We are back from Create in Me, the creativity and spirituality retreat that we go to every year. It's not too early to plan for next year--join a great group the week-end after Easter to explore the intersections of creativity and spirituality.
I expect to write a bit more about the retreat in the days to come. In terms of new art forms/mediums, I only discovered one: I had great fun playing with alcohol inks. They are completely impossible to control, which is part of the intrigue.
It was also wonderful to talk to people, many of whom I've been seeing regularly for 10 years now. Ten years ago, I went to a Wild Women retreat with my mom and sister. I found myself wanting to talk about work-life balance in terms of creative work, and found no one who was wrestling with that issue. At the end of the retreat, Pastor Mary Canniff-Kuhn mentioned the Create in Me retreat. I remember thinking, that's the one I should have gone to! And then, I realized I still could, and I did--one of the better decisions I've made. For more of those reflections, see the post I wrote today at my theology blog.
On our drive back yesterday, I heard of the death of Margaret Thatcher and Lilly Pulitzer. Later in the day, I heard of the death of Annette Funicello. Every so often there's a constellation of deaths that make me reflect on history and the changes wrought over a short period of time, or that make me think of the metaphor and symbol inherent in it all. The deaths of Mother Theresa and Princess Diana in the same week in 1997 was such a time. So was yesterday.
I was fascinated to hear about Lilly Pulitzer, who despite being an heiress, opened a juice stand. She needed dresses that would camouflage the juice that ended up all over her clothes, and thus, a brand was born. Soon, the dresses in tropical colors were more popular than the juice.
I've had a few of the dresses (ah, the preppy years of the late 70's and early 80's), and I'm as amazed at the softness of the cotton as I am at the colors that I wouldn't put together, but that work in a sundress.
As an artist, I love these tales of happy accidents. Lilly Pulitzer didn't set out to change the world of sundresses. She was just working on the solution to a problem--and she stumbled upon something that the world didn't even realize it wanted.
I can't say as much about Annette Funicello, but she seems to belong to the sundress world too. Like Lilly Pulitzer, she was somewhat contained by the world she lived in and the choices she made, but she worked within the boundaries. I read about Disney requesting that she wear a one-piece swimsuit in the beach movies, or if she had to wear a bikini, to be sure that her naval was covered. What a different time!
And then, there's Margaret Thatcher, a woman that I can't imagine ever wearing a sundress or a bikini. I understand all the ways that she destroyed certain industries. I know that her style was authoritarian. No one would accuse her of inaction because she was building consensus. But there's also something about her that I respect. She had core values, to which she held firm. She didn't adopt them just to get elected.
I also admire her for showing that a woman could rule a country. You might argue that Golda Meir had already done that. Both women opened doors that had been assumed could not be opened.
I've spent time away thinking of my own trajectory. I've spent the last two weeks thinking about seminary. If I never go to seminary, I imagine that my thoughts will always cycle around to seminary. On the way to the retreat, in Thursday's steady, cold rain (with occasional sleet!), I prayed for discernment.
My dad had said he'd be praying for clarity for me, which always worries me a bit. Clear marching instructions might include job loss or house fire.
I don't return home with that kind of clarity. I still plan to ask some questions at Synod Assembly, in between sessions where we elect a Bishop. But I did return home with cautionary tales.
The way we train church leadership as ELCA Lutherans is still somewhat mid-20th-century. Lots of schooling that often requires relocation, not once, but twice. I don't know if every Synod requires several years just out of seminary in a traditional parish, but many do. That made sense in the 1950's, when staffing couldn't keep up with all the new churches being founded. It doesn't make as much sense now.
I'll keep moving slowly towards an alternate career. In the meantime, there's my memoir. I am more convinced than ever that the subject matter is important: how do we live an authentic life, especially when we're at workplaces that may not always support our authentic expressions? I come home vowing to have the next draft finished by Labor Day. And then, perhaps by Christmas, a polished draft!
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