It is a cold, clear bluesky morning, frost on the ground and roofs. Another quiet, mostly silent morning between the humans here in this home. After hours of laying awake in bed, I considered getting up and coming out to my desk to write in this blog, but was dissuaded by the thought of the cold. Eventually I slept. I continue to re-read Estes’ Women Who Run with Wolves. What a really remarkable and full-of-wisdom book it truly is. Now I am in the chapter about a woman’s creative life and what blocks it. She calls it Rio Abajo Rio, the river beneath the river. She tells us that there are various reasons why women block the creative part of themselves. If the aperture from the river is blocked, then the waters of creativity cannot flow to us. If the currents become poisoned by our own inner negativity then they cannot flow properly. Or if the environment around us is unhealthy we cannot get to those life-giving waters. Then, she says, we are like a dying river. The loss of clear, creative flow constitutes a psychological and spiritual crisis in our souls.
When this river of creativity becomes tainted, there becomes a starving within a woman for freshness, a fragility of fertility. We become ill in our soul and want to move on. We wander aimlessly, pretending we can get along without our creative life, but we are simply pretending, for we cannot. To bring back the creative life, the waters of the creative river must be made clean and clear again. Estes tells us that we must wade into the sludge, purify the contaminants, reopen the apertures, and protect the flow from future harm. But this is not generally so easy to accomplish. First we have to recognize where and how our creative soul is being blocked. Then we need to figure out how to really unblock the river, what tools to use, what to remove and how. And then, we need to find the strength and courage within ourselves to pick up those tools, picks and shovels and buckets, even using our bare hands when nothing else will do, and do the work, clean the river bit by bit. This is slow, difficult and painful work. To restore one’s creative life after a long period of stagnation is unimaginably hard sometimes. A woman may see what needs to happen but not have enough life force at her disposal to be able to begin, especially if she is alone in her plight. Women tend to want to be with one another at regular and critical intervals in their lives, for they know that they will receive support and nourishment and encouragement from each other in a way that they simply cannot receive from their male partner or spouse or family members. If a woman has or can create a support of other caring women around her, she is very likely to succeed at cleaning her creative river, of beginning something new, of again finding freshness and new life growing in its banks. But if she is too alone, without the encouragement and gentle push of others who are also on the path, the chances of her cleaning her river and finding fresh creative flow again are much less.
I recently saw a sweet film called Julie and Julia. It was a parallel story of Julia Childs, who literally wrote the first book in English about french cooking, and also about a young woman in NYC named Julie, who was starving from lack of creative expression. She realizes that cooking is the one thing which gives her soul creative juice, and decides to try to make all of Julia Childs’ french cuisine recipes within one years’ time. We the viewers watch as both these women’s lives unfold over the course of time, and the ways in which their love of creatively making food changes them for the good. The Julie in the story received her inspiration from Julia Childs’ own story, and we see that Julia Childs herself was basically fearless and unafraid to dive into what she most wanted to do: learn French cooking from the experts at Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. One thing led to another and she eventually wrote, with two French women cooks she met, her famous cookbook. But it wasn’t easy and it took years and a major publishers’ rejection, before her book was accepted and published. The biggest point which I got from these two women’s stories is, when one is fortunate enough to recognize one’s creative loves and acts to fulfill them, no matter how humble they may see, the river of creativity begins to flow, and the more one practices one’s own unique self-expression, the stronger and clearer that river becomes. Still, it is important to keep in mind that the river is a living being and needs care and tending in order to keep it healthy. Once it is flowing strongly and a woman is feeling alive and vital again because of this river, she must remember to maintain its balance, to nurture it and pay it care. It is not guaranteed that her creative flow will stay pure and strong all by itself.
There are a thousand ways to nourish one’s creative life. In some parts of the world, the word for human is the same as the word for artist. Humans are artistic and creative by nature. Watch any young child while playing. Give them nearly anything with which they can create, and they will. It is part of who we human beings are, we cannot help it. But, it is also easy to crush the creative spark within us, and sadly, happens far too often before a child grows up enough to learn how to consciously create. This includes not only a work of art, a poem, or a recipe, but one’s life. Is it not possible to work at creating one’s life with a sense of play and fun, finding wonder and joy in it instead of a sense of obligation and drudgery? But even if one forgets how to playfully create, there is always a way back home again to the creative soul. Always.