Authenticity seems to be the word of the moment.
I’ve been writing about authenticity for quite awhile, of course; it rests at the heart of The Bones and Breath, and it’s woven throughout these Soul Artist Journal posts. Yet it seems to be surfacing all around me lately, as if I’m sitting in a tiny boat on a glassy lake at twilight while the water all around me ripples with countless, expanding circles as fish rise to feed and kiss the cool evening air.
Earlier today I encountered a post on Facebook, in which an unmet friend/follower shared her sister’s blog, Long Walks and Rose Gardens. The post was titled “Write Like You Mean It,” and I loved these words:
“Don’t you dare apologise for a single word out of your pen. Not now, not ever. You are a Writer, and you weave magic.
I read once that the burden of the artist is to bear witness to the Universe. That is what you do. There are as many universes as there are people who have walked this earth, and goodness knows how many more. You may never have picked up a pen in your life. You may never have opened your mouth and told a story. But you get out there right now and bear witness to what you see, what you feel, what you think. You are a Writer, or a budding Writer, or a veteran Writer, or a Writer yet to be born — but you are a Writer.” ~ Haneen Khalid
The words rang like a silver bell in my chest. How utterly true. And how vital to hear, out of the blue, that our work is to “bear witness” to the creative, deeply imaginative miracle of life continuously birthing itself around us — and to not apologize for what we perceive, even if it is not what others see and know. (Especially then.)
Julia Child, our American cooking icon, frequently used to say, “Never apologize.” She was referring to the mistakes we make in the kitchen or the perceived shortcomings of a dish (an entire meal, even), because most guests will never know something has ‘failed’ or not lived up to our expectations until we start banging on about it. Her sage advice has been a challenging, ongoing lesson for me in the kitchen — life! — learning to be okay with mistakes or disappointments, easing gently down against those impossibly high standards and expectations of myself.
Haneen’s “Write Like You Mean It” post has a slightly different flavor and feel than Child’s repeated admonition; it’s more about ‘living your truth’. Yet I think both speak to authenticity. Don’t apologize for your art or what you create in life. Somehow it is an affirmation that I needed to hear right now, again, sitting in my small boat, drifting quietly and gazing at the distant stars.
Ghosts trail silently outside my small cottage on the California coast tonight. The fog has rolled in, shrouding the trees and houses in veils of shifting mist, laying a thick silver hush upon the world. The venerable Monterey cypress in front of the cottage, the Grandmother, looms dark and somehow magical. Time has folded in upon itself, and it feels like I could step out the front door and disappear into another realm. Avalon, perhaps.
As I putter in the kitchen making supper, a seared chicken breast with harissa and Moroccan-style preserved lemon, an alluring voice fills my house with new music. After ‘meeting’ via social media — she reached out to me after reading one of my posts, and I then watched one of her singing videos on YouTube — we both sensed a similar inspiration in our work, and exchanged book (mine) and album (hers) with each other. It is another curious, unexpected gift of Facebook, and I have just received her CD in the mail.
This evening is the first time I have listened to Ariana Saraha’s “Maiden of Midnight,” and I am utterly unprepared for her wild, mystical soul and music that transports me to faraway realms and ages. Frankly, I am blown away. I feel as if I have stumbled unknowingly upon a gypsy caravan and stepped into the circle of dancing firelight and music. It seems the perfect soundtrack for a foggy, coastal night at the edge of the continent, here at the threshold of earth, sea and sky.
At times there is a Sarah Brightman quality to Saraha’s soprano voice, though the music is less symphonic and more Old World — which is actually part of its allure. Less sleekly produced, more authentic. Most of the songs are at least 6-minutes long, well over the typical 3-minute pop composition. Indeed, there is nothing commercial here or geared to court a mainstream audience. In the very best way, “Maiden of Midnight” strikes me as unapologetic — true to the essence of Ariana’s wild, gypsy soul.
The music invites me down from my head into my heart. I feel an expansion in my breath along with a sense of gentle movement rising up my spine, and I am pleasantly entranced. Simultaneously, I’m catapulted back to Haneen’s blog earlier in the day — ‘Write like you mean it’. Live like you mean it. Bear witness to the Universe and celebrate.
I have written previously throughout this journal that Soul Artists are radically authentic individuals. They follow their eros like a golden, glimmering thread, keeping hold of it even when it leads them into the dark and tangled wood (which is invariably where it will go). Each in their own way understands that he or she has a unique gift to bring to the ‘more-than-human’ world — one that may not easily be discovered or shared, nor widely received.
Don’t apologize for that offering. Not one word of it, brush stroke, or musical note, the slightly burnt underside or the undercooked middle of it. In the very act of its creation, you nourish and celebrate the Soul of the World, embodying the reason why you are here. I say and write this as much for my own benefit and reminding as yours. The whole point of a conscious life is to become ever more authentic, transparent, and expansive.
We all have our inner critic and naysayer, our chosen ways of censoring and limiting ourselves — the one who whispers words like “polite,” “agreeable,” “non-offensive,” and “non-political” while urging us to stay in the “safe” realms. Meanwhile in nature, each thing is simply, unutterably itself. Unapologetic for its gnarled branch and curious shape, its windswept and ragged beauty.
A hundred blessings to you, Ariana. Haneen Khalid. Julia Child. Blessings and gratitude to all the countless others who, daily, rekindle and remind me on so many different levels — especially to the wild, mystical souls. You are my tribe.
Friend, here’s hoping that you find yourself surrounded by expanding rings of authenticity, human and other, and may you feel inspired daily to continue offering what is uniquely yours to bring.