My wife and I are currently spending a month in Portland (Oregon, not Maine, though I would love to be in Portland, Me, as well).
There is an easy grace here, most noticeable in contrast to the almost hysterical frustration that is gripping people during this deep and interminable winter in America’s northern and eastern climes. The shoulders come down, the face muscles relax, the hair-trigger anger that comes to the fore when you step out into snow-laced ice and cold miraculously disappears.
I am not a believer in the theory that suffering is good for creativity. Suffering, whether deep and personal, or transient and environmentally-borne, fosters a desire to create in order to externalize and transubstantiate inner struggles. But it is only one source of creative energy. Excitement, dreaming, and the hazy lure of far vistas set the imagination ablaze as well.
Anything that promotes introspection or long vision fosters creativity. It is only those who live by simply moving through the events of the everyday, unaware of anything beyond logistics and the practical, who are in danger of lacking creative inspiration.
I do not know what will come out of this month amid flower petals rather than icicles, but it certainly will have a different timbre than what I would create back in Minnesota. Each place is a feast for the senses, though one has a bit of bitter gall to it, while the other is a sweet delight. What is important, more than the setting or the emotional response to it, is the openness to the coming transition from winter to spring. It is in the spaces between changing realities that the opportunity for real creativity lies.
I’m not sure how — perhaps from my dad, perhaps from some time in European cities where it was a standard social act — I somehow picked up the habit of shaking hands with someone at the end of an encounter. I like it; it seems natural; and it literally gives a human touch to interactions that are often otherwise impersonal transactions.
This came to my mind yesterday when a storekeeper took my hand with a look of surprise when I offered it to him at the end of our brief encounter. “Thanks,” he said. “No one shakes hands any more. It’s a good thing to do.”
SImple words, but true. “It’s a good thing to do.”
Give it a try. Something is passed in the human touch that cannot be passed in any other way. In an increasingly less civil world, it is a good way to reassert our common human connectedness and to remind us that there is a person, no less important than we are, on the other side of every encounter.