Tonight is the last evening of school for me for this semester and I am truly looking forward to it, mostly because one of the two classes I took this semester was frustrating in ways that I have not been frustrated by a class in probably over fifteen years. Also, while I love school, the time it requires puts stress on my family schedule and I'm looking forward to having fewer things pulling me away from Nate for a few months.
But I'm already missing the other class I took and it's not even over until tonight.
This semester I took a visual arts research methods course and it is not an understatement to say that it has possibly changed my life.
Being a writer in a community of artists has been enlightening. My academic pursuits have always been near the art world since writers often interact with artists in the larger cultural world, but it's been a while since I've even been in the world of writers. I was a literature student and college instructor after I finished my creative writing work and now I'm an education student and tutoring supervisor - roles that don't provide much (any) creative support.
My classmates in this research class are an amazing group. They actually create art. Maybe some of you know people who create art regularly and who consider themselves artists as an essential part of their being. Or maybe you even are one of these people. I don't interact with many artists in my day-to-day (non-online) life.
Sure, I know artists online, as well as musicians and bloggers and people who create things like invitations or photographs for a living. But for me, being with people who do this other kind of art - stuff involving paper and paint and sculpture and metal - has been life changing.
I had forgotten. I used to write poetry regularly. I have a B.A. in creative writing, for which I produced what would be a chapbook of poetry. I lived and breathed poetry every day because I was in constant production.
Today I produce family meals and emails and presentations and occasional blog posts. I find joy in all of this, but it's not the same. Other people produce poetry in cooking or baking; I do not. I enjoy it, but it's a little like paint-by-numbers for me - I'm just following what someone else designed before me. I'm not inventing.
But this class has lit (re-lit) the invention flame and even possibly altered the course and focus of my future dissertation. As I finished up my final projects for this class, I found myself feeling like it was all really a beginning, not an end in the slightest.
For class tonight, I made Joy the Baker's Lemon, Lime and Thyme sugar cookies and Chamomile Mini Cakes (cupcakes) with honey frosting (both from her cookbook). They seem like just sort of precious, delicate, to-be-savored-with-a-smile type of treats appropriate for tonight. I know I'm going to want to cry and hug my professor when I leave class tonight, but I'll just make sure she and everyone else has the sweet treats instead.
This poem pops up a lot in my life and in my head. It's one of those pieces that I get something different from every time I read it and this week is no different.
Archaic Torso of Apollo
~Rainer Maria Rilke
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.