It Takes A Lifetime

Visual Journal Sketchbooks by Lisa Sonora Beam

It takes a lifetime

to grow into

what we are given

What we are given

at birth

This was a message that I heard upon waking, January 21, 2002.

I wanted to publish it today, eleven years later. Just because.

I’ve been working on a visual memoir about the visual journal / sketchbook process that I’ve used my whole life.

Above is a photo (apologies for the low-res quality) of a page spread in my sketchbook from January 21, 2002.

I was just starting my MBA program at a very groovy social justice graduate school in San Francisco (since shut down, sadly).

To document my journey through business school, of course I did what I always do: kept a visual journal about the whole experience.

In this case, my MBA sketchbook was created out of an old book I found in a Salvation Army store. I love to collect old books, many I use in my visual art. When I came up this volume, a self-help book from 1964, A Working Girl in a Man’s World, I knew it was going to be my MBA sketchbook.

On the left side of the page are two images from other sketchbooks glued in. Is that confusing? Photos of sketchbooks, inside a sketchbook.

For my application to the MBA, I made a handmade sketchbook filled with my writing and art and answered the essay questions within it.

Then I sent the sketchbook in as my application. The admissions secretary kept it until after I graduated, not wanting to give it back. She said it was the most memorable application she ever saw in all her years of admissions, and wanted to keep it for herself. What a compliment, right?

I didn’t see it then, but that was quite a clue to my real work in the world – the impact of sharing my sketchbooks with others.

It takes a lifetime…

The writing on the top left is from the MBA application – I copied it and glued it into this sketchbook. The writing says:

Since hearing about New College’s Green MBA, I have been asking myself:

What does and MBA in Environmental Entrepreneurship have to do with being a poet and an artist?

I dream of being an artist for change.

My  hope for participating in this program is that I will find a way of weaving the threads of my passions together, creating something new, something whole out of the parts, something larger than I can now imagine, something that will serve our people, our planet, our future. 

I dream of bringing this something to life.

Right below that, there is a photo of a tiny sketchbook that I made and carried with me during the year prior, the year I went through an enormous life transition that I’ve been writing about in a visual memoir: Drivin’ n Cryin’.

There is a photo of me at age five, when I still felt connected to myself. It was the age I first started playing in sketchbooks and from the start my writing was illustrated and my paintings were filled with words.

It takes a lifetime…

On the other side of my photo is article by Paulo Coehlo that I clipped out of a magazine and a collage about dreams. This little book was my Wisdom Journal, and I filled it with everything I needed to keep me grounded as I embarked on an inner pilgrimage, traveling light and roaming the West Coast in a 1972 VW Bus, with three different trips to Oaxaca that year, too.

Right now…there is a sense of deeply relaxing into what is.

Into what I’ve been given in this lifetime to explore: a seeming circuitous path full of travel into unfamiliar places, motivated by a need to heal the wounds of the orphan archetype and find out where in the world I belong…

Right now…eleven years later, I’m finally able to continue gathering the the bits of the story and the sketchbooks and images that illustrate it.

I’m on my own personal creative sabbatical right now. Not alone, but sharing the experience with dear, close friends. We’re retreating together.

I’ve spent a lifetime traveling alone, and a couple of years ago, decided to try and find a way to share the adventure more with others. More on that story later…

For now, I’m in Boulder, Colorada, having a creative business retreat pow-wow with Suzy. We’re probably sitting by the fireplace as you’re reading today… letting the inner creative fires rejuvenate.

Sipping endless cups of tea, every surface covered with paint and paper and plans…this is how we work. A giant visual explosion that flows into tangible, concrete plans and action items.

At the end of a joyful week filled with long walks, mountain air, visits to tea houses, visits with kindred artists, ample time in the studio nurturing creative dreams, okay, and a couple of martini’s along the way, we emerge with the creative well replenished.

My wish for you today…that this moment gives you a little breathing space in your own busy life. That you find some inspiration for feeding your own creative fires and wellsprings.


2 Responses to It Takes A Lifetime

  1. Kim January 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Beautiful sharing, deep, meaningful, transparent, curious, creative, brave, arty, true to your Self, alone and not lonely, inner guided describe you and your post today, which really moved me. The words in your journal written to the application committee hit a universal cord that inspires me on a deep level. I needed to hear this today. I quickly journaled the feeling your words brought alive in me so that I could grab the ah-ha before it disappeared, writing it down for rereading and building clear intentions from it after pondering it and meditating on it to make it my own. And, I drew a visual representation, something I seldom do! Thank you thank you for sharing today Lisa. it’s also delightful to imagine you creating and going deep by the fire in Boulder on this rainy day in southern Cal.

  2. Miranda January 24, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Hi Lisa, I am touched by this story and it made me thinking of my life now at this moment. Am I doing the things that makes my heart sing? In a way YES I am trying to earn some money with my creative talents, but it’s a struggle. I would love to find more ‘work’ in this area and then I think why is it so difficult to just do what you like most without all the ‘humbug’ of all that’s surrounding me? Just live in a beautiful place in this world and create……..beautiful things… I unrealistic… I a dreamer? And maybe it takes a lifetime….and maybe I am here with another purpose in this life… many questions, creative greet Miranda

Leave a Reply