by Deanna Dusbabek, artist & photographer in the Pacific Northwest
I love daylight savings time. Is this a controversial statement? LOL. It seems like everything is controversial these days, right? But I can recall that even as a kid, everyone seemed to moan about the spring ahead moment. Something about “losing an hour.” I’ve never understood this.
“Spring ahead” means, well, SPRING, which is my favorite season. Although come to think of it, we don’t actually get seasons in the PNW, but I digress. Maybe a better way to phrase it is: I love what daylight savings time represents. Sure, we “lose” an hour, but we gain an immeasurable amount of well-lit, sun-drenched opportunity to create, to dream, to plan and to execute those plans.
Daylight savings means the perception of more time, which brightens the psyche and eases the pressure of a short, fixed schedule in which things can get accomplished. "Spring has sprung," as the saying goes. But spring isn’t just a season. It’s an action, as in, "to spring." And this is the theme of this blog post as we, ahem, spring ahead towards inspiration (OK, cheesy. Whatevs).
In order to benefit from this gift of time, which is really a gift of light, we first need to take an inventory of where we’re at as we emerge from the typically busy fall and winter months. For many of us, these months are de-energizing from accumulated holiday activities and back to school tasks.
Particularly for creatives and business people, the holidays can be especially draining of our energy resources. As we prepare to receive this gift of light, it’s important to make sure we intentionally make time to recharge, or to “fill the well," as Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way refers to it. March, with daylight savings time and the advent of spring, is the perfect opportunity to free up internal storage space so you can fill yourself with all that beautiful, inspirational light.
We all know that some fun spring ahead benefits include: spring break, spring nail designs, spring dresses and spring cleaning. But did you also know that March, by way of perfect serendipity, has an important symbolic flower associated with it? Yes, indeed! The daffodil, which signifies rebirth, new beginnings, inspiration and creativity. How wonderful, given our discussion. And since March is the official kickoff to the spring season (first day of spring is March 20th this year), it serves as an extended opportunity to do some spring cleaning of mind and soul, to unclutter for an inspired “system reboot.”
This is where my foolproof plan comes into play. (I actually do this exercise year round to stay refreshed. It works that well for me). I spend focused time doing this during March especially, so as to best utilize the month as a segue between two distinct creative seasons.
So put on your walking shoes and follow me.
My plan in a nutshell is this: find a quiet woods or forest where you can walk (anyplace will do, as long as you’re safe and there’s no noise). Silence your phone and don’t wear earbuds. Plan to spend at least forty-five minutes walking there, four days a week, beginning in March. Listen to the birds as they busy themselves readying their nests and exchanging gossip. Listen to water running in streams or the rain coming down. Listen to your shoes squishing the mud. Listen to your breathing.
And do breathe deeply as you go. Take in the musky aromas of green growing things, moss, trees, clean air. Do this by yourself—this is key, and be comfortable in the stillness. Understand that you’re not running a race to get to the next task on your To-Do list here. Give yourself permission to luxuriate in what’s around you. Notice the plants and trees as they arise from their winter slumber. What animals do you encounter? What can they teach you about industry? About life lessons? About God?
It seems to me that creativity resides within the soul. And when I place myself directly in the path of God’s own creative work, like a forest, it gives my soul more freedom to connect in a deliberate way with THE creative energy that Julia Cameron—and I—identify as God.
“Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as the creator, but seldom see creator as the literal term for artist.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
From early childhood, I realized that the world was made. I understood this not from an intellectual perch, but from inside the creation. In other words, I’ve always seen God as Artist and the whole of His natural world, and everything in it, as His art. So when I’m in need of rejuvenation, as I usually am this time of year, I head to the forest with the specific intention of participating in the magic of all He made for us to enjoy. All the colors, sounds, textures of nature are what initially trained humans to create music, art, poetry and stories as a response to what we observed. “Making” is intrinsic to who were are and human art is the greatest compliment of mimicking God’s own artistry. And absolutely nothing is more effective than being inside God’s art to uplift, recharge and inspire.
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in his letter to artists:
“None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when…you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.” Saint Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists.
Being in the forest in this way, united to that “glimmer” of pathos for God’s work, fills me with such joy that I frequently find myself overcome by emotion when I’m there. I participate in what God has made and also see that it’s good. That’s surely an encounter with immortality, as every artist, believer or not, can attest to. Our art is our legacy, perhaps even more so than our family in a particular sort of way.
As I mentioned, Julia Cameron calls this intentional, focused activity “filling the well.” She says, “Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline.”
I know this to be true, as I’ve been an artist and writer all my life.
I don't know about you, but I can't create from a place of being “under water” in my inspiration account, caused by over-doing, over-giving, over-scheduling. I can’t force myself into the spiritual “space” I need to be in to make any type of art. This seems to be universally true, no matter how you earn a living. A burnt out CEO, lawyer or small business owner can have a debilitating lack of enthusiasm, which then leads to apathy, just as much as a burnt out artist. The point is you cannot give what you don’t have and any “making” endeavor means taking something out of yourself and giving it away. By its very nature, it’s de-energizing.
“Filling the well,” therefore, isn’t just for artists or creatives. It’s a good business strategy for preventing self-destructive depletion. It means that you allow yourself to engage in a healthy activity, like walking in the forest, purely for the enjoyment of being filled. You’ll feel reconnected to your soul, and better able to manage all the bits and pieces of your life as it hurtles through ever-expanding task lists and piles of Post-it notes. Daylight savings time naturally allows more opportunity to get your walks in before or after work, so you feel like at least a portion of your day is dedicated to your mental, physical and spiritual health, not someone or something else’s. It’s a wonderful commitment to make to yourself and will entirely shift your outlook. But it must be approached in silence, with humility and focused attention. I cannot stress this enough.
For artists who are also believers, these walks can inspire meditation on hidden mysteries:
“All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardor of the creative moment…believers…know that they have had a momentary glimpse of the abyss of light which has its original wellspring in God.” Saint Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists.
I love that: “…the abyss of light.” And that’s what it is. To be an artist is to exist in that abyss of light. What is spring, and then summer, if not an opportunity to be in even more light, as we talked about earlier?
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Genesis 1:3
And it was good.
So as we settle into March, and with it enjoy the bright twin lights of spring and hope, I encourage you to find your forest and explore it without the boundary of deadlines. Explore it as an artist, with childlike awe at its complex beauty, as if you just got the biggest, grandest Crayola Crayon box with a built in sharpener ever made. Breathe in the forest and rest in its majesty. And allow yourself to wonder and see with the eyes of the soul.
This is filling your well. This is rejuvenation. This is inspiration.
Did you know, by the way, that “inspiration” comes from the Latin word “inspiratus” which means “to breathe into?” So when you allow yourself these silent walks in solitude, when you intentionally take time to fill your well, you’re quite literally drawing Divine “air” into your lungs. Put another way, inspiration means “breath of life.”
Think about that as we turn our clocks ahead.
But, you may say, “I don’t have time to do this for an entire month! I’m busy!”
We’re all busy, friend. And frankly, you don’t have time not to do this if you feel depleted and uninspired. Trust me, my foolproof plan works.
Now go buy yourself a lovely bunch of daffodils and enjoy your walks.