This morning I stopped by my friend Quincy’s home (see January 14, June 19). She, her husband Joel and their daughter Sophie were holding a yard sale to raise money for a party at the end of this academic year to celebrate their graduation from elementary school. Just like her mother, Sophie is incredibly creative, so I decided to give her one of my arts and crafts books about card-making. I know she will enjoy playing around with the designs in the book, and will be inspired to create unique designs of her own. Her creative soul inspired me to write this in her honor.
I have been wondering a lot lately about creativity. I am spending several hours a day writing essays about incredible origami artists, using my own creativity as a writer to attempt to capture the essence of their work in just over 1,000 words. Of course, images will accompany the text so that their creativity will be clear for all to see however successful my words are. During this ongoing writing process, I notice that on some days the words and ideas flow smoothly as if a tap has been turned on in my mind, while on other days (quite a few, unfortunately), there seems to be something lodged inside the tap jamming the passageway so that nothing of any value can escape. Then quite often lately, I might be feeling satisfied with my writing for the book and have been ready for a rest, but then I realize I still have to write my blog. On those days, as I sit back down in front of my computer, neck and shoulders aching and head feeling very blank, I ask myself where I’m supposed to find more creativity today. Where does it come from in the first place? Do we have a finite supply of it? Does it appear in cycles? And how are we supposed to find it again if we lose it?
Today was a good day, a calm and kind day, a day of gentle but powerful connections. It was my father’s birthday, his 77th. I called him and had a sweet talk with him on the phone. He lives in England, many thousands of miles away, so I don’t see him much, and his memory is very shaky, so it’s hard to have normal conversations with him. But today, though he may not have remembered or cared that it was his birthday, he was clearly grateful for the call and spoke with more clarity than I have heard from him in a long while. He also asked me how I was doing and listened carefully, sending me via the phone the love, warmth and “I believe in you” reassurances that only a devoted parent can. I thanked him for always having done that for me, as it has always given me great strength. After I hung up, I lay on the bed and let myself cry, glad to have had that precious connection with Dad once more. I no longer take those for granted.
I have only got to know Ami recently. Her daughter and my son Theo attend the same elementary school, and although they are two grades apart, they attended the same art class on Sundays for a while and art camp last summer. Over the last school year, Ami and I talked a few times over coffee mainly about art classes and her dream of creating an art non-profit organization. It quickly became clear to me that she is a passionate, intelligent and creative person who gets things done, and I shared some thoughts with her based on my experience in the art world and with non-profits. Over the course of our chats, I learned that Ami is a filmmaker and tv writer and director, and in her work has covered some very serious topics. Her film Texas Killing Fields (2011) was inspired by true stories of the serial murders of women in Texas and the dumping of their bodies in an area between Houston and Galveston. Recently she had been working on a project with a much lighter theme – a romance between a travelling musician and a former singer called Jackie & Ryan. It was due to be released in July, so Ami has been on my mind lately.
Today our son Theo went off to writing camp for the day, a camp that he would have made an almighty fuss about less than a year ago, but one that he is now happy to attend. Apparently, his favorite subject at school is now writing. The camp is run by Sascha, a friend and fellow mother at Theo’s school, whose daughter is in Theo’s grade and son is a few years older. Sascha has been sharing her passion for writing and storytelling with many of the kids in the school for several years now, either in her creative writing classes and clubs after school or imaginative camps during summer and winter breaks. A couple of years ago, Theo had attended one of her winter break camps. At that time, he still didn’t like writing and was surrounded by super-keen girls of his age who seemed to be writing their first novels or, more likely in L.A., screenplays. Theo was a bit discouraged, as were we, but Sascha reminded us that boys’ fine motor skills take longer to develop than girls’ do and that for some boys it can actually physically hurt to write for a long time. So Theo wasn’t being dramatic about his sore, tired hand. He just wasn’t really ready to write back then. Now things are different, and off he went to camp this morning. I relaxed and got to work on my own writing projects knowing that he was in very capable hands.
