This morning, Tuesday, begins with a second Over The Rhine session. First, we share what we caught in our butterfly nets. Words from Richard Rohr. A fluttering moth that could not fly. Captured conversations. Landscapes. I am learning, again, to see. To notice. Later tonight I will wander the campus, struck by the sudden sunset. I will try and capture it's colour and tone with my camera. I will fail. I will watch the moonlight gleam from select sidewalk blocks. Some shimmer while others are dull. I will pack the image into my net. I will glance up at the bell tower, silhouetted against the filling moon. I will lap it all up. I will see.
But first, the morning and the music.
Over The Rhine kicks things off with some of their songs. Old songs. New songs. Beautiful, heart-breaking songs. Their duets pierce the thin air with crystal-clear harmony. Listening blesses. This is a great way to start the day.
Soon enough, it comes time for us students to share. Most of us have brought something, and wonder if we brought the right something. Should I present my best work? My weakest? How much feedback do I give? Where do I hold back? Critique is always a rocky pass to navigate, but the summit is so rewarding. Our instructions are minimal, but clear. We play. We pass out lyrics. The group responds while we listen. We don't defend. When comments fade, we respond.
Andrew plays a song while we read lyrics. We listen hard. We piece together story. We puzzle at parts. We ask questions. Andrew takes it in with stoic grace. Then he responds.
This is a cowboy song. A desert rambler. A cactus wind is blowing dust. We all felt this. Yet, a couple of obscure words catch our ears. We ask about them. Andrew tells us this is really a story about Greek mythology. Hercules' weariness under the weight of the world. This is interesting texture, but not of us got it from the song alone. Perhaps Hercules was just scaffolding. Perhaps, the building complete, he needs to leave the room.
I start to recognize scaffolding in my creative process.
I think back to great ideas that have spawned my creative endeavors. Ideas I treasure too tightly. Precious beginnings that start the journey and then have no home. Ideas that no longer belong in the end. I think of how difficult it can be to let them go, and how sometimes I have not let them go, and how that has made my art weaker. Some ideas are scaffolding. They help us build the real work, but no one needs to see them after that. Scaffolding is a word that rose up from somewhere at our table. It is the right word. It is a helpful word, because scaffolding is still important, even if no one sees it later. Scaffolding is for the DVD extras, but not the film. It's OK to let things go, because creation is a constant openness. Hold that paintbrush loosely, friend.
I wonder how often we don't begin a project because we are afraid it might transform on us. If we are true to the story, it may lead us where we don't want to go. We may wind up in mysterious alleyways. But this adventure is how creativity keeps us fully alive. There is something beautiful beyond our control.
In the latest Image Journal, Greg Wolfe declares,
"One might even say that the nature of faith is to be open every moment to the new ..."
Art. Faith. Mystery.
Even our grandest ideas my be mere scaffolding. Who knows what the building will become?