Much as I embrace No Attachment (and I have posted little signs above my desk that remind me of that), I feel that writing poems, indeed making art of any kind, demands abundance and wholeheartedness. And I really do mean demands.
Please note that I am most definitely not talking about buying things, the sort of abundance promoted by catalogues, shopping websites, and things like Pinterest and even Etsy. I’m talking about the kind of abundance that is: trees full of leaves in June in the Great Lakes region. Wholeheartedness strikes me as the habit of mind that makes way for abundance.
Recently, in the spirit of wholeheartedness, I visited all six gardens on the Ann Arbor Garden Walk. I had donned my old-lady sunhat and my sensible shoes, but in this one garden in particular, I felt like a child ushered into a magical kingdom whose inhabitants had long ago pledged allegiance to Abundance and Wholeheartedness. In this garden there would be no sidestepping art. Either you were going to wallow in it or you were going to move on. I was pleased to note the abundance of tour goers and the length at which they were lingering.
This kind of workshop does not get built in a day, or even a year. Every single piece in here has been placed. The curio cabinet alone represents hundreds of instances of selecting and placing. I walked out wondering: when was the last time I’d let myself engage with the space around me in this way (collecting and arranging)? Other than in the context of shopping for new things, I can’t recall, and that’s a little embarrassing.
I even liked seeing an old Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue tossed (casually?) near the doorway. Remember when there was no controversy surrounding the naked body as muse? Neither do I. I’m not ruing the complications surrounding representations of the human body engendered by postmodern theory. I’m just reminding myself not to be so suspicious of desire that I become prudish, or worse, parsimonious.
At the other end of this wall of sculpted human faces—the inspiration for which was in evidence all throughout the workshop/studio—green gardens open outward and inward, both. A small tower drew my eye upward—to its iron and stone weather vein and beyond it to the glorious blue summer sky, and then back down and outward to small islands of coniferous and deciduous plants and trees that themselves drew my eye in and in (veined leaves, ruffled leaves, light leaves, dark leaves, and needles of every length and hue of green). I learned from the tour brochure that the artist who lives here belongs to the American Conifer Society and that his gardens are home to more than 300 varieties of hosta, so he learns and collects plants, too.
Abundance and wholeheartedness: the very words seem to open—upward, downward, inward, outward—endlessly, to carry with them the suggestion of infinite possibility. Who among us, self-described artist or not, doesn’t benefit from regularly experiencing the sensation that any given thing could open endlessly?
So many of our American lives seem dedicated, if only subconsciously, to finding and following detours around art. And then an artist invites us into the places their art gets made—where we’re invited to remember, among other things: soil pH and so on are interesting, but they are the barest tip of the thing that will grow when one throws oneself fully into the intersection between imagination and tending a patch of land. Talk about generosity, which may be the very best thing that comes from living an abundant wholehearted life.
What do you think? What have you encountered lately that made you want to go home and make art?