Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When You Need to Create

A few months back, my best friend confided with me over cocktails at the Columns that she had been having some crazy dreams.  Almost every night over the course of a few weeks, she dreamt that she was pregnant.  I did not find this to be disturbing or abnormal, as I myself have had this dream before.  Plus she has been married for five years, so I figured that the subject of babies was naturally on her brain by this point.  But there was more to it.  There was an elaborate plot line I do not fully recall anymore, but the gist of it was this: She dreamed she forgot the baby every place she went.  That she forgot it in the car.  That she was feeding it soup straight from a can.  She had absolutely no idea what to do with it.  Everyone flew straight to the oh so obvious conclusion: the dream clearly indicated that she longed to have a baby but lacked confidence in her parenting skills.  She wasn't sure they were ready for a baby, they weren't at the right place yet, she still had other things she wanted to do before a baby, etc.  I reassured her that she would make an incredible mother, but even as I said it, I felt there might be more to the dream than the obvious.

I am not one to embark on a lengthy analysis of my (or heaven help us, others') dreams.  Nor am I accustomed to enure them with elaborate meaning.  But then a few weeks passed and Best Friend came back to me with some interesting information.

She had begun to crochet an afghan.  This on its own does not seem like much.  But when she began organizing the project, picking out the yarn, deciding on the pattern, and then putting it all into action, the dreams stopped.

Suddenly it all made sense.  She didn't need a baby.  She needed to CREATE.  Carrying a baby for nine months, giving it life, and then caring for it is the most profound act of creation of which we human beings are capable.  Her mind and heart found what it was seeking in the creative process of planning and crocheting a project.  It was also true when she forced herself to find the time to create in the kitchen.  We both share a passion for cooking.

Every year Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Ave. celebrates Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday with "Bach Around the Clock," a 27 hour ongoing concert featuring performances from school groups to some of the city's greatest musicians, like Delfeayo Marsalis.  While Bach does dominate, other classical composers as well as jazz and some out of the box selections (can we say "Harry Potter" theme) all resonate throughout the church.  You come and go as you please, and no admission is charged.  If you get the urge to hear a really stellar violin solo at 3 a.m., you know where to go.

After margaritas and Mexican, our two best friends (conveniently married to each other) accompanied us to "Bach Around the Clock."  And something amazing happened there.  I was reminded of Best Friend's dream.  In this amazing church, listening to brilliant works of art coming from the fingers, lips, and throats of talented individuals, my soul, so anxious and wound with worry, settled down, breathed, and sighed so loud I thought it echoed across the pews.  They weren't playing hymns, but that didn't matter.  What came from them was a gift from God.  God gave them the gift to be able to produce music of this caliber, and they in turn gave it back to us, sending our spirits soaring to the rafters.

My husband and I aren't exactly opera people.  But listening to one soprano perform an aria caused us both to clutch each others' hands.  I had tears in my eyes by the end.  How can a person's voice do that?  I was--and am---convinced that nothing short of God's intervention could bring a sound so ethereal from any of our very human and inherently flawed throats.

We were so awed by the performances that we returned the next day.  The New Orleans Youth Orchestra was playing.  I prepared myself to be underwhelmed.  These were just a bunch of kids, after all.  Quite the contrary.  They played the way I imagine heaven will sound.  Those little tiny children who can't drive or vote or do long division---heck, I'm pretty sure some of them are probably still struggling to keep their shoes tied---produced a sound beyond the scope of ordinary existence.  As if I was hearing music for the first time, I realized the skill and dedication these children were exhibiting, and how we all have a contribution to make, no matter our size, education, or economic status.  Live music will do that to you, will remind you of the truly amazing side of humanity.

All this to say---God made us in His image.  So often that part of us in which God resides is not visible to our neighbors.  So often we see only the destructive side of people.  God was and is the great Creator, and he made each of us with a need to create.  Not all of us are going to have the ability to play like those children in the orchestra, but we each have something to create and to contribute.  My husband is a writer.  My mother can look at a room and in two minutes rearrange it in a way that brings out beauty formerly unknown.  My father has an amazing garden.  My grandmother, self-trained and with no experience save that of her own kitchen, proves that food can truly be art.  My dancing sister moves her body in ways I never could.

When we lose our ability to create, our self-made demons emerge.  At first we might just be grumpy or confused.  But soon that God-given energy to create---that blocked up, denied, repressed gift---has to go somewhere, and it can so easily lend itself to destruction.

Which is why it is time for me to go cook.  And crochet.  And sing in all my off key glory.


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