Last week I was part of the second gathering of SHARE, a project started by my friend and fellow writer Kathleen Lane. Here's the description from the blog, which you can peruse here: "SHARE is a monthly gathering of artists. For two hours we work independently on the same prompt, then share what we've made." SHARE is managed by Kathleen and another friend and writer, Margaret Malone. Two smart, fabulously talented women who've put together something really unique and enriching.
One thing that makes it unique is the variety of art involved. This time around we had four writers, one musician, one sculptor, one screen printer, one illustrator, one painter, one artist who works with graffiti, and one woman described as an interdisciplinary domestic artist. You'd think it would be impossible to organize a workshop of all these different types of creativity, but it went really smoothly. Everyone worked independently for two hours - Chad, the musician, worked by computer with headphones on - and in the end the variety of art that came out of one little word prompt was amazing.
The prompt was TEMPORARY. It was texted to me two hours in advance like a secret password to a speakeasy. (Except that texting wasn't so possible in the time of the speakeasy and you weren't likely to find one hidden in a loft next to something called a 24-Hour Church of Elvis.)
Thing is, when I got the prompt, I was busy writing an email to the editor of the Pacific Northwest Reader and then going through my essay to take out the double spacing between the sentences - something he thought he'd asked for but hadn't, so I wanted to take care of it right away - which means I didn't really have a chance to roll the prompt around in my head before arriving at SHARE late because I also had the time wrong. Consequently, and not so consequently, I spent almost the entire creating period writing stray bits of rubbish and wondering why I ever thought I had the brain power to do anything creative in my life and why don't I just jump out this window right now.
Until something I wrote down clicked and I was fine again.
I'll let the SHARE blog speak for the great and varied pieces that came out of the evening, but I wanted to mention one element that was very particular. Shawn, the interdisciplinary domestic artist, brought a huge bowl of goldfish, from which she spooned two or three fish into a glass or jar for each one of us. She said these were to be ours temporarily. In the end, we could decide whether to keep the fish or give them back.
I had three - one completely gold, one a golden sort of white, and one mostly gold but with white at the bottom of the mouth. I remember this because I spent a lot of time throughout the evening picking up the jar and looking at them. Even writing about them a bit before I got a hold of what I was going to really write about that night. One of the interesting things that happened to me because of these fish was that I started to notice I had a lot of ownership attached to them even though they were only temporarily mine. For these few hours, they were mine. And as such, they were the best ones and lived in the best glass. I pitied everyone else for their inferior fish. Well maybe not, but mine were hands down the prettiest and did the best things. I watched one of mine hang in space, fins going hummingbird fast, and make tiny, jerky movements backward as if finding its own way to pretend it was moving forward, to own great distance, while it was confined. From this, I concluded that mine was an extra-intelligent, I daresay creative, goldfish. And poor Kathleen's three just bonked their faces against the glass like little fishy doofuses. There, I've said it.
But thinking about temporary while you have your temporary goldfish on the table in front of you does remind you of how temporary ownership really is. We hang a lot of security on ownership, yet in a way, every bit of it is temporary. Our ownership of our homes, our books and CDs and stacks of plates, the gardens we plant, the old letters we save, our relationships, our memories - all temporary in one way or another. The very cells of us, dying and regenerating so we're not even physically the same us in the end that we were in the beginning.
The other thing that happens to you if you have a glass of goldfish is that somewhere along the line you're going to almost drink it.