I have met the true spirit of creativity. A few days ago I was travelling around in Sognefjorden, the longest fjord in Norway. That’s where I came across this true spirit of creativity in a very remote farm at the end of the road. There in the middle of an island in a stream that crosses through the farmland, a tiny creative sanctuary revealed itself. Everywhere I walked I bumped into small or large, strange and beautiful objects of human creation. A sculpture in wood depicting a little man bowing and offering a bowl of food to a giant mouse, a miniature water mill, small bridges crossing the stream here and there, a little hut made of rock and turfed roof that looked like it had been taken right out of Tolkien’s Shire, another wooden sculpture of two hands grabbing a boat – and then at the far end this quite lovely miniature replica of a traditional stave church. Only 28 are left in Norway today of these churches which were mostly built between the years 1150 to 1350. These medieval wooden churches are quite extraordinary with an elaborate wooden construction and often exquisite wood carvings depicting various animals, especially dragons on the many gables. The load-bearing posts (stafr in Old Norse, stav in Norwegian) have lent their name to the building technique.
But here on this island on a remote farm, where an old farmer had formed and carved out and built all these various sculptures, small buildings, constructions and creations, a gorgeous replica of the old stave churches was the centre of creativity. It was quite an astonishing experience to come across the construction almost hidden among the small forest on the island. There it stood – a miniature stave church – dark from tar and smelling of tar, roof above roof, as a spire growing into the woods. It was a true spiritual place and a revelation of true creative spirit.
The farmer who made this little sanctuary told me he could not let go of expressing all his creative whims and ideas. For him there was no purpose, but to get it out. He wanted to have fun and be creative with his hands. The farmer was retired and had left the responsibility of the farm to his oldest son. While the son took care of the farm, the old man built a new, big house for this son and his family. That was his work now at daytime, the farmer told me, and in his spare time he went down to the little island and used his hands and skills to form all the various pieces of art there – although he would never call it art himself. He laughed at himself and said he had no idea what he wanted with all this. It was just his way of expressing whatever came to mind, like he was standing in a creative well where there seemed to be no end to all kinds of crazy ideas. He said he wanted to fill the little island in the river completely with his art, except he would have to live 150 years to be able to actually accomplish it. It didn’t bother him, though. He would keep going as long as he had the stamina and energy to use his hands. For me just his shear determination and being so immersed into the creative process, was quite an eye-opener. He had no craving for fame or money or recognition, all he wanted was to stand out there on his little island and let his imagination take form into sculptures, creations, buildings and other objects of art. I am probably a little crazy he told me with a big smile.
I was taken aback by the fact that far out there in nowhere-land this farmer and artist kept doing what he had to, by proxy of inner determination and pure inspiration. It was indeed an inspiring meeting. What can I – and all of us – learn from the farmer? That true creativity comes from within. That there is no limit to it. It expresses itself in so many wonderful ways. If only we don’t let it down by secondary intentions like fame, wealth, recognition, acceptance and self-assertion; creativity will come to us by itself. Our job is to let it out, express it in any way we can. And never stop doing it, because creativity is its own reward.