2. Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that. Just keep going. Don’t be concerned if the memory happened five seconds ago or five years ago. Everything that isn’t this moment is memory coming alive again as you write. If you get stuck, just repeat the phrase “I remember” again and keep going. (from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones)
I remember… playing in the San Diego zoo as a kid. I was most amazed by the gorillas. The big silverback gorillas that sat in the grassy hill in the San Diego zoo. We were far away from them and there was a stream beyond the wall that closed us off from the gorillas. But I could see that they were huge, even from afar. This inspired awe in me. They were so big & powerful. In third grade, we had to pick an animal and do a project on it, composed of a poster with information and a “visual”. For my visual I made a life-size paper mache gorilla hand.
Last week I went to that same store that I went to to get the supplies for that project. When I walked in, I immediately felt some of the same feelings that I had felt as my small child self. I tingled in amazement as I saw all of the tools for creating. There were paints & chalks, tons of paper of all sizes to draw on, little nick knacks here and there. It is still the magical place I remember as a child.
Recently I was living in the appalachian mountains. Of course I brought my paints with me. These are acrylic paints that I bought myself last year when I was traveling through Seattle. My friend Christina drove me to the paint store for my birthday. I scoured the isles looking for the perfect medium to start my painting with. Romantically, I was hooked on the oils, as I was attracted to their essence, their history, their smooth colorful finish. The clerk there talked me out of it though. If you want to paint while traveling, he said, you’ll want to use acrylics. This destroyed me a little inside & I argued with him a bit just to make sure his point had validity. You see, I was heading to Peru soon and I wanted to “paint things as I went”- chairs, stones, table legs, signs & billboards, you name it. I have a knack for travel-painting, painting things that exist in their place and that will exist after I leave them. I like to make shapes & designs, splash colors all over the world.
So I bought acrylics, after the advice of the man in that store in Seattle. I painted wood pieces I also bought at the store that day. I painted an anniversary portrait of my friend who drove me to the store that day and her husband. I got a white vest from goodwill and I painted that while I was traveling around the city. I later left it in a bag with other clothes at a church, hoping someone would find it with glee. I didn’t take the paints with me to Peru (we already had so much stuff and we were back packing so I didn’t think an extra 8 lbs would be good!), but I did take them to the recent homesteading experiment in the appalachians.
The memory that sticks out now is painting the wooden blocks we found underneath our shacks. We lived at a homestead that had a ton of wood stashed all over the place. Some under big blue tarps, others underneath the foundation of the barn, the shack, the chicken coop. I took the little pieces that couldn’t be used for much else and that didn’t have mold, fungus or too much wear on them, and started painting. We were living off-the-grid, so, when painting in the evenings, I had to paint by kerosene-lamp light. I painted rainbows in shades of pink. Lines and colors of my choosing. Goddess symbols. And more. I like painting on random pieces of wood and on unusual canvases.
When I squatted at my lovely friend’s backyard in California last year, I made a thing we called the bedwomb. This is one of my favorite memories. I made a teardrop relief out of earthen plaster and painted it with chalks and such. The whole wall. It was an amazing time. From a kid to now, I am still letting my child self make art into the present. Here’s a picture of the womb… a space I love & cherish in my soul: