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I went quiet when I finished my six months of daily leaves and got COVID the same week. It took me a while to get my energy back, and a while longer to settle into my new practice. It has finally taken its form for the rest of the year: to do art first thing in the day, over a cup of tea, for five minutes.

“First thing” for several reasons. One is that I feel terrific when I start my day this way. At best, like today, I spend the rest of the day humming with ideas, and at worst, when no inspiration comes in the art room, at least I have checked it off. Also, I hate to say this because people judge you, but I’m a morning person. And finally, on those days when something intrudes, such as I left something important undone on the previous day’s work to-do list and have to get to it right away, or my daughter misses the city bus, I still have the whole day ahead of me. Planning an art session for after dinner does not allow for this wiggle room.

“Over a cup of tea” because so much that I’ve read about creating habits says to attach the hoped-for habit to a trigger. I like starting my day with tea, so it’s nice to brew a cup, bring it down to the art room, and sip while I work. Also, it takes about five minutes to drink a cup of tea.

“Five minutes” because a very small amount of time helps me to overcome resistance. I’ve discovered this over and over with the garden. If I look out there and see it could really use an hour of weeding, forget it. That’s daunting. Even half an hour feels like a chore. But if I just go out and weed for a few minutes, I get into the groove and don’t want to stop, and often I do spend an hour or more in the garden, and I enjoy it, too. Some days that happens with art and sometimes I’m glad that five minutes have elapsed and I can go do something else. But I have still done five minutes. And today was a perfect example of what happens when I keep doing that. For the past few days I’ve spent minimal time and felt uninspired. But they seem to have sat on a shelf in my mind the way a pot of lentil soup sits in the fridge overnight, with the flavors blending and enriching each other, so that it tastes much better heated up as leftovers. Today, the things I’d been playing with in this desultory way connected with an old project that has roots 30 years deep, and now I feel the little sparks going pop pop poppoppop pop. I love that feeling, and I love what I’m learning from the confluence of these two projects.

Maybe I’ll share more about them soon. However, something I added to the practice after talking to my spiritual director was an intention, in general, not to post photos of what I make, because I am trying to open up space to play and explore and not worry about outcomes. I impose enough judgments on myself about outcomes, without seeking out others’, positive or negative. So I’ll mostly just write about them (and haven’t done even that for the past couple of months). However, a couple of weeks ago a preoccupation with labyrinths met a question I was wrestling with, and together they inspired this. And I did stay playful. And I (mostly) don’t care if anyone else likes it.

Diptych: Judgment, Curiosity. Graphite and colored pencil, approx. 12 x 18″. (c) Amy Zucker Morgenstern, August/September 2022

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