The anatomy of creation

At this time of year, the skeleton of nature is visible.  Often, the landscape seems monochrome, dominated by the dark silhouettes of branches against an insipid sky.  The structure that we don’t normally see is laid bare, giving us no clues.  It can be difficult to know which tree is which without its leaves.  Seeds are no more than husks of the flowers they once were and will be again.  But in their nakedness, we can more easily appreciate their differences.  Note the myriad shapes stark against the sky.  Some trees are a ladder of soaring branches.  Some curve like tulips.  Some are elegant and feathery, others gnarled and ugly.  This is the anatomy of creation.  We rarely see our own architecture, but every winter, nature shows us hers.  We see her bones and what her flesh usually conceals.

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And so that we know there is still hope, that nature isn’t dead, there is still colour in the depths of winter.  Ivy crawling up the bark of trees. The vibrant red and gold of dogwood stems.  A few autumn leaves, doggedly clinging to almost empty branches.  The soft umber of teasel heads polka-dotting a field.  A couple of dog violets are bravely flowering, while the seed pods of the stinking iris are like bright orange berries.  A single wild raspberry still waits to be claimed.  And berries of course: guelder rose, holly, cotoneaster.

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I’ve been away, into the darkness.  I sat with it, let it cradle, cajole and challenge me.  I closed the computer five weeks ago and let it languish.  I meditated in the darkness, let my pen and my unconscious guide me in automatic writing, listened to my dreams.  I smelled the print and listened to the rustle of pages as I read.  When I walked, I left my camera behind.  I saw art, in person.  It’s not been comfortable, because connecting to that deep creativity also makes space to dredge up doubt and despair.  My creativity was stripped back and emptied out.  Now, I’m armed only with dreams and bones.  The architecture of what might be created in the months to come, waiting to have the meat and the muscle and the individuality added.  I’ve seen the patterns begin to emerge – one idea building upon another, unlikely links forming, layer on layer, becoming seeds of something soon to be born.

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This season of unrelenting darkness is not without light.  Dark, drizzly mornings are illuminated by Christmas lights, glowing coldly in the gloom.  Strings of silver snowflakes hung between streetlights.  White fairy lights dangling from branches.  Decorated trees glowing in almost every window.  It’s difficult to accept that the sun is returning so we ward off the darkness with electricity.  But the longest night is over.  The days will grow longer now towards spring.  The harvest is long gone, but the seeds sown in this last year are still bearing fruit, letting me know that the creative spark is still burning.  I’ve had my first glimmers of success in this new creative year:  a special commendation for a story in the Prole magazine Prolitzer Prize for Prose Writing and publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.

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The sun is reborn to a wild and overcast day.  Storm clouds gather in the south and the sun struggles to penetrate them.  But in the north, a rainbow illuminates the sky, a promise of the light to come.

82 thoughts on “The anatomy of creation

  1. I’m loving the winter soltice posts Andrea, full of hope and optimism for the future. I like how you see yourself as stripped back to basics, ready to regenerate and create. Have a great Christmas and a productive 2015.

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  2. “Now, I’m armed only with dreams and bones. The architecture of what might be created in the months to come, waiting to have the meat and the muscle and the individuality added.”
    beautiful imagery. thank you

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  3. I really enjoyed your analogy of the winter season and the writer’s winter season, ushering in new birth, new ideas. Congratulations on your published pieces! And Merry Christmas!

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  4. It’s wonderful to read your writing once again, Andrea. Welcome back and congratulations on your publications, that’s so exciting. Your time away sounds heavenly. I’m attempting the same, but so far, it hasn’t gone as planned, but that’s okay because I got to see you! Have a wonderful holiday.

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  5. Bravo, standing ovation…welcome back, doll! We missed you!

    Such a gorgeous piece, as usual. I just came back from a trail run and the forest was so magical. It was foggy and the water in the stream was completely translucent. Portland never fully loses its leaves, so some are still hanging on while other trees never lose any. Truly a magical time of year.

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  6. Welcome back!! I love how you combine the season with creativity armed with ony “dreams and bones!” I know the despair- it comes over me like a dread, fearing to be born again.
    I love this beautiful outpouring post and congratulations on your publications!! Blessings of the season on you!!

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  7. Strong you, Andrea, electing for five weeks of internet abstinence, but I can see the point of it entirely. You’ve been greatly missed, of course.
    I’m glad to see you admire bare trees as much as I do. There have been quite a few of them on my blog lately and, indeed, a particularly gnarled one just this week. I find it hard to go out without a camera, because every time I do so, it seems I miss a star shot of something amazing.

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    • Thanks Sarah, it was hard at first then so easy that I was a bit reticent to come back! I know that feeling of worrying about missing something, that’s why I left the camera at home – so I had to just be in the moment and enjoy it without thinking about recording it! Of course, I had to take it out again in the last week or so to capture some of those trees 🙂

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      • Well, I’m glad you came back, Andrea, but can also understand your reticence in returning.

