Listening to Cal Newport’s Deep Work on audible this week combined with the writing inspired by #bloginstead has confirmed something that has been forming for a good while. This something is the reason I started this blog and the MO behind much of the ethos in the way I think and live. If I had to choose a phrase to sum up my thoughts after this week it would likely be “depth not breadth.” I almost called this post “Follow the line,” but I realized that a spiral was a more accurate image.
I am going to provide a little bit of context here. When I chose the blog title “Just One Robin,” from a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson, it was for a number of reasons but primarily because I was inspired by the idea of “just one,” idea or focus at a time. It also eventually became an guiding phrase for my own journey in healing.
I have kept a running list in my journal of people I admired who had a focused commitment or theme in their lives and I will list a few here:
*Wilson Bentley (Snowflake) who is the reason we know what we know about the science of snowflakes. He lived in one area his entire life, devoting his energies to studying and photographing snowflakes.
* Basho, the Japanese haiku master. I learned about him years ago from a friend I taught with. She was a Basho scholar and had traveled to Japan on a Fulbright Scholarship to study haiku. I admired her knowledge and focus greatly.
*John Constable: he painted lots and lots of clouds which were turned into research by meteorologists studying clouds and weather patterns.
*Emily Dickinson: Is there a better example that a life can be productive and meaningful than this reclusive poet whose internal vision spawned almost 2,000 poems?
*Monastics(male and female) Where would we be without the constant prayers of those who have chosen to devote their lives to God and praying for the world?
*Frederich Froebel: one of my uber heroes and the inventor of what we now know as Kindergarten. He started his career as a crystallographer. His love of nature and patterns cemented in him the belief that there was an overarching unity in Nature and in Human Beings, which led to his creation of a revolutionary educational theory and practice.
*George Washington Carver: whose dedicated work in agricultural science and racial harmony added so much to both areas.
The list could go on, but I think the reader will get my point.
What if instead of dividing our attention among so many (even good) things we sharpened our focus to one or a few connected pursuits and committed to follow each one more deeply? What would that look like? What if we really became experts on what we loved, not to market ourselves, but just for the joy of knowledge and personal transformation?
Last May, I started an individual Emily Dickinson project (I have written about it in previous posts) not with the intention of becoming a Dickinson scholar, but just seeing what would happen when I took a person or topic more deeply. It has been fascinating. I have certainly read a good deal of her poetry as well as some biographical material and letters. But the connections that it has made in my heart and mind are more about how she “read” nature for meaning as well the fact that what many would consider a small life had such far reaching effects.
I have written already about what some of my focus will be for this year, but I am going to narrow it down a bit, choosing three main areas, knowing that like a mind map, there will be natural offshoots from each.
Creativity: block printing, Emily Dickinson, writing in this blog more regularly.
Education: Teaching my daughter, following my Froebelian spiral to see where it goes. Teaching art classes in our back yard studio. Reading whole books from beginning to end.
Health: (Spiritual, Emotional, Physical) Continuing to participate in parish life fully, follow through with 12 step healing process, keep learning about healthy eating and getting enough rest and exercise. Spending quality time with my family and a few friends that has me fully present and aware.
One of my guiding poems by Emily Dickinson poems says “The Soul Selects Her Society, and then Shuts the Door…” That sounds so unkind doesn’t it? But the reality is to focus well on a few things, it is critical to “shut the door,” on others. When we have our selected “society” of a few mindful interests then we can “open every door,”(another Emily poem) within those areas and plumb the depths to our hearts content.
Where will your spiral lead you? What doors will you open and close this year to go into another dimension?