I know someone who trims her Christmas tree all in white. It was beautiful, but cold. And it looks like it could have been created in a department store for nobody in particular.
I’m proud of the tree my family trimmed last night. We have store-bought ornaments, ornaments received as gifts from friends and family and lots and lots of ornaments that stemmed from a momentary inspiration. I like it because our funky little tree tells so much about our funky little family. Here are some examples. of our work (and play):
Joe’s purple origami strawberry, done in an after-school class.
Another Joe creation (he’s 10, by the way), a high-tech Lego Santa sleigh. He made this on the spur of the moment last night, after we decorated the tree.
Joe’s bookmark, along with his vampire Santa Claus (?).
My parents’ first Christmas away from home, they blew out eggshells and decorated with glue and glitter. Some 37 years later, only one brittle, chipped eggshell remains. This is my equivalent. I decorated these plain balls with paint pens one of my first Christmases on my own.
Our tree has character (Did I mention the Barrel O’Monkeys garland?) and personality. It doesn’t look professionally designed. But it’s all about us and our family value, creativity. What does it say about us? I don’t know. But I like it.
Today I went to the No-Coast Craft-O-Rama, one of the biggest, most innovative craft shows in the state.
I saw some great ideas, evidence of folks who think way outside the box. I like that.
But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about different ways of expressing creativity. Last week, I asked my kids how they liked to be creative. Knowing that my older son, Joe, enjoys some of the same creative outlets I do, such as drawing, music, writing stories, I asked my younger son to answer first. He thought a moment before he answered. I like to ski, he said. I like to play soccer, I like to climb trees. Oh, and I like to draw.
I love that.
I was writing a story recently about the closure of free, outdoor park skating rinks due to city budget cuts. A university kinesiology professor I interviewed said that while it was great that more kids are playing team sports, there’s a real loss in the dearth of unstructured, pickup games that used to require kids to make up the rules as they go along, that allowed them to resolve their own difficulties, to decide where to skate, when to shoot and to find their own style of play. Hockey isn’t my kind of creativity, but it’s hard to argue that anything that requires kids to think isn’t creative.
I look out my kitchen window and see Isaac perched in the branches of our birch or apple trees. I didn’t imagine those little trees as climbers, but I love the intense look on my son’s face as he contemplates which branch to climb next, how to place his feet and where to grasp for balance.
So, while I did enjoy the needlework, jewelry, the screenprinting and glasswork I saw today, I do want to remember that there are no limits to creativity. How do you like to be creative?
Be prepared to see changes to the appearance of this blog. I’m still not quite happy with its appearance, and I’ve been frustrated by the process of working within somebody else’s rigid structure. I could find a different platform that gives me more flexibility, but the cheapskate in me chafes at paying more to do the work myself.
It all makes me reflect on my disdain for formula. I’ve really never liked coloring books all that much; I must have passed on that disdain to my kids. Our coloring and activity books remain blank, while the boys fill up little notebooks that they carry in their pockets with drawings, notes and plans to conquer the world, or at least me. I’m also not that great at following recipes, but years of practice (with many misteps along the way) have made me a pretty good cook.
I feel sad when I visit places like ceramics studios and see how many people go straight for the stencils. I wonder what they could come up with if they gave themselves a chance. They might end up with ugly plates, but what if they ended up with something unexpected and wonderful.
I love “The Dot,” a picture book written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. In it, a girl who claims she can’t draw is challenged by her teacher to take a single dot and see where it and her imagination lead her.
I worry that our society’s obsession with perfection and a “vote ’em off” culture have made people afraid to experiment and see what their brains, hearts and hands can create.
I don’t want to preach. But I’m here because I want to take advantage of every opportunity to be more creative. And I want my kids to grow up in a world where they feel free to experiment, draw studies, use their eraser or rip out their knitting, and maybe when they get going they’ll end up with something unexpected and wonderful.
Yesterday my friend Karen and I went to lunch. It was a much-needed catch-up. But these are difficult times and we also were there to kvetch.
At the next table, we saw a familiar face.
Santa Claus. Karen mentioned our occupation, and he graciously asked that we refrain from using his real name. For the kids, you know. In the spirit of the character, Karen noted that she would like a full-length mirror for Christmas. I said nothing. This year, there’s no thing on my Christmas list. I was feeling sad and frustrated. I want to feel at peace and fulfilled. Can’t fit that down the chimney.
But as Kris Kringle talked to us, he really did convey an early sense of Christmas spirit.
Let me know, he said, if you come across anybody who needs help. I like to help when I can. I imagined him in a home where tragedy has struck, holding bereaved children in his lap, comforting a grieving parent or surviving spouse. It breaks my heart and humbles me and puts my complaints into perspective.
This lovely man, a retired realtor now living in his lake home in Outing, Minn., has created a lifestyle that allows him to use his God-given gifts — a snowy beard, a round belly, twinkly blue eyes and a love for all people — to bring comfort and joy, and to make strangers smile, sometimes in spite of ourselves.
I want to be more like Santa.
Creativity is like air and water. I need it to survive. Maybe you do, too.
But the workaday world sometimes seems to conspire against creative thinking.
I have friends who talk about what they used to do to be creative. I don’t want to think that way anymore.
A career coach once recommended a book that urged those of us right-brained people stuck in left-brained jobs to just quit. We should give ourselves the gift of time to find our true callings, the author wrote. Right. The author was encumbered by neither children nor a mortgage. And she wasn’t writing during an economic recession.
Still, to be whole, to be me, I need to think my own thoughts, to use my hands, my heart and my brain to put part of my soul outside my body. And I need to find a way to do so while embracing the blessings of children, a home and a job.
I can’t drop out. So I’m choosing to tune in, to act, to try live a creative life in spite of the barriers the world throws before me. So I look to Minerva, the Greek goddess of creativity, wisdom and the home, to try to find balance, peace, meaning and I hope a little wisdom.
I hope you’ll join in.