It’s late afternoon and the doors are open to the sunny day here on the mountain. Through the open portals, I can hear a soft breeze rustling through the trees that surround our cottage, the sighing voice punctuated now and again by the electric squawk of a male pheasant. He’s in the open field just beyond the trees above the house, and he seems to have rather a lot to say this afternoon. It makes me smile; I do appreciate living where the main ’noise’ I hear is a talkative wild pheasant.
I also appreciate that I live in a place where I’m able to have the doors wide open at the end of December. It’s cool but not cold, a temperature that hovers on the borderline of either prompting me to put on warmer clothing or shut the door.
I’m seated at our large dining table still festively decorated with a rustic holiday centerpiece: a jumble of juniper branches, gold ribbon, sparkly glass baubles, heirloom handmade birch snowflakes and stars from the Black Forest in Germany, and small votive candles tucked here and there. My favorite porcelain, Asian infuser-style cup holds my afternoon dose of fragrant green tea. Crumbs on a white, country French plate are all that remain of some toasted, homemade spelt bread (topped with organic raspberry jam) that I just ate with my tea.
￼Our holiday houseguests are away for the day, offering me the space and quiet needed to record this week’s Riverspeak podcast, which I’ve just uploaded. At the end of the episode, I found myself speaking about ‘inspiration’, and I briefly shared the story of a ninety-year old artist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When asked about her secret to a long, healthy and creative life, she replied that every day she looked for something that inspired her. She actively sought out inspiration and then appreciated whatever she found.
Seated here at the table, savoring the late afternoon (but about to shut the door), I find myself musing on gratitude and the sage advice of seeking inspiration daily.
As the year end holidays slip away into mists of memory, I find myself grateful for many good things. My beloved partner. Beautiful organic food. Health and well-being. Our little cottage on the high slopes of Haleakalā. Family and friends. Meaningful work and adequate income. Our naughty but precious dogs. The beauty of Nature. Mother Ocean. The strange grace that mysteriously and steadily weaves through our lives.
It’s a season of sharing and gratitude, most certainly, but I also find myself recalling a line from my forthcoming book: Nothing opens us like inspiration.
In its common usage, ‘inspire’ generally means ‘to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration’, or ‘to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on’ . In its old, archaic meaning, it means ‘to infuse (as life) by breathing’. Indeed, ‘inspiration’ is another word for inhaling or respiration.
Just like the breath, inspiration is expansive; it opens us.
I find myself inspired these days by beauty, particularly of the wild and natural sort. I’m inspired by courage and grace. Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Tenacity and determination. Truthful speech. Social visionaries. Generosity and sharing. Silence. Creativity. Music, dance, movement and art. Breath. Each opens me to a larger, more authentic version of myself.
To embody and give voice to the soul is to be in authentic, creative conversation with the Larger Story. As an embodied dialogue, soul expression involves both deep listening and reciprocal, honest sharing through creative action: movement, sound and words, artistic expression, ceremony and ritual, communion with the ‘more-than-human’ world… all elements of the Deep Imagination. When we fully open to that conversation – listening, expanding past our familiar patterns and restrictions, and offering something vital of ourselves – we become Soul Artists.
Nothing opens us like inspiration.
As we spiral forward into a Gregorian calendar New Year in our ongoing journey around the sun, may you find something each day that inspires you… something that opens your heart like luminous, golden wings. And may you strive to live in a manner that offers that same flash of inspiration and illumination to others. Perhaps our New Year’s resolutions can be a bundle of blessings for self and others: