A Poem: Summer Self

I wouldn’t recognize you today,
all blossomy and damp,
light as a gauzy sundress.
You casually crush green
beneath bare, stained toes,
snip herbs for dinner,
bouquet hosta or lilies.

You’ve forgotten me,
hoarding wan daylight,
wiping puddles of salted snow-melt,
brewing bones.
You wouldn’t remember how to use fleece and wool
to staunch the cold
that bleeds through everything.

You smell of sunscreen and clover
as you step into twilight,
your yard aglow,
dewy blades vibrating full
of summer night sound.

(It’s difficult to think of you
without judging your thoughtless naiveté,
scarcely believing autumn was gathering
and winter would fall down hard.)

But now that spring buds in fits and starts,
I find I am a helpless creature,
soft, white, shrunken,
covered still
with layer upon layer of winter armor.

So I recall you now gladly
for what you can teach —
how I might once again
receive warmth,
expand forth,
turn my face grateful to the sun.

 

A Poem: Economy

I’ve come to crave
frugality
in a world
gone greedy
swallowing
too many things
whole.

Just like
I might
use cheese rinds
to flavor soup
or eggshells
to cradle sprouts,
I long
to press
scraps into service.

I’ve begun to seek
considered
pauses,
to value
the precise economy
of silence.

I’ve come to savor
prudence
like stillness —
its particular weight
at once heavy
and ripe
like nectar
from summer’s
first cantaloupe.

And though
I am often tempted
to release more
into the glut,
I’ve learned
the hard way
that I might rather
steep beets
to make scarlet dye
or learn to darn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

Last week I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m honored to be talking with poet and mom of three, Sarah Dunning Park, who’s also offering a signed copy of her new book of poems, What It Is Is Beautiful, for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity? 

A: Becoming a mom has affected my creativity tremendously, in a variety of ways. But before I get into that, I want to note that getting married also had a major effect on my creativity. With both types of life changes, you have to figure out how to balance the new relational needs and responsibilities with your own desire or need to find time for creative pursuits. To be honest, I would say that I’m only now beginning to figure out a healthy balance, though I’ve been married for about twelve years. Our kids are now 9, 6, and 6 years old. But I wish I’d made it a priority sooner!

When my first baby was born, I really threw myself into the creativity of homemaking. For instance, I got into baking bread with a sourdough culture (which needed daily tending). I can see now that I found that particular creative outlet out of necessity, in the best way I was able to, for that chapter of life.

Three years later, our twins were born, and I entered a very difficult period of a few years — I had three kids preschool-age or younger, and I was also battling a chronic health issue (severe leg pain). The pain (coupled with the challenges of being home with three little ones) led to depression. So I found myself in the position of needing a creative outlet more than ever, and yet not only could I not find the time or energy, I also couldn’t remember what I even liked doing, creatively speaking!

But this story does get better… About three years ago, I spent three weeks on my own in Manhattan, seeing a specialist for my leg pain. It was the first time I’d been away from the kids for longer than an evening out. That time was transformative. I finally had a moment to sit and think and breathe. And another moment, and another, consecutively! Suddenly I had a thousand thoughts I wanted to do something with, and that is when I began writing my recent poems about motherhood.

So the very challenges that had made it difficult to find time for creativity (those constant demands of motherhood), became, in the end, the raw material for my creative work, once I was able to take a step back and start making.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

A: Of course, I couldn’t stay in Manhattan and live the life of a solitary writer! I came back to my home and family, and decided I had to figure out a way to make space for writing. My kids are all school-age now, and I work part-time, not full-time, so I try to take advantage of hours during the school day to get writing time. Once I have a draft of a poem, I’m able to squeeze in the editing work here and there — getting up earlier, grabbing a half hour while the kids play outside after school, and so on. But it really helps to have an uninterrupted chunk of time when I’m first starting a poem. And that, for me, is a matter of timing; I could never have found such time when the kids were all much smaller. Summers are still difficult.

