c. Susan Sorrell Hill
The Illustration Friday word of the week is dusty.
With a particular word and the vision of a finished post held gently in mind, associated words, stories and images will come. Like dusty bunnies and stray hairs at the foot of my refrigerator, their accumulation is inevitable, if only I can stay out of the way long enough. Pure magic! I am surprised every time, most especially when the word of the week is not immediately evocative.
This morning it went like this: the Illustration Friday word is dusty>>bummer!!>>patience! ok, dusty>>dust>>the Charlie Brown “Pigpen” character>>too stupid! too obvious! patience! dusty>>dust>>ashes>>aboriginal adolescent’s individuation technique from their mothers>>boring! patience! dusty>>dust>>dust devil>>tornado>>ah! the tornados of my childhood>>the tornado that came the year I was watching “Creature from the Black Lagoon”>>image from the Fright Night poster for the radio station KVMR>>vignettes from my year in Minnesota>>ah>>relief>>direction>>getting it all down>>tweaking>>finished blog post.
This all happened while I was doing yoga. I had already given myself permission to miss posting for this week’s Illustration Friday, so my mind was free to word-associate with no pressure. (I wonder…could manifestation work just like word association?)
You are probably wondering where “Creature from the Black Lagoon” fits in? Patience!!
It was the year my family lived in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Dad changed jobs and states frequently, in his climbing-the-corporate-ladder way, so my childhood is mostly a blur punctuated by tiny vignettes of memory. Why some particular memories stick, I am without clue, but that year in Minnesota is a larger memory file than most.
That year, I french-kissed my first boy behind the baseball dugouts. That was the same baseball field which the Fire Department flooded every winter to create a skating rink, complete with warming shack, hot cocoa and wood stove. I had new, brilliantly-white skates that year, and quickly learned that flying over the ice as fast as I could, and away from family, was a particularly sweet kind of freedom.
It was that year in Minnesota when the boy next door (the one who painted those god-awful models of characters with huge, bloodshot eyes, lolling tongues and over-size hands, wrapped around the steering wheels of screaming roadsters complete with flame-spouting tailpipes) told me that he would show me “his” if I would show him “mine.” (I didn’t).
It was the year my Dad showed me how to ‘burn it in’ with a hard ball, wearing my brand new, Vasoline-oiled baseball glove that I had finally paid off with a fifty-cents-a-week allowance. It was that year, too, that we made an igloo from a seven-foot-high pile left by the snow plow. When we finished digging out the entry tunnel and main room, we hosed the whole thing down so it would freeze solid. (That igloo lasted until Spring.)
It was that year that I learned, on a dare, to ride a skateboard down an impossibly steep driveway, while we waited for the school bus. (My out-of-character courage was no doubt inspired by the cute rich boy down the street, who arrived daily with slicked-back, wet hair from morning laps in the family pool.) At that same bus stop, I remember being completely mortified to be wearing, for the first time, a long fake-suede, fake-fox-collared coat that my Dad had picked out at the local White Front department store. For some mysterious reason, Minnesota’s sub-zero temperatures caused that coat to freeze stiff as a board around my embarrassed young body. (It wasn’t all that warm, either.)
That year, while working on a Social Studies assignment, I realized that I adored colored pencils, ink and paper. My geography report was probably a direct plagiarism from the family encyclopedia, but the maps I made to go with it were Works of Art. I can still remember basking in the glow of that teacher’s praise.
And finally, getting back to the Creature, it was that year in Minnesota when I first saw the movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was a birthday/slumber party at a friend’s house, and we had stayed up all night, scaring ourselves silly with a feast of horror movies. That morning, groggy-eyed but happy, toast and jam in hands, we were watching the Creature. We were young enough then to suspend skepticism and technical criticism, and so were all appropriately scared. I remember thinking that I would have to be especially careful down at the nearby river from then on. Suddenly, our parents burst into the room. The sudden shift of realities was alarming in itself, without the equally-sudden, alarming, announcement that we were all being bundled off (in our pajamas) for our homes’ basement shelters: a tornado had been spotted. The look of that ominous, dark sky still lingers, superimposed over other memories of the The Wizard of Oz’s tornado scene, but the memory of the rest of that day in the basement is lost. I do remember being sorry that I’d missed the movie’s ending. When I came across the Creature on late-night television, years later, the scary magic was gone…I had grown up.
“Fright Night” (detail) (Pen and ink) Click image for a complete view: the Creature from the Black Lagoon is the guy fifth from the left…
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