The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. It can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. This week, we’re driving through Western Massachusetts, in the space between reason and intuition.
I was driving the back roads of Western Massachusetts, looking for signs of Spring. At 3:00 p.m., I felt a profound and inexplicable sadness, a few notches deeper into the heart than the sorrow of recent loss. I had no idea of what was happening in Boston at the same time.
When my mother had her first heart attack, I was in Hadley, Massachusetts, and she was in Manatí, Puerto Rico. I was washing dishes, looking at the willow tree in the yard, indulging my lust fantasies about Ralph Waldo Emerson, who I was sure resided beneath its shade. Without warning, my heart tightened. I went pale. I asked my partner to call an ambulance. But the feeling passed quickly and did not return. I knew this heart-turned-fist wasn’t mine. I noted the time: 11:05 a.m. The same time my mother’s heart betrayed her; we both survived.
These are conversations I usually reserve for the few. To those married to limited definitions of logic, the ability to feel across time and space is reserved for mystics. I assure you, I am not. “Baby, baby, I was born this way.” Thank you, Lady Gaga.
So there I was, in search of Spring, excited to see the gold that reassured Robert Frost of its arrival, and I was sobbing. I was certain it was willow tree juju, or perhaps the red tailed hawk vigilant and steady on an oak’s naked branch. Perhaps it was April unfulfilled, as robins despaired over the unwelcome night frosts that threatened their young. I stopped trying to understand how I felt.
I found a bit of solace along a river dike on a beautiful crescent turn of the Connecticut River. Barren, broken-off branches raced each other downriver as if carried by beavers, but the beavers never showed. My companions impersonated a variety of waterfowl in my typically active imagination. Despite my fascination with how they rode the current, an uneasy feeling wormed through me.
After the walk, I made my way to a used bookstore and was attracted to a dusty hardcover on Leonardo da Vinci. I picked it up and held it close; I didn’t know this tragic day also marked Leonardo’s birth.
I concluded my artist date with a visit to a bison farm. As I approached the herd, the largest male raised his head to assess my intentions. We stared at each other for a few moments, then he turned away. I couldn’t stop admiring his grandeur and majesty. I imagined what interactions might have occurred in the natural world of that same pasture when First Nation ways prevailed. Still, for those moments, as our eyes met, I was able to let go of my grief.
Now, days past the bombing, I think of the river dike, the bookstore, the bison. My nerves were on the wrong side of my skin that day, but the feelings were just right.
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