In 1998, at the Santa Fe Indian Art Market, I met Ernest Honanie, a Hopi wood carver/artist from Second Mesa, AZ. Ernest is from Kykotsmovi, one of several villages there. I purchased a Katchin Mana (Yellow Corn Maiden) and since 1998 and several moves she has suffered a bit of damage and needs a little repair on both her right side hair piece and the missing feather at the top of the forehead. Kachina corn maidens are often decorated with different kinds of colors and clothing.
While talking to Ernest about the corn maiden, I noticed another piece that he was working on in his booth. Having been to Florence, I was reminded of the unfinished sculpture of Michelangelo and asked Ernest if I could purchase that too. “No,” he said, “why would you want that? It is not finished yet.” I explained to him as best I could that I could see a shape emerging from the wood and although it was incomplete, he was doing what Michelangelo had said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
What I saw was the creative artistry of the carver who saw the possibility of a kachina in the piece of cottonwood root, the raw material of the woodcarver, not the marble of the Italian sculptor. To me, it was the same process and I thought it would remind me of seeing something made possible by being creative. After some more back and forth discussion about his work, Ernest relented and sold me the unfinished piece, the featured image for this blog. It sits on a shelf to the left of my desk. I see it almost every day and while I do not always respond with doing something creative, I have been fortunate in creating new opportunities for myself and others in my work with people, with schools and with other organizations.
As my creative activities slowed down, I turned to more writing as a way of exercising a modest level of creativity and recently began using Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” as a handbook to try and improve my writing abilities and skills. Like any discipline or exercise, what makes it work is a high level of commitment and practice. I had some previous practice, took a couple of courses and I wrote four books. The first was with a co-author in 1988 and then three more in 2013, 2014 and 2018 respectively. My inner critic said none of them were particularly good or outstanding and they could have been much better with more editing and revising. Of the four, the one that meant the most to me was “Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir.” (River House Press, 2013). Will I write another book? I have the beginnings of an outline, more of an idea.
It’s not quite like the unfinished carving but I’m getting closer. I have yet another book on the drawing board, an illustrated children’s book, so there’s also that. Taking stock from time to time helps, an inventory of works in progress, of which I am one too.
As some of you know, who are regular readers, and subscribers to my blog, I continue to work on this publication as an expression of my thoughts, experiences, observations and musings. The themes and topics vary although there are categories according to subjects and topics. Many of them are contemporaneous with what I am doing at the time. In the words of Annie Dillard, from “The Writing Life:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order — willed, faked and brought into being; it is a peace and haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself decades later, still living…”
Decades later, I find myself here, not finished yet, like the wood carving, and my conclusion is that as long as I am able, and willing, to continue exercising mind, body and spirit, I will keep on going, keep on doing, continue working, writing, walking, wondering and traveling. I wrote to someone the other day that it’s important that we find ways to fuel our curiosity if we want to keep on learning and growing. It’s a choice. I am grateful and fortunate to have the choice.