The Nourishing, the Nurturing

The artist that I live with came home one night after a concert (that he almost didn’t bother going to) saying it was lovely, the “kind of thing, you know, that feeds your own art.”

I’ve been thinking lately about being nourished and flourishing, some of the thoughts sparked by a text one day. I wrote about it, but the piece seemed so unwieldy and loose that I chopped some of it to publish then (here), and some for later (today!).

The nourishing: how do we feed our own art?

For me, it is theatre, art galleries, walking in the Phoenix Park, browsing through charity shops, cycling up the long hill home. I live pretty close to the Irish Museum of Modern Art and it was one of the first places I visited when I moved here in 1992, walking in alone through the castle gates, down the long silent avenue, through the archway into the courtyard where all around me was still and I wondered if I was even in the right place, not a soul in sight. There are exhibits that I’ve seen over the years that still make me ponder.

I am blessed to live in a city where the galleries are free, where you can wander in on a lunch break and head for your favourite painting and just sit in front of it for a few minutes. I can peer through the window of Francis Bacon’s recreated studio and relax knowing my study isn’t in such a terrible state after all.

From Finian’s Rainbow at a local high school and the pantos at the Yellow Point Community Hall when I was young, to the moveable feast of Irish theatre that is on my doorstep now*, I love the way sitting in a theatre pulls you completely into the world created by lights, props, words and real people, the way it all works together to create history, future and present right before your eyes. It feeds that need to be part of someone else’s story, to be the fly on the wall, getting the gossip first hand.

It is in these places that ideas flow. Or sometimes afterwards an image or phrase sneaks up on me, tickling me with a new thought.

And then there are times when you get to work as a team or a bunch, or you get to be part of someone else’s dreams, and it is working in the middle of good stuff, the place that is so conducive to creating, that not only makes you comfortable as you try to create, but also stimulates you, prompts, reminds, encourages, releases. And it’s often because of other people, just being there while they create. I frequently get sparks while I’m sitting in the middle of a trad session, the Irish music swirling around me, weaving images and ideas into my head.


In my twenties, I lived and worked with a performing arts company in central Europe. We travelled about two weeks out of every month, and in between times had an almost constant stream of visitors to our home. Many of our visitors and friends were artists, so there was a steady buzz of creative energy, inspiration, and all that visiting new places brings. Talk about nourishing: this was high-octane nutrition. I thrived.

It was one of the reasons I changed my studies to creative writing when I went back to Canada to finish my degree. That time, those people, affected me. Later, after many changes in my own life, I missed the connections and the challenging. Then, when life was being what it so often is — forward planning to get through the next few days, a lot of mundane tasks and wiping of noses — I had a moment of clarity when I realised that I actually live with an artist.

And since life has become a little less nose-wipey, we are able to look at doing some creative stuff together. But still it is incredibly difficult for us to carve that time for ourselves together as artists. Maybe we are just disorganised and not too focused. Maybe it is the habit of years, of having our attention split into many fragments. There is always something else to do, and because we’re not just here for the art and the creating it feels like we have to make appointments with each other to work on things.

In spite of all that, we are mindful of encouraging each other’s creative process. He recently took the day off (which cost the household money) and took on my usual Saturday running around so I could take part in a writing seminar (another nourishment). It does usually take effort for one to allow the other to have time and space.

The Nurturing: A friend, Cheryl Cutlip, former Radio City Rockette and founding director of Project Dance, recently posted a link to a video on Facebook. The video tells the story of Bono meeting Eugene Petersen, who wrote The Message, the Bible brought to life in contemporary language. What resonated with me was Cheryl’s status that she posted with the link:

There is just so much here. But, my take away is the beauty of an artist (in this case Bono) who recognizes the need for deep spiritual mentorship as a way to spur on new songs and new creativity. We sing and we dance because those who have gone before us are willing to embrace us and feed our souls.

We all need the people around us, the musicians in the circle, the actors and the painters creating for theatres and galleries and walls of buildings, the embracing, the feeding, the just plain loving. We need those who cherish us and our creations, and who make space and time and place for it to happen and we need to be mindful to do that for each other. Let’s not be starving artists.


* Irish theatre memories:

I saw ‘the peerless double act’ of Johnny Murphy and Barry McGovern in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Gate Theatre (with set design by artist Louis le Brocquy) the first week I moved to Ireland (so much happened in that first month or so), after waiting to get a ticket from the sold-out show. I went to Eclipsed in the Project Arts, by Patricia Burke Brogan, the first art to highlight the Magdalen Laundries. I was stunned. Down in the depths under Busaras, in the Eblana Theatre (who but the Irish would ensure their main bus station had a theatre in the basement?) I went to The Moon on My Back, another harrowing true story, by Pat Tierney, who used to recite poetry on Grafton Street. Recently, Signatories, a play based on those who signed the Irish Proclamation in 1916 and who were subsequently executed, began with people on the balconies of Kilmainham Gaol (where the signatories were held and shot) shouting, “Irishmen and Irishwomen…” and dropping leaflets on the audience below in the courtyard. White pages rained down on us in the deep chill of the gaol; as they landed at our feet we saw they were blood-stained copies of the Proclamation.



4 thoughts on “The Nourishing, the Nurturing

  1. You make it sound like good fun. I want to join you. I love the arts and talents that bring joy to the world with their music, literature, paintings, sculpture, etc. Of course we need them, and they need us. A song by Barbra Streisand sprung to mind reading this post, especially the last few paragraphs. She sang: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Even though she is painfully frightened of the stage, she has given her best to the world. I couldn’t imagine a world without talent and creative souls. We are truly blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

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