All Roads Lead to Dot’s House: Why Creativity Sometimes Needs Broken Promises.
Living up to your word is powerful, but sometimes creativity requires the very opposite: broken promises and changed plans.
As grownups, we’re taught to be responsible and reliable, and whilst I am not debating the value of these qualities, I do question whether they should be given as much importance as they are.
Remember when you were a kid, and the most important things were fun and adventure? And how happy that made you?
Let me give you an example: A memory from childhood, of growing up on a farm with two younger sisters…
We saddle the horses, and tell Dad we’re going on a really long ride.
We head out through the gate near the chook house, past the haystack, through the graveyard where farm machinery goes to die, and into the bush that covers the hills above our farm.
We ride along the track, mostly used by escaped sheep, a few meters in from the fence line. We canter and giggle and grab fistfuls of wattle blossom and throw it at each other like confetti, until we reach the Top Gate, which leads from the treeline down through a couple of paddocks to Dot’s House. (Dot is our grandma.)
Dot’s house is a Victorian era beauty, with a rusting bullnose verandah that stretches around the north and east sides of the house. It is embraced by an English-style garden full of roses, geraniums and seasonal blooms including crocus, hellebores, lily of the valley and hydrangeas. And there’s also a sizable orchard, the source of homemade marmalade, lemonade and bottled peaches.
We deliberate briefly: should we keep riding over the hills on the long ride we had declared to Dad, or should we visit Dot?
“Let’s just call in for a quick drink,” we almost always decide. (Dot always has sarsaparilla and fun projects on the go.)
We head down to the cattle yards. Because we intend to stay only for a quick drink, we don’t unsaddle the horses. We just loosen the girths and loop the reins through the cheek straps of the bridles.
There’s no surprising Dot. She has a sixth sense when it comes to visitors. As we approach the garden gate, she’s already outside to greet us with a happy Hello girls. She gives us all wonderful Dot hugs, cups our cheeks in her smooth wise hands and says, “Ooh, you’ve got cold little faces.”
Dot always seems to be in the middle of something very interesting — like baking biscuits or jam tarts, or whipping egg whites and sugar for macaroons — which she lets us scoop our fingers through and eat raw. Or she’s got her sewing machine out on the kitchen table, making or mending something.
Whatever she’s got going on, she’ll create fun little side projects that make us feel included and special.
Some days she’s out in the garden, and we become absorbed with collecting fruit in the orchard, picking bunches of violets, roses and geraniums, or potting seedlings and cuttings to somehow take home.
We forget time, and after half the day has passed in blissful crafty grandma-time, we remember: “Shit, the horses!”
We give Dot quick cuddles and race up to the cattle yards to check on them. Sometimes we find that they’ve rolled and their saddles are hanging down under their bellies. (Shh, don’t tell Dad.)
We put the saddles back in place, jump on and ride home via one of two routes: either directly across the paddock, or around the road and up the driveway. Both ways involve galloping. Dad tells us we shouldn’t gallop the horses home as it teaches them bad habits.
So we keep it hush hush.
We reach the bottom of the driveway and line up. The horses get fidgety; they know what’s coming. We like to think we’re in a scene from The Man From Snowy River. We look at each other. “Ready?”
We lean forward, grab fistfuls of mane, then yell in unison, “Go!”
The horses leap into an instant gallop, and we race up the driveway, giggling and crying with happiness, dust billowing behind us.
As we near our house, we pull the horses back to a walk, then cruise up as though we’ve been walking the entire time. We kid ourselves that Dad won’t notice the puffing and sweating… or the dust, for that matter, which, for most of the year, is abundant.
He asks us how our ride was, and we look sheepish as we tell him we went to Dot’s house. He rolls his eyes with mock exasperation, and says, “All roads lead to Dot’s house!”
If we’d always kept our word, we would have missed out on countless afternoons of fun and quality time with Dot. And now that she’s gone, I am so very grateful we broke promises and didn’t keep to our word.
And it’s the same with creativity. There are times for sticking to schedules, and doing the work. But there are also parallel universes of creativity that are only accessible in between times, overlapping other plans, and rebelliously flying in the face of promises.
Wisdom is knowing when to turn left at the top gate, instead of continuing into the hills.
Leonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter and editor working with people and businesses that make the world a better place. She’s also a mother, flower-loving, get-her-hands-dirty-veggie-gardening, coffee-drinking, Yoga-teaching, sometimes swearing, adventurous and passionate woman of too many words. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly(ish) blog.