Many of you have been asking me for years to create an introduction to Intentional Creativity – a starting place.
But we are ‘cart before horse’ people for a reason, and this is that story. I will tell you about how we came to be known this way. For us, the cart, which carries our goods to market and to the next village, is what necessitates a horse in the first place. But then every girl wants a horse, or a unicorn, right?
If you aren’t familiar with the expression cart before the horse, it is a 16th century figure of speech from the Renaissance suggesting something is contrary or backward from the logical order. A horse pulls a cart, and the cart is behind the horse. Over time it has come to mean that someone isn’t ready for the big thing because they should do the
small thing first.
Imagine this. My teacher and mother of my heart, Sue Hoya Sellars, taking one of her first clay classes in the sixties. She had been trained in wood and metal and stone and paper and paint – but clay was less of a focus. It was time, because all artists must learn as many mediums as possible, according to her teacher, Lenore Thomas Straus.
Sue registered for this clay class with a registrar at the College of Marin, Helen Davis, who would, many years later, become my paternal grandmother.
So, Sue is in this class and she wants to make a 3-4 foot sculpture. The teacher looks at her and says: “Don’t you think that is putting the cart before the horse?”
Well Sue did indeed do a hand-built sculpture and got it fired, and it was epic – it was of a child named ‘Scott’ who was the son of a woman she knew. Scott had been hurt by an abusive person in his life, and Sue was a child advocate from the start. The sculpture was always just called ‘Scott’, but I had never met Scott or learned about why he was the focus of a sculpture.
Well a few months ago a woman came into the gallery. Sue had taught her to work with clay way back when – and this woman knew who Scott was! She was the one who told me about the abuse that Sue wanted to stop, so from an early age Sue was wanting to care for children – she too was in an abusive home. Towards the end of her days, all Sue wanted to do was focus on children being safe, and for her – ironically for this topic for today – that included children being near horses in her paintings.
At the time of the sculpture creation Sue was so young, in her early thirties, but the Scott sculpture became a kind of naïve magnum opus in a way – a cart before horse sculpture – with hands and fingers and feet and a face: no small task. It must have taken the entire kiln in that student lab – which if you know anything about student clay labs,
that is pretty much hogging the fire.
For me, the cart before horse means that, before I invest in the horse, I must build a suitable cart to justify the need for a horse. So yes, I build the cart first. The cart informs what goes into the cart, and the content that goes in also informs the cart’s shape. Then we figure out how to make the cart do what it is designed to do – carry the work of the maker – so then we need a horse. Although again, I will say I definitely desire a horse over a cart, but then I’m an entrepreneur…
This also reminds me of the time my sister Shannon wanted a horse so badly, but there was no way for that to happen financially – so my mom Caron and Sue got her a bridle. Sue believed that if we got the bridle, the horse would come. I’m seeing a theme here! Well years later, when the horse didn’t come, Sue painted my sister as the horse, a centaur, a red roan: the horse my sister always wanted. And now finally, even though Shannon (aka The Cinnamon Cowgirl) no longer rides for health reasons, my sister has her horse. Sometimes these things take time to come to being. But sometimes, the bridle represents the dream in motion. My sister and I have imaginary horses that meet up in the dream time – their names are Destiny Miracle and Commander, and they meet at Red Rocks. They carry us to the place we meet that is not in ordinary reality.
So that is how we became ‘cart before horse’ people. I began teaching my work with a super complex depth course called Legend that was all about claiming your story and your own archetype. No biggie. Just a big ole sparkly cart that was designed to last a lifetime that now thousands of people have taken a big ole adventure in – and that I repeat annually (#bigcart).
But before we get to that, let me tell you how Legend came to be – my mother Caron was a fashion designer. Her tagline was this: “If she really did have only one dress to her name, it would be a Karen Johnson.” (Yes, that was her name then. We are also people who change our names to be more beautiful.) We came from not having resources, but we did have skill, which was even better. My Mama and my Grandmother Eden made our clothes, our bedding, our curtains, and even our underwear. So this is the idea: that if a woman could have only one great dress, it would be this dress. It was called The Forever Dress and it was her first design, and it was in denim. If you have one dress, it better be a good one, right? Right.
