Making as Wild Conversation

Wildness is the earthy, untamed, undomesticated state of things — open-ended, improvisational, moving according to its own boisterous logic. That which is wild is not really out of control; it is simply out of our control. Wildness is not a state of disorder, but a condition whose order is not imposed from outside.”

David Abram

“When we consider the palpable earth around us as though it were an object – when we conceive of nature merely as an objective set of mechanical processes – we tacitly remove ourselves from the world we inhabit. We pretend that we are not palpable creatures co-evolved with the rest of earthly life, but are rather disembodied minds pondering reality from a godlike position outside that reality. In this manner, we free ourselves from any responsibility to the rest of nature; we give ourselves license to engage other animals, plants, and natural elements as a set of resources waiting to be used by us….

If, however, we acknowledge the myriad presences around us not as objects but as subjects in their own right — as open-ended beings with their own inherent spontaneity and active agency — then we swiftly become aware of the relationships that we sustain with those beings. For only then, when we recognize the things we experience as sensitive beings like ourselves, do we notice that we inhabit a common world. And in truth, it is not only the other animals and the plants with whom we actively share this world; it is also mountains and rivers and stormclouds, the asphalt street underfoot and the wind surging through the skyscrapers…Every aspect of the sensuous surroundings can be experienced as an active, animate power, able to sense the beings around it and to influence them in turn.”

David Abrams,

Like David Abram, the poet David Whyte frequently speaks & writes about the experience of reality as “Conversation”. (For example: ).

David Whyte stresses the importance of asking questions and then (like Rilke) of living your questions. Whyte delights in the Invitational nature of life and the essential role of Astonishment. Again and again in his poems, he asks the reader to pay attention to “what is not yourself.” Only then can you enter into Conversation — i.e.,that “moving frontier” of relationship which he so beautifully celebrates throughout his work.

In his poem “Everything is Waiting for You,” David Whyte makes this truth of relationship concrete — involving even the minutiae of our day to day lives in Conversation. I thought I would type out the poem for you but realized how much better it would be to hear it in the author’s own voice. Indeed, my first encounter with this poem was not on paper but by ear. I’m happy to say that I found it on YouTube in a format that lets you both read the words and hear them:

As I continue to learn how to participate more and more fully in the many Conversations that life offers — listening as well as speaking; speaking as well as listening — I find myself engaging in the deep interrelationship & interaction from which something new may emerge. This certainly includes conversations with the fibers I love. And those conversations, of course, change me as much or more than than they change the fibers.

Sometimes I find these conversations take much more time than I’d planned/expected. Sometimes they gradually bringing to the foreground the integral Listening aspect of any “Wild Conversation through Making” — whether one makes a mask or a garden or even the “best planned” meal. As a maker, I am not asked to impose my will on the materials but to enter into a dialog with them. A good example would be the making of “Willow: Healing Spirits,” which I might summarize as Expectation, Rejection (mutual!), Persistence/Loyalty/Faithfulness to the Conversation, and – finally – the making of Community.

I usually begin by weaving a mask & then weaving or felting a context for it. “Willow,” however, began with a weaving I created to use up some rather ugly (i.e., not as expected) yarn I’d spun to make use of internet-ordered fiber that had turned out, upon arrival, to be not quite what I’d expected. [And as I write this now, I realize how those intertwined themes of “Expectation-As-Impediment” & “Impediment-As-Opportunity” have been embedded in the process since its very beginning!]

While taking the weaving off the loom, I heard it ask for a mask, ask to become part of something larger — perhaps to be named “Willow: Healing Spirit.”

After I wove the mask I thought was called for, I placed it on the weaving — and I shook my head in something not too far from disgust. Not what I expected! And the mask took one look at me & replied, in an equally unfriendly tone of voice, “I don’t much like you either.” Not to be deterred, I wove another mask. Again, I didn’t like it & it didn’t like me. Again I wove. I soon was looking at 4 masks of various shapes & sizes. None of the four fit the background weaving.

I paused a long while, listening more closely. I began to see how the masks needed each other. I realized that the conversation was teaching me something wonderful. Healing is not about a single entity but about a community — not about one “Spirit” but about the interaction of many “Spirits.” By staying with this rather uncomfortable conversation, remaining engaged through the ups&downs and back&forths, not being trapped by the limits of my own expectations — I had received some beautifully unexpected gifts of understanding about both Healing and Expectation.

Willow: Healing Spirits — weaving & spinning; wool, silk, and found rosemary branch — MCK

And, one more thought on the Wild Conversation of Making — from Jay Griffiths:

In making art, the artist expires, breathing herself out to allow the inspiring to happen, the breathing in of glinting universal air, intelligent with many minds, electric and on the loose. Artist, shape-shifter, shaman or poet, all are lovers of metamorphosis, all are minded to vision, insight and dream.

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