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Helen C. Read : Capturing the Artful Life

Capturing the Artful Life

By Helen C. Read

It was an impulsive purchase. Something that, for me, is rare. Nevertheless, this little journal has come to signify a deep and profound purpose. I was drawn to it at the weekly open-air market. Small, yellow, and clearly hand made, it spoke to me of imagination and inspiration. The front of it is adorned with a golden elephant. Odd, I thought, until I discovered it is made of the grainy elephant dung paper I've seen in the local artist supply store. It is uniquely bound with a narrow piece of bamboo along the spine and stitched with raffia. As I wandered through the market it caught my eye, and though I had no premeditated plans for such a book, it has become a valuable place to chronicle my inner, artistic growth.

It feels strange, in midlife, to be radically reviewing the focus of life. But I have come to understand that we are people made in the image of our Creator, who avidly supports our creative impulses as well. My life's focus should embrace that understanding. Strolling home, I wondered what role this little book might play in such a large idea. It is all too easy to allow the daily-ness of life to blur dreams and ideas, a struggle that many women share as we juggle the responsibilities that push and pull us. Clearly, I needed a place to record the growth of my artistic spirit, a bank for new ideas, both practical and outrageous, and a journal to pen actual goals. Each filled page represents one more step toward the ultimate goal of designing an Artful Life.

It strikes me as almost silly. The rest of the world sees me as a highly creative person. My profession evokes the very essence of creativity; I am a visual arts instructor! And yet, it is an inner struggle to hold on to personal vision. There is a job demanding my daily presence, bills to pay, groceries to buy, meals to prepare, and a house to clean. Ever-present laundry demands my attention and my children's needs cannot be ignored. Many days I am mentally and physically exhausted. But, the needs of my own spirit cry loudly as well, and I know that I must seek nurture for the restoration of my inner self. Too often this necessity is relegated to a back corner for a later time of leisure. Too often, I don't have time to be artistic.

My little yellow book has become a record of adventure and discovery. It is here that I am learning, from my own musings, what I truly believe about creativity and living in abundance. We meet together every day. I am uncovering possibilities in the mundane and what, at first glance, seems to be "impossible". I have noticed that as I journal these things, a window is opened from which I see enchantment in common things. Intuitively, I know that it is often through exercising my own creative voice that God whispers to my heart with intimacy. Living with a sense of abundance is a visionary and hope-filled approach to life.

My little book allows me to be intentional about cultivating my truest self. It is a repository of ideas, wild and crazy thoughts, quirky little bursts of inspiration, and actual attainable goals. In it I also note the "artistic outings" that inspire me. This sounds something like waging war on the commonplace with the benign weapon of pen and paper. Perhaps in a sense it is. I never dreamed of it's potential that morning in the open-air market. Fully armed, I am choosing a new path this year, a path toward a fuller Life within. I am choosing to honor the person I was created to be and my Creator, in whose image I have my being. I am capturing an Artful Life. •

© Helen C. Read, 2006

Helen Read graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in art in 1977, and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University in 2001. She currently lives in the midwest where she is an artist, writer, parent, and high school teacher. More »

Updated 1/7/14