While flying home this week from a short vacation, I began thinking of the view out my window as being an apt analogy for the creative process. There before me was a layer of beautiful clouds that were the result of a mixing of the world below and that of high above. In one particular spot there was an amazing sight as the vibrant colors of the setting sun seemed to magically be emanating up from the ground through a hole in the cloud layer. The colors were beautiful, fleeting and ethereal and I could have stayed floating in that moment forever.
Whether immersing myself in nature or in creating a piece of art, the experience is very similar. A flow emerges that is like the layer of clouds that I saw from the plane; a convergence of my exploration of the world around me on terra firma with the somewhat ethereal thought process that occurs as I explore my response to it as an artist. When both worlds combine in a synchronistic way the "light" that emerges from a hole in the "cloud layer" comes in the form of an inspired piece of art. This experience is also beautiful, fleeting, ethereal and I state that I could stay floating in forever. But, just as with flying, eventually one must return to the ground. But, interestingly, I have found that by working each day to continually ground myself through exploring and appreciating the world around me, more and more often I am returned to the soaring heights of creative inspiration.
Recently, I received inspiration from a different source as I started reading, Robert Macfarlane's book, Under Land: A Deep Time Journey. It is a book grounded in the realities of science that also prompts one to imagine and think about things, namely the actual ground that we walk on, in a different way. For me, Macfarlane accomplished this so effectively with the opening lines of his book that I have yet to read any further. I have been walking our property and pondering the ground beneath my feet and the experience of my flight ever since I read these words, "We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet. Look up on a cloudless night and you might see the light from a star thousands of trillions of miles away, or pick out the craters left by asteroid strikes on the moon's face. Look down and your sight stops at topsoil, tarmac, toe." Not only does our sight usually stop at the topsoil, so too does our thoughts and our imaginings. How often is it that we dream amongst the earthworms versus the stars? Why is it that we look to the heavens for inspiration but very rarely to earth upon which we stand. It is solely because we have a longer view when we look to the skies? To think of the depths of what is beneath our feet is to bring new meaning to the idea of being grounded and to open new portals into areas of creative exploration. I hope to try and move deeper into the book sometime soon, but for now I think I will just stay here a bit longer; feet planted firmly to the ground and head floating close to the clouds.