Back in January, while avoiding some piece of essential admin, I noticed a Calligraphy Quiet Day at our diocesan retreat house...I've always envied those who can make even ordinary words beautiful, and I knew that by the penultimate week of term I'm always gibbering, so found it impossible to resist booking there and then.
Fast forward to yesterday and, thanks to the dramas at General Synod, I seemed unlikely to be able to quieten myself, no matter where I went to attempt this. However, the place was booked so off I went....
You need to know that I've never been gifted at the visual arts. I love colour and can get really excited about it...but the gulf between what I see in my mind and what emerges from my pen/paint brush has always been too huge to bridge. No matter how encouraging my mentor, I've never been able to bury my own disappointment that whatever it is that I'm producing doesn't actually match the beauty of my vision. I wish I could say that yesterday was different - but it wasn't. At least, not where the end product was concerned. But I loved every minute of the process of creating...The time spent mulling and praying and reading and praying some more til the right phrase arrived...The gradual refinement of the vision...the selection of materials to make it happen.
On the whole, I suspect that my finished work might have made a year 7 quite proud...and really only the fact that I knew it shouldn't matter that much prevented me from hiding it away when we reached "Show and tell" time. There was some fantastically beautiful work produced - really heart-singing stuff...and then there was mine.
But the words that had leapt out at me as I tried to forget about synod and focus that morning turned out to speak, too, to the process of enjoying what I can do, for they spoke of a journey towards beauty - not of an instant of arrival.
A long time ago, a wise selector at my first ABM suggested that I might have a problem with perfectionism. It wasn't something I recognised at the time! I knew the areas where I had some ability, and simply focussed on them, resolutely steering clear of those where I was out of my depths. It worked pretty well. I just didn't risk things that seemed likely to be outside my scope - so I never had to be content with a "best" that was less than acceptable in my own eyes.
Strangely, over the next 12 years, God has talked to me quite a bit about this.
I've learned that though it would be churlish to offer God a fistful of wilted dandelions from the bottom of the garden when there are prize roses blooming too, there are times when the dandelions are absolutely fine. "Just as I am" applies to my creative abilities as much as to every other area of life, and, believing this truth, it seems time to work with it.
So, when I came home, I went online and have ordered a real live calligraphy set of my very own. You see, calligraphy is not a process you can rush...- and that's good for me in the sometimes frantic patterns of vicarage life.
It's a process that ensures that you engage deeply with your text...holding it in your thoughts, polishing it quietly til it you know how best to make it shine,and, as you might just have guessed, I love words.
What's more, it's something I'll probably never do very well - but that makes me happy too.
Even slow learners sometimes begin to get the message!