We are all searching for that creative space in our lives where we explode through the predictable form by which most of the world knows us and reveal the deeper current that runs through us.
Writer Paul Jarvis challenged me to describe how I make that creative space in my daily life and it got me to thinking about what it is that I do. And why.
No doubt I have developed some quirky rituals that work for me. They are an accretion of habits that I have picked up along the way. They are fluid and change to fit my surroundings. They have to: as a touring musician part of the year I don’t have much control over my daily routine. (Hell, what routine!?) So I adapt. But wherever I am, there is one constant: the morning is sacred.
First, when I wake, I don’t talk. To anyone. The fragile gifts of the night are easily scared away by someone else’s presence. The people I live with know this and leave me alone.
Second, I prepare mate. After twenty years living in Argentina, I joke that I can’t wake up without this herbal tea drunk out of a gourd. It’s not true: coffee packs a much bigger caffeine punch, but I do need the ritual of filling the gourd, heating the water to exactly the right temperature — by no means let it boil — and slipping the metal straw at just the right angle into the waiting tea.
Then, mate and hot-water thermos in hand, I find a private place and I write. On paper. It has to be paper: a journal, a notebook, scratch paper. Anything but a computer. I need to feel the words come out of my hands.
I usually spend the first hour or so of my day in this state, replenishing the thermos with hot water once or twice. If I start my day in contemplation, I know the rest of the day will order itself around the peace I find here.
There is another component to this ritual that is not exactly present in the morning but which plays an essential role in my finding my inspiration: tango. I dance tango two-hours every night, if not more. Tango, as I wrote recently, is my spiritual practice. My body in the morning is informed by the dancing of the night before. I feel it in my muscles and, more acutely, in my spirit. And it comes out in what I write.
I admit that I possess addictive behaviors. Living in Buenos Aires, I have an endless offering of milongas day or night so that I can explore my addiction in the company of other addicts and feign normalcy. My family tree is littered with drunks and gamblers. My chosen addictions, mate and tango, are less troubling and so far I have avoided the plague of gambling — unless you count trying to make my life as an artist, which of course is the biggest gamble of all.
Given the late nights of Buenos Aires and tango, my mornings sometimes don’t start until noon. But no matter the time, it is in that fleeting moment where the oneiric world of dreams floods into the real world of open eyes, that I find my treasure. Maybe it’s a song or a poem or a piece of a book. Or maybe it’s just a thought that provokes a smile at the corner of my lips and carries me through the rest of the day with its secret knowledge.