Two members of my family sent me messages yesterday. They were letting me know that the garden centre where I had been born was largely destroyed by fire on Friday night.
I’d not thought about this small patch of land for a long time, but for some reason the news affected me more than I thought it would. My father had the house built in 1949 on five acres of land as he pursued his dream of running a market garden and, later, a garden centre. I was the only member of the family to be born in the house back in 1959.
We then moved away in 1974 when the working of the land became too much for my father’s health. Though my childhood years couldn’t be measured as bad as some are, they weren’t the happiest, and yet the news of the fire saddened me. The land, the bricks, certain memories are still very much a part of why I am who I am and why I do what I do.
We are strange creatures.
I sometimes use the word humystics to describe us: hominids who are both products and walkers of the Earth, and yet mystics too, searching for and touching the unknown. Some news about a place I have not lived or visited in decades causes me to think of so many things deeply.
All the time, the spiritual is held within the material.
It is not one or the other.
I breathe, I feel the quickening of my heart, I take a step – not as some may have expected. Something caught my attention and my imagination and I changed direction.
Albert Camus writes about creating dangerously, about how dictatorships of whatever kind fear art, because art is more that paint-patterns on canvas, or words in lines, or clay lumped and fired:
‘Every great work makes the human face more admirable and richer, and this is its whole secret.’*
My understanding of art includes whatever someone is curious about, explores, imagines, practises and contributes.
Each has the capacity and ability to imbue a day, an activity, a breath, with far more meaning than others may think it ought to have. And then we wait to see what happens.
Our gift may be something very practical, but Lewis Hyde reminds me that every gift has three parts: the gift itself, the spirit of the gift and the community of the gift.**
Time to play.