Adventures of The Soul

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Painting by Mel Odum

Spirit waits in everything like the
incandescent shimmer between electrons.
Each time we’re drawn to create, it’s the
shimmer that recreates us. Each time we
shape something out of nothing, the heart
stirs like a red bird remembering it was
meant to fly. Each time we give when no
one is looking, we peel what covers our
timeless center. When softened this
way, silence reaches through us till we
admit we are chimes carrying an ancient
song. “Then why try so hard?” you ask.

Because trying is singing, too. Because
sweat exercises the dream. After so much
work, we think we’ve produced something
that never existed, when it is we who wake
closer to what never dies. Whatever stirs
us to put together the few things we find,
it is we who flower from giving away
the nectar of our being.

- Mark Nepo


“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. The cloud clears as you enter it. I have learned this, but like everyone, I learned it late.”

— Beryl Markham

We went to France without thinking too much about why we wanted to. We had an invitation from my wife’s ex husband who was moving there and wanted their children to come. I spoke French already and had a personal history with France, but I’m not sure he knew that. It was a throw-me-into-the-briar patch moment for me.

The project we threw ourselves into lasted over twenty years but when it was over the curtain came down very quickly. We took the next step in a cloud, as Beryl Markham says, which does seem to be clearing a little.

The house we bought needed a lot of help. We worked on it almost until the day we left. In the meantime I painted my expressionist paintings with a view to working out my style. The kids went back and forth between opposite sides of the country where their parents had settled. It was a time of intense learning and creativity for all of us.

For several years after we left I was sure we would go back, but I doubt it now. It was a huge growing experience for all of us because it had so many levels to it, but once that growth had happened the Fates obliged us to move on and not look back. We didn’t realize there was a lot more to learn and we were starting to stagnate in our beautiful Shangri-la.

We didn’t create that beautiful place as a business idea, although when it came time to sell the new owners bought it for an upscale B&B. No, we did it because we couldn’t not do it. A creative fever took us over. As we created a home, we created ourselves as more substantial people. We grew ourselves as we raised the kids and rescued a two hundred year old house from perdition.

Learning the wine and food, the language, developing friendships, working on the house and garden, reading, writing and creating in the studio (and the kitchen) made us into physically fit cultural hybrids. When it came to an end, we began to mutate into something different. I’m not calling myself a writer yet, but things seem to be moving in that direction.

Making something out of nothing is deeply satisfying, whatever the medium. I notice though, that words come through me very differently than visual art does. I’m slowly learning what kind of writing I can do as opposed to the kind of painter I am. It’s like two different energies, two different people. I’ve been surprised.

Getting on intimate terms with your creative self takes time, dedication and practice. It takes persistence and devotion. I’ve been fortunate to spend my life creating and trying to create.

We don’t always know all the reasons why we get on a certain path. We just find ourselves there by virtue of “accidents” or decisions we made without much reflection, but that becomes our life then. It becomes who we are, which is not necessarily who we planned to be.

The story of the soul’s adventures is the real story. The unlikely seeds that are planted by what looks like random circumstances grow you into yourself. In my case, work and love finally came together

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