“Being an artist is doing something, making something, or trying to be ready to make something. On this subject there are several metaphors valuable to me. One is Gary Snyder’s idea of composting; that’s what the introverted artist does with experience; take it in and grow something different from it.”
From an interview with Ursula Le Guin, in
On Women Turning Sixty: Embracing The Age
Of Fulfillment, interviews and photography
by Cathleen Rountree…
I am an introverted artist, a metaphorist, and they come together, often, late at night, past midnight, during what is called, much to my delight at the mere sound of the word, the weesmas, meaning the wee small hours. I find one of the things that menopause has given me is an interesting time table in which to live my life and days, with Circadian rhythms all askew, and as an artist it is a gift. This time of night seems to open up the portals of my mind and allow things to flow that wouldn’t at an earlier hour, when, too wide awake, thinking of too many things, my brain may have been too scattered to allow the composting to happen that would allow me to take experience and turn it into something more.
I am already an odd duck at best. My business cards for many years simply said my name and under it one word, Metaphorist. I was not trying to be facetious, not cute or funny, I merely felt it the best explanation of who and what I was and how I processed the world. Like Snyder’s composting, once I get the metaphor I understand the experience and can write about it. The peace of the darkness around me allow my brain space and bring me to a place of calm and refinement when the metaphors run clear and I can see what I need to see.
I am an introverted artist living a cloistered life, by choice, by chance, and circumstance, and I spend much of my day composting in Snyder’s sense, trying to make sense of a world often confusing to me, a world that looks to me, often, as though I were seeing it through funhouse mirrors. I have to put it through my own filters amidst much silence and feel it, sense it, from my toes all the way up to my brain. No t.v., few phonecalls, and I don’t answer those if I’m writing unless it’s one of my children, no music, just the twittering, singing, and chirping of my birds and my own breath in the quiet room I am working in. I feel very close to Wordsworth when I read his poem, The World Is Too Much With Us. The world is always too much with me, and it takes this silence and solitude to allow the world to move through many filters so that I might digest it and have a story to tell. Today I celebrate the joys of introversion.
I find it strange that my introverted quiet life so unsettles people. They want to “get me out,” and feel that there is something terribly wrong with the fact that I spend most of my days in my little cottage reading, writing, and doing my work. It is true that other than taking care of my animals, eating, tending the garden, and doing what needs doing here, most of my life is spent writing and doing my art and it is a very deep thing for me, deeply spiritual, the glue that holds the fabric of my being together, that keeps all the myriad and sometimes confusing parts of my somewhat peculiar being woven all of a piece. Perhaps that is why I love to weave, because in warping the loom and weaving the weft I somehow keep myself woven together firmly enough to walk in the world, somewhat like the scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz who had to keep stuffing his straw back in. I have to keep weaving so my stuffing doesn’t fall out. And all this work is done quite nicely here in my silent world.
The sounds of silence and a house put to bed are comforting. The birds are asleep, the pugs snuggled in around me softly snoring, a comforting sound. One thing I know to be true is what Emerson wrote some long time ago, “The one thing in the world of value is the active soul.” Yes, that is what people don’t understand. Sometimes I think I do more in a day sitting at my desk than a runner in a marathon. I travel a million miles through countless books, pages of notes, things written, revised, tossed, and begun again, studying, always studying, my active soul in search of my quiet mind where all things are revealed and the compost heap turned over.
Most people seem terribly afraid of the soft still silence of my world, as if were they not running, running, running, doing, doing, doing somehow the world as they know it would collapse around them. I don’t expect anyone to live this peculiar life of mine, but it wouldn’t hurt to let a few walls collapse. Taking time to sip a good cup of tea, breathing in and out, out and in until the body stops and the mind settles, and allowing for time to become whole again is a worthy pursuit. And the composting continues on, a daily practice, and all of life is distilled down to a single moment of grace on the page.