I have this friend who I will call “Abbie.” Abbie is an artist and a writer and a teacher. We used to meet for coffee and talk about stuff. This fall, Abbie decided to go and teach in the far north. I mean the really far north. About 1100 kms north of the 49th parallel kind of north. There are no roads, you have to fly in. That is her picture.
When she was back in the city at Christmas time, she gave me a present. An art therapy kit to help me deal with all the stuff that was going on with my son.
I know I have not really said too much about what happened. Let’s just say it was upsetting and stressful.
The kit consisted of a sketch book and a small wooden model. I spent a lot of time putting that little wooden model in various poses and in various places. It was interesting how this inanimate little guy could reflect mood – happiness, longing, joy, sadness.
Once it was sitting on a table and my daughter knocked it off – on purpose. She said it felt kind of “therapeutic” but not very satisfying. She is pretty frustrated and disappointed with her brother too. She was born after I found him. He was always just her big brother – until his first disappearing act.
When she gave the wooden model to me, Abbie, accurately reading the look that came across my face as I picked it up, said “You could use it as a voodoo doll.” But despite the knocking off the table, we are trying to avoid that.
We talk to it sometimes. Unlike the real thing, it has to stay put and listen. It doesn’t twist words and make accusations. We are hopeful that some of what we are trying to say is getting through.
But back to the “art” part of the art therapy. First off, I have to say – I am not an artist. My efforts are very humble. They are below very humble.
The first picture I drew in the sketch book was of the wooden figure falling through space. My husband said “You have been watching MadMen a lot.” Maybe I was influenced. Anyway for whatever reason the falling man reflects how I feel about my son. I feel he is not going in a very happy direction. Remember we were in reunion for over 18 years before the trouble started. He has held onto this anger for four years. It is like he tries to let it go but it just keeps sucking him back into the pit.
On the same page with the falling man I drew the wooden figure in a crib kicking it’s legs and arms like a baby. I called the whole thing Falling Baby – Falling Man.
The next picture I drew I called Walking Away. The little wooden model is looking very sad walking through a door that is very church-like. Hmmmm. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s me. The drawings don’t reproduce very well or I’d put them in the post.
This little model helped to draw the human body in proportion – always a great challenge for me. Apparently, that is the purpose of these little wooden models. I didn’t know that. When Abbie gave it me, I told her I had a larger wooden model that I bought at IKEA more or less as decoration. Abbie said, “Good. You can do mother and child.” Haven’t done that yet. Maybe I should put the two of them in a room and let them work (or duke) it out.
The first few drawings, well they were good (I mean good to do, not good in the artistic sense) but more intellectual than emotional. They were OK. And so because my drawing skills are virtually non-existent. I started taking photographs.
Then, one day, I took this photograph on the left. The wooden model seen through the distortion of water. It spoke to me. The heaviness the figure has taken on. The bowed head. The lack of symmetry. How the parts don’t match anymore. How the figure is almost drowning, almost totally under water.
It could be me. It could be him.
It’s called – Adoption. I’m trying to turn it into a painting.
I won’t say anything else.