The “lobsta” fishermen on Mohegan Island, Maine, take life not as “a problem to be solved, but a medium for creation” (Dorothy Savers, The Mind of the Maker) to a whole new level. During their off-season (which, for reasons of state politics, was already in effect by the beginning of August) they turn their traps and ropes into what my friends and I experienced as roadside art.
Who would think that traps, buoys and ropes could be so attractively stored or so beautifully displayed? It was so lovely that I wondered at one point if the island sponsored a contest to see who could use these utilitarian artifacts to out-create each other. But I think not. I think, instead, that they, being surrounded by constant beauty, could not imagine doing anything else. Ugly had no visible place there. (I’m not painting the island as paradise-humans with all their foibles live there, too Nevertheless, I rarely saw anything physically out of place, and the island isn’t that big.)
And I wonder how to carry the relationship between beauty and creative use of the materials of everyday life back to my context. It isn’t overtly pretty here-the Japanese beetles and I are in a fight for my roses, and my grass is slowly turning brown. My house needs more than “straightening” and my need to get organized for the fall is keeping pace.
But these meticulous fishermen challenged me to ask this question: How do I live within the beauty of a “medium for creation” approach when “problems” peak out from the roadsides of my life?
I think the answer begins with gratitude for the little things: the rose the beetle didn’t get to, the comfortable chair in my living room, one more year with my high school senior. (Yesterday I got tangled up in the unexpected expenses of high school. Life was a PROBLEM.) But when I am grateful for the beauty of the little things, I seem to have more room to approach the whole of my day in a composed and composing frame of mine.
I cannot live with spectacular beauty all the time. But by God’s grace I can turn my eyes and mind to the quiet beauty around me. Who knows? I may get inspired to create a bit of roadside art myself.