A Clear Horizon

The banner photo that you see was painted by my beloved and talented stepfather, Eric Peavy, in response to a poem I wrote. For a long time before the poem was published, I had gone to numerous galleries trying to find just the right seascape, but all of them had clouds, ships, sailboats, children playing in the sand, or just waves. I wanted only the horizon line between the sky and sea, no other features. During my search, the image was in my mind persistently, but I didn’t really expect to find it. Thankfully, once he read my poem, he comprehended what I wanted and painted it. Later, he added a sister-painting of the same horizon line depicted either at deep twilight or the earliest part of the dawn, and both of them bring me a kind of elation, hanging jubilantly together in the living room. I’m certain that I will carry this image in my imagination for the rest of my life. But why does it resonate with me so strongly?

It has something to do with writing, creativity, and focus. The landscape of my imagination is both cluttered and compartmentalized. Finding it easy to detach from one thing or another, I can roam around in the various compartments easily enough, but often I don’t seem to find the one I need. Instead, I veer off the magical path of productivity and concentration into another place, full of tasks and engagements which are either very important or inconsequential. Confusion seems prominent. Trying to find that region of the mind and delve into a writing project can become a wish, a dream deferred. Over the years I have learned that this is almost entirely an internal issue, not dependent solely on circumstantial elements. It relates to what I allow myself to ponder, accept, or deny. Beyond that, it has to do with what parts of my identity I am allowing to have a place. Is the writer going to be allowed in today, or only the struggler, the crisis manager, the laborer? Of course, I will often write anyway, but without clarity or focus.

In my spiritual life, I am also perpetually in search of a clear horizon, that place of communion that refreshes and renews my spirit. While the standard devotional practices can be enlivening, the desired deeper connection happens rarely. When I seek more earnestly, with intention and persistence, profound moments seem to occur. Fresh breezes invigorate me, and the clear horizon appears somewhere in my being. So the image also resonates into my spiritual life.

I must work through inner complications and find my way to the clear horizon more often. What are your obstacles to the concentration you desire? The focus you want? Or do you easily move into your writing activities without a struggle? My hindrances still seem somewhat undefined, nebulous, beyond my reach. Yet, I am preparing to venture out regardless of how it feels. I am taking my cues from people around me who seem to reach their goals, and friends who encourage me in particular ways.

Here is the poem that inspired the painting. It appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of A Clean Well-Lighted Place.

A Clear Horizon

Let there be yes,
and let there be no more
encumbrance upon it.
Let all be unconstrained and even,
sharp as a bright flash of light.

Each year the gulls sweep across,
the same raspy call; the view is hindered
by one thing or another – a boat with full blown
sails, a collection of clouds, or just a gray mist –
all acceptable by some standards.

But right now, a melted sapphire
in brilliant sun, the sea opens out,
the sky widens to unclaimed space,
and here is a startling edge,
like a line of perfect thought.

As for purity, this view
may be the final interpretation –
a clear horizon,
like a cleansed soul,
flawless and gleaming in the light.

10 thoughts on “A Clear Horizon

  1. Carla, your beautiful poem speaks for itself. There is no need for a visual image to go with it. However, the painting is also beautiful and when you take the painting, the poem, and the ideas that you give her about the horizon, it really gets my thoughts moving about that place where the sea meets the sky unencumbered by all the flotsam and jetsam that Whitman left us with! I thought of how we are asked to clear our thoughts in meditation so that our minds become this still and radiant.

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    1. Thank you, Luanne! Yes, the painting does provide a focal point for meditation. I recall your own blog comments about mindfulness, and I can relate this painting to that practice as well, though it mainly seems to provoke me toward creative writing efforts. What is the Whitman allusion?

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      1. In his poems about the sea, he’s always focused on the shore and the birds and all the “stuff” of the ocean. He makes it sound so busy, whereas you have taken away all the extras. 🙂 Yes, the mindfulness is something I have been trying to work on. I loaned my mother my mindfulness book because she took a course in it and I thought she would enjoy it.

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        1. I will have to look up some of those Whitman poems. Pondering the contrast of Dickinson’s poems about the sea. More things to look up! Fun. The best part of mindfulness, which can easily be applied to poetry, blogging, and reading, is the aspect of “savoring” moments. I am finding that practice to be nourishing and beautiful! I hope your mom will enjoy it too.

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          1. The best one is “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” but there are shorter ones. If he isn’t noticing something in the water or on the shore, it’s in the sky like birds or even stars.

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  2. Beautiful poem and paintings Carla. I like the spare clarity they speak of, the emptying of the mind where you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel the spark of creativity catch. My obstacles to writing vary – sometimes just a fallow period in which creativity feels lacking, sometimes procrastination, sometimes too many ideas to focus on just one.

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    1. Thank you, Andrea. I love your phrase, “spare clarity.” I seem to love minimalism in interior design as well as in art pieces, such as these paintings. As far as having too many ideas, how do you handle it? Do you work on several projects or just focus on one until it is finished?

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      1. I don’t always handle it Carla, sometimes it stalls me into doing nothing! I usually have a few things on the go – things that I’ve started – but then I do try to focus on one thing at a time to get it finished.

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    2. Thank you, Andrea! I am so blessed to have many creative people around me, and they inspire me in a few different ways. I felt utter joy when my stepfather grasped what I was after and then depicted the vision in a painting. I have had fallow periods too, and procrastination (ugh). The idea of having too many ideas sounds a bit appealing . . . 🙂

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  3. Andrea – I am experimenting these days with a couple of different methods for “getting things done.” The method I have often used is to focus on one project, whether a writing or household project, and get it done before moving on to the next one. My husband suggested doing a couple of hours on each one daily, so I am trying that too. The “focus” issue seems to occur with both methods! The joy of finishing things is the best motivator.

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