Each month, the team at Experience Life strives to put out a balanced publication so you can be enriched and encouraged to live a holistic, healthy, inspired and informed life. This includes fitness and healthy eating, as well as creativity and balance. These last two look different for everyone because we each have different levels of comfortability.
I have a low threshold for cold, snowy, dark, winter months, so it takes extra effort for me to remain balanced during this time. My creativity wanes, my mood dips, my motivation to exercise struggle, my energy is sapped, and my desire to consistently eat healthy food ceases. All winter long, I push through. I try to find things that I enjoy and create a structure for so I can accomplish these small feats.
This year, I’ve been compiling a list of coffee shops (I have a theory that a coffee shop either does hot cocoa well or chai well) and independent bookstores in the Twin Cities area. The goal? To get myself out of my apartment and enjoying life, even if I have to shovel my car out from under a few feet of snow. I find that as I force myself to do these things, I regain a bit of motivation, feel more like myself, and a bit of creativity sparks.
During my hot cocoa/bookstore research, I came across National Poetry Month, which has been celebrated each April since 1996. This led me to google “poetry in the Twin Cities area.” This bunny trail, taking me far from hot cocoa and bookstores, led me to a marvelous, inspiring find: the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project by Artist in Residence Marcus Young from St. Paul, Minn. Residents of any age can submit original poems between March 14 and April 13. Those chosen will win cash prizes and have their work pressed into the sidewalks around the city.
In “City of St. Paul Announces Fifth Annual Saint Paul Sidewalk Poetry Contest” at http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=4912, it expresses Marcus Young’s passion and purpose for the project: “I love how the poems are part of people’s everyday lives,” said Marcus Young, creator of the project. “Poems quietly appear on sidewalks and create softness within the hardscape built and maintained by the City. In this imaginative space, St. Paul residents write their thoughts, dreams, and stories in poetic form for other residents to come upon and read.”
What I love about this is the seamlessness of poetry in the everyday, cut into a concrete slab. A word or image that is capable of pushing your life in a new direction, or causing you to pause and take a breath. You may be thinking at this point, I’m not a creative person. In Experience Life magazine’s March 2008 article by Jon Spayde, Get Creative it says, “Creativity doesn’t begin and end with a finished painting or completed novel. It begins with the smallest step in a new direction, whether that’s turning off the TV or waking up three minutes earlier than usual to scribble down your dreams. You can use every problem you face as a way to be creative. That means becoming creative is not an airy-fairy process of turning ‘arty’ — it is a very concrete process of meeting challenges in the real world.”
Just as I compiled lists of coffee shops and bookstores to help me face the challenges of a Midwestern winter, there are numerous creative ways to look at and live our lives. In a sense, creativity is practical. As the poetry is integrated into the concrete, altering the smooth gray cement, we can alter the way our lives are by taking the time to balance them out and live more skillfully — in fitness, health, financial management, relationships and communication. When I apply creative principles to managing my money, it becomes less of an intimidating, frustrating part of my life and more enjoyable and seamless. For great suggestions and tips for how to do this, check out “The Skillful Life“(June 2008).
So if you wander the sidewalks of St. Paul as they dry out from this long winter, be sure to look down, taking in the colors of green grass, flowers, and poetry etched in time. It may add a quiet balance to your day, if only for a few seconds — an enriching moment that stirs your inner creative flair or helps you creatively meet a practical challenge. And you can continue on the journey you’ve been treading, transformed into a more whole version.
Interested in participating in National Poetry Month or learning more about St. Paul’s sidewalk project? Check out http://www.poets.org/index.php for 30 ways to celebrate or http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=4912 to submit your poems.
Sidewalk Poetry: Taken from cathedral-hill.blogspot (Portland Avenue, St. Paul, Minn.)
http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/47 (About National Poetry Month)
http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=4912 (City of St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry, information and quotes by City Artist in Residence)