One thing I’ve found to be quite helpful is note-taking. When an idea for a poem pops in my head, I try to get it down on paper (or email it to myself) as quickly as possible. I keep a file of those ideas. Or if I’m driving around, running errands, I try to use that time to wrestle, mentally, with a problem I may have come up against in the writing of a poem.

Q:  What role does spirituality and your relationship with God play in your creativity?

A: I believe that God values creativity, and art, deeply. After all, look at this intricate world we live in! But it’s easy to write off creative work as unimportant or frivolous. A luxury. So when I’m questioning the value of my creative work, I have to take a step back and revisit what I believe about God.

When I’m writing, I’m very aware that the beauty or truth I’m trying to capture is pre-existing. I’m not the source of it — God is. I’m just uncovering it. And so there’s this wonderful joy in the discovery, and a lack of pressure or fear with regard to “coming up with something good.” The good is there, God-made. And it might not be tidy. But I have the fun of taking part in it, playing with it, and helping others to see it.

I also feel that God has taken this creative work and used it for good in my life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to predict. It’s been very healing work. So that bolsters my sense of how huge God’s dreams are for us — he wants to do great things in our lives, things that heal us and others, and that bring him glory.

Q:  When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel? 

A: When I write a poem, I’m helped by the process in so many ways. Writing a poem enables me to clarify an issue in my mind. Often I start one about a particular problem, and I honestly don’t know where the poem-writing will take me. But the process of writing it helps me figure out a new way of looking at the problem, or even “solving” it, in a sense.

In addition to gaining a better overall perspective by the end of writing a poem, I also benefit from the ongoing creative act of mental play. One of the things I love about writing poems is that I get to work with words so fluidly, finding echoes in how they sound together, and really paying attention to the subtle differences in meaning. It’s exercise for my mind, and it lifts me up out of the repetitive cycle of household tasks.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who feels like she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

To the mom who can barely find time for a shower, I would say, “I know. I totally get it. If you have five free minutes, take that shower, enjoy it, and don’t feel bad about not being creative, too.”

I’ve been there, too, and I think it’s important to not make “being creative” just another to-do item to feel burdened by. If you long for a creative outlet but feel swamped by your life, then make a tiny, incremental goal. Find *one* way to, say, make your kitchen table more beautiful, whether it’s putting a single flower in a jar, using cloth napkins, or simply removing all the piles of mail for once! I know it seems small, and not as “worthy” as working on a painting or writing something, but it’s vital. Small steps like that will keep the creative parts of your brain alive and hungry for more. And if there’s a hunger for it, you’ll start finding other ways to make more space for creativity.

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      Sarah Dunning Park is a wife, mother, and writer who lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters. She and her husband run the simple online budgeting program,   PearBudget.com. Sarah is the author of
What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. The giveaway ends on May 17, 2013. 

 

       

        

The Anatomy of Joy

Joy, if I were to sketch you down,
render you musculoskeletally,
your bones would be this:
God.
Gratitude.
Love.

I’d pencil in more details,
tendons, ligaments, and cartilage,
filling out your frame.

The layered beauty
of love-lined ligaments
binding God-bone to Christ-bone to Spirit-bone,
your triune framework.

The collagen-dense tension
of purposeful gratitude
in tendon tethering
thankful muscle to contented bone.

I might add happiness
as a lightweight dress
draped over your frame,
sketched in for ornamentation,
for temporary pleasure,
like a pearl of candy rolled round
in the mouth for a few moments
before melting.

But, you, Joy,
you were formed deep,
cast into my form,
calcified in faith, love
and worship.

 

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 Joy is a light that fills you with you with hope and faith and love.

~ Adela Rogers St. John

I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.

~ Brene Brown

 

Today’s prompt was to blog about what brings us joy, especially when it comes to our God-sized dream.
This post was shared gladly with Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream Team and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story: