One way or the other, every picture has a story. I have a particular series in my picture collection which reminds me of a challenging, yet important time in my life. The pictures in the series are of butterflies, and this is the story of how they came to be.
I believe creativity, like art, is a spiritual process that lingers in the physical body before being released out into the world. It never advances straight out of the thinking mind, but always makes a d-tour through the soul. It tickles under the skin and finds itself into the hips, stomach and spine. Hoping to get out, it will flow where it can. Like those childhood puddles that could be guided with a stick to form little rivers. Art needs to move and it needs to flow. It needs to find its way out into the world.
And at times it does not get out. It happens. Life is like that. The little rivers are blocked and we are stuck. It happened to me some time back. All of a sudden, I saw nothing and I felt nothing. Instead I found a little dent in my being and made my nest in there. I lined my space with suitable material; self pity, doubt and what was left when the shit hits the fan, fear. Curiosity was out of the door and in came insecurity and worry. In a commanding, adult voice of my mind I heard myself say, Why bother? Whats the point? You are not good enough. Get real. Every word like a new lining in my unhappy cocoon.
All the advice I had heard, read and written down a thousand times incase I ever get creatively stuck, sounded all of a sudden more like a joke. “Get to work and the muse will find you." "Keep at it." "Show up." "Have faith." "You are good enough and we are ALL creative." "Go out and make stuff!” This all sounded like empty self-help jargon. Nevertheless, I decided that even though I didn’t believe in the words, I would obey their advice. And so, with reluctance and force, I went out. My one encouragement was the knowledge that I had never yet returned home from a photography trip without being somewhat elevated and inspired. Photography had always given me a sense of purpose and been its own reward.
I decided to go to a butterfly park, a small, quiet, tropical enclave of region’s butterflies and moths. My commitment to myself was to make regular visits to the place and just carry my camera along. And I did. I started to visit the park again and again and at some point I realised I was taking pictures. Little by little, a habit formed and I started to learn more about the butterflies, their behaviour and lifecycle, how to approach and photograph them, what to wear and when to go.
With some reasonable amount of force and stamina, I had managed to developed a new creative project. My visits, which went on for two years, were not originally about the butterflies themselves but about getting out and trying to sustain my craft in what was otherwise a shaky time in my life. I cannot however underline enough the deep effect the butterflies had on me. It was impossible to stay absorbed in the negative self talk while giving all my attention to their simple beauty. It turned out I became less self conscious around them. What was inside me and what was outside me started to align and I could sense my curiosity and strength return. As Caroline Myss says, “The soul always knows how to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” The butterfly park, an oasis in what is otherwise a busy, restless city, gave me just that. A chance to quiten the mind and reconnect with myself. These repetitive visits turned out to be a healthy and a deeply nurturing experience.
My life is not dark any more. I am engaged in number of different creative projects and I feel I am in a stable, neutral ground again. The little rivers are flowing and I happily let them. I also know that life is always changing and that things come together and then they fall apart again, repeatedly. Next time this happens I know that the advice I was given was right all along. I have my own experience to remind me that creativity is a bumpy and uncertain, yet deeply rewarding path in which the most important element is to persist and just keep on moving onward.