Letter From the Editor, February ’23: Kindling Spirits

“The past,’ he thought, ‘is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another.’ And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered. …and the inexpressible sweet expectation of happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness, took possession of him little by little, and life seemed to him enchanting, marvelous, and full of lofty meaning.” – Anton Chekhov, The Student.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about kindred spirits. Not in the sense of a soulmate or a close friend, although both are obviously delightful ideas, but in the sense of someone or something from years or decades or centuries past that seems to speak to you, personally; some act of creation that sparks a glowing connection of admiration, or a recognition of perfect mutual strangeness. A “kindling” spirit, maybe.

This kindling spirit might be a person: an author or an artist to whom you feel a connection. Everything they create and stand for might seem perfect to you–exactly as it needs to be, and in harmony with everything you believe and admire. You might feel an alignment of spirits, a pleasant accord. But it could be simpler and slighter–maybe it’s a drawing or a photograph, a line of poetry, a song, anything that strikes a chord with you and sticks with you throughout your life, that you can conjure in times of discord and strife, or when the middle-of-the-night demons would deprive you of your peace.

This kindling spirit might not necessarily be the most skillful of artists or the cleverest of artworks. The world is full of artists I admire, whose work I respect and enjoy. But I don’t necessarily feel a depth of sympathy with the artist or their work, in the way I do with my kindling spirits. I feel that my kindling-spirit-artists would define important ideas and concepts in the same way that I do. We would have the same ideas about honesty, eccentricity, generosity. These things would be important to them in the way they are to me. And other people, everyone else in the world, would have different concepts that are important to them, and they would find kindling spirits who feel the same way as they do about them, and they would find works of art that express those ideas the way they would.

I recognize that this might seem self-aggrandizing, that I might seem to be claiming to be on a level with my kindling-spirit-artists. But this is not the case. I’m not suggesting a mutual kindling spiritedness, or suggesting that these kindling-spirit-artists would have a minute to spare for anything that I create, and nor would I want them to! I’m not implying that I understand their work in the way they would want a person to. I’m not saying “I could make that,” or even “I wish I’d made that,” I’m just expressing a sincere gladness and gratitude that it was made.

Not of feeling less strange, but of not being alone in your strangeness–that feeling is what makes a kindling spirit such a source of comfort.

It might seem that your kindling spirits speak only to you. That’s part of the joy of kindling spirits! It’s the happiness of recognizing yourself in something you love, the feeling of understanding and of being understood. Not of feeling less strange, but of not being alone in your strangeness–that feeling is what makes a kindling spirit such a source of comfort. It’s like discovering a new world, and wanting to plant your flag and claim it as yours before you explore its wilderness. As they possess you, so might you feel possessive of your kindling spirits.

But of course these spirits don’t just speak to me. I’m not the only being who feels the connection, and that is beyond beautiful to me. The spark of my kindling is alight with the spark of others’, and when we share the spark, and delight in our sharing of it, we kindle a brighter, warmer flame. The spirits’ work is mysterious and quiet, but it resonates within each person who loves and appreciates any work of creation, it glows within us all, and glows brighter when the connections touch one another and kindle warmth and light.

When I was thinking about listing my personal kindling spirits, I realized that I’d already written about many of them here in Tidings of Magpies. In a sense that’s the purpose of the magazine–to share these glowing elements of creativity and inspiration, which are so important to me. This month’s issue was such a pleasure to curate and compile. Each new article seemed to build on the stories of the last and lead to the lessons of the next. But I will leave you to follow those threads yourself.

Who are your kindling spirits?

As ever, share, submit, support.

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