Confusion says . . .

2013 has arrived.  I have a very busy brain this morning, flying around at warp speed, a hummingbird landing on a thousand landing points—flowers, nectar . . . food, fun, gardens, Oyate project, books, books waiting to be born . . . completion.

Morning pages.  So, settle down, let it rest, sink in, set it all aside and be present to the next word unfolding onto this blank page.  It has no choice but to remain blank until I get there.  That is so true of all things in life—blank until we put something into the frame or onto the page.

I was thinking about the project we have wanted to do for years—the father project, stories about fathers.  A blank page until we put something on it.

An acre of land empty until we build something on it.

A square of earth empty until we plant something on it.

A mind empty until you put something in it.

Confusion and doubt are part of any new picture.

I’m constantly amazed at how Milt and I can be swirling around in confusion until we force the confusion to take shape.  It is like clay.  It has all the right things in it, this confusion, but because it is so uncomfortable it is easier to distract, side track, eat, watch TV, play games, have a beer or even just start cleaning house.  Confusion is not comfortable.  If I can otherwise occupy myself I don’t have to see what that big ball of confusion wants to become.

We have to work with our confusion.  We have to work the clay, throw out the rocks of doubt and fear, toss away what is not pure, and then work it and work it and work it until it begins to take the shape hidden in the clay.

An example.

For almost ten years we have been trying to figure out what we should do with our little (big) treasure trove of Native voices, music, and stories. Oyate Ta Olowan—the Songs of the People took us five years to produce.  We traveled over 100,000 miles into Indian country often in harsh conditions, taking boats, trains, planes, an old Dodge Caravan to make the journey–even going into debt to complete it.  There are 52 thirty minute radio shows of over fifty tribes.  In the ten years since we produced it, the value of this series has increased as many of the elders and artists have passed on–fragile voices caught in a fleeting moment of time.  Some of the songs can be traced back hundreds of years.

I’m straying from my main point.  Oyate is a huge, beautiful ball of clay.  A dozen times we have picked it up and then dropped it again because of confusion.  The sheer size of the material is daunting.   What does it want to become?

Finally, a month ago we began slowly, slowly to remold it into an audio museum that anybody in the world can visit with a single click on a keyboard.  Each show can be downloaded as an Mp3 for a small fee.  Click, click and you can be sitting on the desert floor in Arizona listing to the amazing sounds of a Yeome water drum sloshing in a bowl of water and wooden rasp keeping time.  Click, click and you are on a tiny island in the Aleutian chain in Alaska listening to a group of young Unungax people imitating the seagull as they dance.  Click, click and you are in the far north of Canada listening to two small Inuit women throatsinging.  Amazing.

We are nearing completion on this massive, eye-watering task.  We have two goals in mind—one is to preserve and share this beautiful series, and the second is to begin to support ourselves on past works rather than constantly seeking new projects.  (Do check out our beautiful lump of clay at

I’m liking the shape of this lump of clay.

So, in this beginning of 2013, we are once again immersed in the clay of confusion.  Our land is a beautiful ball of clay.  Many Kites Center is a beautiful ball of clay.  Each idea, each project is filled with confusion about how to proceed, and hidden within the lump is something beautiful and worthy of the time and effort it will take to shape it.

I know the beginning of a new year is a time to consider the next year or the next decade.  What do you want it to become?  Don’t waste your precious time in distraction and numbness.  Where is your lump of confusion, and what beauties does it contain?  Don’t run from confusion.  Pick it up, work with it, learn its properties, discard its imperfections, and then JUST DO IT.

My favorite saying:  If not now, when?



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Confusion says . . . — 11 Comments

  1. Hi Jamie;

    I’m curious about the word “listing” in your paragraph beginning “Finally, a month ago…”. Is that an error or intended. I like it as it is.

  2. Yes, Oh the many balls of clay. We are the lucky artists that can mold, shape, and create many dreams. I have a dream to pass on the wonderful work of Parker Palmer who encourages us to let our life speak. Thank you Jamie for the clay image. It certainly helps me regroup in this New Year.

  3. I am so thrilled to hear about your Oyate music project, and looking forward to being able to hear these things…I was listening today to a CD that I have of old recordings of music from all over Central Asia. Some of it is deceptively simple on the surface, (just a two stringed horse-hair fiddle, played rather slowly and melancholy, for instance) but entering into it, I feel an inner bigness that I don’t feel in modern western music much. My teacher, Martin Prechtel, starts every day’s session by playing recordings of some obscure music and has us guess where it’s from. Expanding our sense of aesthetics and human cultural possibility, and teaching geography at the same time! What a great blessing you have in that experience of recording, and thank you for making it available to the rest of us!

  4. Hi! I’m reading “Walking in This World” by Julia Cameron about finding and fulfilling one’s creativity, including writing daily pages. My oldest daughter gave the book to me as a holiday gift and along with it a notebook. So I’ve been working it. I’ve found that my “lump of confusion” is about my feelings/experiences related to my long-time partner’s death in October. His life. Who he was. How he lived his life. Our relationship. And now I’m looking forward to just doing it! Lots of love to you and Milt and–thank you for this great advice.

    • I haven’t read that one yet. I’ll have to do that. I also love Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones. Filled with creative entry points into writing! I find writing centers me like nothing else seems to do. Onward . . .

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