Chelsey Jo

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” - Jack London

“A magical fish!” I said as the wide and curious eyes of local artists Dan and Nancy Root looked back at me from over the metal fins of a crappie decoy, the blank canvas of my next creative adventure. I blinked, uncertain of what that meant. A magical fish? What would that look like? I imagine some charming chimera hybrid with the green eyes of a cat, downy rose-colored feathers and shimmering scales of turquoise and gold. As excitingly intimidating as that sounds, I’m beyond happy to have this fish in my life, and the artists who have entrusted me with the creation of its identity! I feel like something special has been set into motion – that some day we’ll see this town dappled with dozens of Danny Root decoys – big and small – each commissioned by a different local talent. Like the Peanuts statues of Minneapolis we could have a “Looking for Lucy” tribute to call our own. Imagine: “Grand Rapids – the town with the fish!” They would all say.

For now, my fish, like any other magical fish, needs a name. The last few nights its unpainted face has stared blankly at me from its perch on the dinning room table. “Who are you?” We seem to ask each other. So far the little coy fish hasn’t made a peep and I sit waiting for inspiration to take the bait – to strike! Because without inspiration creativity becomes a chore. It doesn’t always strike like lighting, or a crappie for that matter. Sometimes you have to go find it! It’s up to all of us to find what inspires us, what lights us up with our own brilliance. Know thyself! Once you do you’ll be able to experience one of life’s greatest privileges – the ability to create our own happiness. So when you find yourself in darkness, which we all do from time to time, you’ll have the self-resilience to choose to be a light for others. And surely there are others in the dark with you.

Many artists find their inspiration in nature – where as children they played with the trees, kissed mossy rock beds and learned to whisper earthy phrases of forgotten languages. For me, drawing inspiration from nature was learned behavior. When I was young my cousins and I would play in the fields of my grandparents farm up in Effie. I remember how once enough fireflies were caught between eager little palms and bitter-sweetly released into the fading twilight, or we simply were winded enough from running through the tall grasses after one another - we would sit on the front porch with Grandpa Vernie where he’d whittle and whistle back and forth to the birds. He could whistle, buoyantly, like any bird and passed that language down to another woodsmen, my father. He chose for me a name that rhymed with his own so that when I walked through the woods on a winter morning or a spring day the chickadees would sing to me with the same melody as “jeff-reee, chel-seee” and I would sing back.

I’m lucky and so incredibly thankful to have been taught to listen to birds. To observe the strength and flexibility of the tree with strong roots as it dances in a storm. To speak to nature. To feel the earth pull me close. To center myself and become more of the person who makes my heart sing. In the cool shade of a cedar I can dare to voice my thoughts and questions. Without fear of disapproval I open my mind to the magic of possibility and wonder. I tell secrets to the wind and cast knowing looks up to the stars. I marvel in the beauty of enigma and life and creativity. I lift my hands to the sky and say, “thank you!” Is this prayer? Whether we agree or disagree, doesn’t matter. It’s just another pearly pebble of truth that caught my eye while walking along this wooded path where I sing with my grandpa and the chickadees. It’s my own truth, which I know is only a small and shinning facet of a brilliantly mysterious Universe.

Suddenly my magical mystery fish has a name: Wisher.

Email Chelsey Jo at chelseyjojohnsona@gmail.com

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