Here’s how I learned to improvise: I played some music in the studio and I started to move. It sounds obvious, but I wonder how many people, whatever their medium, appreciate the gift of improvisation. It’s your one opportunity in life to be completely free, with no responsibilities and no consequences. You don’t have to be good or even interesting. It’s you alone, with no one watching or judging. If anything comes of it, you decide whether the world gets to see it. In essence, you are giving yourself permission to daydream during working hours.
When, however, one reads of a witch being dunked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Walker-thinkers have found various ways to accommodate the gifts that their walking brings. Caught paperless on his walks in the Czech enclaves of Iowa, maestro Dvořák scribbles the string quartets that visited his brain on his starched white shirt cuffs (so the legend goes). More proactively, Thomas Hobbes fashioned a walking stick for himself with an inkwell attached, and modern poet Mary Oliver leaves pencils in the trees along her usual pathways, in case a poem descends during her rambles.
The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.
―Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea