Hiding in the Basement


I’m not really hiding…just sitting down here. I came downstairs to throw a load of laundry in the dryer and decided to stay.

It’s cool and damp, and a faint odor of clay permeates the air. Camp art adorns the walls–what’s left of them after the flood remediation team visited.

Thinking that I might find inspiration and relief from the distractions upstairs, I brought my writer’s notebook and three pens with me. They sit, undisturbed, on the corner of the wedging table while I tap the keys in front of me. My wrists rest gently on the canvas, and the scratching sensation is not unpleasant.

Periodically, I look up at the mural on the wall. It has been nearly a decade since my hevruta (friend & study partner) visited to celebrate our completion of the first order of the Mishnah. Even then, as my scholarly head was immersed in the study of text, my artist’s heart was drawn to the pottery studio.

I asked one of my Rabbinic Literature students, who had also taken a class in Cartooning, to draw the scene of the Bikkurim in outline so that our guests could contribute color using oil pastels. I remember that some of the adults hesitated; perhaps someone had told them, when they were children, that they weren’t “good at art.” I encouraged everyone to spend a few minutes playing before the formal lesson began. I believe that we adults benefit from finding outlets for our inner children. If creating art is a vehicle for opening our hearts to the beauty around us and expressing the beauty within us, then we are all “good at art.”

My fingers are still on the keyboard but my eyes rest on the mural. I am lost in memory, breathing slowly, inhaling the inspiration I have found in the basement.

2,000 years ago, my ancestors brought the first fruits of their harvest to Jerusalem in celebration of the pilgrimage festival of Shavuot. Today, I dedicate the fruits of my labor to the Jewish people. And I pray for the inspiration and wisdom to continue working–and playing in the basement–for many more years.



Comments (6)

I remember that some of the adults hesitated; perhaps someone had told them, when they were children, that they weren’t “good at art.”

Were you thinking of me when you wrote this? Thirty-six years have passed since this very thing was said to me. And it haunts me to this day. Even my kids know about what happened and know to make kind comments about my feeble artistic attempts.

Hide away…and let the memories flood your soul and inspire new fruit.

I was thinking of you, and almost tagged in you FB post. I have big plans for our RWB retreat. We are going to play with clay…find God in the dirt.

One mark of a true artist is one whose definitions of “work” and “play” continually meld into and through each other. May it always be so for you, amiga 🙂

Corey-Jan, you are my role-model & mentor in this regard. xoxoxo

This post resonates with me because I am truly “not good at art” … my people always lack proportion, lack necks, etc. … but I get such joy when I *do* draw. It’s like stretching a muscle that never gets any use. I do also believe in the cross-pollination of creativity: all creative things feed my writing and vice-versa. Thank you for the beautiful reminder!

Thanks for your comment, Ginny. I love your phrase “cross-pollination of creativity.” As you may have guessed, I was the kid who was “not good at art,” mainly because my area of challenge is visual-spatial. My people also lacked proportions and my objects lacked depth. What a joy to discover, as an adult, that I could work well in a different medium. If I can wrap my hands around 5 lbs of clay, I can make beautiful vessels out of dirt. And you are 100% correct about exercising the muscle: since taking up ceramics, I have learned to sketch more acccurately.

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