This Illustration Friday word of the week is cocoon.
Twenty five years ago, two good habits found me. It was not an intentional meeting… more like the unplanned arrival of a pair of suspicious compulsions.
The first habit was, and still is, the collecting of images that make me smile. Cut from magazine, newspaper, card and brochure, Xeroxed from book and borrowed from Internet, they are art images as well as drawings and photographs of patterns, plants, shoes, toys, chairs, dolls, walls, gates, gardens, fences, trees, clouds, faces, hands, bodies, food, clothing, artifacts and antiques.
To become part of my collection, an image must pass through three stages of potential rejection: first to be clipped out at all… then later, when trimmed with scissors… and finally much later, when pasted in. I paste them in no particular order onto sheets of white paper, punch three holes and store them in large notebooks of the old-fashioned blue cloth variety, eschewing their ugly vinyl descendants. (Searching for these old notebooks gives me an excuse to frequent thrift stores, where I also find the orphaned white porcelain dishes I love for watercolor.)
The second habit is the collection of meaningful quotes. Scribbled on the proverbial napkin, scrap of paper or deposit slip, these precious words of wisdom accumulate until I copy them into plain-page books with a sharp pencil… the same kind of notebooks which I have been mostly unable to sketch in. Calling myself an artist, I am sure that a therapist would have a field day with this paradox…
I suspect that my collecting is a way to look within... to understand who I am through what I resonate with. A Creole proverb says this so well…“Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you who you are.” When I lose the thread of myself in the mad rush of Life, it is reaffirming to leaf through scrapbook or notebook. Here is a place where my Soul says “Yes!” to things that I recognize so clearly as somehow part of myself… even when it is wisdom or beauty that I have not yet been able to incorporate into my actual life.
This brings me back to the word cocoon, which I interpret as self-reflection.
In nature, the cocoon is a natural phase in a butterfly’s existence. It is her metamorphosis from lowly ground crawler to soaring creature of the air. After her cocoon phase, a butterfly comes fully into the expression of her Self. It is much the same with humans. Philosophers, spiritual teachers and shamans speak at length of this Transformational stage on the Journey of Life. It is an absolutely essential stage, in the larger (Soul) scheme of things, although not usually as visible as the butterfly’s cocoon. And it is not always comfortable. Perhaps it is not comfortable for the caterpillar either? This stage of ‘going inward’ can be prompted by illness, loss or failure, aging, physical limitation… or simply by the mysterious inner directives (and compulsions) of one’s personal path.
It is this last catalyst–the inner directive–that I am most interested in. Although the mechanism for change remains an ultimate Mystery, the source of that process can be touched through the simple act of incorporating stillness into daily life. Quietly enjoying Nature and the practice of meditation are two such means. These non-doings access an energy which is constantly available… inside. It is the place where I return to no-thing and have the opportunity to remake myself more closely in the image of my True Self. It is a priceless opportunity… and all too easy to forget.
“Looking Inward” (watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, pencil)