Day 13/30… or, And Now For Something Completely Different!

So…

I started this painting of a gravel road southwest of town, and I was going to do it in my usual way. Try and stay loose and free and let it flow out. Well… I did let it flow and stayed loose but I also let my head go for a walk and just painted. Colours where I normally wouldn’t use them, shapes that were more emotional than representational. More feel and less think resulted in something that looks pretty tight which is not what I expected. I peeled the tape off after giving it a couple of hours and smiled – not necessarily because I thought it was great, but because it was different.

Grant Waddell Oil on Canvas

Crisp October Road
8.5×11
Oil on Canvas

The Creative Soul…

Creativity copy2

 

“Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.”

The only thing that I have ever known for sure is that I am creative. It has been, is, and always will be. It is the only constant thread in the entirety of my existence. It is a dear companion and, I used to believe, a dreaded enemy. One that I have a caressed lovingly and stabbed repeatedly in the heart. It has loved me deeply, and has left me bloody and bruised. It will offer a hand up the last challenging pitch of a frightening mountain climb, only to let me fall to the self critical rocks below. The resulting recovery, very painful and slow.

To let creativity be what it is meant to be, we need to understand that the truly creative person, holds their creativity close to their soul. Lets it flow from deep within and lets it produce from a place that is so connected to this “creative other” that we can feel it as if it were a living breathing entity within us. It taps deep into a place we have rarely, if ever met. That makes our senses draw in experience, and lets creation begin, naturally and without question. No internal judgment. Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.

Sounds airy fairy, I know, but I don’t believe it’s a skill that we are born with. We develop the skills to satisfy the insatiable hunger of these creative musings. I believe this creative force lies in us all. Some have natural talent, some have to develop it. Some don’t acknowledge it, give it a voice for the fear that they won’t be good enough. I used to say to my son when he said “I can’t draw” that we all have drawings in us, that we won’t like, and you simply have to “draw them all out of you” till nothing but the drawings you like remain. Simply practice.

Cook, draw, paint, garden, knit, write, sing, and play as much as it takes to get better at your craft. Honour it.

Creativity is one of the greatest gifts we have ever been given. It is a part of who we are. It is everywhere. We hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, and see it. It is not an enemy or dreaded foe, but a gifted friend. It draws inspiration from it’s experiences and surroundings. What we listen to and what we see. What it teaches us about ourselves. What it reveals about our vulnerabilities and insecurities. And, if allowed, contributes to our ever growing self expression, and to the creativity of those around us fortunate enough to experience our journey. And maybe, just maybe, give them the courage to embark on their own.

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What does creativity mean to you?

Winters Desire…

Winters cold wind spreads across a field of summer fallow,

as snow falls gently,

softly tapping on shoulders that have bourn so much,

and whisper cold memories of warmer times.

Landing on tongues, as we giggled,

and caught the low January sun through a dappled forest light,

shimmering as it fell on its way

to the dance floor,

the flash of light and the beat of my heart to the rhythms of this one,

true desire.

And in the grey of my voice calling out to this wind,

and the frigid illusions of these now, tepid dreams,

I am unable to move.

And staring out to what, I’m not sure,

hidden by layers of lies, I can only imagine what awaits.

And with this knowing doubt, I am frozen in my own fear.

Feet always moving towards a simple end,

but a mind stationary, and unable to reconcile the truths of where I am…

And more simply,
why…

Grant Waddell

Runaway Train…

 

Sugar Maker

 

Moving slowly at first the subtle sway feels soothing as the clack clack of track under steel wheels, begins to form those familiar rhythms that seem so far back in my memory. As if being held by my mother in the maple wood rocking chair so long ago.

And out the window, things that are closest to me blur into shades of brown, light against dark. I focus on the horizon, seeing dreams in the distant haze, but always on the edge,

never closer.

Faster

The sway, dangerous and unnerving, brings panic. I look around and see others looking out their glowing laptop windows, heads down, at reruns of Honey Boo-Boo and Keeping up with the Kardashians, hyperlinking to dreams of cars, houses and shoes.