My mother Caron from then on would use that ‘one dress’ framework to think about things that are precious. So one day at Cosmic Cowgirls in Healdsburg, oh so many years ago, she asked me, Sue and Mary MacDonald (aka Stella Mac): “If you really could create only one course in your whole life and it mattered the very most – what would it be?” And so, Legend was born.
Legend is still that cart that came before the horse. But I am not here today to talk about Legend. I am finally ready to teach about the horse that pulls our cart!
My mom used to say that people would be hitching their wagon to my star because I knew where I was headed, and many people did not. Country speak, much?
But now I want to tell you about Tempo.
Whether or not you’re joining us, I want you to know I’m finally creating the foundational Intentional Creativity course.
Tempo is my 2023 six-month course; my horse-course. It is the foundation of my practice that is often invisible. Tempo is how I do what I do. I am initiated in my path of practice that includes what I call the M-10, and I have been working with these ten areas for over twenty-five years. But they aren’t personal to me. These are core practices that anyone can use to create a sacred foundation for their lives. Especially agnostic mystic rebel types who have left their traditions and haven’t found new ground to call their own.
Tempo creates a life where meditation, movement, music, metacognition and more (including, of course, The Muse) are woven into everything we create. We are also including The Mago which is like the magician, because an artist who creates and dreams while they create and witness their creation, is in essence working in the realm of the non-ordinary – of magic. Tempo is the first time I am sharing the foundational practices of Intentional Creativity in a transparent, obvious way. Every class you take with me has these woven in. You likely didn’t even notice them because they are THE EXPERIENCE, the self-expression basis, that creates the foundation for a creative life. These practices, the M-10, are how I do what I do, and how I be what I be.
People say to me on the regular – I don’t know how you do what you do. Well, I am not even a workaholic or a perfectionist and I still get more done in a day that I can even imagine. But it begins with a Practice that starts with a capital P, meaning I am devoted to this practice.
A photo from my lineage taken in Sonoma, California pictured from the left, Shiloh Sophia, Janet Bollow Alleyn, Janet Seaforth, Bridget McBride, Sue Sellars, Lenore Thomas Straus, Caron McCloud, Karen Peterson, JJ Wilson, Front: Sonia Peterson
The roots of this practice go back to a visit from Lenore Thomas Straus. If you have seen the lineage photo where I am in a little checkered dress my Grandma Eden made – that was the first time I met Lenore. That is Sonoma Mountain behind us. Lenore taught us to meditate while she was here. So, there I was, five years old – sitting on my zazen cushion. Yep, I started then. We always had zazen cushions, starting from then (but now I have a chaise lounge).
Well I have a different meditation to offer than zen, but you could say I got started then. I also learned martial arts and participated in women’s council, starting at age five. This has been quite an initiation. Now I want to share my practices with you – to give you a taste of what goes into making my own Great Work into a great life. I want to invite you to spend time making art with the intention to access the through-line to your own Great Work (hint hint: you have a Great Work – you just might not know what it is quite yet). The M-10 practices weave with any spiritual tradition seamlessly and easily. There is no confrontation with what you’re already doing, and you will find that what they do is contribute to resiliency, self-expression and a deeper connection with your self and also with our community.
Once you learn these practices you will have a true practice you can do the rest of your life. To lean into, to create your own resilience, to have your own tools. So while I may too often put my cart before my horse, I am here today to reveal the magical horse I rode in on: it’s called PRACTICE. The motion and emotion of devotion is my Tempo. Finding your own rhythm is essential for a peaceful, joyful, resourceful life. So each one of us is invited to discover our own tempo. This is about time and timing and chronos and timeline, and how you design the days of your life, because every day is so precious and every day matters.
So I hope you will join us. This is a special course because it will be required for our first cohort (coheart) at Musea University, but it is also open to our entire community. This is the foundation of the medicine I carry to create the movement of Intentional Creativity. This is both the introduction to our work as a whole, as well as a sustainable, trauma-informed, self-expression-based practice for all. You can share it with everyone in your family and the places that you work. And I will be recording it LIVE in real time. I hope to see you in the quantum classroom.
