This painting is from my student days in the eighties. I thought it was pretty good at the time, and I’m surprise to find, that it’s still pretty good.
I wonder where it is. Over time paintings have been given away, sold, and stored in every available space in my home. It’s hard to keep track of it all. A few weeks ago I photographed one box of paperwork. There were over 260 drawings in that one box. You can image that years of work can pile up.
Every once in a while a long lost piece pops up, and it was pretty good when you made and it’s still pretty good. That’s a nice feeling.
Years ago, while going through a tough patch, I picked up Julia Cameron’sThe Artist’s Way, and I began to write Morning Pages. This, in case you don’t know, consists of writing three full pages, in cursive, about anything that comes to mind. The idea is, I think, to help you introspect, to figure out what you think, and believe, and if those beliefs and thoughts are true to you. They are meant to give you a voice, when you’re voice has shrivelled up and gone away.
Morning Pages are what started me writing fiction. Two things happened. I got very tired of my whiney daily litany of misery. The repeat, repeat, repeat pathos made me dispair. One morning I wrote three whole pages of Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
One day, I ended up writing in third person, and made my first attempt at writing fiction. Here is the first chapter of The Spell, if you’d like to see what happened. The Spell is young adult fantasy fiction. An dark plague has come to Erdry, and young Averil, third daughter of Doft the Mender, must create the spell that will destroy the darkness.
You know how, sometimes, there seems to be more than one person in your head? There is the smart wise person, the endless nag, the I know better than you guy, and the mouse that is the daily you? Sometimes, in the drivel that showed up under my pen, someone else spoke. Someone who was like my dad, wise and caring, but not my dad. Bit by bit I found out “D” was a dragon. Uh, huh, my own personal dragon. Not the indiscriminate terrorizor you read about in some books and comics, more like John Hurt in the TV series Merlin.
I still talk to “D”. Here’s what happened this morning after a whine about how a medication I’m taking isn’t doing enough:
D: I would roll my eyes, dear, but dragons don’t trouble themselves with eye rolling.
Me: [sticking tongue out at D] You’re a right bastard today. Go breath somewhere else.
A little conversation, not nearly as wise as some, but it reminded me not to take myself so seriously.
On my recent visit to my granddaughter, she was persuaded to show me what she’d learned in her cello lessons. We talked about the cello while she was setting up. One of the threads on the bow was broken and we wondered what you did about something like that.
“What are they made of?” I asked.
“Horsetail hair,” was the reply.
Google told us, soon enough, what to do with the broken strand. Cut it off.
But this use of horsetail hair reminded me of another time in my life when these hairs had done something more than brush flies off a horse’s back end.
I was five, possible six when I first made use of a horsetail hair. On a regular weekday afternoon my two sisters and I, pestered our mother to let us sew doll clothes. We wanted to use a real needle and thread. We’d been allowed before under her supervision. This time Mom said no. She was tired. We had a little brother and he was keeping her up at night. She was going to take a nap, and we were to go outside and play. My mother wasn’t careless of her kids. These were different times and children were taught to grow up faster.
Grumbling and complaining–I’m sure I was the loudest–we went outside with our little scraps of fabric. We wondered around the farmyard in a desultory fashion for a while and ended up in an old broken down storage shed.
It was a grimy place full of rusted metal things, some hanging from the walls on nails, some in boxes stacked on makeshift shelves. There was one tiny window through whose dirty panes light strained to come in past the dirt and fly-blow. Blue-backed flies bumped against the glass trying to get out, wishing they’d never come in.
We found some boxes, arranged them in a row, and sat.
What to do?
My eyes roomed the walls. Nothing of interest. Nothing of–wait! Thread. Long thin threads.
For some reason, our dad had collected a clump of horsetail hairs and hung them on a peg in this shed.
“Hey, we could–”
I wasn’t sure what we could do–but thread! It seemed somehow that we had half the answer to our sewing needs. Where, in this place, could we find a needle?
I pulled one of the horsetail hairs from the peg and had a flash of understanding. The hair wasn’t limp like a thread, it was firm and springy. Maybe…
I came back to the boxes to sit with my sister. I folded the bit of cloth in half and threaded the tip of the horsetail hair through the layers of cloth.
I doubt we got far with our horsetail hair sewing. Little children lose interest fast and it was a dark and dirty place to hang out. I remember the hair going through the fabric, but it must have been a loose weave, for I tried, it again with the broken cello bow thread, and it was reluctant to go through the polyester fabric of my top.
You know those creativity tests where they ask you to think of a zillion things to do with a brick or a paper clip? I don’t do those. Tests make me nervous. But if they ever ask the question: what can you do with horse tail hair? I have at least one creative answer.
What about you? Do you remember a time when you came up with a truly creative idea?