St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries opens with an appeal: Listen. Perhaps it is the most important word in the Rule. Listen, “obaudire,” also means obey. In listening something new can emerge, something beyond my own assumptions, control, and agenda. Rainer Maria Rilke spoke of writing as an obedience to the moment, to what is given in the present. He would not find it strange if this were called a monastic approach to writing. He aspired to carry the cloister within him, although he knew he could not live in a monastery.
—Brother Paul Quenon, an excerpt from “Prayer, Poverty, and Creativity,” a Christian monk’s reflections on solitude and community in the latest summer issue of Parabola: “Alone & Together” which is available on newsstands and better bookstores now.
PHOTOGRAPH: William Lovell Finley, “Chickadees,” c.1900-1909.
I spent a lot of time agonizing about starting this drawing. In my intellect, I know this is not productive. But there I was procrastinating day after day, letting other activities get in the way. Finally, the day came when I knew I would begin. I found myself having to do all sorts of little things before I could start, even after I had chosen what I would draw. I decided to draw from the porch. I needed a pillow, I needed my water. I needed my hat. I needed to do all sorts of little things I can’t recall now. I also jammed my face with chocolate chips and macademia nuts– I do nibble, but this was a real face jammer! I will reserve commenting any more on my approach to this drawing…
… except to say that what made a huge difference in my getting down to it was this quote:
The question is not what you look at, but what you see. — Henry David Thoreau
What I took from that was I didn’t have to find just the right place or thing to draw. I just needed to be present to myself and my surroundings. I need to remember this, to cut through one of the procrastination techniques to drawing!
I had determined I would draw the potted plant on the front porch and the yard beyond. I didn’t know what would happen. It was scary. I didn’t know what would happen out there beyond the plant. I am petrified I will draw something cutesy from my imagination. But those little beings just had to be seen. Tiny stroke by tiny stroke they came onto the page. All I can say is, it feels right.
“You think answering a call is peaceful?
You think taking something from the unmanifest
to the manifest is supposed to flow easily?
You think it is supposed to be filled
with ease and grace.
It has never been so.
At least not as a constant.
All the moments of ease and grace you have
experienced in your life are what make
getting ready for this moment even possible.
Callings, like birth, are messy,
bloody, hard, screaming out in pain hard.
Why has that come to mean something
bad in this modern ‘thought’?
Yanking something from the stardust
and shaping a golden cup of hope
from it in FORM is the work of warriors
not the work of those not ready for the
long haul of manifestation. But if you
do not make the cup there will be
no where to place your ideas
and no where for the abundance
to collect in THIS realm.
Sometimes… it pops through… there it is.
But if you look it is after years of preparing
for that meeting, that idea, that connection.
Your entire life is preparation for you
to say yes to your TRUE CALLING.
Callings need to be tended, nurtured, answered
and sought after. Yell after it. Scream into the
dark after it. Don’t let it go. Find the tail
and pull as hard as you can until the animal
called YOUR WORK comes through that
cosmic portal onto your drawing room floor
squirming with life and begging
to be expressed on the pages of the book of
your great life.
Don’t expect so much.
Don’t expect so little.
Don’t wait so long.
Don’t stop reaching no matter what.
Don’t listen to anything here that does not ring true for you.
Do listen to your heart.
Do listen to your inner tugs
Do find where the pain still lives
Do find where the light wants to shine
Do call out to your calling
as if you life depended on it.
~Shiloh Sophia McCloud
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
— Henry Miller
Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet” (Random House, 1984).
PAINTING: Odilon Redon, Three Vases of Flowers, c.1909. From the free Parabola Weekly Newsletter.
The radiant beauty of the world
Compels my inmost soul to free
God-given powers of my nature
That may soar into the cosmos,
To take wing from myself
And trustingly to seek myself
In cosmic light and cosmic warmth.
— Rudolf Steiner