Dear ones, life is precious and it is not infinite. Loss is real and persistent, and pain is inevitable. No-one’s getting out of here alive, as you know. To have a practice is to choose a lifeline when we are here swimming in the deep end. But at least we are in here together. And when we get pulled out and we get dried off we can go hitch our carts to our horses – our magical horses – and follow the star all the way home. I am here to ride with you. I am here to design carts with you. I am here to design villages with you.
Every day when I wake up, I am surprised I am still here. I have had some health challenges. I am healing, but there is a fragility and a strength to where I am in my life. Everything I do matters to me to get across, but that’s how I want everyone to feel: as if their life matters. That was my mother Caron’s last message to the community: mattering matters, and never miss an opportunity to let someone else know that they matter. So I’m letting you know that I know I matter and I also know that you matter. When we were forming Legend and we asked my mom how did she end up so different from everybody else – and indeed she was; anyone who met her knew that – she said she decided early on that she mattered.
So this is why I race to my work. And to you. To this. Because I know I matter. I know I have to find my own tempo, and share it with those I love. We don’t have much family anymore, and those that are here are really spread out. Many of us don’t gather since my mom Caron walked into her future. I don’t even do ordinary holidays anymore like I did, because I spent most of my holidays and most of my life with Sue Hoya Sellars. So the truth is that this work, and you, are the destination of my love and practice. And it’s chosen. I chose you. I have my own work – my own personal, deep work – but my Great Work? That’s trans-personal, and that includes you. And my Great Work is to catalyze the great work within you. And for those of us becoming curates, to catalyze the great work within those who choose to care for the soul of the village.
My mom Caron used to marvel at how my content was about sparking other people’s content, while most people’s content is largely about them specifically and what they know. After all, they spend a lifetime feeling like they don’t matter, so when they finally figure out that they do, they can be pretty self-absorbed. I want to be around more people who care – who want to create content for their cart that blesses the soul of the village. I want to bless the soul of the village, and the village is whatever you define it as. You are my village people. Shall we? Let’s ride. The horse has arrived to carry the cart. And the cart is Practice.
PS The same woman, Helen Davis, gave Sue years of practice and access to the pottery studio at the College of Marin, complimentary (shhh!). She was only supposed to get one semester. My grandmother, a good Orthodox Christian, broke the rules for this eccentric woman artist. Imagine their surprise many years later when they all found out who the grandmother of Shiloh Sophia was. Surprise!
The spirit of my Grandmother Helen’s generosity changed Sue’s destiny, as Lenore had also changed Sue’s destiny, and my own. And yours, those of you who choose to study with us. That kind of generosity is what we want to espouse here. Especially considering that Sue at that time was already an out lesbian, dressing and looking largely male by feminine standards. We call it ‘butch’, or we used to, but to my Grandmother Helen – who knows what Sue looked like? It was the fifties, and people weren’t always so friendly to the LGBTQ++ and beyond of the world. I sometimes imagine my Grandmother and Sue together across the counter at the College of Marin. That was the same counter where my Grandmother used to let me play and register me for college classes when I was six. She let me type in my own name. Maybe that prefigured my own great work in the University?
I want to also say that I know that to take courses like Tempo you have to choose to invest time and resources in yourself and in the work, and have some faith in me and Musea. Yet it is 25+ years of practice that I bring you with all of my heart and devotion. And it does take resources to bring it all forward. I don’t want anyone to be left out, however, and I will offer a complimentary practice in January to those who cannot afford the time or resources to attend Tempo. I just have to say this, because I don’t want it to be exclusive – I want us to be inclusive, and I make a huge effort to make that possible. I know you know that.
PPS My real name is Shiloh Sophia from birth, but McCloud was chosen by my maternal Grandmother, Eden McCloud, formerly Merle McKinney. So McCloud isn’t a lineage last name. But funnily enough, my husband Jonathan chose our last name – for whatever reason, I do not know – but it turns out he’s the real McCloud. But that story is for another day…
I close with a quote from William Shakespeare in King Lear Act I, scene iv: “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?” I’m not sure that’s such a positive statement, but anyway – we are ‘cart before horse’ people, because we actually know how to build carts and when to draw the horse near. Many blessings to you.