Hello Lovelies...four new beauties who arrived at the end of last week. While I haven't touched a panel or canvas since last month, I have been pondering oodles of ideas for more mannequin projects, so I decided to stop messing around and get down to business. I'll keep track of the progress here over the next many weeks (or months, however it goes). Today I have an entire day with nothing on my calendar so these beauties are going to get a lot of loving attention.
I must also carve out time today for my homework. I am diving deeper and deeper into the Personal Essay class I am taking, in my writing, reading, and explorations of possible topics to write about. Over the weekend I spent time with Writing Down the Bones, Plant Dreaming Deep and The Art of the Personal Essay. In between that was some free-for-all timed writing (a lot of griping and groaning on those pages) and expansion of pieces I began last week. Our instructions are to explain, describe and tell the stories of various memories we wrote down on the first day of class, and this week I have gotten pretty sidetracked by questions of why these stories have stayed with me in the first place. Yesterday I moved very quickly from telling a story to a meandering along questions of "What is it about this story that is compelling to me?" and "How is this story related to the other one I've been working on this week, a story about nothing more than a breeze?" My writing about certain events in my life easily slips into writing about the writing of the stories...what am I supposed to glean from these moments in time that have somehow managed to stay clearer in my memory bank than others?
So today I am committed to working on yet another story, but this time sticking to the story. Doing whatever I have to do to let go of wondering why this memory is important, what it means beneath the surface. I do not aim to squash down my tendency to dig deeper into my experiences, but in the first two pieces of writing for this week I feel like I have taken a handful of various seeds and tossed them haphazardly into the wind. My instinct is telling me that those pages have a lot of great material, but I need to let it all sit for a while and do the work it needs to do to pop up through the soil and give me a better idea of what I really have to work with. In the meantime, I will try to practice simply telling a story, and letting that be enough.
In these first two pieces I feel like I peeled back the layers in a way I'm not sure I ever have, and in this unveiling have exposed pieces of my past that have not seen sunlight in well over two decades. I had a moment in one piece of writing where I shifted from a perspective that was very much outside of myself to one that was completely in my own skin, looking out through 16-year old eyes at all the details of the house I lived in, what my parents were doing, what sounds I heard. What was so extraordinary about this is the way the energy of these thoughts changed, how my mind suddenly became incredibly quiet and my senses were able to hear and feel every tiny detail in my memory. You know that buzzing sound you hear when a stereo is on and the volume is turned up, but no CD is in the player so all you hear is a steady, deep hum? Imagine that volume knob being turned all the way down, and it is only then that you realize how loud that hum was. This is how that moment felt, that I turned a corner in my memory and made the choice to examine one very specific part of my past and that volume knob went all the way down, and suddenly I saw things with fresh eyes and a clearer view. Everything became very still and very quiet, and I was free to walk around and take notes.
In these journeys through my past I find myself feeling rather vulnerable, like I am walking through time bare-skinned - no combat boots, no armor, nothing to shield me from experiences that might be unpleasant or downright horrifying. I keep having to remind myself I am free to share or not share whatever I am writing, and in that freedom trying to be brave, to not shy away from stories that are dark or sad or angry or shameful. The fact that I am reaching spaces that feel deeply uncomfortable is a good sign. I know the stronger the resistance I feel the more important it is I push myself farther. It feels silly to talk about needing courage to write, but sometimes that is exactly what is needed - courage to sit still with things we don't understand, courage to let a day we were scared re-play in our mind like a scratchy film shown on a flimsy white sheet.