A couple days ago, my friend Tracey over at More Than A Minivan Mom asked this question:"is it necessary to have some sort of angina or natural proclivity towards the dark side to attain artistic greatness?" It's a great question, and one that, should you have a theory, you should post on her blog.
This post isn't about artistic greatness, but it is about the undeniable need for art in our lives. I believe that life is made richer by art. We need it to shape us, to give meaning to our stories, to fill out the rough edges of the facts of our lives, and to quench our thirsty souls. I know this because whenever my life becomes too much about getting things done, about doing dishes and laundry and paying bills, I become less myself. When I turn on some music, when I dance with my boy, or we paint a picture or go to a museum, it slakes that thirst a bit.
I think that the reason art is crucial, at least to me, is the idea that it is shared, that is communal. When I started blogging, I thought it would be a creative outlet, but the reason I blog isn't to make art. It's to have community. To share stories with others and to peek into other lives. It helps me make sense of the world, and right now I think that's more important than ever.
Yesterday, our little family took a trip north to Seattle, our old stompin' grounds, where my husband and I met, and fell in love, and lived, back when we were single, then a couple, then a married couple. Back then, we didn't have Joe-Henry, but we had a community of friends, artists who shaped our lives and filled our souls. Yesterday, we went to celebrate a dear friend's birthday. He was the best man at our wedding. He's a well-known playwright, and his wife is one, too. They live part of the year in Austin, TX, where he teaches at UTexas, but they spend their summers in Seattle. Another dear old pal was there as well, a friend of my husband's from way back, before I entered the picture, and as the three guys hung out on the patio, and swapped stories, the kids playing nearby, I was struck with the sense that this is our art. These people are still our community, no matter how many miles separate us, no matter how we fill our days - whether it's workin' for the man or doing dishes or raising kids or writing plays. This friendship, initially based on artistic collaboration and a love of cheap beer has turned into a work of art itself. Intricate and lovely and treasured. It's grown and matured. And the beer has improved, too!
We brought instruments with us, because we're hokey that way - a travel guitar, a violin, a child's accordian, shakers and pennywhistles and we all played. The kids, the grownups, even the birds squawked along. We sang "Brown Girl in the Ring" and "Down By The Riverside" and "We Shall Not Be Moved". We played loud and badly, but we made some art.
It was a beautiful drive home, with Joe-Henry awake for all of it, pointing out the moon in the clouds and the shapes they made. Making up his own stories. Painting the world in rich colors - just for us.