Last week I wrote about feeling flat. Uninspired. I was re-reading the post today: the words were more Sol Lewitt’s than mine, wise and smart and they got me moving my ass out of neutral. A lot has happened since that post was written – we moved into our holiday cottage, I went back to Yoga classes, site visited two schools, had a number of meetings that will move the Lunchbox Fund’s work forward. I had drinks with new friends, and dinner too. Took on a new writing job, hosted a dinner, took the kids to the beach and went to a sweet School Fair.
I also wrote three posts for this week. Of which this is one. Not too shabby all round.
Last Sunday I joined Gavin and Rudi to honour their neighbourhood’s successful initiative to make the streets safe and welcoming for all. It was warm and bright, I wore a dress, the boys wore shorts and Jack sported a scarf. We drank g’n’t with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and ate braai’d snoek and baked sweet potatoes. Dessert was Eton Mess and prosecco. Perfect.
Open Streets Obs started out as an idea between a few like-minded neighbours. Once a year they would close Main Street and turn it into a communal safe space. Show people what could be. Now, on the last weekend of October, the neighbourhood turns up to hang out with each other. A great achievement: Obs has had it’s shady moments, drugs and violence. But the people prevailed. And I like that we celebrated that.
I’ve been dipping in and out of Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein. The book has drawn some criticism because the title apparently promises a road map. That’s just plain silly, come now folks – if we knew we would all be doing it.
What Burstein has done, is pull together a fascinating series of interviews with artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers. All of whom have sat down in the past 10 years to talk with Kurt Andersen on his NPR show Studio 360. We get to hear people like Chuck Close, Richard Ford, Isabel Allende, and Patti Lupone share their thoughts about the sources of their creativity. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma talks about the importance of warming up. Others talk about the influence of their parents, of place, of a shattering event, or the stimulation of working with a creative partner.
Rosanne Cash tells of the moment she stopped being angry at her father, Johnny Cash. Poet Stanley Kunitz describes the deep inspiration he draws from the garden he created out of a sand dune. The photographer William Christenberry refills his soul in his home county in Alabama. Returning there every year to photograph farms, churches, and roadside cafes.
The artists all speak for themselves. Its great reading.
The final article, simply titled ‘Celebrate!’ is headed with a quote by painter Chuck Close: “I have traditionally, for thirty-five years, celebrated the end of every painting.”
Close suffers from Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. Making him unable to recognise faces. Yet he is a portrait painter. He was paralysed by a spinal aneurysm in 1988 and has relied on a wheelchair since. Continuing to paint with a brush strapped onto his wrist with tape. Extraordinary.
“Every time I finish a painting I play Aretha Franklin full blast from start to finish, and I usually sing along with her as my celebratory end to each painting.”
I finished the book in McGregor, on the sofa of our new little holiday cottage, and lay thinking about his words. Was I really going to mark this new move by having a sandwich on my own for supper? As I closed my kindle, I heard my neighbour, who had sold me the house, calling me across the wall. ‘Did I want some roses?’ she wondered. “They’re a bit blowsy, but sometimes they are better like that”. Yes, please, I’d love some.
“By the way”, I asked: “what are you doing tonight? Shall we get Rob (her husband) and go out for some dinner? My treat.” She paused and looked at me: “Seriously, your treat? You want to take us out for dinner. Are we celebrating?” I had surprised myself with the invitation – but why not, I felt happy and the cottage is wonderful. “Yes, we’re celebrating.”
So we did. And you know what? As we walked into the restaurant Aretha was singing ‘Spanish Harlem’.
(Spark cover image copyright Harper and found in the public domain. All other images copyright campari&sofa. Apologis to Kool and the Gang for nicking the title of their song.This post was not sponsored in any way.)