We traveled to the east coast this past weekend to shoot a wedding. Donny and I sat on the first leg of our early morning flight. He nudged me, “See that?!” and motioned towards the windows on the opposite side of the plane.
I saw it instantly: a fire in the sky, rich with pinks and purples and oranges.
He knows my love affair with the colors of Creation. First, I looked to the closest window, right across the aisle, but my vision was blocked. The flight was packed to the brim with passengers. They were gripping laptops and coffee cups, snacks and tabloids, all the “necessities” we bring aboard a six hour flight.
I struggled in my seat to find a good view. Just beyond those dirty, thick airplane windows, there was a majestic gift just waiting to meet my gaze. I leaned forward and back and stretched my neck all around, but, despite my efforts, I just couldn’t fully see the beauty.
Every moment, the glow of the colors grew richer and more vibrant, calling to me in a language I understood more clearly than words. I was on the right side of the plane. Five passengers sat between me and the sunrise. I desperately wanted to press my face against the windows, but I sat, buckled in. A feeling of deep dread grew stronger within me with each passing second. My winter boots were laced up tight, and my down coat with the furry hood was wrapped around me in anticipation of the snowstorm we knew was waiting for us in New York. These things normally gave warmth and comfort, but I only felt trapped, so very aware that I had no choice but to stay still, separated from the incredible miracle just out of reach.
That was when I realized I was the only one looking towards the sun. All of the passengers that were lucky enough to have a front row ticket to the glory on the left side of the plane just ignored its existence.
I rose out of my seat a bit, lifting my body with my arms, searching for one person that saw what I saw. No faces looked heavenward. There was no acknowledgment of the obvious miracle just one glance away. I said to Donny, “Do you notice that not one person is watching the sunrise?!” And, before he could respond, I said again, louder, and with more passion, “Can you believe that no one is seeing the sunrise??!!!” He giggled at me, familiar with how I can start a personal mission to make everything right in the world.
I was painfully aware that I couldn’t leave my seat. I was trapped, separated from the divine. I just wanted to swim in the vibrancy I saw out there, to heal my wounds and release the art locked within my bones. I felt the heat rise up in my body, first to my palms, then to my chest, and finally to my face, my blood boiling from the inside out. A fire raged within me, desperately burning with wild fearlessness.
I closed my eyes and tried to breathe deeply. Thoughts rushed through my mind. I remembered how I have always looked for the deepest meaning in things others may see just as ordinary, or not worth taking note of. I wanted to scream to those passengers in the airplane “LOOK! DO NOT LET IT PASS YOU BY! FEEL THAT WARMTH AGAINST YOUR SKIN! DON’T YOU SEE THAT A MIRACLE IS JUST BEYOND THE WINDOWPANE?!!”
Tears dripped down my face.
The flames of fire within me then turned to introspection. This is how I have felt all of my life. My mom struggled with my extreme passion ever since I was born. She told me that, from the age of 15 months, I had a story to tell. Throughout my preschool and elementary years, she was always trying to keep my hands and mind busy, or else I would find a way to channel that zeal elsewhere. I had so much within me.
There was also much pain in my childhood, concerning my father. Combined with my born intensity, I had to get it out. I filled diary after diary. In third grade I wrote a book of poems; they were tender and dark, with simple hope as a theme. I remember writing them in my backyard, under our apricot trees, rolling around in the long grass. Even then I would escape into nature, outside of the house that often felt suffocating. When I was alone, I didn’t feel lonely; it allowed me to create. The quieting of my own mind and mouth allowed me to listen for inspiration.
These days, I am practicing quite a bit of intentional quiet. Looking more closely for breadcrumbs along the way. Not disregarding the small details of the day as coincidental or meaningless. Writing things down, writing a lot of things down. Keeping my mind clear and allowing myself the space I need to listen for truth. Pushing back against distraction tactics that I can often use to numb my deep thoughts. Refusing to believe the lie whispered in my ear that I am not qualified to instruct wisdom to others.
The voices of doubts are false. We each have a story of hope to add to the world. We have to tell those voices to shut up, then just do the thing we were created to do.
After 15 years of pushing down my passion for introspection, I am giving myself permission to scream from the rooftops. Being a deep thinker can be lonely; it can feel isolating; and it is a heavy burden. But that’s because getting your words and your art out into the world is so valuable and desperately needed.
I am sick of surface talk. I want to no longer spend time filling space with pretty words and happy endings, just because I think that it is safe. I want to talk about things that matter. I want to really, truly know people. I was born to be an artist, the kind that has to feel things so heavily that it often leaves me breathless and on the floor. But this new freedom also feels productive. For years, I was pushing it aside and it made me miserable. That untapped energy manifested itself into severe anxiety and panic attacks, never feeling comfortable in my own skin and feeling lost. But I remember again. A fire is burning, and I am desperately and intentionally fanning that flame, purely by taking notice.
I took a break from social media. I needed some time away, to reassess my existence and remember who I belong to and who I began creating for in the first place. I realize now that my previous unsettled feelings were because I avoided diving into the deep waters of surrender, where the Spirit and muse for my creation is always found. I also thought that, because I hid from my depths for so long, that I could never find that burning fire again without attaching guilt or shame or embarrassment to all my brooding reflections.
When I wrote my harvest session post, it was the first step in recovering my direction. Just saying those things publicly and taking a stand for what I wanted my work to 100% represent brought rest, professionally and for my art. It was time for me to give myself permission to channel and express myself in a way that would bring a new kind of rest, for the core of who I am in my soul and for who I was created to be. I was knit together with extra empathy and sensitivity with great favor. It was no accident. It is not to be numbed. It may be lonely but I am not alone. I feel the Spirit nudging me and affirming me. I am savoring each breadcrumb, accepting the freedom of knowing who I am and how I need to express it. And all those words that were trapped and jumbled within me for so long, well, in these last few weeks, they have become poetry.
We returned from our New York trip last night, just in time to witness one of the most unbelievably vivid sunsets we have seen since moving to Washington sixteen months ago. I held Clementine’s hand, and we walked beneath the willow tree and sat down on a fallen trunk beside the pond. We sat silently, eyes wide, taking in the glory until the sky turned a dark shade of violet. We both began to shiver a bit. This morning, when she woke up, she ran to the window, heartbroken at what she saw, crying and howling at the sky, “Oh no!!! It didn’t come back! The sunset!”
As she cried and cried, I scooped her up and held her in my arms. I told her, “Clem, it’s there. We just can’t see it yet! We don’t know if it will come back tonight or tomorrow, but we will just keep watching.”
“Are you born a writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way; if you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt me, you hurt the planet… You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along it’s path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.