In a trance, on track, to a better life…

And I begin to realize what this really means…

And I want off

The Window…

Star Banner

“I believe we all receive glimpses into the mystery, and are simply not tuned in to that  frequency within our world. We’re much more aware of that, which will never matter”

I sat quietly in one of the two Adirondack chairs that sat on the small wooden porch. Part of a cabin built in the 1940’s on Jackson Lake at the foot of the Tetons. I couldn’t see these magnificent mountains not only because night had fallen, but also due to the simple fact that the cabin faced the other direction, towards a black asphalt driveway that wound it’s way around the Signal Mountain Lodge Resort.

The forecast called for rain. there was a dampness in the air, a chill that I welcomed.  I sipped my rye and coke slowly, scanning left and right looking and listening for what, I wasn’t sure, but it must be out there, somewhere.

I could feel it…

I could sense it…

Waiting…

I let my thoughts wander. Time passed and the rye, sweet, slowly left, leaving nothing but the last sip. It was time to go in.

I leaned forward and felt a calm drape itself over my tense shoulders. I looked down at my glass, resting on the broad arm of the chair which held nothing, except cold ice. My right hand wrapped softly around it.

Looking up one last time, I cast the ice out over the inky black of the driveway and it scattered in a broad arc before me.

I sat mesmerized by what I saw…

I stopped breathing…

Reflecting the porch light behind me, the ice became a thousand stars against the black of dark bituminous pitch and gravel. It sparkled and shone in the silent night. It was beautiful.

And in a second, I felt like I could see pure understanding. It seemed to breath knowing into my soul. As if this small fragile universe that had opened before me was the answer to every question I had ever had. Like I was staring into a mystical world that very few people had ever seen. The truth.

I was in awe, and I watched this fragile gift slowly melt into small pools, and fade gently into memory. The window closed. I sat for a while longer, thinking, and wondering if what I had felt was real. It was. I wondered if this had happened countless times before and I had always ignored it. Not present enough in the moment and let it slip by, not knowing how precious it was,

but never really wasted as it just is.

We choose to see it or we don’t.

Leaves…

Leaves

I used to think I would always want some property by the ocean as I loved the smell of the salt air, the expanse of water in front of me , but I mostly loved the sounds of the surf. Especially at night as I sat up late at a friends cabin, windows open, a nightcap in hand and a good book to read. It was very soothing.

As a prairie boy who grew up in the mountains,  the one mountain sound I fell in love with was the distant sound of a train rolling through the valley and blowing it’s horn. Strangely haunting.

Since I’ve moved back from my stint on the coast, I have missed the sound of the ocean. But as I discovered awhile ago, I can hear it almost whenever I want to. I just have to stand in a grove of Aspens and, when a breeze blows gently through, I close my eyes, and I can hear in the canopy above, the memories of sitting on the beach in the cool evening air.

So, while laying in the hammock last weekend, and taking in the smells and sights and sounds, another wonderful thought came to me which inspired this small bit of writing…

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These little hands held silent in nights touch

Understand and wait for the whisper of dawn

and as the warm light crests,

mornings breath fills them with glee, setting them to tremble.

with arms outstretched these little hands begin clapping

and their sounds of joyous applause can be heard throughout the glen.

 

It’s Been Awhile…

It's been awhile

[Apologies to those who saw this already but WordPress somehow took my published post and unpublished it and reverted it to draft]

What did I believe?

Why did I believe it?

Why was I a photographer?

A father? A husband?

Play guitar?

Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual?

Love nature, as if it were… in my soul?

And many more questions.

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This is a long post, but if you’ve ever felt disconnected, have experienced great loss, gone through a life threatening condition, mid life crisis or simply questioned what life is about I encourage you to read through it.

Introduction…

It has been awhile since I really posted something that I found true to the reason that I created this blog. It’s very simple… my father passed away, and shortly after that my stepmother as well. Both great figures in my life. Grieving is such a strange thing to go through. You not only have the loss of life that is very close to you, but you also have the loss of the parts of you that used to be rock solid. Things that seemed important no longer are. The lives of those around you just keep moving along. And so many questions arise.

