First Friday: Work is not always required

Normally I’ve been doing a post on the last Friday of the month to share some of the things I’ve been working on during the previous month.  Since last week I was on an island with limited and spotty internet service, I decided to postpone until this week. I could have written and scheduled a post before I left on the trip but I knew my time there would be a major part of September’s work.

The following  two quotes made themselves known  to me while I was on a week’s retreat with only me and my camera and they sort of sum up the whole experience.

“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”
George MacDonald

“Creativity is play, but learning to play can be hard work.”  Julia Cameron

Yes, I spent a whole week alone in a cottage and on the beaches, and on the rocks and the back roads (they’re ALL back roads) on Block Island, Rhode Island.  I have a great deal to process, literally and figuratively.  Over 1500 images will be source material for many months, if not years.  And some of my reactions to having that much unscheduled time were enlightening and will be food for thought for a lifetime.

My first full day there dawned with heavy rain so I tried to enjoy the calm but was anxious to get out and shoot.  By mid-morning, the rain had cleared so I headed to the north point of the island where there is a very picturesque beach and lighthouse.  The light was still rather grey and flat and I seemed all thumbs when it came to doing the long exposures that I had planned.  Nothing seemed to be working and I was frustrated.  After an hour or more, I left that location and headed to another part of the island but nothing particularly inspired me.  I went back to the cottage and did some planning and research for other locations, downloaded my images from the morning, and, typical of my first look at images, decided they were all crap.  I tried this and that but couldn’t shake a vague sense of anxiousness.  It went that way till about midday Monday when it dawned on me that I was feeling pressure to “produce”.  The blood of my puritan ancestors runs deep at times. One must be productive, have something worthwhile to show for your time.  What is productive and what is worthwhile? I realized that I felt this need, this responsibility to create something amazing that was “worthy” of having spent the time and money on this retreat.  This was different than going to a week-long class taught by a BNF (big name in the field).  Then I was “getting” something concrete for my money and time but how would/could that be true for this week?  WOW, what a load of crap!

I mentioned this to Katy, our daughter-in-law, when  I happened to speak with her and she replied quickly and easily and wisely, “I thought this was for fun.”

A couple of days later I came across MacDonald’s  quote in a tiny little book of quotes that I picked up in the island book store, “Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”  That was  after  I’d mostly rid myself of the pressure to produce, but it still resonated and I don’t think I will ever forget that beautiful phrase, “sacred idleness”.

Julia Cameron’s message came to me in an equally random but seemingly purposeful way during the week also, “Creativity is play, but learning to play can be hard work

Why is it that we don’t know how, or resist, play so much?!  When I am not anxious about producing, my work is actually play to me and I often do some of my best creations.

In the end, I definitely got the message and came home filled with peace and calm in addition to some really cool, playful new images.

So… many more words than you are accustomed to from me.  How, in your life, do you resist play and sacred idleness?

For now I will share just 4 images from the week.  Three are of the interior of the cottage where I stayed.  Right there in front of me was all this light, and texture, and peace.  And the final one is one that I took that first morning at the North Lighthouse when I thought everything I was doing was just crap.  We have to watch what we say to ourselves, but that’s a thought for another post. 🙂

Find at least a few moments of “sacred idleness” this week.

4 thoughts on “First Friday: Work is not always required

  1. mary

    For me silence and solitude is like food. If I go without it for too long I begin to wither. I have gone on several week long solo retreats and one ten day silent group retreat. My idea of fun! I’m going to go to Block Island next year after seeing these images! My quote? “Stop the glorification of busy.” (don’t know who said it.)

  2. Becky Stattelman

    Oh, thank you, Gail! Such a lovely reminder. I am going to Door County, WI next week, from the RedBarn in western MN. Simply to enjoy someone else’s something. Open to anything. Road trip extraordinaire. I will be thinking of the quotes you shared to inspire rest, fun, smiling at the sights. Surely, I will come home with a good photo find or two just by accident:) like you did.
    Flying Sister,
    beckyredbarn.com

    1. gail Post author

      Wishing you much sacred idleness! Love how you said, “Simply to enjoy someone else’s something.” Know JUST what you mean.
      Have a wonderful trip.

  3. Robin Heim

    It’s amazing how wound-up we are to the point that we don’t really even know what to do with ourselves. Your photos are breathless! I really do like the lighthouse in the midst of all that blue. The sunflowers are so soothing. Blessings!

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