Today was book ended by encounters with women who have served as mothering voices in my creative journey. These women probably don't think of themselves this way, but they have been deeply inspirational to me.
Early in the morning I was seated in my classroom, behind the piano, working away at a choral arrangement. I had just finished a bit of research about the process of submitting one's work to various publishers and was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged when one of my colleagues came through the door. She works one on one with children to help their language development, but she also writes and does quite a bit of public speaking about her faith. She came to me with information about printing books a few days ago when I sent out an inquiry about self publication. Today she returned to check with me about something and happened to say (my paraphrase), "Sometimes I tell myself it's ok if this thing I'm creating doesn't 'do' anything for anybody else. It's already done something for me. The act of creating things causes us to feel closer to the Lord. It causes us to feel Trust. That's the main thing, actually - Trust."
I was struck by her words. They were amazingly appropriate in light of the sermon our Rector shared last week in church - about continuing to be creative, even in times of stress, and about our creativity reaching out from the vine of God's ever-giving life. I sat back down at the piano after she'd gone and reminded myself, "Trust. That's the main thing."
The day went on and I found myself in the grocery store with my almost 3 year old son balanced on my hip and a cart full of things. I happened to look up from the chaos and noticed a familiar face a long way down the aisle. It was a church member from the last parish I served as a music minister. She was too far to call to. I drug the toddler and the groceries up the aisle and called to her, "Hey, stranger!" She looked up and almost didn't recognize me - so long had it been since our last meeting.
We stood and talked about my son and her grandchildren. We talked about the mountain dulcimer - the instrument that brought us a bit closer together several years ago. She used to take weekly lessons from me. I'd go out to her house on summer afternoons and we'd sit and play our dulcimers together. Then I would be invited to stay for supper, and we would sit around the family table and eat food from the beautiful garden in the back yard. Invariably, I'd be sent home with a cooler full of fresh produce. It was one of the most grace-filled summers of my life because for the first time as an adult I'd been the recipient of truly familial hospitality without an agenda. They had a table. They loved music. They wanted to share, so they did.
As we stood in the grocery store talking I realized a line of disgruntled shoppers was forming behind us. I reached to hug her and say goodbye. She left her hand on my shoulder and drew my face close and said, "You are talked about as one of the most spiritual people we've ever known. People ask me where you're playing and I say, 'Sarah's taking a vacation from that.' But you are remembered as one of the most deeply spiritual people we've ever known." She looked right in my eyes, casting a rope for me to hold onto.
I went back to my cart and called a few extra goodbyes after her. "I dream about that garden of yours!" I said. She said, "Well, just come! Come by and play."
I've struggled a bit to know how to use my artistic energy. Some of us have so much of it that we seem to be always spiraling in every direction. Photography, painting, songwriting, prose, poetry, arranging, teaching, studying theology, studying pedagogy, collecting folk songs - I can't choose! I've never been able to choose.
God, in the voices of two mothers, spoke clearly today - right into the heart of my chaos. God said, "Well, just come! Come by and play." . . . and God said, "Trust. That's the main thing. Keep on creating and you will understand Trust better and better."
Dear ones, we don't have to specialize so much as the world tries to tell us.
We are invited to bring all of what we have to the playground as we use all of our good together. God will sort it out with us as we go. Something marvelous I gleaned from my time with Alice Parker was a sense of Trust in the idea of Well-Roundedness. For years I'd been lamenting the fact that nobody ever forced me to specialize more tenaciously. How had I gotten away with it? How had I been allowed to study a bit of this and a bit of that all along without being forced to bow down to just one instrument or musical discipline? In Alice's studio I was brought back to such a beautiful sense of Trust in the love of the process as a whole. One of my favorite colleagues often says of children, "Their work is play." Today I sit back and give thanks for the fact that I am a child of God, and that my work can still be play. So can yours.
Just come! Come by and play.