I took myself on an impromptu artist date recently. Why? Because it was 73 degrees on a January afternoon in San Diego and the rest of the nation was risking frostbite just by walking out the front door. There was no way I could stay inside with Mother Nature bragging so boldly out the window. As my sister eloquently urged me on Facebook: “Go. Outside. Now!” So I did.
My destination was Balboa Park, where I have annual passes to a few of the attractions. I first thought of visiting the San Diego Museum of Art, but as I walked past Santa and his reindeer glistening in the sun, I realized it would be silly to be stuck inside dark galleries on a day like this. I decided to walk to the zoo instead.
Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” describes an artist date as playtime for our creative consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve art, but it’s a solo excursion that nurtures the childlike part of ourselves that sees possibilities and adventure in the world. Most importantly, an artist date must be fun and not what we think would be good for us.
As I headed toward the zoo I looked up and I saw it: the aerial tram. “Yes!,” said my inner artist child. “That’s it!"
I entered two hours before closing time, and the sun was dipping behind the park’s bell tower but still gently toasting us on the ground. As I approached the entrance to the Skyfari I started to feel a bit self-conscious. There were only a few people in line ahead of me and I first noticed a family of four that fit the profile of typical zoo visitors perfectly. I wondered if they were confused by the professionally dressed woman standing behind them (at least I wasn’t wearing heels).
Then I saw another person in line. He was older, maybe in his 60s, and was clutching a half-eaten bag of popcorn. On any other day I may have felt sorry for him, but not today. Today I felt like he and I were members of a secret club.
The Skyfari was fun, though not quite as exciting as the anticipation of riding it, which is true for many things in life. It was still lovely to be alone up there, with the silence and beauty enveloping me. After disembarking I strolled down the hill, past the birds of prey to the Orangutan Trail. I stopped briefly to view my favorite of the zoo animals, then headed toward the entrance, greeting the flamingos on the way out.
As I walked back toward my car, I decided to stop by the San Diego Art Museum after all. Once inside I was drawn to an exhibit of black and white photographs in one of the upstairs galleries. When I entered the small space I noticed the photos were of dark cave images. My inner artist kid was not pleased. I skipped down the stairs and headed back out into the sunlight.
It was the middle of winter, yet today wasn’t a day for darkness. It was a day for life. And it cost me nothing. My inner artist child doesn’t require much to be happy, just some care and attention. And if I'm happy on the inside, it can’t help but spill over into in an abundant, joyous life. The best part is this feeling is accessible to each of us at any moment of the day. All we have to do is listen (and it doesn't hurt to live in San Diego!).
P.S. Treat your inner artist child to the 12-week Artist's Way Workshop, starting Jan. 22 & 23, 2014, at Hera Hub in San Diego. A few spots remain for the Wednesday evening class, and there is plenty of room on Thursday afternoons. For more information and registration, click here.