How could you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015? What forms will such moments take? Doodle, draw, photograph, or write your way into these questions… –Sunni Brown of the TED Talk “Doodlers Unite!”
One of my favorite parts of Sunni Brown’s Ted Talk, “Doodler’s Unite!” besides the fact that she champions doodling as a fertile, productive and inspiring habit, is the slide she puts up on the screen showing the stages of drawing human beings tend to pass through–regardless of culture–from scribbles to spirals to more sophisticated forms. And I loved the reminder that we anchor memories/learning when we combine any two of the four elements she charts for us (watch it here: “Doodlers Unite!”).
And one of my favorite parts of this Tracking Wonder Vision #Quest2015 with Jeffrey Davis and his burgeoning and diverse group of creatives is that I’ve been invited to return to some of the simple habits of reverie from childhood, like daydreaming and doodling, both activities I ditched somewhere along the way into adulthood in the daily swarm of “should” and the routines of raising children.
The easy answer to Sunni’s question, How could you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015? What forms will such moments take? is to spend more time in sacred spaces and to spend time refashioning my own space to reflect my love of beauty and the sacred. Listening to Sunni’s Ted Talk, I immediately thought of my father, a chronic doodler and creative genie who made art insperable from life for me.
This Thanksgiving, I sank into the museum of my father’s home where the walls hold a revolving collection of artwork and assemblages. Because my father and his wife Robyn are both my poetry movie collaborators —he with music, she with photographs—visiting their home often feels to me like walking into the collaborative mind we share; I always leave inspired.
Over their couch floats a perfectly circular pocked and ridged moon-scape by Robyn’s late father Paul Beattie. Over the corner chair across from the couch, suspended, hangs the silver spoons and egg beaters of a Monty Monty hawk next to a table stacked with back issues of The Sun and various volumes of poetry and books on photography and the cover jacket for a CD holding “Three Fragments of a Lost Tale,” by John Frame with its exquisite stop motion excerpts from “The Tale of the Crippled Boy”, a sculptor my photographer novelist friend Sandra Hunter brought into our family’s peripheral vision.
My father’s home remains synonymous with art sanctuary. When I was little, elements from his various day jobs took up residence in our home, finding new purpose as under-structures upon which to create. One of my earliest memories is of a circular wooden table from his stint at General Electric, a spool formerly wound with cable like thread, which, turned on its side to create a table top, anchored a volcano of melted candle wax in a rainbow of colors after living in our home for some months.
Then there was the old wooden door we used as a table top, grooving it inadvertently with the tracer trails of a thousand childhood drawings over the years. We made suns of knots, pencilling in ray lines. Dad rounded out the dining set by coming home one day with two church pews we put on either side of the table.
Over the wooden cupboards in the kitchen, Dad shrined all manner of objects, nothing immune to a second life of appreciation: a tennis racket folded in half under duress of a fierce serve, a digital counter from my summer internship at Hewlett Packard that counted from 0 to 10 in endless loop until the battery died, the grey clay ghoulish faces of the Ork monsters my brother sculpted, pages of the four fold group drawings where you draw a quarter of a body, fold, pass it on, staying in character for the next quarter passed to you for four turns. Remember those? When at last you unfold your page, the composite art-selves of you and your siblings and stray friends stare back at you.
Add to this shared space the presence of a piano. Though my sister and I took lessons, we often failed to practice. Still I see in mind’s eye those jaunty white stick figures running up, running down the lime green cover of “A Dozen a Day,” and the soothing repetition of the sound of my father faithfully traversing his scales at night. My left hand still feels the frustration of sluggishness behind the smarter, faster right hand.
When I visit my father now with my three children, I do as I did then: tear out a sheet of blank paper from one of the many communal sketchbooks in the house and choose a pallet of pastels. I take a deep breath, and begin. Beside me, my middle son perseveres with his latest fascination: soccer shoe design doodles. For me, a curving line down the center of the page. Inevitably, head cocked to side, one of us will look at the other’s drawing, and ask, “What are you making?”