My dad passed away four months ago, and my stepmother a month after that. I started writing this on April 4th…my 50th year. It’s some exploration of an area of existence that I’m not sure there’s an answer for. Not one that I’ve found anyway.

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Here we go…

In the wake of my father and stepmothers’ passing, and under the microscope of my own mid-life passage, and self reflection, I have been left with several questions about what the hell we’re doing here and what purpose we have other than generating an income and consuming. How do our belief systems play into how we interpret and interact with our world, and what if you question your core values during these times, and, as in my case, they appear to completely abandon you.

In “The Garden” I wrote about how we can’t fully know how much of what we feel and believe, can be relied upon as being “born within us” and how much of it is imbued upon us through family, friends, society, religion, and culture. A road that we are set on, wearing carefully crafted glasses, that shape our world views and, our “personal” beliefs, and our prejudices. What would these glasses reveal, if we were born and raised in Canada, Bangladesh, or the Sudan. Ours views on family, love, hate, God, religion, a meaningful life, and the afterlife would all be shaped differently.

Initially, this is not a choice. We are indoctrinated very early in life from very well meaning people. It is only when, with age and maturity and curiosity, we may begin to challenge, ask questions and seek out our own answers, and simply ask…

“Why do I believe that”?

“What do I believe?

Some of you may never ask this question, but for those who look deep, and really examine whats at the heart of “Self,” you may begin to understand just how much (or how little) influence others have had on shaping who you believe yourself to be. And maybe, begin to understand the nature of who you really are, and possibly, the reasons for the quality of your perceived existence.

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The Catalyst…

So, as I left the hospital on both occasions, and drove home, a growing sense of frustration and unease crept over me. Images and thoughts flashed quickly. Family, and friends, my beliefs, and theirs, my father, and his positive and negative impact that he had on me. Things I have achieved and not achieved, and how everything fits with what I have discovered from my quiet, and sometimes very emotional, and not so quiet introspection.

As I kissed the forehead of my dying father and held the hand of my passing stepmother, I could slowly see the shadow of my own mortality lengthening. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the passage of life and what purpose, if any, there is, or was, or could be. What had their lives meant? Did they feel they lived a life that ultimately mattered to themselves and others? Was it fulfilling?  What about regrets? Would they have done things differently? Would it have made a difference? Did they even think about it? I began to compare where I was to where they were, and examine where I fell short. I think it’s normal to use those around you as yardsticks. And then I thought to myself, does it really matter.

In the days that passed, I would go about a simple routine. I would wake up, enter the world of the busy masses, and observe.  At cafe’s, and restaurants, on the street as people hustled by on their way to the next meeting. Stuck in traffic to and from work. And it just seemed so unbelievably pointless. You grow up, go to school, get a good job, get married, have kids, go to work. Work for decades, and in that time, acquire things. Take a few holidays, work some more, acquire even more, and finally retire. Hopefully with your health so you can enjoy the time you have left. All that was expected of you. Make mom and dad proud. Conform to what we were all taught as children and teens as the “right path”. That’s all fine and nice as long as it truly reflected who you were. You loved your life from beginning to end with few questions. Became what you always dreamt of. But, what if you became an engineer because that’s what was expected, but you really wanted to be an artist. Chose friends and a lifestyle and created a persona based on what you believed society expected of you. Got married because, that’s what your family expected, time was ticking, but you knew they weren’t “the one” and sadly, stayed this course your entire life. The end, would come very, very differently, and very sadly.

So………. How much of who I believe myself to be, is really me? How much is my father and mother and stepmother? How about the rest of my family and friends, and experiences I’ve had ?

Who am I?

Really…

What did I believe? Why did I believe it? Why was I a photographer? A father? A husband? Play guitar? Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual? Love nature, as if it were, in my soul? And many more questions.

Why?

The only thing I knew for sure was, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.

