Part One: Fear and Doubt
The reindeer aren't domesticated. They are wild. To follow them is to know the seasons, to work intimately with the animals. Somewhere in our common human history we all have an ancestor who lived in this way, who followed the tracks and moved with the seasons, whose lives were forged on the integrity of their relationships. Whose survival depended on their interrelationship with all that lived.
This is a teaching of Elen: relationship, interdependence, seasonal attunement.
Here is another: Reindeer are the only corvids where females have antlers. During the archeological boom of the 19th century, many of the horned figurines recovered were assumed to be male in origin. In fact, it is now believed many of the paintings and art through pre-history actually represent women.
(Rein)deer in headlights: I don't work in color.
I started coloring the leaves on the project and instantly hated my work. It was all wrong. Every time I tried to approach it I felt fear. I liked the drawing. Coloring was going to mess it up. I could tell.
So I locked her away, let her sit in a folder for months. Until two weeks ago.
Part Two: Ass in the Chair
This is where spirit comes in. This is what makes art sacred.
This is the offering.
In graduate school I had a writing mentor who said that talent is distributed unevenly. We all have some, some have more than others. But what we all can access to at any time, with or without talent, he said, is the work.
We can put our ass in the chair and work.
If we work, consistently and persistently, we will get better (though he would flay me for those two adverbs in one sentence, I'm sure). Writing, he said, is 10% talent and 90% ass in the chair.
With those odds, we all stand a chance at making something worthwhile. If we do the work.
I can't tell you how many times I have doubted myself and my work. How many times I have avoided the work, avoided the chair. Doubt is a given. One of my favorite quotes is by Agnes De Mille, the dancer and choreographer. She says:
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
We are supposed to leap.
Part Three: Courage and Trust
And because the reindeer would not let me be, I began to color Elen. Without expectation, opening with ceremony each morning and letting spirit guide my hand.
The more I colored, without thought, without worrying about the outcome, the more her image came to life.
The result is below.
I love her. Not just for what she is, but for what she represents to me: the ability again and again to leap into the dark.
Where do you hide your creativity?
Where do you long to make without judgment?
Where do you need to take a risk, large or small, to challenge yourself, to put your ass in the chair and make something?
I invite you to ask Elen of the Ways for guidance on your path. Notice, there is not just one way, but many. Not just one path, but all.
May we meet in the between.
May you find all you seek, already before you, within you.
May you put your ass in that blessed chair and love your work.