Moving an introverted artist into the city is a bit like dropping a lamb into a lion’s den. The artist, drenched in all their idealistic naiveté, oozes easy pickings. It’s a mind and soul ripe for the taking. Or a heart calling out for breaking. There in the den, the empath awaits his fate, with very little knowledge of the impending demise it is bound to suffer. The artist gazes around, noticing life humming through the streets, never a moment of silence as the voices of lovers in bars brim with an unquenchable lust for each other. The infinite, manic drone of humanity seems heady enough to devour the sensitized soul.
All my life I have succumbed to the innate notion of needing to belong. There is a yearning for finding one’s place that only a youth can truly feel. There is a fear of becoming invisible, which sparks the desire to be seen. There is a fierce desire to be heard, to be a part of something bigger than the self. Hence, we flock to the city in our masses. For there lies all the potential to exorcise our fear of invisibility. In the city, the starry eyed wanderer has been granted a platform on which to perform – an escape route in which to hide away from consciousness, for all eternity.
“The people you interact with have no care for your past. They are all so enveloped in a sense of moment-to-moment survival that all baggage you carry in with you is immediately left at the door.”
I vowed to break this pattern of fear as I left the city in exchange for a small farm cottage in South Africa’s “Garden Route.” Situated on top of a lime green hill, which rests at the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, this postcard paradise stretches in its abundance all the way down to the coastline. Scattered through and amongst the valleys lie the homesteads of workers, patches of forests and rivers winding in and out of sight as they find their way to the ocean. Here, a serenity hangs over all things like a thick fog, and as such, easily clouds one’s perception that there exists any other world outside of this. It is so easy to forget your life before, or any life awaiting you ahead. All you have is the present. The people you interact with have no care for your past. They are all so enveloped in a sense of moment-to-moment survival that all baggage you carry in with you is immediately left at the door. They are only concerned with tapping from their daily lives any form of pleasure that their hands can find.
I have noted that the days here feel like years. A single second spent alone, truly alone with your heart, soul and mind, taxes you indescribably. You succumb to your raw being when you’re first met with this exceeding dose of consciousness. The overbearing weight of new found clarity leaves your mind running wild, and entire days can be spent piecing together the puzzle of your newly discovered reality. I combat this heaviness with a combination of prayer, oil painting, singing, cleaning, exercise, adventures and cigarettes. I have numerous spots around the farm where I go to read books from Zola, Hemingway, Hesse and Adiche. Mostly though, when I get to my designated space of rest, I am so overcome with quiet and beauty that I just stare out at the land and restructure my thoughts. When restructuring is not possible, I simply exist.
“I understand now, that in order to become fully free, I must rework my anxiety and insecurity into feelings of excitement and joy. I have to consistently meet every fear with a heavy dose of love and fill my soul up with so much of it that there is no room left for any other emotion.”
I know well that I truly thrive in limitless space and quiet, and I know that my life is rich and beautiful. In fact, I feel like I have crafted a life for myself worthy of a great artist’s approval. The more I come to terms with my human fears and call them out by name, the more I manage to see the wood for the tree. I understand now, that in order to become fully free, I must rework my anxiety and insecurity into feelings of excitement and joy. I have to consistently meet every fear with a heavy dose of love and fill my soul up with so much of it that there is no room left for any other emotion. On some days I come so close to grasping this and am overwhelmed by a relentless feeling of hope. That is the feeling I try desperately to keep a hold of on other days.
Now, as the sun sets, ochre and subtle upon the land, I hear a tractor humming home in the distance. From next door comes the feint mumbling of conversations in isiXhosa. I sit and watch how the final rays struggle to make their way over the distant hills and I pray for ever increasing clarity, the kind that makes a man of you. The kind of clarity that sheds light on every corner of darkness you harbor, and calls out all your inner demons. I pray that the long days are filled with beauty, wonder and wisdom. I pray to become a pillar of independence and unconditional, unwavering love. God knows, I am trying with all I have in me.