A friend recently told me about a wonderful weekly newsletter called Brain Pickings, written by Maria Popova. Now in its tenth year, this gift, which arrives in my inbox each Sunday is quite a treasure. In very tiny print, above the masthead (I started my writing life an aspiring journalist) it says:
Reflections on the rewards of seeking out what magnifies your spirit.
Then I think about the masthead quote on the NY Times: ‘All the news that’s fit to print’ and I consider the dis-spiriting nature of so much that is reported as news these days. To be honest, I often think that I am “too busy” and file Brain Pickings, planning to “read it later”, but I intend to start making time. Her writing is nutritious and healing and who doesn’t need that? I could go on and on about the glory and richness of this enterprise, but I urge you to take a look for yourself… a treasure trove of deeply thoughtful writing.
A few weeks ago, Popova wrote about Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher and writer whose work I read back in my college days. Some of his ideas I absorbed and retain, but I have not thought of him, except perhaps in a crossword puzzle context, for years. Imagine my surprise when I found this quote. It would have been fairly meaningless to me as a twenty-something, but strikes right to the heart of my sixty-something quest for self.
“What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far…
What have I truly loved thus far? That is a powerful question. Each time I read it, or consider it even peripherally, something starts churning inside of me. I want to know the answer and I can tell that I do know the answer. I need only the courage to acknowledge these ‘revered objects’ that have ‘uplifted my soul’, dominating and delighting me at the same time. So I have begun remembering and assembling a list of these things that I have loved, seeking to understand my ‘very self’. Seeking to reconnect with those sparks of joy.
One love that I discovered, perhaps re-discovered, a few years ago is what led me to creating this website and thereafter to this blog. While participating in an Artist’s Way workshop, I had to do a little drawing as part of an assignment. I can’t remember what it was; something like a floor plan or a map, I think. What I do remember is the realization that I had gotten happily lost in the project. It was just so much fun, playing with colors.
A high school art teacher had told me that I could not draw, therefore I did not draw. My family, fully cooperating with the scarcity mentality, agreed with her. My sister was a talented artist. I was the writer. Cannot exceed one of each per family, that’s the rule, right? But I truly loved doing this little drawing, so I started drawing pictures of food and writing little essays around the drawings. I called it Eating Art Work.
The other day, after a fairly long hiatus, I picked up my pencil and artists markers and – boom – the experience was powerfully fun once again. I lost myself in the pleasure of the work or in the words of Nietzsche, my soul was dominated and delighted at the same time. Here is a little piece of the drawing I made, based on the framework of an online project called TDAC. Check it out. This is part of my recipe for One Hour Chili. I’ll be doing a second draft and then I will share it here.