Repository 74: Ursula on Artists


Image courtesy National Geographic, picture by Michael Quinton


What do they do,
the singers, tale‑writers, dancers, painters, shapers, makers?
They go there with empty hands,
into the gap between.
They come back with things in their hands.
They go silent and come back with words, with tunes.
They go into confusion and come back with patterns.
They go limping and weeping, ugly and frightened,
and come back with the wings of the red-wing hawk,
the eyes of the mountain lion.

That is where they live,
where they get their breath:
there, in the gap between,
the empty place.

Where do mysterious artists live?
There, in the gap between.
Their hands are the hinge.
No one else can breathe there.
They are beyond praise.

The ordinary artists
use patience, passion, skill, work
and returning to work, judgment,
proportion, intellect, purpose,
indifference, obstinacy, delight in tools,
delight, and with these as their way
they approach the gap, the hub,
approaching in circles, in gyres,
like the buzzard, looking down, watching,
like the coyote, watching.

They look to the center,
they turn on the center,
they describe the center, though they cannot live there.
They deserve praise.

There are people who call themselves artists
who compete with each other for praise.
They think the center
is a stuffed gut, and that shitting is working.
They are what the buzzard and the coyote
ate for breakfast yesterday.

(written in the workroom of the Oak Society in Telina‑na)

from “Always Coming Home”, Ursula K. Le Guin (thank you to JA for my introduction to Ursula, I’m her newest, biggest fan;-)


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