Creativity Is a Life-giving Activity
We had snow in the air last week, reminding me that Christmas is coming, and with it, one of my favorite creative projects: wreath-making.
I’ll start clipping the Fraser fir boughs and assembling the wreaths in November, but in the meantime, I’ve been gathering pine cones. I’ve been wiring them together in clusters of three while I watch Netflix with the kids. I’ve also been making bows out of wired plaid and burgundy ribbon. It’s a fun, quick, and creative task I can squeeze in between dishes and taking care of my husband, Todd, who has ALS and is paralyzed.
With the never-ending tasks of caregiving and household chores, I find satisfaction in creating things that last longer than a meal or a clean kitchen.
I don’t always have the time to work on creative projects. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed by life — like when one of Todd’s caregivers is sick and I’m scrambling to find somebody to cover the night, or when Todd has a health setback, and I’m figuring out how to manage the next stage of the disease. Or, like right now, after our local health department closed schools to deal with community spread of the virus, the kids are at home attending their classes online, and I’m helping them with their schoolwork. It takes many hours, so I don’t have time to make more than an occasional Christmas wreath bow.
Over the last couple weeks, my 11-year-old son, Isaac, and I spent hours working on his fifth-grade science project, gathering and identifying leaves from 23 different types of trees. We pressed them between sheets of paper and books. Isaac took aerial pictures of the trees using his drone, and we ordered prints.
Last weekend, we put the collection together in a scrapbook. Isaac typed a table of contents and made labels, and we made a page for each specimen.
The project was easier than four years ago, when I helped my daughter with the same thing, because my son found a useful mobile app. He took a picture with my smartphone, and the app almost immediately returned a suggestion of the type of tree it came from.
I felt a sense of satisfaction helping him complete his leaf project.
When I have margins of time between caring for Todd, parenting my kids, and household tasks, I’m compelled to find other creative projects. When I’m stuck at home, boredom creeps in, and I feel happier when I’m working on something.
I’m reminded of my late Aunt Phyllis, who found joy in crafting in the midst of all that she had to deal with in life. She was one of my biggest supports when Todd was diagnosed, and I felt special compassion from her because she had lived for years with her husband’s disabilities brought on by a stroke.
She beaded Christmas ornaments and bracelets that she gave as gifts. She cast bowls out of cement in the shape of, and imprinted with, large thimbleberry leaves. She brought beauty into the world through her crafting and her love for others.
After Todd became disabled and we moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I returned to one of my longtime creative pursuits: writing. Living in this unique area inspired me to write the Copper Island Novels, and since Todd was home with a disabled body but a very capable mind, he was able to help me edit the books. He also figured out how to typeset them, and he designed the covers.
Todd has a number of his own creative projects going. He volunteers time for our church, helping them with graphic design work, maintaining their website, and producing audio for podcasts.
Sometimes people feel bad asking him to help, but he welcomes the projects.
“I have to have something to work on,” he says. “Otherwise, I’d be bored out of my mind.”
When our kids complain about being bored because we’re limiting their time in front of their devices, Todd tells them, “Good. Boredom is the mother of creativity. Go create something.”
Creativity is more than an antidote to boredom — it’s also a life-giving activity in the midst of loss.
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