Apologies to Emily Dickinson for using a line from one of her poems, but it pretty much sums up the ache I have when I haven’t had a project to find myself lost in. Each time I sit in my little corner studio, Bach on Pandora, brushes clean and waiting, paint tubes all lined up, I hope this will be the day when I catch the breeze and fly. Sometimes, as with the quince or with the seed pods, it is just practice and preparation for the day when my wings unfurl.
And then something inspires me out of the cocoon. In this case, it was wanting to create something for my dear friend Marie Pavlicek Werhli for her birthday, inspired by one of her own poems, “What Was Useful,” written in 2011 and published in Blast Furnace. I had received a candle for the holidays in a box that I knew I would use for the project — the lid slid easily off a base that could provide the stage for the images that came to my mind when I read the poem for the first time.
I have three or four clear plastic shoe boxes that hold a variety of things and provide a great source of energy and imagery when I remember to open them and bring new eyes to them. A full mold of my son’s upper teeth, taken before years and years of orthodontia… a piece of dried bamboo…dice…old baby blocks. And then there it was — a strange Polaroid of kids dressed in cap and gown from a volunteer project I did about fifteen years ago. Better yet — an old crazy quilt square with a black back begging out for embroidery. A dictionary so old the yellowed paper was as thin as tissue. Scraps of balsa wood to make a window, a ladder. Hours flew by. I trusted the process, the vision, knew that I would find the right things and the place them in the right way. Finally, an old Anthropologie bag provided a great way to package the gift. I couldn’t wait for her to unwrap it.
At Tranquil Space we have been using the yogic sense of resolve — sankalpa — to inform our teaching and practice this January. This sense of resolve is very different from the resolutions we usually encounter at the beginning of a new year. Sankalpa has much more to do with touching into the divine spark that is shining towards your life’s purpose. The practice of yoga is to illuminate where we are in relationship to our life’s purpose, to see what we need to change or strengthen in ourselves on our path to our highest calling.
As I sat to document the piece before I gave it to Marie, I saw that the building of this box was for me a visual metaphor of sankalpa. Practice on and off the mat is a lot like searching through the junk boxes to see what is useful on this journey, and what needs to be jettisoned. Practice is creative, inspirational, intuitive and leads first to a sense of joyous buoyancy, then flight, and ultimately: freedom.