Every day a beginning

March 17, 2006

What’s in a blank canvas? Potential, maybe. Pure potential. Certainly, some form of beginning.

Or perhaps, having noticed the cob web attached to the easel, the white canvas is symbolic of an inability to start; fear, in other words.


I am not saying anything new if I make the comment that for anyone participating in the arts, staring in front of a blank sheet of paper or blank canvas or lump of clay can be the most daunting and difficult portion of the creative process. Once the first line is written or drawn, however, the rest tends to follow more easily. Writer’s block, painter’s block. It has happened to every artist and there are many books written how various artists have dealt with “The Beginning”.

But today, I want to talk about what beginnings are like, not for the artist, but for the simple, human being (like myself) who wakes up nearly every single morning with the upcoming day seemingly as dauntingly blank as a white canvas. I want to talk about what it is like, upon blinking open the eyes to the first light, to see in the pillow or ceiling a total mystery; tabla rasa, a clean slate, a complete unknown.

Several of my friends wake up quite early in the morning all full of get up and go and charge into the day. However, my life most every day begins as a blank canvas with hardly a scribble on it as a clue of how the day will/should be drawn out. I have always envied my friends with their ability to know what is required and then have the boundless energy to engage in the doing. When I was younger, this uncertainty of purpose would scare me a little; make me feel I wasn’t contributing something, somehow, to something. But over the years I have learned to trust that as the day unfolds, little bit by little bit the blank canvas of the morning will, by night fall, be richly detailed and vibrant. It just takes a little initiative to engage with the awake world.

Daily I have to deal with cobwebs. And plenty of them at times. The discipline of getting out of bed and stumbling into the day with a short walk to the Peace Fire via the Peace Garden is like a big broom sweeping through my personal easel, thereby, allowing vision after vision to enter. While walking, the sounds within the air give one hint of possibility. A flash of feather against a backdrop of green moves another cog. Other ideas present themselves through clouds or distant waves or the dew on a bush. A scribble here, a dash there, a connecting line through the horizon and, lo and behold, I’m heading back to the house with a plan for the day. But not before toast and coffee.

Poet William Stafford describes this beautifully in the following poem:

Every morning all over again

Only the world guides me.
Weather pushes, or when it entices
I follow. Some kind of magnetism
turns me when I am walking
in the woods with no intentions.

There are leadings without any
reason, but they attract;
if I find there is nothing to gain
from them, I still follow—their power
is the power of the surrounding world.

But things that promise, or those
that will serve my purposes—they
interfere with the pure wind
from nowhere that sustains a kite,
or a gull, or a free spirit.

So, afloat again every morning,
I find the current: all the best
rivers have secret channels that
you have to find by whispering
like this, and then hear them and follow.

William Stafford

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