I love Billy Collins’ poem, “Lines Lost Among Trees,” in which he describes a poem that came to him while walking in the woods. Of course, he had no pen and nothing to write on, so, sadly, he had utterly forgotten these words by the time he came back to the house!
Have you ever had this experience? Insight is a tricky thing; it can come at random times. I know a preacher who keeps an erasable marker in his shower and, if an idea for a sermon comes to him, he writes on the bathroom tile!
I keep a little notebook by my bed. Occasionally I will wake up, and still half-asleep, scribble down a dream. With the morning light, I’ll read whatever I wrote . . . and it often makes no sense! (Recently, I wrote, “The gibbous moon rose like pupils in my son’s eyes.” What!?!? I even had to look up “gibbous”!)
I’m sure it meant something to me, at least on a subconscious level. Collins describes these dreams, “like a fantastic city in pencil, [which] erased itself in the bright morning air / just as I was waking up.”
Once I was led by a spiritual director in a guided meditation to meet my creative archetype. Those of you who have experienced this form of meditation know that it involves a deep relaxation, which is part of its appeal to me. At the time, however, Sam really did have a reflection of the moon in his eyes because the boy was waking up every other hour or so. This was bad enough. But, like Chinese water torture, my wife and I never quite knew when he would start crying, so we ended up lying awake most of the night, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. This was as profound a sleep deprivation as I have ever known.
So, I am lying down in a comfortable recliner, smelling incense, listening to this beautiful music, as the spiritual director guides me through my imagination . . . down, down, down into a type of conference room. Totally relaxed, I prepared to meet my creative archetype, the inner muse who would help with my upcoming projects.
Then, I heard my spiritual director saying, “Welcome back.” The meditation was over! I had fallen completely asleep!
I shared my disappointment with her. She just smiled, “Just because you don’t have access to the insight now, doesn’t mean it won’t be there when you need it.”
Collins’ wrote that the words of his poem, “Are gone forever, a handful of coins / dropped through the grate of memory.”
As I said, I love this poem; but I’d like to give you, dear reader, more hope than that.
By the way, “gibbous” means “more than half, but less than full.” It seems to me that you can look at creativity as something to be captured (and hence, lost), or more optimistically, as something that grabs a hold of you. And so, it will be there for you when you need it.