We did something unusual around here. We went to the big city to see the Nashville Ballet. It was great. The performance series was called Attitudes, and one of the short pieces featured was choreographed by an old friend of mine, Dominic Walsh. I met Dominic 12 years ago, or so, on a yoga retreat in Italy. More on that some other time. The connection we shared there has lasted, loosely, but no less precious. Seeing the dance sparked some thoughts.
One thought I’ve enjoyed is the excellent progression of my friend’s life as a choreographer and dancer. He has truly lived his art, as well as created his living out of it, through his dance company and their work, as well as teaching and choreographing around the country and abroad. His dedication is evident in his piece. “The Whistler” was well conceived, beautiful to watch, and very human in its theme. By that, I mean that it helped me feel my relationship with the larger human family, and connect with Life as a shared human experience. Emotions passed through as I watched the dance, but I didn’t feel as though I was being manipulated to tears or joy, just that the expression of the dance invited me to experience these emotions in the art. Dominic is a wonderful person, and also a wonderful artist, and it was a great gift to experience his work in Nashville.
This led me think about the nature of art. Some art takes us by storm, like a sensorial whirlwind drawing us into a piece of music, a canvas, a dance. Art can be so relative, and at the same time so common. Traveling, in Tibet and Indonesia particularly, I noticed how deeply artistic creation entwined with daily life. The care taken in the carving or painting of a simple household object was astounding. Though some would be called ‘folk art’ rather than ‘fine art’, there was certainly a greater sense of artful-ness applied to life in general. I probably could not have articulated the effect of that observation at the time, I believe it has informed many of my choices ever since.
Technically, the definition of ‘art’ requires a sense of mastery in a field. This is part of what we recognize in common. Clearly, ballet dancers have mastered their bodies in ways that most of us can only imagine. And so, this concept must apply to other facets of human experience too. We (here on our land) spend so much time immersed in the natural world, studying the soil, the skies, the plants as they grow. We get close to Life. I believe, at times, that we’re creating art here too.
This may be particularly proved out by the number of art and architecture majors among my rural friends here. They see and express their art in their homesteads, in their daily work. And their art is stunning. Even in the extreme busy-ness of the mid-season garden, when doing anything except collapsing into bed at the end of a long day seems impossible, the beauty of our work sings harmonies from the ground below our feet. That singing erupts in a symphony of fruits and vegetables with enormous ranges of size, color, and taste. There is beauty in the living fertility of soil, and then in the enjoyment of the palate. We cannot claim credit for this art, only throw ourselves into participation with it.
When I can climb to the top of the highest hill in my mind and get a good perspective, I feel a thrill of hope that we’re at the dawning of a new renaissance. I believe that art and science are slowly being re-integrated, by farmers, doctors, fine artists, astro-physicists, and every-day-people-at-large who feel the call of a whole LIFE. Let the farmers go to town and watch the human form, enraptured at the ballet. Let the scientists and the artists come to the farm, to the river, the sea, the forest, for inspiration and observation. Let the mastery of these talents inform and enrich each other.