Artist’s Way Check In #5: About Possibility

Possibility is one of those big, vague words that leaves everything open. Possibility means we step forward and fill in our own terms. For some, it might mean backing up and looking around for a safe, well-defined place. That would be the denial of possibility. That would be the antithesis of living a creative life.

I’ve been thinking about possibility this past week as I’ve done more drawing, more journaling, and moved into another assignment to choose poems for a month over at Every Day Poets. And I had this new recognition about where the seeds for my own desires for this life path of mine came from.

People that know me well have heard stories about my parents that include both a sense of Catholic, working-class rigidity that I’ve done my best to leave behind, as well as stories about our annual summer road trips. Those road trips were the two or three weeks out of the year that most of the rules changed.

Here’s the basic outline. My father, a federal civil servant, worked full-time. My mom did not. When Dad put in for vacation, he always got a summer slot and he looked forward to driving away from Minnesota to pretty much anywhere. It was his thing to hit the road. My mom prepared everything that needed to go with us – clean clothes, toiletries, a cooler with snacks, the map that would lead us to a place that might have motels. Dad packed his own stuff, and made sure the car was tuned. And then, on a summer day – usually a Saturday, the first day off – we would head out as early in the morning as we could stand it.

This was before cell phones. Before personal global positioning systems. Before Internet hotel reservations. Before Doppler radar. And my parents’ only plan was which direction we were going to head and the target date by which we had to be back home.

I always thought those road trips were my dad’s thing. His escape valve. But I’ve been thinking about my mom lately and finally recognize that this was her escape valve, too. She rode shotgun in the best possible way: the co-pilot who never refused when Dad said, let’s take that road there because it looks interesting. Sometimes she was the one who said, let’s take that road over there and it was my father who did not refuse. Either way, there would be Mom, looking out the window, with an occasional request to stop so she could take a picture. She documented every single road trip with that famous rigidity of hers that allowed us to look back, years later, and know exactly where we were when any given photo was taken. She documented the way we embraced possibility.

What did this teach me? The luxury of not knowing where we were going to be on any given day taught me about when to use a map and when to ignore it in favor of my own sense of direction. My phrase, “The luxury of not knowing,” is deliberate. We were incredibly lucky that our lives offered this kind of possibility. We weren’t wealthy people. We didn’t have a fancy car, nor did we stay in upscale hotels. We stayed in little family-run motels, some of which were complete flea bags, but the adventure was what mattered. The acknowledgement that, even though our daily lives were rule-bound, there was still this opportunity to let ourselves stumble into the unknown and let things develop.

This, then, is where the seeds of my own wish for creating stories and poems, for making photo journals, were planted: that release valve that my family offered, that they planned for and saved for and then opened with abandon once a year.

Where do the seeds for your possibilities come from?

My father in 1973 in Lousiana – looking for the next possibility

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8 comments

  1. My seeds of possibility often come from my own daughters' vision, which seems to sometimes extend beyond my own. Their vision includes a can-do attitude, or a why-not attitude, both of which light a fire under me to respond to that 'tude and go wherever it leads me.

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  2. That's such a compelling question: where do our seeds for our possibilities come from? I always wanted to write and to study/work/live internationally, neither of which came from my parents. I honestly think it came from reading. I just remember getting swallowed up inside books I truly enjoyed. Believe it or not, at age 11 I started reading Time magazine, and I was mesmerized by stories about far away lands, foreign policy, different cultures. A few years (okay, many) down the road now and those twin strands are deeply woven into my life. The irony is not lost on me.

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  3. Lovely post! I love when you write: “She documented the way we embraced possibility.” This reminds me of my grandmother.

    Many of my seeds come from my mom. At the time, I didn't see them as seeds of possibility but rather seeds of do-this-or-else. My mother always knew what was good for me, still knows me better than I think I know myself at times, and I am grateful for her guidance no matter how hard I resisted it.

    Thanks for this moment today…

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  4. Fascinating post. Thanks for sharing Andrea. Seeds of Possibility were planted for me as I learned music over the years. I still sow them from time to time.

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