There is a stage in my creative process during which the house could be falling down around me and I wouldn't notice.
This is not that time.
This is the Quiet Beginning, a stage which is more akin to cocooning than emerging or taking flight.
The posture is one of listening--slow, steady, head-bowed listening. It is the time for discernment, for surrender, for dependence on a wisdom both deeper and wider than my own.
This stage requires cleanliness and order in my surroundings. Organizing, de-cluttering and scrubbing become compulsions for me, but in their wake I find my thoughts have not only the space they need to emerge, but are lined up in neat and tidy rows.
There is a common, widespread idea that cleaning is a sign of procrastination. This idea was damaging to me for a long time. It kept me always in motion without pause and therefore without understanding whether that motion was in the direction I really wanted to go.
It may be true, I suppose, that cleaning is about procrastinating for some. But I am not one to avoid my work. I burn to work, so fast and so hot sometimes that the daily tasks of my living--the dishes and tea times and bed time stories--are the only things that slow me down to a pace my body can sustain.
Now I know I need this time, and even though the slowness and stillness of the Quiet Beginning is still uncomfortable to me, it's critical to get this part right. To clean and tidy , to slow down, listen and really discern my guidance for the coming days, so I can proceed with clarity, renewed energy and grounding.
Practices for right now:
Mystery novels: It's important not to think too much right now--it counters the resting and slowing that this season needs, and honestly it can really interfere with the listening. If I must feed my mind a little bit, I will read just a single page of a deep-thinking book or article. Otherwise I try to read things that give my analytical mind something to play with to keep it occupied so I can be still. Right now that means catching up on Agatha Christie novels I haven't read since I was a teenager.
Tea Time Tray: Caren McLellan Gazley gives a great tutorial on the British ritual of taking time for tea in Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care. This is a practice I always aspire to practice and remember, but actually clearing my kitchen counter and creating space for a tea time tray (pictured above) to live out in sight and within reach means it now happens. Every day.
The tray is set and ready for tea at any moment, though the girls and I have been having ours in the late afternoon. Amelia and I are loving this peppermint chocolate rooibos tea, and Lucy is jamming on steamed soy milk with a splash of hazelnut syrup.