Kernel: When I decided to be an artist

Franklin was asking a couple weeks ago for me to write another Imbolc blessing. Imbolc is a Celtic holiday, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. It’s associated with Brigid, goddess of inspiration, poetry, and smithwork. For me, the holiday is also about cheese, and fire at the heart of snow, and making it through the stored foods of winter to the first through-the-frost greens and new milk. The previous Imbolc blessing I wrote was for babies—or newcomers, really. And since that writing, it has also been used as a farewell.

I’m not in that writing-place now. I’m in a more “make fancy things with turnips and duck fat” kind of place. But I did recently reconnect with Manderley, an artist who, at another Imbolc, inspired me deeply. In a very real way she gave me permission to use the word “artist” in reference to myself. (Before that? Writer, yes. Poet, yes. Artist, no. Somewhere, I hope, I have a very few drawings I did in the months that followed that inspiration—to see if, giving myself permission, I could draw what I see, to understand what it feels like to see that way. If I find them I will add them.) In that reconnection, I went looking for a piece of writing, and found it, and here it is.

Kernel | December 13, 2001

Here’s a little piece of wisdom
told to me one Imbolc-time
by an auburn-tressed woman
(bright sun on the snow outside)
as we talked of art and worry,
rebirth and a sense of growth,
taking time to look at things
in ways the pace of days precluded:

Art is not a talent inborn
given to a precious few.
Until approaching Vincent’s madness,
Leonardo’s crackling brilliance
(who can say where lies the line
between the two?), we are all equal:
Every one of us who breathes can
be an artist, shape our world.

All we need to do is choose it,
take the time to look around us,
learn the intersection-magic,
watch the way our brains interpret
what our senses gather in.

Once we’ve learned that way of seeing,
all that’s left is joyous work.
Reach into our hearts and find out
what we need to represent.
Then, take firm hold of that vision,
pick up tools, and give it birth.