        With me, I’ve recently become aware of an alarming state of anxiety that comes on when I’m behind reading other people’s blogs or neglecting my friends in the closed writing group of Facebook. It should all be fun, but it also takes up quite a lot of time in which I could be working on my novel writing.

        And this compulsion to take a camera everywhere is another mixed blessing. When I went out with a friend for a walk recently, I was so busy looking for potential photographs, that I kept missing the most interesting stuff. In fact, my best pictures turned out to be the ones taken of things that my friend had pointed out to me!

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      • I understand that Sarah. I’ve given up on Facebook, but when I look at a long list of blog posts to read it sometimes feels overwhelming. I gave up on taking photos a few years ago because I found that I was always looking for the next photo rather than experiencing things for what they were. I started again mainly for the blog but because I’ve been photographing mostly the little things that I have to look for, I haven’t felt the same disconnection – but it’s still been good to have a break from not feeling as though I should be taking photos all the time.

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  8. I share your feelings, Andrea. Like you, I’ve been incubating but didn’t know it. You expressed it so eloquently in the trees and nature to look within and nurture ourselves and our dreams.

    Your words captured the season perfectly and where I’m at right now and revealed to me that I can permit myself to dream. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece. I love your writing — it reaches my soul.

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  9. I think a lot of people I know, myself included at times, could benefit from at least occasionally stepping into your mindset of really luxuriating in your own intuitive experience and sensations, without necessarily having a concrete goal, but just for the purpose of appreciating life. I hope you will continue to encourage that approach with your work. Happy holidays.

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  10. I was just watching the sunset yesterday through the tree branches and thinking how cool it is to see all the twists and turns they take. Harder to identify the type of tree for sure, but still gorgeous to look at. Great post Andrea.

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  11. Late in welcoming you back but I am as glad as everyone here to read your words here again. I retreat from the machine every so often and always find it cleansing; in fact, I might start the new year that way… I have this sense that the computer (on which I do 90% of my composition) is more forgiving than paper, but sometimes I have need of the rough honesty of the page, and making peace with the person behind all the scribbles and scratches. Congratulations on the commendation (so well deserved) and may the new year bring even more!

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  12. So glad you’re back, Andrea. With treasure for us, too. Love many things about this post:

    “We rarely see our own architecture, but every winter, nature shows us hers.”
    I’ve been planning to talk about the architecture of my blog this year.

    “one idea building upon another…becoming seeds of something soon to be born.” I appreciate the anticipation here and celebrate your successes with the commendation and publication. Your conscious decision to LIVE, really and just live, beholding the elements and feeling your feelings is wonderful. I’m glad you can enter the new year with greater clarity, and look fwd to the fruit of art you will bear in the coming year.

    Diana

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  13. Nature’s skeletons, indeed. Your photos are lovely as always. We look at trees in a different way at this time of year, it’s so true – seeing their architectural beauty.

    Here’s wishing you an early Happy New Year – may it be as wonderfully creative as the last!

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  14. An amazing post, Andrea, a touching companion with the previous post. The experiencing of art and life in person; the putting aside of things and cradling and learning from the process. This is beautiful.
    “This is the anatomy of creation. We rarely see our own architecture, but every winter, nature shows us hers” struck a pure and simple chord. Thank you for sharing this, and welcome back.

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  15. Well-said, Andrea. Very beautiful and moving. I’m wishing you many rewards in your creative process, and perhaps a small insight into your architecture. (Such an interesting way to think of it… I’m with Marylin, I really like that line!)

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  16. Andrea – You’ve accomplished so much this past year that I’ve been following you and you’ve taught me so much about my own writing and how I see the world around me. For that, i send you a heart felt thank you. Having been away this past 6 weeks has given me a new look at where I wish to focus this coming year in the blogging year. Thank you for becoming a part of my blogging family in 2014.

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  17. Hi Andrea and welcome back! It seems ages since you signed off but then I’ve been away from blogging since I signed off before Christmas and I’m only just now getting back into the swing again. Lovely to see you again, I missed you! Your writing is as beautiful as ever, no wonder you are having so much writing success – congratulations on all of them and it’s great to have you back. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a very Happy New Year 🙂

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  18. Congratulations on your publication and the special commendation! Happy, light and beautiful New Year to you and those you love!
    Thank you for this post! I love the winter trees. I think they enjoy being naked and unburdened.

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  21. Hi Andrea — loved this post and could really identify with how you were feeling. Wanted to let you know it inspired me to write a post of my own (“Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now”) and I quoted you a couple of times from this post and was inspired to use this title from another one of your posts where you mentioned Maya Angelou. Thank You!

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