To which there’s only one reply. “I don’t know yet.”
When I put down the pastels, to that faint internal click of “done,” I look to see what emerges: a phoenix, plump with eggs. Inspired, I bet, subconsciously, by a book I’ll notice later sitting out in the living room, cover bearing the tall grey/brown shaggy swan neck of a Moa bird.
To return to answer more fully, “How could I make moments of sacred joy a priority in 2015?”
- Make sure there’s a bucket of pastels on the kitchen table in my house and pads of paper near by for my children and any adult in the house.
- Carry on my father’s tradition of shrining life as we go, continuing to cultivate conscious altars of beauty in the house.
- Bring colored pencils to the “Writing Past Fear, Free Your Butterfly” workshops I’ll be leading this year for my first poetry collection November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press) so we can doodle on our strings of paper dolls as we consider the mentors we love.
- And to put Sunni’s ideas directly into practice, I’m making a daily morning color meditation doodle…holding in mind that notion of sacred joy. Wouldn’t sacred joy also be mingled with the deepest emotion we are feeling at the time? So some days that might mean doodling to sacred grief. I’m thinking about this thanks to a fellow quester, Julie Jordan Scott, who writes here and gives visuals for “Soul Grief Portraits.” I’ve started a board on Pinterest for the daily doodle around #sacredjoy: #Quest2105 Sacred Joy Doodle Board after Sunni Brown. Join me!
I’m not alone in these musings and ruminations. Here is a brief sampling of other questers considering this idea as well (from the hundreds! I wish I could include everyone each time, but I’ll include a handful of links as I can each time I post):
Sacred Joy Doodling by Ginny Lee Taylor (Ginny invites you to create your own doodle practice and share your doodles on her Facebook page)
Doodling Into More Joy for 2015 Jeffrey Davis on Youtube says early on in his video: “Drawing itself brings me joy…and puts me in a sacred space however you define sacred. It puts me in a space of stillness and flow…”
Building a Sacred Joy Practice by Molly Morrissey; here’a quote from that post: “Putting one’s self in the crosshairs of Joy pays dividends”
Imaginal Joy Doodles by Mark Horn, short video of images including lovely watercolors by Mark, accompanied by Greensleeves
The Question of Sacred Priorities by Erin Coughlin Hollowell; here’s a quote from that post: “Joy as a practice of acceptance rather than rejection and shutting out. The unbolted heart.”
Writing the Spiral: A Timeline of Motherhood Exercise for You: a post I wrote for Mother Writer Mentor several years ago; a generative exercise for writing mothers, or mothers of any kind for that matter. We are always looking for guest posts from writing mothers or even those who have chosen to forego motherhood, and posts from fathers as well, as long as the post somehow ties tangentially to what it means to navigate writing while raising children (or even after, in the roaring quiet of the empty nest)…Or if not a parent, what it was like to be the child of a writing parent.
One Final Question for You:
And I’ll close, riffing on Sunni Brown’s, on a question of my own…
Should you have a phoenix lurking in your psyche, and were she to be carrying eggs (or he, if more seahorse than phoenix)….what might be in those eggs waiting to be born that connects you to your sacred joy?
Full bio for Sunni Brown, responsible for the prompt on sacred joy and the encouragement to doodle:
Sunni Brown is leader of The Doodle Revolution – a global campaign for visual literacy and also the name of her new book. Sunni is also the author of Gamestorming, named one of Amazon’s Top 100 Business Books, which lays out visual thinking techniques for business. Sunni’s common sense, wit, and pragmatic applications of neuroscience have led her to consult with Disney, Sharpie, Zappos, and elsewhere. Her TED Talk “Doodlers Unite!” has been viewed over 1 million times, and Fast Company named Sunni one of the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business. You can follow her on Twitter: @sunnibrown
December 19 2014 additions: Other questers on sacred joy:
Sacred Joy Here’s one by Lauren McLean Ayer on quilt doodling! Free-motion quilting! I love this story!
January 1 2o15 addition:
A Working Defintion of #365SovereignReality by quester Marisa Goudy