I have a square cardboard box in one of the rooms of my studio. It’s not much to look at it and it certainly doesn’t have any significance attached to its exterior appearance. But for me it’s a treasure chest, my secret bounty. You see, this rather plain box holds hundreds of small pieces from my earliest forays in paint from twenty some years ago.
They are not significant to anyone other than me. If you were to look in it you might not feel anything more than you would from looking at the old buttons, matchbooks and other tiny souvenirs of times past in someone else’s dresser drawers.
Many are clumsy attempts and most are deeply flawed in some way. But for me, they hold so much more deep meaning than is apparent from a first look. They are my artifacts, my history, my ponderings, my inner thoughts and my memory.
They are me.
There’s always a special feeling when I delve into them, like that feeling of looking at old family photos and vividly remembering moments that seem to have happened eons ago. I sometimes marvel at the brightness of my youth at that point and sometimes frown at the foolishness of it. I see where I thought I was going and can compare it to where I finally landed. There are ideas there that are dismal failures that make me smile now and make me wonder if I should have pursued them further.
And there are some that make me happier now than when they were done. Time has added a completeness to them that was lacking then.
And there are pieces like the untitled one above from back in 1994 that make me just stop and wonder where they came from. They seem like lost memories. I know I made this piece up in my mind but can’t remember why. I have skimmed over it a hundred times and never given it more than a shrug. But today I find myself looking intently at it as though it holds something for me that I can’t just pull out of it.
There’s a frustration in that but since I know that it is mine, I don’t really mind. I will have it for years to come and can question it again and again. Maybe my mind will release the secret or at least form a substitute reality at some point, one that brings me closure of some kind.
Today’s Sunday Morning music deals a bit with some of the same feelings. Well, I think it does. It’s Hello In There from John Prine. Visiting my father in the nursing home has been hard, not just for the visits with him which still leave me shaken a little after each visit, but for the sight of the other older folks in even deeper states of dementia as they sit in their chairs in the hallways and dining rooms. There is a lonely blankness in their eyes that is heart-breaking. You wish you could reach into them and pull their old self out in the open if only for a moment. But all you can do is say hello and hope they hear the words and the feeling in it.
Anyway, this is a great old song from John Prine. I hope you’ll give it a listen and have a great Sunday.