I learned to never take what someone told me as truth until I examined as many sides as possible, and make my own conclusions. This involved my religious and political beliefs and several other areas of life that are given to you as a gift from your family as you are raised.

But, one persons truth does not have to be your own. It all comes down to choice. That was one of the best things my father taught me. Question things. Simply apply curiosity and seek knowledge.

So, in classic style, I began the process of asking questions within myself and was having a hell of a time even coming close to what this all meant. Like trying to step on your shadow. Maybe it was simple grieving. A natural response to losing two people within a very short that were very close to me.

I held off posting this because I wasn’t able to really complete what I had set out to do. To fully grasp, what I was trying to convey or answer.  As my eyes opened wider and I asked more questions, I couldn’t find the comforting answers and understanding that I had come to expect from exploration. I didn’t find peace. And maybe that’s what we were never meant to find. Draw the curtain back and reveal that life is more than we thought. And maybe the tension we feel from time to time is when we realize that the life we are living may be an illusion. When I achieve this or that, make enough to buy that thing, then I’ll be happy. Tomorrow, I’ll be happy. But this is always a moving target.  The promises of happiness and fulfillment never really appear. You play the game and achieve what you think you need and generally it will never be enough. And then you realize, something fundamental is missing. Something… This is where I fall down. Whats is it thats missing? Whats left?

Tune out the noise…

I began to understand that “life” as we know it is noisy. Full of work, kids, TV, Facebook, Twitter, and yes blogs and so much more that we engage in, ultimately add nothing to who we are. But we think it’s so important. It’s not. It’s such a waste of time and as I’ve started to understand, time is precious. It distracts us from what’s really important and when you realize it, it’s painful. And I guess it’s for that reason we do it. To distract ourselves from our possibly stark realities and not face that pain. Because in many cases it means turning several aspects of your life upside down and how do you start over from that?

I have been talking for so long. Listening to the opinions of friends and family, reading the teachings and opinions of others and examining theological explanations and I will never find the answers from any of these sources. They’re are all disparate opinions. Nothing more. I’m not going to find what I’m looking for amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life or the noise of living.

And this is when it dawned on me. It was in what I wrote earlier.

“The only thing I knew for sure, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.”

Really listen…

Maybe part of what I’m looking for is as simple as that. For it is only in the quiet of the mountains and forests, or looking at the ocean or up at the moon in that beautiful night sky and looking into that campfire that whatever it is, feels closest. In that peace and silence it speaks to me without saying a word. I will never pretend to know. It is far to big for any of us to truly understand. But I feel truly connected to it when I silence what we have created as our normal and expected human path. As an an Agnostic (Sorry Ayn) this is the closest I will ever come to knowing what God is. I think this is where I’ll find my answers. Not from the internet, not from noted experts, not from friends and family and not from books. I will find my answers by simply sitting quietly and tuning out and unplugging, and letting the  silence of nature and solitude speak to me. Maybe this is why I’m driven to explore that trail, climbing through the difficult parts till you come across something that takes your breath away. Places where many others would have stopped just short of the parking lot or the fading internet connection and never had that experience.

In a strange way, it’s much louder than the white noise of life and maybe thats what frightens some of us away from it. It doesn’t come with easy answers. I comes with a deep sense of calm and knowing without anything being said. A voiceless conversation between yourself and the flowing sense of awe that surrounds everything in this wonderful universe. It’s there all the time, it always has been. It always will be.

It is pure wisdom. And we just need to tune into it a little more while we still can.

Believe…

20130624-222442.jpg

We had the worst flooding in history in my home town of Calgary. It is utter devastation. Basements and main floors flooded. The town of High River is virtually wiped out. The downtown core was declared an evacuation zone.

I went down to the flood zone to help out and was amazed to see the destroyed contents of all these homes sitting in large piles on their mud and silt covered front lawns.

Amongst the debris, and the wet, was the word “Believe” in the mud in the driveway of one of the houses. I pictured it sitting on the mantle a few days earlier with the forecast of heavy rain coming.

