Is it true? “You are what you love, not what loves you”? I recently blogged about this, quoting Nick Cage from Adaptation. I believe you are what you love. But have you considered that what you love might love you back without you realizing it?
I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you’re a creative person (Gilbert points out that our ancestors doodled on cave walls long before they figured out agriculture, so you are a creative person) and you need a kick in your fancy pants, get your hands on this book.
Although Gilbert has been lucky – most notably with Eat Pray Love, read by 12 million people – she became a writer because she loves writing. She feels writing reciprocates that love through the very act of it – inspiration, wonder, research, creation. To expect more than that from writing, to expect writing to love her so much it would financially support her, well that was asking too much from an activity she enjoys and, in the grand scheme of things, matters not one whit.
As my artist friend Deb, another lucky creative, often says, “Remember Reet, it’s the verb not the noun. Write. Not writer.” Paint. Not painter. It’s the action, not the result of the action, because when one sets out to create one has no clue what one is making. Masterpiece? Or junk? And since one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, who really knows if the creation has value?
Early in Big Magic, under the heading of “An Amplified Existence”, Gilbert explains what she means by “creative living.” “I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
Then she talks about a friend who re-took up figure skating in her forties. Nope. No Olympic Medals. Yep. Extreme self-consciousness about being on the ice with “tiny, feathery nine-year-old girls”. What else? Transcendence. “It was a revolution,” writes Gilbert. “A literal revolution, as she spun to life again on the ice.”
Getting back to “what loves you”, I have a friend, married many years, who brags that he’s “lucky in love”. So he knows what loves him: his wife. She is beautiful and creative and, well, just about the most pleasant woman I know, so he is lucky indeed. But what if we all thought that? That we’re “lucky in love”? That’s what we’d be, right? Whether we’re in a new relationship, an old one, or just this fantastic ongoing one with Life, Mother Nature, some humans and a few animals, particularly dogs. (Can cats love you back? It’s more of a disdainful toleration, isn’t it?)
In my memoir Long Climb Back, as I begin to climb out of the black hole of grief, I walk in nature and seriously contemplate a grand tree. “Do you love me?” I ask it. “Can you save me? I stare up for a long time, waiting for an answer, for an aura, pale, glowing, pulsing, to appear. Squirrels continue to talk in their frantic, harsh way. (My dog) Zephyr’s entire being is tuned in to their activity. I say thanks, to everything above and beyond the branches of this tree, for creating trees. I know that because there are trees on Earth, I will make it through another day. Trees – magical, life-giving – will keep me here. Rooted, like them.”
Whoa. A tad wacky? Trying to communicate with a tree? But wait a sec. Back to Big Magic, in the first part of a section on “Trust”, Gilbert talks about a friend, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and author who teaches environmental biology. “Her students,” says Gilbert, “are all fervent young environmentalists, earnest as can be, desperate to save the world.”
Kimmerer asks her new students a couple of questions. The first: “Do you love nature?”
All hands go up.
The second: “Do you believe that nature loves you in return?”
All hands go down.
This is a modern problem, created, I believe, by the consumeristic society in which we live.
“Ancient people,” says Gilbert, “did not see it this way, needless to say. Our ancestors always operated with a sense of being in a reciprocal emotional relationship with their physical surroundings. Whether they felt that they were being rewarded by Mother Nature or punished by her, at least they were engaged in a constant conversation with her.”
See? It’s okay to talk to trees! And please, don’t wait until you’re pushed to the brink of insanity by deep grief to start the conversation.
Without this sense of relationship with nature, Gilbert’s friend Kimmerer thinks we’re missing out on an opportunity to become cocreators in life, a concept Deepak Chopra often talks about. Says Kimmerer, “The exchange of love between earth and people calls forth the creative gifts of both. The earth is not indifferent to us, but rather calling for our gifts in return for hers – the reciprocal nature of life and creativity.”
What wondrous gifts do you have to offer Mother Nature in return for the bounty she offers up every day?