Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

night by Sandra Lee Schubert 2009

Sandra Lee Schubert


This Thursday I went to services at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. The service is called Maundy Thursday. It includes the washing of feet and the Cathedral going dark. That is the simplest explanation for this religious holiday. This post is not about religion but about intimacy, being in the dark and seeing new things. The washing of feet is reflective of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. At the Cathedral the priest kneel and wash the feet of each parishioner, it asks the recipient a willingness to be a bit vulnerable. You are not guaranteed you will get your favorite priest; the one who takes times with you, prays for you, takes care of you. The chance is you might get the clumsy priest, who doesn't look at you, and sends you on your way feeling a bit unwashed.

Isn't this how life works? You can't get a guarantee you will get the kind of things that will support you.

The service concludes with the church going dark. In the Cathedral that means a cavernous dark places, the echo of feet and voice, the chill of the spring night. A friend and I went into a chapel to talk. We haven't seen each other in a long time. We sat there having a very normal conversation about art, and creating a life completely in the dark. There was nothing but the shadow and voice to let us know we were there for each other.

At some point the lights were turned up a bit and cookies and coffee were put out for the people keeping vigil throughout the night. Still in this semi-darkness we continued the conversation until we finally moved to the baptistery, where the vigil was being held, to sit and pray.

When I left the Cathedral there was a brilliant full moon. I stopped to take photos of the moon and the Cathedral wrapped in shadow. I tried different features on the camera, zooming in, using the flash. It wasn't until I got home at looked at the photos on my computer that I can see the real differences between the shots.

The one I like the best was taken with the flash and is posted here. At first it looked like a black and white photo. Then I thought it reminded me of veins and capillaries. But when I zoomed in on particular areas I could see the buds on the trees. I thought if I searched further I could find a bird or two keeping watch.

The night is something we fear, shadows hold things we can't see. At the Cathedral I submitted myself barefooted and vulnerable to what could be possible. At first it would have seemed to be a disaster when I got the priest who could not honor me in the way I wanted. But later, in shadow, I could be intimate with someone else. Even if my friend did not take my feet in her hands she took the time to talk with me. The opportunity to talk about art, and money and our hopes and dreams is invaluable. At the end of the day we all want to be heard.

Creating can be such a solitary experience. Then we bring it out into the world and we can't guarantee if anyone will acknowledge our gift. In the dark things are revealed and what we thought was danger in the shadows is something much more. As a creator I struggle with demons. Sometimes those demons turn out to be friends I have forgotten and ignored. We all need to find out what the night holds, allowing ourselves vulnerabilities and intimacies to create.

Sandra's e-course leads people to be their creative best through telling their stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer who co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her sandraleeschubert(at) or @writing4life via twitter.

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