Lavena stands in the center of the meadow and surveys the view around her. Everything is perfect, consistent, and… boring.
Tipping her gaze above the treetops she surveys the view again. At first all she sees is blue sky and clouds and then she sees... something else. Just beyond the trees to the north of the meadow the ground rises up. Trees follow the ground as it rises, but start to thin out until there are only a few still clinging to the incline. Rocks and dirt jut up into the air. A thin trickle of water can be seen cascading down from heights where the ground disappears from view hidden by a crown of clouds. Every so often Lavena can see ledges and green patches. She does not know yet what a mountain is, but she is in awe of this thing. It is not boring. It is lovely and lush, yet it is also savage and unruly.
Lavena wants to go explore the mountain, but it is scary and big and does not have the promise of comfort that she has here. She waits. She watches the mountain. She is laying in the middle of the boring, safe meadow when she is struck with a realization. The meadow is safe, but it is no comfort to her. She is protected, but she is not happy. With this new realization she gets up onto her feet and starts walking in the direction of the mountain.
She walks into the forest with an excitement buzzing inside her. She passes the safety of the protective forest, the trees that all grow exactly alike. In the shade of the branches she continues. The trees begin to change. She notices that outside of her circle of protection the trees begin to vary. Branches grow at odd angles. Some trees have trunks that twist and turn. The variation interests and excites her.
She continues on until she reaches the base of the mountain. Here the trees are still surrounding her, still varied, but now they are spread out farther. The ground becomes uneven. Roots bulge from under the earth. Rocks litter the forest floor. Small shrubs fight for the sparse light that reaches down through the branches. With wonder in her eyes, Lavena takes in this new knowledge. Taking in a deep lung-full of air, she is ready to climb this mountain.
Beyond the forest existing at the base of the mountain is the rocky terrain where a few trees still grasp at the ground. The rocks are a glittering myriad of grays, browns and blacks. Small pebbles cascade down the steep incline like a golden river sweeping down from shimmering rocky heights. Lavena steps into the river of gold. The pebbles shift beneath her weight and crunch under her feet.
On a particularly steep incline the pebbles sweep away too quickly beneath her feet and Lavena is pulled down sliding on her hip. Her hands and feet scramble to find anything to slow her fall. A gnarled tree branch offers itself and Lavena grasps it. She pulls herself to her feet holding tight to the tree. Her hip is bruised. Her legs are scratched. Her shoulders ache.
Lavena thinks to herself that perhaps she made a mistake. She looks back towards the meadow she left behind, towards the safe and boring. No, she tells herself, she doesn’t want to go back. Slightly sore Lavena heads back up the mountain. This time she is more careful about her steps. This time she looks for other ways to keep moving toward the top.
After a while Lavena reaches a flat spot on the side of the mountain. This ridge cuts into the mountain just enough that Lavena can rest. She leans her back against the stone and stretches out her legs. The ridge stretches out around the curve of the mountain. Looking down at how far she has come Lavena is proud. Look at how much she has accomplished!
After a short break Lavena follows the ridge. She does this for a while, proud of her progress. However, she soon realizes that this path may be easy, but it will not take her to the top of the mountain. She looks up. The way above is difficult and without a clear path, but it isn’t impossible. Grasping at the roots of snarled trees and jutting rocks she climbs.
Lavena keeps grasping up the mountain. Keeps getting closer to what is hidden beneath the clouds. Sometimes she falls. Sometimes she slides back and has to climb a section of it all over again. Sometimes she finds a ridge to rest on. Sometimes she rests on that ridge a little longer to let her scraps and bruises heal. Sometimes she stays on it too long and forgets she is meant to climb. The climb is long. Seasons change. With these changes come new challenges. Sometimes she changes her path, but she never gives up on moving up.
Lavena spends the rest of her life climbing that mountain. Although she did break into the clouds, she never does find the top. The climb is rewarding, exhilarating, frustrating, discouraging, fulfilling, and generally a lot of hard work. And it is so very worth the effort.
Artists constantly walk this line where at one side there is belief and passion in our talent and another side that says we aren’t good enough or life is trying to hold us back. The line is not a straight one. It is not always easy to see. It is possible to walk with one foot on both sides. It is littered with landmines, sharp rocks and unexpected turns.
The worst of these struggles for me is the one where I feel super-competitive, incompetent, forgotten and frustrated. That space where we feel like the no-talent police are just grinning at me and sucking the life out of every accomplishment I’ve made. In this space I will watch someone else climb the mountain and get farther than me. I will be so focused on how upset I am that their path allowed them to reach higher up the mountain that I will forget to focus on my own path. You can guess what happens when we lose focus of our own climb.
Focus on your Artistic path. Make your climb in the best way you know how. You may never reach the top, but is that really the goal anyway?