In Praise of Soft Skin

detail of ceramic sculpture


In my lifetime as a painter, sculptor and textile designer I learned how to trust what I call “the gathering time.”

For so many years I freaked out if I was not feeling the urge to create.

We creatives are often counseled to “JUST PAINT!” “WRITE EVERY DAY!!”

And I know this is probably such a great idea.

But I never did my life that way.

I gather. I muse. I watch. I listen. I touch. I converse with myself out loud

And when I find myself interesting enough…I act.

This leaves swaths of emptiness and I worry about that; I’m disappointing my readers..I am a dry desert bed and I FREAKIN’ HAVE NOTHING TO SAY!

One of the great take-aways of a non-out-in-the-world-work-life

Is keeping my skin soft.

By that I mean the antithesis of “TOUGHENING UP” or “ gotta get a thicker skin on ya.”

A soft skin allows me to be moved.

If I keep my skin porous I can feel life, myself, others and have a chance at responding authentically whatever that might be; pretty or ugly.

When I gather (if I’m not worrying about whether I’m performing well enough to be considered a valuable citizen of the world)

Something intriguing slips in and starts laying down bread crumbs for me to follow.

And I got the time to do just that

So I follow those crumbs and eat some along the way and there comes a time when I’m full

And then I WRITE!

So won’t you forgive my dry spells?

Most times there is no need for worry.

I think this part of me is irritating and perhaps irresponsible.

I have the supreme luxury of responding to those bread crumbs when they appear and sometimes they just don’t

And we all go hungry.


6 Responses to “In Praise of Soft Skin”

  1. Jenny on December 29th, 2014

    Of course we forgive the dry spells, it is only I worry, but now I will try not to. Gathering is so like the way Clarissa Pinkola-Estes writes about – to gather bones like La Loba, the old woman in the desert. (In Women Who Run With the Wolves)

  2. Catherine on December 30th, 2014

    Thank you for this piece – I am going through one of those dry spells and I get depressed about all the non-doing. You have reminded me that sometimes it is OK to just be for a while – the gathering time, the waiting time – and eventually the light at the end of the tunnel will pull us forward.

  3. Irene on December 30th, 2014

    I think it was Virginia Woolf who once described herself as “skinless”…a trait necessary to absorb as much of life as possible and then be able to write about it.

  4. Maureen Shaughnessy on December 30th, 2014

    Thank you for this one. I go through those gathering, absorbing, musing wandering times myself. Sometimes I feel guily during those periods. And the empty ties between it all. I live the way you put it: when you feel jnteresting enough, you act. Yes. I do that. Its unpredictable. Exhilarating. Soul-filling. To act.
    I appreciate knowing there are others who live this way.
    Of course you are forgiven. And. I forgive myself. <3

  5. KK on December 31st, 2014

    Brenda Uland called it “moodling.” I moodle a lot!

  6. Jim on January 3rd, 2015

    Love that ceramic sculpture Cathy!!!

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