An Artist's Quest

Cleaning: the only thing to do when the muse won’t come.

A new altar for the new year, an ode to rebirth

Well I took a 3-week hiatus from the blog and the regular flow of life and art.  I spent time with family and friends and had both hectic and restful days in the mix.  The idea of a vacation, or at least the ideal, is to go away and break the patterns and get reenergized and renewed.  That’s all good and there is definitely a piece of that in taking a break but another piece of it is messy.  I mean literally messy. For the weeks before vacation there is all the hustle and bustle of getting ready to be gone and then upon return all the putting away sorting and through what didn’t get done. When I returned to my house and my studio and regular life and time, after the Christmas tree came down and the furniture was put back in place, there was an underlying uneasiness, an unsettled feeling, I couldn’t keep on task, and I certainly could get anything creative done. For me there was only one solution, cleaning.  The layer of dust in my house was daunting; I had been able to disregard it in the low and lovely light from the Christmas tree, but no more.  There was no ignoring now.  It doesn’t help that we are having an unusually warm January; with the screen door open in the middle of the day…there was nothing better to kick my creative malaise than to don the rubber gloves, fill up the bucket with detergent and arm myself with a hearty stack of rags.  Five laborious hours later from ceiling fan to baseboard, my house was clean.  All that sweeping, scrubbing and dusting set this teetering porcelain vase that is my emotional self squarely back on a firm dust-free shelf ready to be filled.  Now my studio!

This is a favorite poem by Rumi that is about being swept out whether you are ready or not and embracing what comes.  It seemed to fit my mood for the week, hope it inspires you too.

The Guest house
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Over the break my husband, Jack, revised my website, adding to the Mandala Challenge page as well as a new page of iPad art. Check it out


13 responses

  1. I love cleaning the bathroom when I cannot draw, it’s perfect to distract the mind, and loosen the fingers for drawing afterwards.

    January 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

    • The Bathroom is the worst but also the most satisfying when done…and after that even my the blank page of my sketchbook looks inviting.

      January 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

  2. I always do this too. Clears the mind, and the room. Two birds, one stone. Thanks for a great post.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    • One stone you’re right, a very big dusty stone! Clean for now! Those two birds do sing pretty.

      January 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  3. Val

    Yes, in the lull after Christmas I am tackling my tiny studio, which seems as if it wants to qualify for a hoarder’s reality show. Deep breath and ready to jump in.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  4. Jane

    Your reflection set my mind on this train of thought and so I share it with you my friend.

    There is something powerful about the taking down of the Christmas decorations. My family’s tradition has always been to strictly adhere to the tradition of taking down all the ornaments and trimmings on 5th December. There is of course always one stray festive article that eludes you and that just makes the challenge of trying to ensure that all are put away before midnight all the more fun. So on the morning of 5th the house is busy and cluttered with all the festive adornments, and then suddenly on the morning of 6th all is empty and barren. As you say Lisa the void and stark light shows up all the residue of the decorations and the lack of cleaning that they enforce. Once I start on the cleaning that ordinarily I so dislike, I see all the potential of the empty space; I see the need for change where before it had gone unnoticed, and I feel inspired to not just clean, but reorganize everything in my path. I know that it will not be possible to accomplish all the lofty goals that this empty slate suggests, but it will ensure that the year starts with positive, forward thinking, energy. Christmas may both liturgically and commercially over but the power of its mysteries launches me onto the adventurous path of another new a year.

    January 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    • Jane, as always I appreciate your thoughtful and poetic comments, I especially love the comment about the potential of empty space….a theme to ponder.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm

  5. Laura Ann

    oh my, that poem is beautiful … and your musings on the renewal born of cleaning so true! The call to the flurry of a deep clean beckons, but is yet unanswered in my little home, alas. Soon, perhaps; soon, I resolve.

    January 13, 2012 at 4:47 am

    • Laura thanks for adding you thoughts to the conversation don’t worry the flurry of deep clean will keep beckoning, dust and it’s kind are a patient bunch.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  6. Sandy Barra

    Lisa, I love it, especially since I am going to the “all school clean up” tomorrow at Synergy. I actually like it because I get my materials and desk cleaned up, it feels great! Great to see you and the gang over new years, thanks again! sandy

    January 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    • Good ole all school clean-up! I did those at Synergy and at the preschool coop I taught at. There was sometimes a frustration at spending a Saturday on that activity but in the end getting to things you never get to and the sense of community buy in and responsibility is satisfying.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

  7. Mary Anne

    I don’t function well in the midst of clutter so housekeeping is one of my priorities. My “organization demon” permits me to go in my studio with a clear and positive attitude. BUT, I did have to learn not to expend all of my energy on cleaning and organizing! There were days early on that I would be sitting in my studio too exhausted to work. And, that is one of the ways I learned “balance” in my life.

    Rumi’s poem is a revealing truth about living one’s life with open doors – or, at least, doors one is willing to open when knocked on. Thank you once more for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:45 am

    • So true on the studio! You don’t want to make your art wrk space so clean that you don’t want to mess it up! I each what Jane said earlier in her comments, “potential in empty space”

      January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm

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