>Musing on Muses: The Mixed Bag Ladies

>Yesterday I started working on a personal essay for a magazine that sets a theme for each issue. The issue I’m submitting to is about “Creativity,” and the guidelines mentioned “your Muse” in its list of suggested sub-themes. It set me to thinking about the various areas of my life and who/what inspires me in each of them. hmmmm….

I could write about my spiritual life, but how could I do justice to Saint Mary of Egypt (my patron saint) and my Guardian Angel and the countless others who strengthen me in the battles of life… in under 1200 words?

I could write about “the writing life,” and enumerate my muses, living and dead… those who set the bar for painting with words (like Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy) and fellow fledglings like me, who can barely even see the bottom of the bar. Fellow writers I’ve met at conferences and workshops are certainly among my muses, (a few of us are starting the Yoknapatawpha Writing Guild with monthly meetings in Oxford) as are the early readers for my current project. Of course there are other kinds of muses that inspire me to write every day: friends who are fighting tremendous personal battles; children who throw themselves at life with abandon; sangria sunsets on favorite beaches; blue glaciers (yes, blue) in Alaska; song lyrics born of young hearts on fire and old souls still aflame. All inside a personal essay? hmmm….

I could write about the ancient tradition of Byzantine iconography, and the pious iconographers who have carried the torch from the Holy Apostle Luke, who painted the first icon (of the Mother of God) up through my favorite contemporary iconographer, Photios Kontoglou. But again, under 1200 words?

Or … I could write about something a little closer to home. A little more earthy. Like the Mixed Bag Ladies. Notice there’s no link to the MBL? That’s because we don’t have a web site or a blog or anything. We’re just a group of artists who work in various media and share a love for the beauty of God’s creation and the joy of exploring ways to invoke a response to that beauty. Or sometimes it’s a response to the shadow side of life… to the brokenness that is often an important part of the art we create. The group was started by my friend, Julie, who teaches art and is working on her MFA at Memphis College of Art. Julie hosted our first gathering in July, and encouraged each of us to bring something to work on. Sue, who was a fine art major in college and has continued to study classical realism, brought an oil painting of a scene by a lake in Arkansas, one she started when we were at a friend’s lake house together. Jenna, who also teaches art, brought an acrylic portrait she was working on. And Julie alternated between reading to us from books on art and creativity to working on a pot at her wheel. I took a poem I had recently written, “Wide Margins,” and illustrated it with gouache and watercolor markers. Our working name for the group is “Mixed Bag Ladies.” So, once a month as we gather, these gals are definitely my muses. We also enjoy wine and music and laughter and encouragement… all good soul food for artists and writers and… well, people.

I still haven’t decided what to write about for the magazine, but I’ll let you know when and if it’s published. In the meanwhile, I hope your own muses bring you joy and inspiration as mine do.

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