I love the mystery of the sudden flashback. You know, that long-forgotten moment that pops into consciousness, seemingly unprovoked. I often I wish I could go back over my thought process in a backward time-lapse so that I can figure out what exactly it was that brought the memory about. Most times it remains a mystery, though I’m certain there’s some reason my brain is illuminating that random moment at that particular time.
This whole thing is the most captivating aspect of memoir writing to me – digging up these moments that are tucked into corners of the brain and working out why they stayed in there, and connecting them all together to determine how they form something of a road map in the development who the person is today.
I digress. The point is it happened the other night. We’re watching TV and out of nowhere I’m recalling sitting in Mrs. Salisbury’s grade one classroom and we’re all drawing landscapes with crayons. And we’re colouring our clouds blue. It must have been a six-year-old “thing.” Maybe we were just too lazy to colour in the expanse of the sky so we were indicating the blueness of it by colouring the smaller bits because it was faster.
I remember, too, Mrs. Salisbury, questioning this convention. “Look out the window! Clouds aren’t blue!”
“She’s right” thought the little kid who simply hated to get things wrong in front of people. And forevermore the little kid coloured the sky blue around the white, sometimes grey clouds.
So I get wondering, was I remembering an early lesson in critical thinking? Or was it a lesson in social conformity? Because it’s fun to imagine what that teacher would have said if we were, say, painting our clouds in rainbows or purple plaids or orange polka dots or fiery flames. Would she admire our creative expression? Or would she say “clouds are not plaid!”
It seems the universe wanted me to give more thought to the life lesson question, because the very next morning I open up the “365 Days of Flow” inspirational app on my iPad to find this little image:
Mrs. Salisbury was a teacher; without a doubt she was trying to get us to think critically and draw what we see. And I’d hope that she’d be glad to know I developed some really good critical skills. But what the grown up me also knows is that artists are both critical thinkers AND innovators who express things in new and individual ways.
That girl who still hates to get things wrong needs to be reminded, often it seems, that creative expression is never “wrong.” It is fun, experimental, relaxing, illuminating, challenging, rewarding and meditative. And none of those things is ever wrong.
And I can say with absolute certainty that when my grandchildren show me their drawings, I’m gonna say, “look at those fabulous blue clouds!” And we’ll find other things at which to hurl our critical skills. Like Disney movies.
For the longest time I’ve gone back and forth about whether I wanted to return to blogging. Astonishingly I’ve continued to pay for the Typepad space simply for lack of deciding what I will do with the project, or even just the accumulated writing. The Typepad folks are great, always helpful and responsive and the blog designs are beautiful. But my lack of commitment didn’t warrant the cost – I could maintain a site for free or almost free. So I took action the other day and bought a domain where all this has moved to (jensrealia.ca). I could house the writing – and um, well I could come back.
In December I took a break from social media for what was going to be a week or two and ended up lasting for five. It was refreshing. The whole social media thing’s been irking me for a long time. Social media is wonderful for so many reasons, not the least of which are the re-establishing of relationships with extended family and my old and valued friends. I love knowing what my far flung people are up to. But then there are so many things that came with social media like the privacy issues and the emergence of trolldom and cyber bullying, and virtual relationships with virtual “friends” who tell you about their latest headaches and other personal woes you wouldn’t dream of talking about in person with someone you haven’t seen in 35 or 40 years. It was all leaving an unpleasant taste. There is so much about social media that is just so… uncomfortable, or just not worthy of thinking about in the course of living some kind of meaningful daily life. Maybe I was just being too sensitive but I wanted to experience again what life was like before all these social-but-not-really-all-that-social time wasters came along.
It’s ironic then, given all the uncomfortableness I’ve been feeling with social media, that making the new blog the other day felt actually quite comfortable. As I was looking through all those old posts to ensure they migrated correctly, I could see there isn’t anything virtual about the realia of my life. And goodness knows I have some deep need to convey my experience of it in some creative way. In typical barrel-ahead fashion I’d clearly made the decision. I wasn’t copying all of the posts into a Word document to save in my computer; I was keeping it public. It looked like I was coming back.
It’s not like I wasn’t thinking about it at all. For months I drafted “I was away and now I’m back” posts. Don’t you just hate those? I was away, and I’m not really sorry about that and I’m certainly not going to chastise myself about it. The break happened because it needed to.
The best motivation is the gentle kind, like that which has been offered by the lovely PE who has loyally linked back to me every time she writes a ‘finding beauty’ piece. It wasn’t just gratitude for the loyalty or guilt for being virtually not home every time she did so, but she was reminding me that this is an idea we both feel strongly about, and it’s something I need to do again. It’s deepest darkest February, and new writing, about beauty, is knocking on the door.
So this blog has moved here. Having abandoned my little blogging world for so long now, I have no business asking any of my friends and readers to come back. But if you do, and if you read from a feed it’ll need to be updated to www.jensrealia.ca.
And next year's words await another voice." ~T.S. Eliot
When I was a kid we put up our Christmas tree on or around my sister Jane's birthday on the 19th of December. Happy then over the holidays I would sit in the family room with its green shag carpet and turned down lamps and temporary pine smell, and stare at the tree, holding on to it as if holding on to time. I'd squint my eyes and let the colours run together like some watercolour painting on a night sky. I also associate Burl Ives as snowman and the annual Rudoph TV special with that pine scented memory, but mostly it's the lights.
40-something years later I'm living in a large city in which there is no olive green shag carpet in sight, but the lights strung about the place could accommodate their own dedicated landfill. Despite that thought I still catch myself standing in front of them squinting my eyes to make a watercolour painting on the night.
Walking across the pedestrian bridge (over the downtown Union Station rail corridor) I'm taken, as always, with the rain on pavement. I've just arrived home from Sudbury, appreciative of the downtown airport's proximity to my home (ten minutes' walk) and am on my way up to meet my people for beer o'clock at our usual local. It's good to be home.