Bring on Spring!! It's been a long, dark winter in more ways than I care to discuss. Good fortune has me working at an art residency in the tropical light of Costa Rica this month, and the coming equinox, with its 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, draws my awareness to the importance of balance on earth and in our lives. Balance is transient, even in nature. It's a continuum, a cycle. Finding that calm center point where one feels no pull or push is a gift that with practice and intention can be opened over and over again.
Finding that point matters because actions taken from there build true emotional strength and resiliency. It's never felt more urgent to identify and choose the things we do in our lives that bring us closer to personal and collective equilibrium.
While physics might suggest that a low center of gravity and a broad base promote equilibrium, I find it most often by myself in the woods and in my studio- places where the pendulum stops swinging and the mind quiets. Solitude has been spurned based on the notion that collaboration and teamwork are the major building blocks of innovation. Nope. Overemphasizing teamwork to the detriment of private, distraction-free workspaces creates imbalance, physical illness, and groupthink. It takes healthy individuals to make a healthy collective and one way of assessing our mental health is by the amount of time spent in, and comfort with, solitude- being alone with yourself.
Alone does not mean lonely. And sitting by yourself in front of a screen does not constitute solitude. The ability to disconnect from technology, become completely engaged in something profoundly rewarding in itself, by yourself, is essential. Solitude generates ideas and activates creativity. Collaboration integrates ideas and helps bring them forward. One complements the other. Equilibrium.
When it comes to painting, finding center is not a given for me. It takes work and more work. I am fiercely protective of my studio time and space. For me, solo hours logged beat inspiration and collaboration almost every time. You won't get to see the long hours. You won't get to see most of the failures and do-overs. Those are private, they are mine, and that gives me great freedom. At its best, my mark-making is an act of faith and action that chronicles intuitive experience- the meeting of the internal with the exterior at that exquisite point of equilibrium.
It is not fail safe. Solitude and practice need punctuation with a mix of engaged human interaction and occasional boredom to keep things flowing- not easy with infinite distractions at hand. I have a sense that it's the same for many of us. Being deliberate in everyday choices can be a big pain in the wazoo- yet the equinox returns twice each year to demonstrate the grace of balance. It's an appreciated reminder. Practice may not make perfect, but, well... it genuinely improves things.
I suppose I should apologize for diving into the pedantic, but time and nature insist. So, then, if I may- what do you need to do to find your center?
Happy Spring- time to grow!
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. She walks with intention in wild places at least 1,200 miles yearly, much of it on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. She makes art documenting her experience along the way and in her studio.