The week off has been good for my writing, and for the Christmas projects, now almost done, Yarrow's red dress is only waiting for embellishment. I drove everywhere Friday, picking up the meat, storing it, bringing my husband to and from work, yet somehow I spent most of the day in happy ignorance. When I learned what had happened I was overwhelmed. My prayers go out for all those poor babies, their families, and for the killer. I was more than usually grateful for my quiet home, for a weekend - extended by storms through Tuesday, for the wood piled high beside my stove, and for lots of time to think.
In times of reflection, I often retreat into Rilke whose poetry captures so perfectly all the nuances of the soul. Rilke, who believed that women artists should forego motherhood for the sake of their art, that the creation of art was incompatible with motherhood. I've been thinking of this often - he believed this, primarily because he saw motherhood itself as an artistic path, and felt that each artist must commit himself (or herself in this case) to a path without dividing the creative passion. It is one of the reasons he also struggled with faith.
I can see the either/or aspects of art in motherhood, but I think there is room for them to coexist. The artistic life is a challenge to anyone who pursues it. Unmarried, an artist has more freedom and fewer distractions than married - if like a priest he is able to give his art a position of primacy. Married, the artist has more to overcome: I know that one of my primary distractions is my housekeeping. I don’t like to work, and often I can’t work when things are out of place. Some days the house is a constant frustration, failing my ideal again and again until it’s time to make dinner and go to bed - unorganized firewood really shouldn’t prevent me from working, but too often it does, and once the firewood has been rearranged, the bits of wood need to be swept up, and then the rugs should be shaken out, and then the disorder of the yard comes to my attention, until the stove needs to be tended again - leaving tiny bits of wood on the floor again and leading me to notice that the walls really are dirty…
Motherhood, of course adds to the distractions of the married artist - now in addition to this particular artist's intense dislike of mess, there is a mess-making little one: destroying the neatly swept piles of tiny wood-bits, delighting in destruction, and encouraging the dog in her evil tendencies - Rilke never mentions the effects of a dog on the artist, he should have, they’re even more distracting - children may possible nap or play quietly at the right time, a dog is designed by nature to discover a menace hiding in the trees every time the artist settles down to work.
I do think that Rilke missed the art producing aspects of motherhood. The inspiration children bring, and the possibility that each daily task - whether mothering or straightening the rugs which the dog insists on putting out of order - is capable of producing beauty, nourishing the artist’s other children : her poems or pots, canvases or stories. It may be that I just don’t like seeing limitations in life but I believe that art and life and faith all feed each other, and I hope that, while I may lose the moments that might have been spent writing or throwing feeding croissant dough to Yarrow, who can’t help but share with Luba, the long, lovely days when nothing is written are more creative than all the hours spent scribbling when I was single and free to ignore everything for the sake of a line.
Any thoughts of your own to share?