In the first week of the year, I understood that it was time to let go of my part-time job at the library—a fifteen-hour-a-week ballast, working with friends and surrounded by wonderful books and movies. What could be more pleasant! Then I wondered, If given the chance, what else would I fill this time with?
And I was being given the chance. I saw that I could, indeed, support myself with work that I find more than just pleasant, work for which I feel passion. I could focus on telling my stories—and on helping others tell theirs!
The day after this contemplation, I gave notice at the library, and two weeks later I dispersed chocolates, hugged my colleagues, and left. It isn’t exactly like retiring, but there is a wonderful unanchored feeling to time right now.
This weekend I went to the opening of a pop art exhibit at the Museo Gallery in Langley—and loved looking at all of the creative things that local artists are doing in the name of tin cans and soup labels. They’re having fun with their art! That was inspiring, and so was talking with a friend about her accomplished high school–age daughter.
This teenager was the down the street that evening, singing at another gallery—and planning a juried performance on the saxophone in a few weeks’ time and an exhibit of paintings this spring. Four years ago this same girl was a concert-ready violinist and two years ago she won an island-wide writing competition. What will this astonishing young virtuoso do next! “I have no idea,” her mother said. “Katyrose is always a surprise.”
The most dramatic symbol for creative potential was what I saw in the street when I left the gallery—a bearded man in a ponytail, wearing pink and twirling fire in the air around him. “How long have you been doing that?” I asked him afterward. “A couple of weeks,” he said. “I saw it on YouTube and picked it up.” My jaw dropped, and he laughed. “I’m kidding you.” He handed me his card: he was Matt “Madhat” Hoar. “I’ve been doing this for fourteen years,” he said, “but if you wanted to, you could learn it in no time. I’ve had people do professional shows after two or three days of lessons.”
Who knows; perhaps I will. (The video is courtesy of a gracious bystander, Jenna Ashley.)
At the new year I always feel the potential for change, but with 2015 the possibility seems momentous. This is a year in which I’ll turn seventy, a year in which a memoir I’ve been working on for more than a decade will be published.
My meditation teacher once spoke of the new year as a gift we’re given, in the way a sculptor might be given a huge block of some precious substance—marble or gold—to work with. This gift of time is our raw material, and we’re asked to create a masterpiece with it. What will this year become in our hands? What will we make of this gift of time?
Now, more than ever, I see that it’s up to me.