She sang, as requested. There was much about love in the ballad: faithful love that refused to abandon its object; love that disaster could not shake; love that, in calamity, waxed fonder, in poverty clung closer. The words were set to a fine old air–in themselves they were simple and sweet: perhaps, when read, they wanted force; when well sung, they wanted nothing. Shirley sang them well: she breathed into the feeling, softness, she poured round the passion, force: her voice was fine that evening; its expression dramatic: she impressed all, and charmed one.
On leaving the instrument, she went to the fire, and sat down on a seat — semi-stool, semi-cushion: the ladies were round her — none of them spoke. The Misses Sympson and the Misses Nunnely looked upon her, as quiet poultry might look on an egret, an ibis, or any other strange fowl. What made her sing so? They never sang so. Was it proper to sing with such expression, with such originality — so unlike a school girl? Decidedly not: it was strange, it was unusual. What was strange must be wrong; what was unusual must be improper. Shirley was judged.
I believe that half the trouble in the world comes from people asking ‘What have I achieved?’ rather than ‘What have I enjoyed?’ I’ve been writing about a subject I love as long as I can remember–horses and the people associated with them, anyplace, anywhere, anytime. I couldn’t be happier knowing that young people are reading my books. But even more important to me is that I’ve enjoyed so much the writing of them.
We spend our lives, all of us, waiting for the great day, the great battle, or the deed of power. But that external consummation is not given to many: nor is it necessary. So long as our being is tensed, directed with passion, towards that which is the spirit of all things, then that spirit will emerge from our own hidden, nameless effort.
In our time… a man whose enemies are faceless bureaucrats almost never wins. It is our equivalent to the anger of the gods in ancient times. But those gods you must understand were far more imaginative than our tiny bureaucrats. They spoke from mountaintops not from tiny airless offices. They rode clouds. They were possessed of passion. They had voices and names. Six thousand years of civilization have brought us to this.
I haven’t much time to be fond of anything … but when I have a moment’s fondness to bestow, most times … the roses get it. I began my life among them in my father’s nursery garden, and I shall end my life among them, if I can. Yes. One of these days (please God) I shall retire from catching thieves, and try my hand at growing roses.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted “tiger” of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Paraná, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can only be faced by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: this is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.
The way that I’ve always thought about creativity is that ideas are these disembodied life forms, they don’t have a form but they have a will, and all they want is to be made manifest and they circle the world looking for human collaborators to work with.
I’m feeling poorly today due to Celiac Disease and my brain fog is keeping me from stringing ideas together. Instead, I’d like to share this interview by Robin Young with Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity, inspiration and a kiss shared with Ann Patchett. It’s magical! Click the link below and look for the audio file at the top of the article.
We live in a society that fetishizes passion, that talks a lot about vocation. These are very intimidating ideas that, I think, leave people out and I think if you can just sort of forget about passion and forget about vocation and focus on the tiny friendly impulse of curiosity which is within all of us, that is the way.
Have you ever felt as if you were missing something or merely going through the motions of living? Sometimes this happens as a result of a catastrophe in our lives, but it can sneak up on us when things seem to be going well. Boredom and apathy can make life miserable and contribute to a host of health issues and destructive behaviors. One way to combat the turmoil they create is to focus on enchantment.
I don’t mean that we should walk around under a spell that blinds us to reality or that we should do only what we please, but rather that we cultivate a peacefulness, joy and wonder for the world around us that doesn’t completely fade when we meet adversity. How do we do this? Here are a few strategies.
Temper authenticity with kindness
I firmly believe that there are no bad emotions, only emotions which are expressed in ways that are not useful. Being angry or scared may save your life when well expressed at an opportune time. Feelings exert pressure on us to behave differently, to act in new ways that change the outcome of the world around us. If you don’t feel like smiling, don’t smile. Denying your angst will shove it deeper into your psyche, where it will grow and leak out at unexpected times, poisoning your experiences. Strive to be honest with yourself, with those you love and, to a certain extent, with the people around you, but temper that authenticity with kindness and empathy, even when dealing with yourself. Honesty without those things can be a sharp sword and should be used sparingly.
Train yourself to see the good things
We all know that person who constantly expects the worst so that they never experience a negative surprise. If you choose to embrace this philosophy, realize that it may help you to manifest your worst thoughts and nightmares. We often take steps to avoid the uncomfortable realities we anticipate and these steps can actually create those realities, either externally or internally. If we expect something to be unpleasant or expect someone will not like us, we emit signals that make those events more likely to happen. Our attitude has energy that can bless or poison the lives of those around us. This is our magic. In addition, life is able to surprise us with circumstances which are worse than we can imagine. We are not going to be able to avoid disappointment completely, so we might as well look with joy on that which is good.
Is there any value in preparing to fight a dragon when the dragon turns out to be either a mouse or a train?
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Focus on where you are and what you are doing right now. When you are driving to work, keep your attention on the road rather than your cellphone. When you are walking down the street or into a grocery store, notice the people around you and smile and interact with them. When you are eating, enjoy the texture and taste of your meal rather than focusing on work. This doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and plan for the future or think ahead. It means you are not dividing your attention in a way that makes you miss real life, which is nothing short of miraculous.
When was the last time you noticed the clouds, which are always changing above us?
As we become adults, we tend to get serious about life. Some of this is required; we need to pay bills and take care of ourselves or enchantment ends abruptly. But we often go overboard, working long hours that become tedious, pushing far past healthy endurance and attention span, focusing only on that which gives us obvious profit. It is okay to spend some of our waking hours “wasting time” creating imaginary realities or doing something pointless. If we can plan play into our daily lives we give ourselves opportunities for rest and learning things in nonlinear ways, as well as outlets for frustration that mean we can be more productive when we return to work. If we can see some of our work as play (there will always be elements that remain hard work) we can even draw enchantment into our workplace.
Do you ever feel guilty for enjoying yourself? Could you give yourself permission instead?
What is it that fills you with delight? Nature is a great place to look for enchantment, but there are things to fall in love with everywhere, from doll making to architecture, from fantasy novels to technology. Those things that inspire joy and awe in you need to be part of your life, even if they aren’t part of your day job. Life is too short to ration those things that make you a better, happier human being.
In closing, I would like to leave you with one last thought. You are the protagonist of your story, a supporting character in several other stories, and an incidental character in many stories. Abdicating any of these roles has consequences. Revere the stories taking place all around you and embrace your own with relish and zest and you will be on the road to lasting enchantment. If you want to fully explore the enchanted landscape you should not close your eyes to darkness and pain, nor should you strive to never be angry. The best way to cultivate enchantment is simply to be enchanting, and that means being your most genuine, best you.