When I’m teaching I’ll often say to my students, “You know more than you know you know; you know?” Reliant on the linear mind, on rational thought, we’ll never get to the all of what we know because the path to the wealth of our knowledge, especially when making art isn’t straight, nor is it predictable. The route is spontaneous, circuitous, and, sometimes, seemingly contradictory. When making art of whatever kind it’s helpful to quiet the linear mind, to trust the imagination.
Once, at work on a poem, I started to write a line that felt true but I found it difficult to accept the worlds because the sentence was entirely illogical and impossible. They kept insisting; the poem wouldn’t move forward without the line: “It is so quiet my mother could be alive.” I was in Desolation Wilderness on Echo Lake in a small cabin with a view of the water, and it was very quiet, but my mother had been dead for a number of years, and the silence wasn’t going to bring her back, no matter how quiet. However, the words resonated as true. There’s often a great gulf between truth and fact. After I wrote them down the rest of the poem came.
The other day a dear, longtime friend called me very upset. Through her gasping tears, she said that she didn’t know exactly why she was so sad and angry. Yes, her own mother was quite ill, but the overwhelm of this grief took my friend by surprise. That she couldn’t name it didn’t lessen the sorrow’s force. Her partner returned home from work; my friend and I said goodbye. A few minutes later she called back. Her sister had just called to say that moments ago her mother had died.
We know more than we’re conscious of knowing. The wisdom of our lives is often hidden. Making art is a remarkable way to get close to the knowing that exists always just beneath the surface of things. What’s there ready and waiting for you?