Fall is liminal.
Liminal means ‘of the threshold’. A site we pass through, a place of becoming. Borders are powerful, painful, unsettling. You might get stopped, you might get questioned. You might sail right through but then realize you forgot the language. Or you thought you knew the language, but realize you’re rusty, can barely put together a sentence, let alone a poem.
Fall is now the time I put down my paintbrush, fold up my tripod, put ideas on hold.
Like a river that’s been diverted by a dam, my creativity pours into my course designs, my lectures, my ways of being in a university. There is a displacement, of identity, and of real, material things: books, films, stories that may or may not get made or told.
It’s a strange and unsettling transition.
In my culture, the role of artist is pretty much respected. When I went to Ukraine for the first and only time, I was amazed by how, when people asked me what I did and I replied with: “I’m an artist/writer/filmmaker/video artist “(choose one, or choose all), people didn’t stare or say, Ah, yeah but what do you really do, or How on earth do you make a living.
They nod. It makes sense. It’s plausible. It’s respectable.
Last night I watched a doc on TV about a group of women who created a play, Body & Soul. At one point the director, Judith Thompson, asked them to write about the one thing that makes them angry.
I had no problem choosing one thing. It makes me angry that it’s so difficult to be an artist in this country. And I’m one of the lucky ones. My brother’s penchant for making art every day no matter what (he was a busker musician) was one of the things that contributed to his ill health and ultimately, I believe, to his passing.
There’s something lost, when you can’t make art every day, a kind of flow. Here’s Tibetan Buddhist and chef Kimberley Snow talking about a certain state she achieves within the daily practice of cooking. I’ve substituted writing for food.
If you let yourself quietly be with the writing, something else does take place, something outside the usual range of the senses, another order, another way of being. The it takes over. The me is gone.
And just as an aside (since we’re facing a federal election once again), I’m particularly pissed off at the current Conservative government’s recent cuts to arts funding. Now, let it be known that this is a process that was begun by the Liberals just over ten years ago. Canada’s art funding, once a mere 1% of its federal budget, has, over the past 11/2 decades, been cut in half.
If you want to even maintain a level of arts funding; if you want cool indie films and film festivals and a diverse ecology of art galleries and performance venues and places where non-corporate artists can get support to make films – go to your election town hall meetings and ask the hard questions about arts funding. And, vote NDP. They get it. (OK , end of aside).
As for me, I’m subsisting on a diet of one or two days per week of writing. It’s going to have to be enough, for now. Don’t know that I’ll achieve that other way of being for the next eight months. I’ll be living on the borderland of art. I’ll be making something out of nothing. I’ll let creativity be my guide – in teaching, in relationships, in how I sort out my schedule. It’s about trying to provide for the soul’s nourishment and survival. And, hopefully, learning something about life’s strange twists and turns, its stable places and its liminal places, along the way.