So as I looked up from it and saw all the volunteers and the generosity of complete strangers working hard for home owners that have lost everything. I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate message to find. A message that says no matter what happens. That no matter what Mother Nature can throw at us, we can believe that things will be even better than they were before. New friendships made, and a city made even stronger.

Clarity…

Solid grounds not so solid. A false sense of safety gives rise to beliefs and expectations not supported.

You run and, with reckless abandon, play loose with your life because it will never happen to you. Until…

It’s completely unexpected. You never really see it coming. Never fully realize whats at work, flowing swiftly and powerfully and smooth. Eroding silently, the ground you stand on. Unseen…

Ripped from light, darkness pulls fast from below and all you’ve built drops into the blackest part of who you are. Falling…

This unwanted transformation is, just maybe……………… exactly what you need.

Because, as you lay in the dark amidst what remains, you become aware of the light that shines down into where you are, and looking up, eyes fixed, you see a bit of clear blue clarity above, that beckons you out…

to a new beginning.

Stream of Consciousness Writing…Latte

The latte tastes rich, hot over tongue and beyond. Warming my insides and letting the feeling grow. The foam is light and was adorned with a leaf, which looked great till my spoon dumped a teaspoon of sugar onto it taking it to the bottom of the cup. I sipped gently, listening to the chatter around me and the jazz playing over the speakers.

I wait in anticipation. A few more sips, cooling as I go.

Finally I savour the last of it and I’m saddened to discover that the leaf is not where I hoped it to be.

So… Really…Why…Mid Life Crisis Meets Creativity – Part 3

The lightning burst from the grey overcast sky lighting up pure darkness. The air, forced out in every direction leaving only, the suffocating vacuum. I wait for deafening thunder, but it doesn’t come, only silence – GW

Thats the best way I can describe it. I had a series of events that happened and without going into detail, everything I held as dear and familiar, was blown away from me in all directions. I am waiting for them to return. Nature, Music, Photography, Spirituality, my Personal Relationships and much more. My MLC had hit it’s highest point. The pain was incredible. I oddly found that the things I took my greatest joy from had become to painful to take in. I couldn’t listen to music, pick up the guitar, take a picture, or look at nature or even my home the same way. My vacuum was suffocating. I didn’t understand what was happening or what had happened. I felt completely lost. The catalyst was not gentle, the transformation violent.

Many months have passed now. Lots of reading, lots of talking. The sharp edges of life have started to be worn down and some of the things that were blown away in the storm are starting to return.  It was in these months of self examination and introspection that I came to understand that creativity is my heart and my soul, and I had neglected my true creative energy for a very long time. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in 28yrs. Sketched something for pure pleasure like I used to. Simply, let go. It’s very hard to do. It’s vulnerable. It’s laying your soul on the line, and letting others see it. Am I good? Bad? Does it matter? Shouldn’t I just do it for me? Do I need to please other people I have never met? Validation? What is it?

I would love to know what you think. What holds us back from becoming who we are? Tell me…

So… Really…Why…Mid Life Crisis Meets Creativity – Part 2

WE CANNOT LIVE THE AFTERNOON OF LIFE ACCORDING TO THE LIFE’S MORNING; FOR WHAT WAS GREAT IN THE MORNING WILL BE LITTLE AT EVENING, AND WHAT IN THE MORNING WAS TRUE WILL AT THE EVENING HAVE BECOME A LIE.Carl Jung

My MLC as I’ll call it from now on was a very slow process. It took about four years to fully develop. I’ve done a lot of reading about it and a lot of writing. I filled several journals that, after reading them could see the slow changes that were starting to gain traction and have a greater and greater influence on who I was and who I was becoming. I was one of the lucky few who managed to get the one mosquito that gave me West Nile Neurological which is the worst form of the disease you could get. My father who was the primary influence in my love for nature was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was on the decline. I started to re-evaulate everything in my life. The decisions I had made about my career etc, which is pretty normal for an MLC. Your inner self, the person your were always meant to be (your soul) and not the one you thought you were supposed to be (your ego) based on what your parents wanted or on what society dictated, starts to push back when facing mortality. The doctor who was meant to be a carpenter, the carpenter who was meant to be a vet, the vet who was meant to be a classical pianist. You have everything that you want, a lovely wife/husband, great kids, a great home and comfortable standard of living.

