The Illustration Friday word of the week is beginning.
I think my Dad must have been part gypsy. He loved to travel–both for business and for pleasure, try out new restaurants, explore local history and especially, to move into new houses. Like a gypsy, he preferred doing things his own way, without being micro-managed. He was good at what he did but also more than a little independently-minded. He changed jobs a lot.
We moved long-distance thirteen times in my first fifteen years, and every move was a new beginning: new schools, classrooms and locker combinations, new friends and pecking orders, new neighborhood, new Brownie troupe, new house and new landscaping. Much of that was stressful for us four children, and I don’t think my Mom, who came from a well-rooted and close-knit southern clan, shared my Dad’s enthusiasm for moving at all. In spite of that, I came to love the arrival of the Allied Van Lines which loaded our lives once again into its cavernous hold. Moving was always prefaced by the numbering and color-coding of every piece of furniture and careful packing with clean newsprint and special padded blankets of every family belonging into crisply-new Allied boxes. I came to love fresh starts, that clean-slate feeling of anything-is-possible. And I developed a life-long passion for boxes. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that last one.
In all that moving, which continued for many more years in my own adult life, I got very good at organization, packing, weeding possessions, efficient loading of U-Haul vans and borrowed trucks, and making a home wherever I landed. I got good (is that grammatically correct?) at all of the nuts-and-bolts steps of relocating a life. But from a more cosmic viewpoint, perpetual moving might have been my introduction to that Universal Truth, “Wherever you go there you are.” I began to notice that things like awkwardness with people, love of libraries and reading and writing, marginal athletic ability and adoration of all things Art, followed me wherever I went. I gradually realized that those things must be qualities of my essential self, separate from my surroundings…or at least the cutting edge of “where I was working.” Like any living thing, part of me hated that repeated uprooting. Another part reveled in the chance to start again. And another part (1 + 1 + 1 = ?), the deeper part of me, was watching it all from a place that never changed, no matter how far-flung or how often the moves and changes. A valuable lesson…thanks to you, Dad.
I think ‘returns’ qualify as new beginnings sometimes too, and in that spirit I have decided to add oil painting back into my oeuvre. I’ve been away from oils for nine years while focused solely on watercolor and illustration. Tensely on the fence about this decision for several years, I’ve finally convinced myself that I can, indeed, maintain a dual focus. My Christmas money has been spent on oil paints, walnut alkyd and canvases, shiny new and very intimidating in their pristine-ness. I’m excited and very nervous. Will I still remember how to paint in this medium? How will my paintings look after having worked so long in small-scale watercolor? Will I fail miserably…?
Ralph Blume, in his most excellent classic, The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle, puts the conundrum quite succinctly in his description for the rune “Inguz,” which symbolizes fertility and new beginnings:
“…the time of birth is always a critical one. Movement can involve danger, and yet movement that is timely leads out of danger. The time has come to enter the delivery room.”
January is the perfect time for new beginnings and a new turn of the wheel, and my birthday is just around the corner—April 1st: New Year’s Day in the Pagan, pre-Christian calendar. I say, “Let the games begin!” What newness will you introduce into your life this year?
“Awakening” (oil on board) From my archives, not a new one… Prints are available here.