I saw an image on the Dreaming Aloud Facebook page with the words, “I make art to show my soul that I’m listening,” and felt a hum of recognition. When I create a new sculpture, I am most often creating something that I need to remember or want to learn. Our most recent Centered Mama sculpture and our Meditation Goddess were created while at a friend’s house for a weekend work exchange as my baby toddled around (yes, he is a nine-month walker!). While I love making figures of mothers and babies, I was feeling a strong urge to make a goddess representation complete unto herself. It felt like a reclaiming of my non-maternal identity and a declaration of self-sovereignty. She turned out a little bigger than some of my other figures, strong and secure and independent. Then, the baby crawled over and knocked off one of her breasts, knocked her over on the tray, smashing the side of her head. I came close to crying. I was also annoyed with my husband who’d “let” him come over and destroy my work rather than noticing him doing it and stopping him. I was frustrated, dismayed, and my feelings felt hurt in a sense. First I felt like, Argh! This is a metaphor for life! And, then I realized it was not just a metaphor for life, it is my actual life! I said I was just going to smash her and give up and I made some bitter faces at my husband and some long-suffering huffs and signs, but then the baby fell asleep in the Ergo, held close against my chest. I kissed his soft hair and I took my clay and started again. I reclaimed her from the smashed parts and she sat stronger and taller than ever.
She reminds me not to give up and that beautiful work can come from struggle, but also of interdependence (not just the independence I was going for!), co-creation, and tenacity. When she sits by my bed at night or overlooks my dinner preparations, she reminds me that I am strong and that persistence is worthwhile. She also tries to remind to be calm and steady, centered and zen, even though I more often feel like a whirlwind.
That same Saturday at my friend’s house, as my baby tentatively toddled around the kitchen, chewed on a piece of watermelon, and snoozed on my chest, I felt moved to begin creating a new Centered Mama sculpture (I posted a sneak peek of her earlier). I’ve been through kind of a rough patch emotionally over the last two weeks. I feel very buffeted by variable emotions and erratic and unpredictable in my enthusiasm and confidence. I also feel impatient, snappy, and irritable.
“I will be gentle with myself.
I will be tender with my heart.
I will hold my heart like a newborn baby child.”
This song by Karen Drucker replayed in my mind as I sculpted. The baby woke, the watermelon got dragged along the floor collecting dust, and it was time for our collaborative dinner, so I had to put her away unfinished. When we got back to our own home, I was compelled to finish her, working feverishly as the baby pulled on my legs and I said, “just a few more minutes!” to the older kids who were trying to play with him to let me work. Again and again I re-rolled the clay baby’s head, trying to make it “perfect,” and worked to lay down the strands of her hair, against of the backdrop of this often-chaotic, noisy, home-based life we’ve consciously and intentionally created together. She was created to represent holding my own center in the midst of motherhood. I will be tender with my heart. I don’t create sculptures like this because I AM so “zen” and have life all figured out, I make them to remind me what is possible if I listen to my soul.