, even when you love your new life. have you ever seen a book called “poemcrazy” by susan goldsmith wooldridge? she tells a story about an experience like yours…she was a new mom, had put writing on hold while she was raising her baby, and one hot day she was driving her car for a long time before she realized how suffocating the car had become. a voice in her head said, “open the window,” which she did, and a cool breeze came in. she kept thinking about that phrase over and over, and a couple of weeks later a huge burst of poetry poured out of her, and she felt it was because her unconscious had somehow opened a window. sounds like the move to japan has done that for you. maybe a move back to omaha will get it going for me. 🙂
    p.s. i love “the christian imagination.” what a fantastic book.

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