I’m writing about cherry trees, in the middle of winter. Curious, I know. But as I look back on this past year, one of the things I’m most thankful for is the invitation to play with collage. This is the story of how that invitation came to be and what it means to me.
This spring, a friend commissioned me to make “a picture of a white church with a red door and some words” that she was hoping to give as a graduation gift. I dabble in paints and art, so I was surprised at this invitation. It sounded fun, and although I didn’t know if I would succeed, I knew I could at least try. (Note to self: Pay attention to invitations. Also, pay attention to what others see in you and name you, ie. Artist, Poet, etc. Those might be invitations.)
After a few weeks, an image emerged. I knew this student was a musician. I had an old Sunday school songbook laying around that used to belong to my husband’s grandma. I pictured a church built of music scraps. The song book contained one of my favorites from a children’s board-book of prayers that we used to read to our kiddos. I found my words!
I had so much fun creating this picture. It’s not fancy, but I loved how it turned out. It had been a long time since I played with color. I forgot how much fun it was. I forgot how alive I feel in the process of creating. I am so thankful for the invitation to show up as an artist—to create with color and paper. Thank you, dear Carrie! You sparked something inside of me. (Another note to self: Pay attention to what you see in others. Name it! Let them know. You never know what you might spark!)
Honoring Wisdom: Practicing Collage
Over the past few years, I’ve learned that I need to pay attention to “Aha!” moments. If I ignore an important moment or insight or nudge, I’ll find it showing up as a knot in my back. If I want to make it a part of me, I can’t gloss over it or run to the next thing or let it get swallowed up by busyness. Often, taking the time to journal is enough for me. However, this summer, my “Aha!” moments invited me to images, not words.
For example, instead of writing about “Enough,” the lesson my cherry tree was trying to teach me and my scarcity-stressed out self, I knew I needed to do something with a cherry and birds. I didn’t know how it would look, but as I sat down with magazines that I “should” have thrown out years ago, I started flipping through pages. I began collecting reds that could make up a cherry. I found browns that could turn into a branch. I found a green stem. There were plenty of whole leaves to cut out. I found a few small cherries that I could also use. Then I started noticing the birds for the background. I also used some left-over lyrics and sheet music from the project I had done earlier. Scraps! The picture emerged.
When I look at the image that now sits by my kitchen sink, I’m reminded of the time that my heart seized up, screaming “Mine! My own! My precious!” at the robins and crows infiltrating the quivering cherry branches. We didn’t put netting over the tree like we had in the past. I don’t know why. I remember Wisdom whispering: “Chill, my dear. Just see what happens. If the cherries are gone, you can put the net up next year. Breathe.”
When I look at the image of the cherry and the birds, I remember spending three days picking and processing as many cherries as I could handle. I remember Wisdom chuckling: “See? Enough. There is Enough, dear. Always Enough.”
When scarcity squeezes my heart, I am reminded to relax. Let go. Breathe. Show up. There is Enough.
Every time I pick cherries, I offer thanks. Each cherry is a gift that I have done nothing to earn. I am a happy recipient. Enough.
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So far, each time that I’ve sat down with an image or idea and magazine scraps and scissors, the process of playing with collage has held as much meaning, has had just as much to teach me, as the original nudge that sparked the image.
When I collage, I am invited to show up, play, and see what emerges. There’s an idea, but not a plan. Scraps of material are used to create a picture—imperfect and beautiful and full of meaning for me. But also maybe meaningful to others. There’s an invitation to share.
My spiritual director reminded me that my life is a bit like a collage—bits and pieces: mother, wife, friend, spiritual director, artist, writer, poet, teacher—emerging to create a picture of meaning, for me. And also to share.
I am invited to trust the process of becoming and meaning making. I don’t need to “know” what I am doing. It doesn’t need to be and will not look perfect. I don’t even need to know what it will look like. I only need to be willing to jump in. I am invited to start and to play with my whole heart.
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Where and how are you being invited to play? To create?
How do you mark or return to significant moments or insights?
How are you invited to share the gift of yourself?