Creativity & Infinite Space

Sky Above the Clouds II, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1963, oil on canvas

"My center does not come from my mind -- it feels in me like a plot of warm, moist, well-tilled earth with the sun shining hot on it...It seems I would rather feel it starkly empty than let anything be planted that can not be tended to the fullest possibility of growth."
- Georgia O'Keeffe

It's no wonder that some of the American women that I most admire -- Georgia O'Keeffe and Laura Ingalls Wilder -- both grew up on Midwestern farms where the prairie landscape was deeply embedded into their souls. When you are able to clearly see a vast expanse of land or water meeting the sky there is a sense of infinite calm and freedom. These breathtaking locations fill me with stillness and clarity. Living in the city, I sometimes feel a sense of urgency or frustration, wanting to desperately push the stifling buildings, trees, bushes, and cars aside to get a glimpse of that extensive, horizontal moment -- like a trumpeter holding a long, luxurious note. 

Underwater, Beth Hemmila, 2007, watercolor and pencil on paper

For me hints are the gaps, the spaces in between things, the holes in our speech, the impressions in pillows, and the scent left behind in a room. They are the reminders of what was once there. A horizon line hints at the gap between land and sky where we can just barely see how these two mysterious elements may be separate or touching. It is within this miniscule place of absence that I feel most alive and truly at ease with myself and the universe.

Yesterday when I sat on our deck, soaking in the fall sunshine, there was a moment when the birds stopped singing, the wind stopped blowing, the leaves stopped rustling, and planes stopped flying overhead. It was as if the world took a pause, an intake of breath and just waited silently for the next moment. In that small fraction of time, I felt the immensity of my freedom and the intimacy of an inner dialog with nature, allowing me the space to dream and conjure up my next creative impulse. 

I think Laura Ingalls Wilder said it best: "We who live in the quiet places have the opportunity to become acquainted with ourselves, to think our own thoughts and live our own lives in a way that is not possible for those who are keeping up with the crowd."


  1. Oh I am so moved by this post. I'm actually a little breathless, it resonates deeply. Thank you for introducing me to these ladies and thank you for being here and listening and inspiring us!


  2. Silence and stillness are truly important living here and now. =) And in case you didn't know, Pamela wrote a fabulous biography on Laura Ingalls Wilder that's up for an Oregon Book Award this year. (Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life By Pamela Smith Hill) You should check it out if you haven't already!

  3. Thanks for the kudos, ladies!

    Elise - that is so cool that Pamela wrote a book about her. We are suppose to do coffee some time and talk about writing, so now I'm super jazzed!

  4. I like the way you think! I enjoyed reading this post. You are one amazing being of light! You have such a way with words and you're super talented artistically on top of it too!!

  5. Erin, thanks for acknowledging my radiance! Can't wait to craft with words :)

  6. What an incredibly lovely post Beth! i feel that way too, but have never described it as poetically. I am lucky to live where the ocean meets the sky and every time I see that infinite blue, even if only momentarily from my racing car, I unsconciously draw a deep breath and slowly release it. A micro vacation.

  7. I loved reading this post!!! Thank you for that.

    Your artwork is absolutely beautiful.

    I too, have the same feelings, living within a big city. Somedays, you just need to knock down the barriers and get out (for me it is often through my imagination).

  8. Lora, I'm adopting your vision of a micro vacation!

    Cserdan, thanks for the well wishes! I too tend to spend more time in my imagination :)

  9. you are such a gem and have filled my heart with joy.


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