Penelope Freeh

Other People’s Words

Posted by on Feb 24 2016, in Uncategorized

Yesterday I worked from home, tying up loose email ends and attempting to catch up on admin stuff. I keep reminding myself that it is my privilege to be an artist in this world and that all the stuff that surrounds my art (grants, final reports, budgets, fundraising efforts, letters of thanks, etc.) IS also part of it. It is part of the deal that I signed up for, and I must take responsibility for all aspects. I do not need to know how to do every single thing, but it’s up to me to get the help or skills that I need. All this admin means that I get to keep making and doing the work. I can’t have one without the other. This is a hard truth that I continue to make friends with.


So while working yesterday I came across some words that I copied into a journal two summers ago during my McKnight Fellowship retreat at Tofte Lake Center just north of Ely, MN. They come from a book of blessings that Mary Ellen Childs brought along to share. Now, normally I kinda cringe at the word “blessing”, but in this case…


May the Angel of Imagination enable you

To stand on the true thresholds,

At ease with your ambivalence

And drawn in new directions

Through the glow of your contradictions


Holy cow do I ever love that! It’s like a blessing antidote. I mean, “ambivalence”, “contradictions”, these are my kissing cousins. To know that at least one other (anonymous) person gets this gives me such hope.


These days I am on rocky terrain (in fact, the surface of the moon, what with my new piece for Alternative Motion Project, but more on that later) with lots of overlapping projects and irons in the fire. I asked for this and I’ll say it again, it is my privilege. I am accessing my wild and domesticated sides, which leads me to another writing, this one by John O’Donohue from “For the Artist at the Start of the Day”…


May your imagination know

The grace of perfect danger,


To reach beyond imitation,

And the wheel of repetition,


Deep into the call of all

The unfinished and unsolved


Until the veil of the unknown yields

And something original begins

To stir toward your senses

And grow stronger in your heart


In order to come to birth

In a clean line of form,

That claims from time

A rhythm not yet heard,

That calls space to

A different shape.


Again I say, holy cow. I read (and type) these words again now and now I imprint them even more deeply into my psyche. They apply to so many things in my work and life, which is, in fact, my work. I’ve sometimes held my work at arm’s length because of other life struggles, but now I am ready to put it back on the front burner. Now that I choreograph, now that I teach, my work can happen even as my body continues to age and change. But really, while I still got it, I just want to dance.


So these words that are not mine, that do not belong to me in any way save that I stumbled upon them, help.