Seven years ago, after she turned forty-five years old, my friend Kate, who is a special education assistant, decided that she was going to write and perform in a Fringe Festival play. Last week I was privileged to read the first draft, which she recently completed. The play is about her experiences growing up in a remote northern B.C. fishing town, and her sometimes troubled relationship with her artist father. She is now in the process of editing and revising the work, which she is doing with the assistance of a couple of actor friends. She hopes to have the play completely workshopped and ready to perform within the next couple of years. Prior to this experience, she had never written so much as a short story, or ever had the nerve to consider performing in front of a group of people.
A woman I know from a volunteer group I belong to spins her own yarn, some of it, believe it or not, made from the fur of her pet dog, on an antique spinning wheel that once belonged to her husband’s great-grandmother. With this yarn she makes beautiful woven masks that bring to mind the gnarled, bearded faces you can sometimes make out in the moss covering the trunks of old growth trees. The mask faces are partly inspired by her mother’s native heritage, as well as by her own interest in Celtic folklore. They are decorated with sea shells, feathers, and bits of coloured glass she collects while walking along the beach at sunrise every morning.
Another friend of mine sews all of her own clothes, and designs many of them herself. She also reupholsters all her own furniture–usually pieces that people have abandoned on the curbside, or that she has picked up for next to nothing at flea markets and garage sales.
What these three remarkable and diverse women all share is their common commitment to be involved in the shaping of their world. Each of them takes an active role in transforming and enriching their lives and environments through patient dedication to the creative act.
In this age of mass production and cookie-cutter conformity, too many of us are losing the sense of what it means to be creators. We purchase generic reproductions of somebody else’s art to hang on our walls. We buy tickets to movies and plays that have sprung from the imaginations of people we have never met. We fill our living spaces with brand new factory-produced furniture that has no story to tell us, and bears no mark of our own personal identities. We wear clothes that are made, often under deplorable conditions, in a third world country. Our food, music and stories are all prepackaged for our ready and convenient consumption. Too few of us these days imagine, plan, measure, dream, or sweat for ourselves. What these friends of mine inspire me to remember is that human beings have been given the sacred gift of creativity, and we should honour it in whatever way we can.