Where do creative juices come from?
This is my question as I plod along a very familiar path. Foot by ever-loving foot, sneaker meets pavement. The feet move slower than molasses but the brain is another story. Literally.
My brain whirrs with ideas, putting things together that I never thought knew each other. Suggesting solutions. Sketching plot. Outlining. Organizing. Energizing. What had no life when I stepped out the door now seems like the best idea ever. Strategy meeting serendipity all along my way.
If this only happened once, I’d dismiss it as lucky and be on my way. But it always happens. It’s as reliable as the sunrise and as remarkable as stumbling on an old friend you haven’t seen in 30 years. It emerges out of nowhere, but yet it doesn’t. And the odd thing, and this honestly seems unfair, is that calling it up is entirely within my control — even as it has a mind of its own.
This creative swirl waits for me … to let it. To let it in. To let it happen. To let it dance and sing and have its way with me. All I have to do is move. To take this old body out for a spin and see what shows up.
No equation for success here. No requirement of “this many minutes before the endorphins kick in.” No exclusion clause stating “only works after six weeks,” or “must be fit to apply.” No, this is not an exercise device; this is a bodily device. A gift my body gives me when I love it enough to take it out of the box and play with it for a while.
It plays back. And we have a fine time. Let’s do this again, we say, and then we do. And whatever I’ve brought with me sorts itself out. Creatively, with all the juicy parts included.
So juicy, in fact, I run for pen and paper the minute I hit the door. Don’t even bother finding my reading glasses, I’m in such a hurry to get things in writing before they disappear into the distraction of the rest of my day. If my scribbles are a bit hard to decipher later, well, that’s part of the puzzle of fun, too.
If you’re ready to let your creative juices flow or maybe give ’em a bit of a kick start, my book, Made to Move: Loving God through our Bodies will give you 6 weeks of mind and body activities to get you going. (Find it with practice videos here Upper Room Books or here on Amazon.)
It’s NOT an exercise book. It’s a movement opportunity. See you along the path!
“It’s a fun run. We all have to do it,” Jaylin told me. “You should come.”
So I did come, not to run but to watch. Not just to watch but to help. On my arrival, they were breaking for lunch, so I set out along the course marked out, intending to pick up random discards: cups, juice pop wrappers, and other assorted trash. Wouldn’t want the kids to trip and fall.
As I walked, I also read the signs. Professionally printed on foam boards and stuck in the ground like political placards, personalized signs urged kids on in their running. Each sign had been purchased for $10 – this was a fundraising event. This elementary school, classified a Title I school, is in an impoverished neighborhood. These families didn’t have extra cash. Someone who loved these children paid for the privilege of encouraging them.
As I walked I read. As I read, I prayed. As I prayed, I shed tears. Oh, the love of these parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. I wondered about each little one’s story. I spoke thanks into the spring breeze for these teachers and administrators who had purchased signs encouraging these kids.
And then out came the next batch of kids, full of energy and enthusiasm, cheering for themselves and their classes.
“Parents,” the teacher with the microphone said, “you can spread out anywhere on the course.”
Though not a parent to these children and yet with no volunteer position assigned, I seized the opportunity to head out onto the course – ALL the way to the fence, clear across the field, to the middle of the backstretch. I was alone there. Just me, the backstop, two big trees and the soccer field beyond the fence.
Then, here came the kids!
I clapped, shouted and whooped as they came by. Some smiled, some looked away, and some pretended not to notice. Next time around, I offered high fives: “High fives! Free high fives! A little extra energy…who needs a little extra energy!”
Now really here came the kids. They would re-route to slap me five, cut off classmates, even, to swing near. A few slowed to a walk to get a “re-charge.” I learned a few of their names. Plenty complained that their stomachs were hurting, it was hot, they were exhausted. Some of the walkers began jogging when they saw me. A few stayed wide and clear of traffic to get in as many laps as possible.
Some walked and read each sign. Looking for theirs. A teacher had stopped to take Alexandra’s picture next to hers – I’m sure to be able to share with the family – but now kids were asking, “Where is MY sign?” “Can you help me find my sign?”
I had counted about 75 signs, but there were hundreds of kids.
I was their sign… “You can do it!” “Look at you go!” “Way to keep up the pace!” Way to keep going!” “Whoa, you’ve run how many laps?!””I’m so proud of you!”
Free high fives, free energy, free encouragement. That’s all I had. Nothing for sale. Everything to give. Cost me nothing. And it filled me up.
Suddenly, one little first grader came ’round the bend. I held out my high-5 hand but instead she grabbed me around the middle and held me tight, for just a second, before jogging on.
Oh my. Filled to the very brim. What had I done to deserve this plenty?
I cajoled the last three girls to complete their last lap. One jogged, one walked, one made me wait saying she didn’t want to run…and then sprinted ahead of me shouting, “I bet I can beat you!!”
And so they did. So they all did.
I watched them enjoying their juice pops and meandered by. Not a soul noticed. Not a soul cared.
I looked again at those fund-raising signs, with names of these little ones printed in colorful ink, all in a row along the course they had run. They had run and not grown weary, walked and not grown faint.
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31
What had first looked like tombstones set in a row, now looked like runways set for take-off. Even the crazy guy, Rob, who advertised “best deals on cruises” by donating 10 bucks to the cause must have known what I now know, that Alta Vista Eagles are meant to soar.
What a privilege it is to witness them take flight.
I’m walking to yoga class. It’s not far, maybe half a mile. I’ve left enough time. No rush.
Coming ’round the bend, a car slows and the driver peers out the window. I know her from yoga class. She’s offering me a ride, which I decline. She continues along her way and I along mine.
Ahead of me, I see another classmate exiting her house and striding along the sidewalk. See? Another walker, plenty of time… but she is quickly pulling away, must not have seen me, must be in a hurry, may be in a mood.
Oh but…Look up at the cotton white clouds that decorate Carolina blue skies. There, the egret stands in the tall shore grasses. Sweet lily pads wave at me as I cross the bridge, a ruddy duck floats among them. Is that a heron just flying overhead? Of course, there are those noisy black ravens, cawing, cawing and oh my, the squawk, the shudder, the screech of those hilarious Sandhill Cranes, always in two’s. Keep away from our nest!
I arrive at yoga, find a spot and settle in on my mat. After class I thank my neighbor who had offered the ride. “I like to walk,” I tell her, hoping she’s not offended.
“Oh, I like to walk, too,” she says. “Three times everyday. We do our 10,000 steps.”
Is this what walking is now? To be quantified, measured, and recorded? Have we squeezed out all the juice and found the pulp sour but good for us? Oh, if we could only see ourselves, see in ourselves, to see for ourselves all the signs and wonders and magnificent gifts at our very door step.
Oh, the places we’d go if we realized the places we are.