I’ve hit a wall with painting. I’m not feeling it. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with the Valley Ford works in progress. I’ve set them aside.
Going into the week, I had thoughts of just priming canvases and playing around with liquid acrylics. I brought Heather Day’s catalog with me to school and found a lot of inspiration within those pages.
I had imagined big pools of color representing the waters surrounding the little fishing village of Bodega Bay, where I worked and owned a wine bar, and called home for six years. There is a bumper sticker sold in town that says:
A DRINKING VILLAGE WITH A FISHING PROBLEM
Words started popping into my head that connected me to place [Bodega Bay]:
San Andreas fault line
crossing over the line
seaglass smoothed by the ocean
memories smoothed by time
beach as church
spilling my guts
spilling my secrets
burying my head in the sand
self-esteem like tiny grains of sand
bodega bay was the epicenter of my drinking
the beginning of my end
anonymity not possible in a small town
drink to quell my anxieties
socialize to a fault
drowning in my existence
Four canvases ended up getting gessoed while I pondered the next step with this body of work.
In chatting with my professor, she threw an idea out there about working on paper and she shared a little bit about her process when doing so. I jotted down a few notes and felt energized. Approaching the blank page is still very much the same feeling as approaching a blank canvas, only smaller. I felt like this was a perfect next step for this series.
I gessoed some toned tan paper, as well as a bunch of thick black paper found in the studio at school. I dropped some black india ink on a few of them, let them dry and packed them up to work on at home over the next few days.
I also took myself to the local art supply store and gathered up a few new supplies (watercolor papers in varying dimensions and a few liquid acrylics) for the project. There is nothing like new art supplies. Nothing. I’m imagining that I will produce a grouping of 25 or so works on paper and then display them in a grid-like fashion.
So that’s where I’m at. Not a lot of physical progress lately and I know that will have to change if I want to get all of these done by the end of May, but I’ve given myself some grace with this project. I was suffering from anxiety attacks and one was still lingering at the beginning of this last week while I was in class. I took Wednesday off. I’m typing this while my husband drives us down the coast to Morro Bay to spend the weekend with our friends from Paris, France.
I’ve packed minimal supplies, but hope that is a good thing and will allow me to focus on keeping it simple. My five year old little french friend is my early morning art partner. He reminds me what it used to be like when I made art alongside my son at the kitchen table in the wee hours of the morning.
Thinking about my son just brought up a memory from my time living in Bodega Bay…
When my son was in preschool, he would wake up so early. I was usually hungover, but pretending not to be, so I would get up with him. There was a period of time that I would get him dressed, put on our rain boots and trek down to the beach to look for seaglass. I used to live and die by my tide chart and when low tide hit, especially negative low tides, you could always find me out there combing the beach for glass made soft by the ocean. Those salty seas would smooth the rough edges of the broken shards of glass. In 2006, they were like finding diamonds in the sand.
My hangovers never stopped me when the low tides would hit. If I’m being honest, i usually liked to do this beach-combing by myself. It gave me time to mull over what exactly happened the night prior and I could sort out my feelings about it, about myself, about life. But when I was on morning duty with my three year old son, he would tag along. His little body was closer to the ground and he had laser sharp vision for finding seaglass. It became our thing. I would spend hours walking the beach with him, walking off the hangover, walking off my shame and restlessness (or at least trying to).
I felt so empty back then. It was like I was going through the motions of being a wife, a business owner, a mother and a woman in this world. I had no idea who I really was. It felt like I was playing house and I wondered when is a grown-up going to come in and tell me how this is really done?
I felt like a faker.
I felt like a total fraud.
I felt like I would be found out. Hell, I even sort of wished for that.
I felt trapped.
I felt landlocked in my soul, even though I was surrounded by water and beautiful people in my life - my husband, my son, my community, my friends.
I felt unmoored in my own life.
I felt like I was drifting.
I felt like I was lost at sea.
I felt like a raw nerve.
I felt like I was crawling out of my skin.
I felt all of it. Everything. All the time.
My thoughts are interrupted by my husband, who is driving, when he asks me what I’m doing on my computer. I pause and tell him about the memory of my compulsive beach trips and I ask if he remembers that time in our lives. He raises both eyebrows and says, Um, yeah. I was obsessed for a period of time with collecting these broken pieces of glass. Thinking back on it, it was my first knowing that I wasn’t living right. I didn’t know how to name it at the time or even know exactly what was wrong, but I think deep down some part of me knew that drinking wasn’t serving me or my family very well. It would take another nine years for me to finally quit.
Whew. I gotta stop here. This is all I can write about these memories for right now.
My husband is driving through thick fog and heavy rain, listening to Panic by The Smiths on the radio, my son is plugged into his device listening to who knows what in the backseat, and I’m sitting in the passenger seat tearing up over the past and acknowledging where I am in the present moment of my life.
Today, I feel like a piece of seaglass, smoothed by time and hard fought battles. My edges made softer by the rough experiences in my life and laid bare on a beach to be picked up and treasured.
There is only one me.
I am unique.
I am my own found treasure.