We often get very kind emails along the lines of, “Oh my, I’ve just discovered your work and it’s inspired me to [insert wonderful creative project here]!” 

As such, last week I felt it was only right to send my own version of this email to an author. Her work had surprised me with how much it affected me. It wasn’t a self-help book (which I generally dislike) or philosophy or any of the sorts of things that you might expect to be moved by, which is why it was a surprise. 

I guess we all have small thoughts or feelings which can actually be pivotal, tiny assumptions that we base our whole understanding of the world on… For me, it was apparently that I didn’t deserve the horse-based joy that I had experienced as a kid and teenager. What a silly belief to have! As if life is about what you do or don’t “deserve” anyway… I’m a big advocate for the notion that there’s no rhyme nor reason to the world, we just need to live lives that are as moral and thoughtful and beautiful as we can, even within the understanding that it doesn’t mean much beyond our own consciousness and shared experience. Plenty of people have put it more succinctly and elegantly than I ever will…  

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.

— Carl Sagan

Feeling that way about the world I generally feel very free, like we can do whatever we please. Yes, we’re limited and many of us across the world struggle within great hardship. Many people are never free from hunger or worry or fear. It’s quite easy as a relatively privileged and (thus far) safe English girl, living at this time, to say that I feel free. But I suppose what I mean is that I feel you should live a sort of constant becoming, a conscious flourishing, which doesn’t require the world to be in your lap… It just requires a small bit of headspace and awareness. Truth to your own nature, within the constraints of truth to morality and kindness. Anything else seems slightly wasteful. 

So thinking all that, how had I managed to not notice that I was denying myself something fundamental…? That I had been denying myself fresh air and animals for ten years, despite having grown up knowing it was a big part of life for me? Who can say. I have a theory. At any rate, the author hit upon things that brought me to this realisation last Summer and it took me six months of feeling shy and silly before I bothered sending her a little message of thanks. Silly Hampshire. We should always tell people when they’ve done us a kindness or brought us joy, though it is a vulnerable thing to do. 

And if people tell us likewise, we should be gracious about it! I sometimes see craftspeople/artists/designers getting cross when someone much newer to the craft messages them for guidance. Sometimes those requests are poorly expressed causing accidental offence, or sometimes it’s just the craftsperson being overly fearful… jealously guarding their work as though it could be stolen from them. (As an aside, I firmly believe your creativity cannot be stolen.) Or they feel under pressure to dish up free information and such like, then get angry about it. But I know how terrifying it is to contact someone you admire. Or to share an image of their work or to write about what aspect of their work has inspired you. As the recipient of such a message (or whatever it may be) you have a responsibility to be gracious and kind. Sure, some people might be pushing their luck but how much can you really tell from an email? And if someone does push their luck, so what? You can still decide how much it offends you or not. And if you’ve been asked for too much, give what you’re prepared to and politely decline the rest. Easy, simple, no need for drama. We’re here for a day.  

Anyway, I today received someone else’s version of the email I sent the author last week. Kind, complimentary, generous, saying that our work had inspired her (and I should point out, not being cheeky at all, the above paragraph was just general musing). Not every day is full of sunshine, but there are many opportunities open to us all to choose sunshine in small ways. To send a kind message of thanks, to receive a message graciously, to think the best of people, to enjoy all this fluttering whilst we can. Which once again brings me to my favourite passage from the poem “From Blossoms”. And I swear, I’m going to keep on sharing this final passage until you’ve all got it memorised… 

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

— Excerpt of “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee

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