We went to the grocery store this past weekend. I stopped to visit my favorite cashier. She’s an artist, like me. Hard to tell, on her Clark Kent days as she stands at the conveyer belt filled with coffee beans and carrots. Especially hard now that there are yards of plastic surrounding her.
Then again, not that hard when you know the signs. The green sticky note on her aisle encouraging people to be kind. The extra spunky skirt she wears. The energy she exudes, visible from behind the paisley mask and the clear shower curtain.
I wave at her from my side of the barricade. “How’s that class of yours going,” I ask in my new inside voice. “Great!” she says enthusiastically, then starts to tell me about it. I catch every third word, trying to fill in the muffled gaps. Something about a grant, somatic movement. I watch her eyebrows dance excitedly as she talks. I know it’s all a big deal, much bigger than the cash register she’s standing in front of.
“And how about you? How’s your work going,” she asks loudly as she hands me a pound of butter. “Fine,” I enunciate. “I’ve been working on some small pieces,” I shrug. She nods excitedly, pausing to hear more. A carefully spaced line starts to form behind me. Not enough time to describe the smattering of things that kept me busy that particular week. Next time. I give her a signal as I bag the last of the groceries.
She makes a motion with her hands that to an outsider must look like some sort of hand puppet pantomime. But I know what she means.
“Keep creating,” she signals, tapping her fingertips. “We’ll get through this.”
Creativity is about connection. I’ve never felt it as acutely as I do now. Yearning to speak my native language and have someone understand. Feeling the energy radiate off someone as they speak excitedly about their work. Going to lunch with a friend and frantically searching for a pen and paper to write down the ideas that flood into my brain.
It’s synergy. The new math. When one plus one equals dozens. When a stream of consciousness turns into a dam about to burst.
I miss it. All of it.
I’m not alone. I hear it from others, from a distance. Through a staticky phone call. Between the lines of an email. Muffled through layers of plastic. We all miss it.
It will come back, eventually. Until then, we find new ways to cultivate the energy, the creativity, the connection we’re all craving.