Written by Instructor John Kopp

Creativity doesn’t come from a piece of us but from the whole of us.

I find myself thinking these words as I wonder about the creativity responsible for the class “Writing with Your Child for Your Child”, a class that has as much focus on the joy of being together as it does on the production of a book as keepsake and copies as gifts. I also find myself feeling grateful for how these past two years resulted in the growth of an idea that would have remained hidden in the throes of good intentions if not for so many people giving their support.

I have had many cups of coffee with an artist friend who is the most connected person to creativity as a force that I know. She has described creativity in ways beyond what I see or experience when in that zone where everything pulls together and it all unfolds naturally, The Flow. This morning though, the conversation is about what triggered creativity and how the world seems after that. She described viewing a magnificent instructional video on making small books. It set the wheels of the shift in motion. On the walk to the coffee shop, colors popped out and objects displayed their vibrancy to her. My takeaway was how our creativity comes from an interactive openness to the world. I again think in terms of these past two years, which actually began many years prior.

The Ely area and Boundary Waters have been special to me for decades. My wife and I camped and paddled here. We brought our children to experience the wilderness and in turn we returned my wife, their mother, here in ceremony as she departed for another realm in 2008.

We continued to come up here and be with her as we adjusted to being without her. When I saw the Folk School for the first time, I had been camping and was just in town for the tourist purchase T-shirt venture. As I walked past the school, the window dressings popped out. The flyers in the window evoked ideas. This was where I could bring the project I had been developing for the past nine years “Writing with Your Child for Your Child” Five years later, I walked through the doors of the school and the colors and vibrancy of that world popped out, place was sensitive to my creative mission. It was February of 2020 and I had come to Ely to find a place to rent by a lake to live the dream my wife and I shared, to retire in a rustic cabin in the woods. The whole of that adventure could fill many pages and at some point it will, but for now, I looked to the Ely Folk School to provide a place for the other half of the equation, teaching, and it did.

I connected to the Ely Folk School through a creative and receptive discussion with the program coordinator. An idea was framed into a class on writing with your child. The class was developed further through the support of many people from the Folk School, my writing group, family, and the arrival of that creative force that pulls it together. Events lined up acknowledging it was something good and right.

As I became a part of Ely and the Folk School, I learned about the school’s rootedness in volunteering. It didn’t take me long to understand I wanted to help clean as a volunteering act. I often contemplate how place is sacred. We need a strong connection to place as we reach for the stars to create something for the world. Since the Folk School had me from the first viewing of the window dressing flyers, I yearned to connect with it more deeply. I knew that it held life and power that was bigger than any of my ideas, but my ideas would be welcome and grow into something to benefit the community.

I wanted to become a part of place at its most rooted level, to plant my feet firmly as I opened to ways and ideas new to me in this life I had recently walked into. It was a new life, pursued after working in my profession and family raising for the past 40 years. So, without so much as a speck of uncertainty, when I was asked about volunteering, I told the program coordinator “I would like to clean”.

She in turn helped me become a part of a team that cleans the Folk School. As the cleaning happens together, the effect goes into the wholeness of relationship development. It ties into my creative project. The feeling I have of people enjoying the class exists even before the class has happened. I owe this to the team of people with whom I clean. They existed before my arrival and as we grew together, the sense of the Folk School as ours, and yours, grew stronger. There is a growing sense of community to the team. As that sense grows, so does my gratitude for the feeling of being a part of something larger than myself, the rootedness to place, a member of the cleaning team.

As we clean I find myself looking around admiring the variety of tasks being performed. The results stand out. While one person sprays cleaner another guides the scrubbing machine. As it whirs it leaves behind a shined floor. Reaching high a squeegee is brought to bear on wet windows. In its wake it leaves the clearness of care. The dim brought to brightness enhances the life the school embraces. My vacuum roars with the sound of reassurance that what was once a grimy rug will shed its gunk leaving a surface pleasing to the eye and enticing to the feet. Our many tasks create a unified purpose, caring.

Our conversations are not limited to cleaning. They have that balance between work and interest in the world. Cleaning as a way of connecting to place extends into the project to which I am committed, “Writing with Your Child for Your Child”. A good creation grows, it births something sustainable. This project is no different. Its latest birthing is about play. A new class has come out of that original idea. It also facilitates the growth of the parent/child partnership. It is entitled “Playing to Create Story”. The concept is straightforward. If we play we will trigger that creative story telling capability. The idea behind it is that being with our children is a reciprocal experience.

I know as a parent I always yearned to pass on those pieces of information that help our children become wise. Now, however, I also think about the valuable insights I learn from them. I heard it said the other day “Our children are our elders in universe time. They are born into a world that is more complete and evolved than we can know except to see it through their eyes.” Playing and storytelling is a way to do this. We not only pass on information, but we also learn to see the world through the eyes of our children. We experience wonder and lightness. This is The Magic of Being Creative. Maybe here the magic is so powerful because the Folk School and its classes do not exist in a vacuum. They are a part of the place in which they dwell.

I like to refer to the support we receive from place as The Sacred Nature of Place. Its effect is pronounced. When I am in the outdoors in the Ely Area or the Boundary Waters, the world loses its heaviness. There is a rightness and vibrancy to life. The energy of Ely I connect with even allows me to turn towards the seriousness of world issues with the lightness of heart that is our birthright. My wish is for the classes I teach to be a place to foster enjoyment and learning through this type of lightness.

I hope to see you at the classes I offer and please feel free to get in touch with me to simply talk about them. I will not try to convince you to attend. Simple conversation is its own reward. For after all, that really is, The Magic in Being Creative.

Sketch by Cecilia Rolando of two participants at the board game during the class “Playing to Create Story”.
“Story Notes” from class to be used in later development of a written and illustrated story.