Stink and Creativity

I have an unusual but striking observation to share this day. In December of 2009 , just three months ago, we experienced a snowstorm in these mountains that was worse than any of the last 12 years. For nearly a week electricity was out, phones were out, roads were under feet of snow. I was without light or water (as it takes electricity to pump it from the well). I had to melt snow on the fire to get water to wash dishes or myself. Being someone who showers regularly under normal circumstances, the lack of bathing day after day was unusual for me. The experience being so survivalist and so extreme, however, I found that the odors of my own body – which are not unpleasant at all actually, just unusual for a regular bather – seemed to be comforting. I knew I was alive.

Tomorrow is my deadline for two big things  – an article I have been writing for about three weeks is due, and there is a big event at my home with musicians coming from Ireland to play and guests coming from every direction to hear them. All of the days of this week had been taken, so today became the day for finishing the writing and tomorrow the day for house cleaning, sink scrubbing, stuff sorting and cooking for maybe 35 guests.

This morning I got up and sat at my computer to work on the writing. I thought I would work for a bit and then take my shower. It is almost midnight and I have barely moved from this spot, so determined am I to not leave for tomorrow that which I KNOW I won’t have time for tomorrow. During the latter hours of the day I started detecting the natural body odors that I lived with during the long days of darkness without light and water, the smells that during a trying time seemed to mean survival. I know this sounds strange, but I have learned in my travels to less privileged countries that people who don’t have the abundance, or excess, that we have often just smell like themselves rather than soap. And I have appreciated that.

Since just smelling like myself rather than washing that away meant survival to me so recently, today my brain seemed to connect what I was doing with survival. I realized that the writing felt like survival for me. And I thought that probably when an artist is too well bathed, too sane, too on top of everything in the reasonable, rational, clean, lighted world their art is not wholly to be trusted. My mother would definitely not approve of my conclusion here, but the stink of my distraction makes me trust what I am doing.

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