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What the Water Gave Me: Being in the Flow

13 APRIL, 2018

my photo of an ocean wave on the sand

In the Flow

What the Water Gave Me is a collage I made when I was missing the ocean. It's one of those rare pieces that seemed to come out of nowhere, without much conscious thought. This phenomenon is sometimes called "flow"- a term that was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, whose research subjects "...often described their experiences using the metaphor of a water current carrying them along." I feel very lucky and blessed when this happens, though I'm usually shocked by the length of time that's passed while I was immersed in the work.

hand made abstract collage with maps, book pages, shells, paint chips, lace

What the Water Gave Me

mixed media collage on vintage book cover,  6 3/4 x 10 1/2 x 1/2 inches

ingredients: antique and vintage maps and ephemera, shells, paint chips, feather, lace

“Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. Thus, the origin of research on the theory of flow came about when Csikszentmihályi tried to understand this phenomenon experienced by these artists.” (Wikipedia) The components of flow are no doubt familiar to many artists. Among them are "intense and focused concentration on  the present moment" (check!);  "loss of reflective self-consciousness" (check!); and "a distortion of ... one's subjective experience of time" (check!).

If you're an artist, or someone who engages in creative work of any kind, I know you've thought little time had passed while you worked, only to look up at the clock in total shock to find that it's now five-thirty, when you thought it was only two. If you're interested in learning more, read Mihaly Csikszentmihályi's book, Finding Flow.

Missing the Ocean

If I haven't been to the ocean in a while, I feel like part of me is missing. No one describes it better than Mary Oliver:

my photograph of ocean waves

The Sea

Stroke by

Stroke my

Body remembers that life and cries for

The lost parts of itself-

Fins, gills

Opening like flowers into

The flesh…I swear I know

Just what the blue-gray scales


my photo of three birds on the ocean shore

The rest of me would

Feel like!


..the very bones! How

They long to give up the long trek inland, the brittle

Beauty of understanding,

And dive,

And simply

Become again a flaming body

Of blind feeling…

my photo of the ocean and sky

Vanished like victory inside that

Insucking genesis, that

Roaring flamboyance, that


Beginning and

Conclusion of our own.

I just had to share this song, coincidentally called "What the Water Gave Me" by Florence and the Machine. 



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