North American Black Bears sleep through winter in a deep restful state known as torpor. During summer, females weigh 120 to 180 pounds. To prepare for winter she forages for high fat foods. Nuts, berries, carrion, insects, and small mammals are consumed. She will increase her body weight and, then loose up to 30 percent over winter. Bulky body weight protects mother bear during her long nap. In January, she births two or three cubs. Aboriginal legends, received as oral tradition, describe a treat she offers her cubs as they begin to nurse.
Mother bear hoards blueberries in her den prior to winter. As she slumbers, she cradles the precious fruit in her paw. When cubs are born, they will taste the berries she protected and consume mother’s milk. She provides berries for her cubs’ sustenance and mother’s milk for their nourishment. When cubs leave the den and climb to the world, they have tasted what will sustain their lives. The imprint of blueberries will guide them as adult bears when they forage for sustenance beyond mother’s milk they consumed as cubs. So the legend is told.
Each morning I wake from my slumber to forage for what will sustain my life. Food, family, friends, work, community service, a spiritual life, health, and shelter nourish me. The fruit I have tasted, like the cubs, sustains me. My blueberries are my passions, which are primarily to write and compose music. Although my life is full of nourishment, I am challenged to connect back with the passions that sustain me.
Much like the cubs, as children, we tasted our passions. Ask a child if they are creative and they will say they are. Ask an adult the same question, and they will likely tell you they are not creative. What happened as we moved from childhood to being an adult? Ken Robinson in Finding Your Element, points to culture and educational systems that promote conformity. We were taught to put round pegs into round holes to meet the needs of our industrialized economy instead of to pursue our creative passions.
Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, suggests we have a genetic bias toward tribal existence instead of the individualistic pursuit of our passions. Our passions and creative pursuits sustain us, and our communities as well. We feel guilty when we feel we have neglected our tribe in pursuit of personal aspirations. We are challenged by genetics and culture to follow our passions when it’s necessary for our sustenance.
As a young cub, my mother sustained me with music. My high school band needed horns. I played trombone. Our living room piano wasn’t right for me so I tasted rock and roll. “I’ll be a musician some day,” I told myself as I danced in my parent’s basement den. School, marriage, family, home, and career delayed my plans. During this time, I never forgot the taste of my blueberries, the music that sustained me.
By mid-career I decided to write a rock and roll song. Twenty years later, I co-produced my first EP album. My precious fruit became songs of soul cradled within an EP album’s protective jacket.
I achieved my passions late in life. I have welcomed a piano into my home. I still consider, however, shelving music to accommodate other commitments in my life. Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist, describes his experience with a decision to delay a creative passion. He gave up guitar to make time to write. Without guitar, he felt the “phantom limb,” which he had severed from his creativity. When we seek to be creative, it is necessary to practice creativity in all aspects of our lives. When we eliminate one or more passions from our lives, we feel loss akin to a missing limb.
When I suspend my music practice, I feel my phantom limb. The semblance of loss reminds me to return to and taste the fruit that once sustained me. When I write, compose, and perform music, I feel complete. I am sustained. I thank all mothers for the precious fruit that sustains us.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.