Kindness as a creative act

A waterlily blooms at Denver Botanic Gardens

When I was reviewing Christian McEwen’s book about re-imagining life to allow time and space for creativity to flourish, World Enough & Time, I flagged a passage where she quotes Twyla Tharp: “‘If you are generous to someone, you are in effect making him [or her] lucky. … It is like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune.'”

McEwen adds:

In other words, generosity is generative (they come in fact, from the same root, the Latin genere: ‘to engender, or be born’). Kindness is itself a creative act.

Generosity is generative; kindness is a creative act. Like the ring of ripples resulting from a pebble dropped into a still pool, with lovingkindness, the community of good fortune spreads outward.

The waning crescent moon aims at Venus, the planet of love, as they draw apart on their celestial journeys.

One of many things my late husband Richard and I talked about in his last months was how to make sure our ordinary every days reflected the great love we shared. Living with our hearts “outstretched as if they were our hands,” (a line from a Mary Chapin Carpenter song) was key to that, we agreed.

“You taught me to be generous,” he said. “I am grateful for that gift.”

“You were already generous,” I responded. “I just helped you find and exercise your natural generosity.”

Kindness as a creative act was illustrated in an email I received the other day from friends who we had reconnected with during Richard’s journey with brain cancer. Nancy and Richard had worked together decades ago in Boulder, and then lost touch.

When Nancy and Dave, a plein air painter, learned Richard had brain cancer, they were tremendously supportive. Among other things, after touring Richard’s studio and rock yard they commissioned him to sculpt a water feature for their front garden.

Richard played with ideas. But by the time he had figured out the sculpture, a jagged flagstone slab that rose out of a granite base the way the Flatirons rise out of the Front Range above Boulder, his tumor had essentially destroyed his right brain.

The “upraised arms” rock, a piece of gneiss with a distinct fold. (My sandal is for scale.)

He could explain the design, but could no longer sculpt. He did however, show me the boulders he would use, including the “upraised arms” rock, a piece of beautifully figured pink and gray gneiss with sparkly mica flecks.

“The fold reminds me of when you’re happy,” I said, “and you throw your hands upward, raising your arms high.”

He smiled, leaning on his cane. “That’s Buddha’s rock.”

I was puzzled.

“Their Buddha sculpture needs a seat to go with the water feature,” he said. “The upraised arms rock will hold him.”

I forgot about that rock in the intensity of the last months of Richard’s life, and in figuring out my new solo existence. Late this summer though, I was moving boulders in Richard’s rock yard, and uncovered it.

I emailed Nancy and Dave to ask if they wanted the rock as a “seat” for Buddha. Did they ever! As luck would have it, they were coming to Salida, so we arranged to have brunch and load up the rock.

Which proved to be a challenge, since it weighs around 100 pounds. But Dave had a tarp to use as a sled; we found a piece of lumber for a ramp, and tugged and hauled it into their Jeep.

Buddha on the “upraised arms” rock. (Photo by Dave Mayer)

One a fine day this week, Dave found time to set the rock in their courtyard garden. And emailed me this story with a photo of Buddha on his new seat:

Cleared a space, dug the hole, measured, dug some more, tweaked, and rotated the stone to drop in place. Duh! I had it in backwards, rotated one turn too many! (So much for an artist’s spatial recognition talents.)

I thought, “This is way too heavy to lift out of the hole again.” As I struggled, I said silently, “Richard, help me get this rock back out!”

Just like that, out it came. WOW! Now it’s back in … with the uplifting grain the correct way.

Generosity is generative, kindness a creative act, connecting us in a community of good fortune. You, me, Richard’s spirit, Nancy and Dave, the Buddha on his upraised arms rock. All it takes is living our days with love outermost, arms upraised, open to joy….

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