Today, we had an unexpected family playdate with Theo’s best friend Lucca and his parents, Suzette and Manuel. Theo and Lucca have known each other since preschool so neither of them can remember a time when the other wasn’t in his life. Over the years, despite attending different schools for the past 5 years, they have built up a strong friendship by attending weekly karate classes together, going to summer camp together, and having the occasional playdate, when they build cushion forts, play with Legos or video games, all the while chattering and giggling – for hour after hour. They are both only children, so in some ways they are like brothers, but they have not argued once in the 7 years of their friendship, so in this respect they are not like any brothers I know.
Over the years, I have been very grateful to Suzette for being my partner in facilitating this friendship, as well as increasingly being a friend to me too. Suzette and Manuel are hard-working architects and work together in a firm in our neighborhood, but they live miles away, so we rarely have a chance to socialize with them. However, whenever we get together, I am always impressed by Suzette’s creativity. At Lucca’s 10th birthday party, a Harry Potter party, many of the details – owl goody bags and golden wands – were designed and hand-made by Suzette. Every Halloween, Suzette puts together spectacular costumes – the were dressed as fruit last year, Lucca was Pinocchio (complete with a Gepetto puppeteer attached like a backpack!) the year before, and they were all Lego Ninjago minifigures before that. And today, Manuel proudly showed us pictures of Suzette’s exquisite tile work designs on some buildings they had designed and built in East Los Angeles. I know quite a few other parents who are incredibly creative with their kids’ parties and costumes, but not while holding down a full-time job. In this, Suzette is truly extraordinary and I have nothing but admiration for her boundless creativity as an architect and parent. Today, at dinner together at one of our favorite little restaurants in Little Tokyo, I gave Suzette a pair of turquoise earrings I had made a few years ago. The earrings can’t compare with her spectacular creations, but they are my way of thanking her for being such an inspiring fellow mom over the years and for working with me to make sure our boys – and the rest of us too! – enjoy their precious friendship for many more years to come.
This afternoon, for the second time in the same number of weeks, I ran into Jane at Target. She was with her teenage daughter and pre-teen son, who immediately scattered to the shampoo and LEGO sections respectively. We grabbed a few minutes to chat while her kids were happily occupied. This is not Jane the animator to whom I gave a pot of mint on March 13, but another incredibly talented English woman who also happens to be called Jane and happens to have worked as an animator. Since I’ve known her, she has been working as an art historian and also as a maker of extremely adorable soft toys called Socklings, which she has written about on her blog (http://janegottshandmade.blogspot.com). I have been unable to resist her Socklings, the cutest little alien-like creatures made from baby socks and have purchased a few from her over the years at school fairs. (It was one of these little creatures that I gave up to my son Theo’s friend Samuel on March 16).
I think it was probably at one of the school fairs where I first got chatting to Jane, and we have had many chats over the years. Although we don’t know each other terribly well, and have probably never had a single long conversation, I don’t think we’ve ever indulged in small talk. Instead, in all our brief exchanges, she’s always had something fascinating to say about art, politics, education or even the business of toy production. Today at Target, in about three minutes, she shared with me some valuable information about the alternative school her daughter is attending, material I am now storing carefully in a mental file labeled “Theo School Options.” She also mentioned that she had started reading my blog and had noticed I’d written about her Socklings. At that moment, I knew I couldn’t let her leave without giving her something. I had in my purse I had a ring made in Africa from recycled telephone wires. I’d bought it at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art on a recent visit and had loved the fact that it was recycled and that the its design resembled a beautiful Celtic knot. I gave it to her because I thought she would appreciate the cleverness of the craft, but afterwards I realized that telephone wires can symbolize communication, and the Celtic knot, with no beginning and no end, is said to represent the interconnectedness of life. My encounters with Jane may be short and sweet, but I come away with the warm, reassuring feeling of having connected with a similar soul.