04 - 03
First Steps to Fulfilling Your Destiny
Dreaming is a 100-percent effectual way to get ahead. Believe me. Nothing that I am now seeing accomplished professionally or personally would ever have happened without my first having dreamed it.
When I first began ramping up to do watercolors, I was full of fear. I must not have seemed fearful to my aunt who thought she needed to deter me from harmful activity. Long years before I had any paintings to my name, when I was pregnant with my lovely first-born daughter, my aunt said to me, “Well, I guess you won’t be able to pursue your painting now, will you?”
Add anger to dreaming, and maybe you have come upon a magic combo. I have never been so angry in all my life. I fumed, fretted, and banged doors and tables. Mean, I thought. I griped about it to my husband. Then the inherited determination from both sides kicked in, and I thought to myself, you’ll see. To make sure I would continue, I locked in my supplies for watercolors. Watercolors dried quickly and emitted no poisonous fumes in the house that would threaten my baby. I could rely on them.
That new resolve had to be postponed due to our move to Germany, so until I had a stable base, my dream could not go forward. Once there, with house and furniture, I started on the dining room table in the middle of all the activity, because I knew I could progress in short spurts of intense activity in defying her pronouncement. I started out ever so tenuously; beginning with teeny antique bud vases filled with the miniscule violets Erika would later pick on her way home from where the bus dropped her.
At some point I began writing a poem from the experience. This has since been published in literary magazines and in an English-Russian anthology. It appears in Russian and in English. A phrase from it embellishes the book’s divider page. You can hear my anger in the ‘you say,’ I think.
“Of a Substance Strong Enough
Dreams are great, you say, for night-time–
like wispy clouds that disappear at noon.
But I say dreams are spit and fiber
spun and thrown like spider webs–
filmy filament which sticks mid-air,
catches and holds tight enough
for you to climb, run, live (nest your babies on)
and yet, still make it there.”
2d Publication rights, Earth and Soul: An
Anthology of NC Poets, Kostroma, Russian/English, 2001
Crucible, Warren Wilson University and The Lyricist, Campbell University
Imagine my extreme surprise years later, when I read an article on the ballooning action of spiders. It seems airplanes encountered much difficulty running into systems of spider webs high in the sky. Spiders build webs higher than anyone would earlier have imagined possible.
It seems that spiders, especially small ones and some other creatures, propel themselves upwards with a mechanical process called ballooning, or kiting.
They spin a very fine silk, called gossamer, to lift themselves off a surface. Then they use the silk as an anchor in mid-air. This fine silk has been called ‘gossamer’ since 1325 according to the Oxford dictionary. Again, no one knew then that gossamer was derived from spiders.
After hatching, a spiderling will climb as high as it can. It then stands on raised legs with its abdomen pointed upwards, a process called ‘tiptoeing.’ Then it releases several silk threads from its abdomen which produce a triangular-shaped parachute which will carry the spider away in updrafts. Even small gusts work. They may not go very far, or they may end up in a jet stream, depending on many components, but their trip could extend into the upper atmosphere.
Sailors have reported spiders in their ship’s sails miles from land. They can live a month without food. Evidently ballooning is the main way spiders migrate to isolated islands and mountaintops. They have been found as high as 16000 feet above sea level and on the tops of mountains and can live without food for close to a month.
Even without knowing this I wrote the phrase, “Dreams are spit and fiber, spun and thrown like spiderwebs….” It is gratifying to describe how something seems and have it proved factual. The odd thing is that this was the one phrase in my poem contested by a Russian sister-city poet, the phrase, ‘spit and fiber,’ was deemed unpoetic.
It is no small wonder that one of my favorite artistic and written images is the spider web, lace, tatting, tobacco-twine-tied coverlets, and fishing nets. My most recently finished painting is Crab-Net, with beautiful North Carolina blue crabs caught in the holes. The entire painting, done in watercolor, is accomplished in the negative, a painting process thought very difficult by most painters. It involves seeing in the negative, and painting the holes is also the largest kingpin step in the discipline of using the right-brained creative process. Only the space between the threads is painted because in transparent watercolor, one must leave the white of the paper showing to create the white. Another painting, “Dockside,” uses a net as a portrait background for an old sailor. A third painting has a net background with a harpoon, “Sea-Lit, the Sperm Whale Era.”
About seven years ago, I began leading creativity courses from my business j’Originals Art & Teaching Studio, and through a local church. I had just finished reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, in which we were encouraged to write three pages of unedited, stream of consciousness prose first thing in a day in a journal. We signed a contract with ourselves that committed to three months of seriously trying these things out. We agreed to make a ‘date’ with ourselves once a week to do something that our artistic child would love to do, all by ourselves. There was a creed and a prayer that we repeated for strength.
The purpose of the whole process was to make ourselves our own best friend, to bring ourselves to where we could trust ourselves. I began the experiment which I now cannot live without. After these seven years of more or less consistently doing this (I have around 30 journals to show for it or perhaps I’d better not show), I have learned its truth. What you dream, happens. Julia Cameron calls this ‘serendipity.’ Besides having the joy of that happening, I have learned that what you hate and journal, you can give up in minutes.
In short, this process recreated for me the means for ‘ballooning,’ for ‘tiptoeing,’ for reaching upwards and outwards from your gut, having faith, for trusting what or who comes in off the street, and for catching the updrafts of my dreams. # # #