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Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

I still remember how liberated I felt back in 1989, when a professor pointed out Emerson’s sensitivity to the natural ebb and flow of the creative lifestyle. From that day forward, I pursued that theme, reading it in the poetry of Walt Whitman and the interviews of a number of twentieth-century painters. Long ago, while in the ministry, I knew that parishioners were deceiving themselves if they thought they could live in a state of perpetual revival. Mountains require valleys. In my years of teaching, the topic continually came up–how can one sustain a high level of creativity? In my opinion, one cannot. Life moves in circles. We require intake if we are to output. We must inhale in order to exhale. We must rest in order to exert. The ocean ebbs and flows. These rhythms are natural and inevitable.

I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly tried to cheat the natural order. Today on the radio, I listened to discussions of people taking amphetamines in order to sustain creative exploits for up to 72 hours without sleep. I have always been alarmed at that thought. In my years as a graduate student, I recall drinking coffee and swallowing No-Doz tablets in order to stay up an entire night typing a paper to meet a deadline. But I believe I always returned to my bed the following evening. I never thought it possible to sustain beyond that.

As to the rhythm of creative eros and stagnation, I truly believe that physical rest is a factor. So why am I writing this now? Because I’m exhausted–sleep deprived, heat exhausted and travel weary. But . . . my air conditioner at home was finally repaired this afternoon.  So, I sit in this Barnes & Noble Cafe, waiting for the house to cool (it was 91 degrees inside today) so I can get home and experience some quality sleep. Soon I’ll travel to the Colorado Rockies, and I just want to get my physical and spiritual self back on a good track before I begin the new trek.

Above, I have  posted the watercolor that I began yesterday, and completed this morning. It is now in transit to its new home out east, and I’m delighted that the patron is happy with it (glad also to have the job finished before making my next journey).

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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10 Responses to “Respite”

  1. periwinkleblur Says:

    An excellent quote and a lovely expressive painting and post.


  2. alethakuschan Says:

    We cannot sustain a constant level of creativity, or inspiration perhaps, but one can continue in work for long segments. A lot of times artists, writers and others believe that they need to be inside a kind of creative state in order to work, but as with so many other things in life, painting, writing and other creative endeavors have their mundane aspects. Whenever we can get ourselves moving, doing art (writing, etc.) the way a ditch digger digs ditches then sometimes creativity sneaks up on us even when we weren’t looking for it or when we thought it was absent.

    Of course, when working like a ditch digger, one should work ditch digger hours — that means getting a good night’s rest! Dreaming is so inter-connected with creative thought — no one should surrender their chance to dream! But graduate school is a different world, isn’t it … haha!

    I have really enjoyed reading this post of yours. You have said several things I needed to hear. I’m grateful that you’ve shared your thoughts. And I’ve forwarded this post to a writer I know who has been a bit in the doldrums … so thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alethakuschan Says:

    Oh, I was so caught up in thinking about creativity that I forgot to say how fabulous your painting is! Congrats to the collector!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Almost Ready for Prime Time Says:

    Thank you for the timely, much needed words about letting oneself off the hook! We all have teachers in life and you continue to be one of mine. The painting is beautiful, and the scene a timely cautionary for human as well as aquatic life.


    • davidtripp Says:

      I replied to this with my phone, but I guess the mountain reception lost it. Thank you for writing what you did. Every time I think my teaching days are in the past, someone tells me something that makes me think maybe my thoughts still matter. Thank you for that.


  5. Janice C. Johnson Says:

    Thanks for these encouraging words about the rhythms of life and work. I’ve been feeling guilty about an unproductive couple of weeks… needed the reminder that creativity must cycle with rest and intake.
    I hope to see you at the Festival in Palestine a week from Saturday.


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