Art is a conversation. We absorb our worlds, consciously and unconsciously, and when we create art, we’re expressing those experiences, whatever they may be.
With the shelter-in-place order, I no longer spent my days teaching in a high school classroom. My ears rang, not with the usual buzz of my 130 students, but with an unfamiliar silence. I felt myself floating in a bubble of space and solitude, listening rather than speaking, an exchange student in a new land.
Spring arrived. With it came the season’s intricacies and delicacy; green buds on oak trees, the soft chirping of birds, grasses shifting into pale yellows. Within two days, my rosemary bloomed indigo, and the air hummed with bees. My kitten, frantic with joy, leapt into the air, hoping to catch hummingbirds and butterflies.
The more closely I listened to spring, the more I noticed. Transitions are fragile, moment to moment, easily missed. (Right now, a mourning dove cries urgently outside my window–would I have heard her song before?)
Since I am a writer, my natural metaphor in describing creativity is conversation. But perhaps a better metaphor would be dreaming. Dreams do not need words; they are feelings, visions. A painting is a dream we step inside, and hopefully, its dream changes us.
Poems are dreams. As an English teacher, I never tried to define a poem in my classes. Instead, I would ask students: What did you like? What resonated? Were there any surprises? Students were often afraid of getting it wrong, as if there was a right answer. But when you enter a poem, it becomes your dream, no one else’s. Your experience cannot be deemed “wrong” or “right.” When I share my poems or stories, they no longer belong to me.
If someone asked me today: Where does your inspiration come from? I would say: Whatever I am dreaming of. Chocolate, butterflies, medieval architecture…it could be anything. The world of the imagination has no borders, it only asks us to listen. Transitions are fragile, yet with them, we can open to a new awareness, a new dream.