I return to my dog-eared copy of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” time and time again. To ground myself in a reality that has little to do with the real Mad Hatters out there. And because, in my opinion, the main character Alice Nelson gives constant inspiration. Take, for example, Alice’s views about birthdays. Convention, she says, tells us that we get just one day a year to celebrate; but what about the “364 Unbirthdays”? Without a cynical bone in her body, Alice urges us to consider each day a gift ready to be opened. The entire tale (and that of “Through the Looking Glass”, for that matter) is – among other things – about Life: unpredictability, precariousness, and sometimes crushing loneliness and heartache. But it’s also about daring and adventure. Living bravely. Seeking ‘experience’.
Where I live in California, people have begun dragging out the lights and decorations for fall and winter holidays. (Some of my neighbors, I notice, have given up on Nuisance and leave these ornaments in place all year. I’ve decided that I like seeing reindeer striking a pose on hot summer days.) I don’t “do” holiday decorations, but I love to use small lights, paper lanterns, whirlygigs, and banners that I enjoy making myself (some are Japanese print-fabrics, others look Balinese) in my yard.
I was recently switching-out my Summer, for my Fall banners (a brown-gold batik pattern) late in the afternoon, when a friend and neighbor walking by stopped to say Hello. She complimented me on the “fall” fabric I’d chosen, then began describing how much my mini lights and banners and whirlygigs meant to her. (Huh?) My neighbor saw “artistry, creativity, boldness, and confidence.” Confidence? Yes, she said. I demurred. It’s just a kind of self-expression, I said. Really: the banners are just something that I like to see swaying in the breeze. Movement. But my friend said, “Oh, I’d never feel confident enough to display anything I made in our yard.” Ok. I wanted to be encouraging, but her confession seemed so…Sad. Longing to create, but not feeling your creations were beautiful enough for your own eyes and enjoyment, in your own yard. Who squashed your dreams, and how long ago?
Life’s moments can be very synchronistic; the Universe playful, and even a bit inclined to give a Smackdown to Smugness. Several days later (post- banner chat with my neighbor), I was in a group-dynamics class, doing a kind of ice-breaker activity. I found myself with a large sheet of brown paper and a stack of rainbow colored markers. I was creating a face (already criticizing it as child-like and pretty ‘lame’). At the end of our session, the leader of the class – also well known mixed-media painter in my community — said, “So, you’re an artist as well as a writer?” She pointed down to my psychadelic caricature of a woman’s face, all blues, pinks and greens. “I’d love to see some of your other work.” (Wait – is she messing with me?) She seemed sincere…
And suddently it hit me. I looked back down at the face I’d created and thought, Yes, indeed: it’s a bit of ‘Picasso’ right there. Confidence. One person, willing to share what they see, what they feel in seeing what you’ve created. Confidence to explore; to have an adventure; to take a risk. How wonderful to feel it from both sides: giving, and receiving. How humbling to know that I need it, just as much as you do.