I’m amazed again by the power of creativity and vulnerability.
Last weekend, I joined a circle of 30 yet-to-be-friends from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a guest leader at their Pres House Fall Retreat. The first night, in that far too long and quiet moment just before I opened my mouth, the air felt thick with our hopes and hesitations. Would we trust each other? Would something wonderful happen? Would we have fun?
It took all my courage and a hundred silent prayers to speak up after that thick pause, with my whole heart, as open and unguarded as I could be. My inner critic was fierce that night about all my peculiarities and mistakes. I felt entirely vulnerable offering my art and stories. But I kept going– despite wanting to bolt out the door at least twice– hanging on to faith that authenticity and love would make it through my critic’s fears.
Then the students and staff opened their brave selves too. Each time we gathered in the circle over the weekend, more and more of their beauty showed up. I admired they way they included new members, jumped boldly into making art collage, gave honest, thoughtful answers in small group conversations, played hard and laughed even harder, and welcomed me so generously. They reflected deeply on their lives and purpose, and it shone bright in their art images. Their openness and beauty brought out more of mine, too! By the end of the retreat, we wrote gorgeous group prayers together and were sad to say goodbye.
A week later, I’m still savoring the fruit of our vulnerability at play.
Photos by Mark Elsdon
It’s my last day to prepare and pack for a teaching trip to Wisconsin, so of course my cat deliberately lies down on my laptop. “Not so fast,” she says, voting with her body. She could mean, “Hey there, not so fast– I get the sunny patch first.” But I hear her say, “Not so fast— stop the frenzy, slow down a little.”
Yep, it’s yet another message to be present to myself, available to the moment, and open to inspiration as I go along.
For a month now, I’ve been receiving all kinds of guidance to take pauses and make space– and it’s HARD for me to trust it will be ok if I go slowly. Just when culture tells me to ramp it up and go crazy getting ready for Christmas sales, autumn and my heart invite me to slow the pace, to soak in the beauty and meaning all around. Not so fast.
Somehow the chicken has become my cheerleader and challenger icon lately, showing up over and over whenever I make magazine image collages. Yesterday I gave him the reigns and played around with a bit of wacky chicken art encouragement. Here came this big “Yes!”
The chicken side of this guy seems to invite me to welcome my fear, but to keep going anyway. The rooster side reminds me to go ahead and crow a little about new projects. (Far too often I get shy or afraid to be too “cocky,” and then people don’t hear about what I have to share!) So I’m thrilled with this new painting-plus-doodle, making me laugh just when I might chicken out on the challenge of making art and getting the word out. “Yes I can!”
May the “Yes Chicken” visit you today too, wherever you need it most…
See Yes Chicken details
See Jack Rabbit Says Wait? for related image and story
Original Chicken art for sale