But… your miserable… and then you ask, “what am I doing with my life?” The signs that you hung around your neck that you thought defined who you were to everyone around you begin to mean nothing and fall away. Things that you thought were important, no longer are. The way in which you see and feel the world changes.

You are making the transition to Authenticity.

A journey back to yourself.

“Stream of Consciousness Writing”

I’ve been doing this for some time and sat at my local cafe this morning and decided to write one and share it. For those not familiar, stream of consciousness writing is simply beginning to write and not stopping. Whatever flows into your head, you write. Some are short, and some are very long. I started doing this after reading Julia Cameron’s –  The Artists Way.

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The coffee shop clatters of cups and saucer, spoon and mug and the never ending chatter of hopped up patrons that blend into a sea of sound like no other. Babbling brook, water flows over bedrock and pebbles that form bubbles that collect in murky eddies constantly being replaced by new as old bubbles pop, which was not the intent of the bubble. What am I talking about? Small conversations in my head as I write. Can’t stop, those are the rules. Free flow. Like the brook, or the stream, thoughts rain out and run downhill towards some book and pen, like a lake or ocean that collects the rain from days or weeks past. Thoughts gather in murky eddies while others flow. These stuck thoughts don’t pop like the bubble which was their intent all along.

So… Really…Why…Mid Life Crisis Meets Creativity…

A little background. I was never good at math although I wanted to be. Loved biology because I could draw the best diagrams ever! Chem, physics, nope… English, Social Studies? Ya… a bit. But ART?

Loved it.

I painted and drew always. I picked up the piano (by ear) at an early age. Anything that stimulated my creativity. It was out of high school and onto Art College. A year of general studies to find out what I liked and then three years of study in a particular field. Painting was going to be my gig. I’d been doing it forever so, I thought it was a no brainer. A year later,  I asked myself, “Can you make a living at this?” I didn’t think I could so… enrol in photography. There’s a career choice. Commercial  Photography. Leave painting behind, (the first big mistake) I graduate three years later and move to a large coastal city. I begin assisting and do so for eight years. Invaluable experience. Break out on my own and for the next eight years, do very well. Then it was time, move back to the city that grew up in and kick ass!

Long story short… didn’t happen. Different dynamic, different clients, different people. A wife, two kids, a house and a new dog and an ego that lay crumpled in the grass with it’s sneakers hanging from a power line, it’s backpack full of expectation heaved up on someones roof. What the … I was 42. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing “OK” but not what I had envisioned. The first years were tough, new studio and having to try to break into a smaller market that seemed like a fortress in a Tom Clancy novel. The years following were pretty good, but still… something wasn’t quite right. My soul was trying to speak to me, softly at first,  but it became louder over time. Ego, pillow in hand, would try to smother soul, quietly, but ultimately, ineffective. I felt the first rumble of an awakening giant. A full on Mid Life Crisis. Or Mid Life Passage as it’s sometimes called. Softer I think, don’t you? Soul was feather spittin pissed…

More to come…

An Introduction

Although I have made my career from photography, I don’t consider myself a photographer. I have started a blog but I am not a writer. I have paints and brushes, but I’m not a painter. I play guitar but I’m not a musician. What I am is simply creative. What I haven’t done, is honour that creativity. I have been too afraid to let go and do what is in my very soul. To let the creative process happen. To feel the paint slide on the canvas, the chord on the guitar play gently in my ear, the click of the shutter without the idea of compensation but simply to make an image. Doing it just because. To allow the very nature of me, to push through the cracks of my ego, and force the surface of what I show the world, hardened by fear and perceived expectation, to break off in large pieces and fall into the depths of my mind. Creativity allowed. No judgement. Just letting it be what it is and letting it say what it says. This is an artistic journey. One of complete creative freedom. There is no bad , there is no good.

There is simply expression…