Balancing intuition against sensory information, and sensitivity to one’s self against pragmatic knowledge of the world, is not a stance unique to artists. The specialness of artists is the degree to which these precarious balances are crucial backups for their real endeavor. Their essential effort is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up. They are like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, peering into a blinding rain. And they have to do it over and over again. When they find that they have ridden and ridden – maybe for years, full tilt – in what is for them a mistaken direction, they must unearth within themselves some readiness to turn direction and gallop off again. They may spend a little time scraping off the mud, resting the horse, having a hot bath, laughing and sitting in candlelight with friends. But in the back of their minds they never forget that the dark, driving run is theirs to make again. They need their balances in order to support their risks. The more they develop an understanding of all their experiences – the more it is at their command – the more they carry with them into the whistling wind.
–Anne Truitt, from Daybook
This has been a quote I have paraphrased to others so many times that it became a litany. It struck me deeply the first time I read Truitt’s book 25 years ago. But you know how a story or a memory takes on a life of its own over time, and I recently realized I needed to reconnect with her original words to make sure I was remembering it properly.
So I began looking for my copy, lovingly marked and highlighted, amid the chaos of books that have been waiting in stacks for over 2 years to be properly ensconced in the new library we have been hoping to build. Using the space that was once the children’s playroom, the plan was to build floor to ceiling shelves designed by my son and arrange the volumes by topic, from art to poetry, ancient megaliths to mythology, fiction to food.
For a series of complex reasons, it has not yet happened. Meanwhile the only access to my books is the randomness of choosing a card from a deck. Sometimes it’s the two of clubs, sometimes a King. But rarely the book you really want or need.
So Whiskey River came to my rescue (once again) and posted the very passage I was looking to reread. Bless you WR for picking up my longing, something you have demonstrated an uncanny ability to do time and time again.
That little tirade of a detour aside (is my frustration too obvious?), I want to return to the passage by Truitt. Her image, “like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, peering into a blinding rain” cuts right into the piercing vulnerability of the lonely ride anyone who does their making all alone knows well.
And this line—”the more they develop an understanding of all their experiences – the more it is at their command – the more they carry with them into the whistling wind”—means more to me now than it ever did when I was younger and significantly less seasoned by the acidic marinade bath that is life. Whistling wind, indeed.
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