Hi Friends and welcome to Joy is Now the podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I'm your host, Lisa Anderson Shaffer coach, consultant, and resident psych enthusiast. Joy is Now is sponsored by listeners like you visit Lisa Anderson Shaffer to join the community and become a one time or recurring patron of the podcast.
For those of you new to my work, I have been participating in a daily writing practice for nearly five years. What started as writing three things I've learned each day became the project titled These Three Things. And was published into a Daily Practice Writing guide and journal by the same name in 2018. While I continue to write each day, the writing has evolved into something different as of late. No longer do I write three things I've learned each day. Sometimes it is one and more recently I've been writing essays that I work on each day and finish at the end of the week. Subscribers to my newsletter receive my daily writings as part of the project each Sunday and you can find the link to join the list in the details of this episode.
What follows is a reading of my entry for These Three Things from a particular week, including my musings on not feeling like I have anything to write. As these moments are probably more important than the moments I know exactly what to write.
One of my favorite psychoanalyst Marion Milner who was also an artist, wrote extensively on what we now call flow. Her book titled, On Not Being Able to Paint, published in 1950 is a study on the act of creativity. Focusing on what is present when we can create and when we cannot. Of course from a fascinating psychoanalytic perspective. The cliff note, of course, being the times we are unable to create are as equally if not more significant than the moments we find ease in our creative process. The same goes for all the times we are stuck in any process. Being stuck is not in the way of the process, but part of the process and a really important part at that. So here's my own experiment on not being able to write or thinking, I had nothing.
Why Geraniums Bloom. Psychology and choice.
April 20th 2021. I didn't write any entries for this project this week until Friday. It was one of those weeks where everything else took precedence or I'd let it. Weeks like this make me wonder if that means I no longer need this practice as much as I did or if I need it so badly that I pushed it aside as far as I could, so I didn't have to spend these moments with myself each day. I imagine both could be true. If I am to honor the writing I actually wanted to do this week, the idea came about on Tuesday before bed. In my mind more of an essay or a short story than a series of entries. My favorite part of any creative endeavor, the place where I find joy, is that a birth happens when it is going to happen. I've learned that trying to organize that birth into a specific time for it to result in a certain way fights the most powerful aspect of the creative process. The moment when many hours, sometimes lifetimes combine to put together experience. Inspiration, watching, listening all into an act where it comes out. When we discover what the ingredients we have been collecting bake into.
So instead of all the usual things that proceed, the structure of my practice, the expected structure of these weekly emails. This week, I give you a single story, Geraniums.
We purchased our Sunny Mountain top home from the family who built it in 1952. The husband was an architect and the couple themselves must have been somewhat adventurous creatives. In the early 1950s, Fairfax was still mostly a summer destination. The streets and mountains lined with small little weekend cottages no bigger than a few 100 square feet tucked close next to each other with modest backyards for neighbors to share barbecue grills and laundry lines. Our home was one of the early houses in town. Built to nest an entire family all year round. The family raised four Children in this sturdy house. Hard to imagine. Larger than the cottages that surround it. Yes, but difficult to picture two grown adults and four children filling the walls and hallways of our home. I often think about what it must have been like to have four children crowded into our knotty pine kitchen, leaning over cereal bowls at breakfast.
The plants and trees that surround the close perimeter of our house very much reflect in 1950s aesthetic.
Juniper, oak trees, rosemary and beautiful bunches of bright red geraniums. The geraniums grew quite easily, the first few years we tended to them. But as California became a landscape of fire and ash, the bright blooms have become finicky. I credit my mother for bringing them back after the ash last year. She trimmed them all back and cared for them throughout two winters so they could offer beautiful blooms again this year. It's not that the rest of us had given up on them. We just recognized that asking a geranium that was planted nearly 70 years ago to easily exist in the current climate was a tall order. If we were asking too much. We understood. Just a few days ago the geraniums reached their peak. Bright red round blooms, the size of grapefruits open a top each bunch. They all came back. Every single bloom. It brought us a moment of hope that things survive. Current conditions might require more care, but still things survive. And that was some welcome reassurance. On Tuesday morning in our front yard, across from the geranium bush a mother doe emerged from a set of low lying juniper trees with a brand new baby fawn.
We watched as the fawn struggled to walk on the uneven bricks leading to our driveway. The mother licked the fawn from head to toe, nursed it, and after about 30 minutes or so they made their way back to a small hiding place nestled between a rocky path and a set of juniper bushes that canopy over a cool shaded area of granite and dirt. It was the first time in the last two years we have had a fawn born on our property. It happened three years in a row. Then it was quiet. We wondered if we would ever welcome a resting mother and her fawn again. And then magically they appeared on Tuesday. We name the deer, when this happens as we become very attached to watching the babies grow and take pride to not disturb the doe as she rests. These two would be named Billy and Justice. Accountability gives birth to justice. This seemed right for this particular Tuesday. As most mother does require rest after birthing, she moved slowly with great intent and eats everything. It wasn't 24 hours later that the doe helped herself to nearly each and every geranium bloom that had presented itself in the last week. She bit them off at the stems like they were small little grapes. Chewing and swallowing in an instant. As I watched her, I very much understood the moment of choice.
Not big choice like where to live or what to do for a living, but the subtle choices we make each moment that paint themselves into the core of our character. How we might frame something as unlucky or take a comment out of anger deeply personally. Do we imagine that the geraniums came back this year to serve this very moment to be broken off their stems by a hungry doe recovering from labor? Or do we imagine that the geraniums exist only for us and they are being taken away. That something is being done to us? You might imagine the choice we made as we watched in silence as the doe went from bloom to bloom. Perhaps, I wondered these geraniums held purpose. Planted here by the architect and his wife. Their Children, just babies with hands in the dirt all of them wondering about the day in the far off future that these geraniums would bloom for exactly this moment.
This has been Joy is Now with me Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT. You can find me for hire at Lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com along with patronage support for this podcast and the These Three Things project.
You can also follow along with my musings at Lisa Anderson Shaffer on Instagram. See you next time