A moonth stretches out in front of me, 1994. My former husband is in South America, screwing a woman he met there on the pretense of traveling with a male friend, my friend too. (No longer my friend too.) The dark new winter moon is high in the sky over the cattle fields as I walk to my studio. I stand on one side of an abyss from my childhood that terrified me, ready to confront my demon dream through art. A moonth of near silence, a moonth of painting, a moonth of contemplation. Working with the rhythm of the moon.
I was always afraid in the city walking alone at night, but walking across the empty fields in the darkness in the country never scares me. The expanse of darkness, the shadows, the smell of the damp country, and the sounds of the shuffling of the cattle on the other side of the fence is comforting. I can hear them breathing. I am part of that natural darkness.
First painting of the series, I stand ready to go back through the eye of the needle, to bring it all up, the shadow material. How did it serve me, the original dream at 12 which shook me to my roots, made me begin lying to my mother? How did it serve to have my mixed up understanding of Catholicism lead me to think I might be crazy? I stand far away and can see only the shadow of the girl and the knife and the man, but she is tied to me and I need to bring her, them, into the studio. The colors are the colors of that night in summer in Southern California.
Now I walk the knife edge each time I enter the studio. Sketching and sketching, the small colorful sketches fall to the floor as begin to uncover anger and a smothering fear. What I thought was a dream about my father was really about my mother. Surprise, I uncover the what’s so that two years of therapy could not. New moon, and I am seeing the shadow, reliving the dream, but I am meeting it instead of it surprising me, stealing into my bed in the middle of the night. It is not as frightening when I beckon it to come.
I break silence to return a call from my brother Patrick one evening. When he hears I am painting knives, he asks, “Do I need to come to stay with you?”
“No, I am fine. I am painting the dream. Really, I’m fine.”
The last thing I want is a chaperon, though I understand his concern, and may have to call him a few times during this painting session to allay his fears. He was there the night I finally told my fears to my college boyfriend and he drove me home so I had to tell them to my mother and my brother. A family conference. My fears scared them. To the therapist I went, breakdown in progress!
But now, I am juggling knives!
Colorful sketches as I move away from deep night colors. I am twelve again, sunflower yellow drenches the paper and I see myself wrapped as a cocoon, unable to talk, unable to be creative. She is into everything, and into my mind. What I thought was closeness is unnatural. She was a good mother when I was dependent upon her, but as I move into freedom and separation she becomes cloying, intrusive, and manipulative. I am alone with her, brothers all grown. “Pick up the knife, cut the chords, be yourself with your own voice, you are pregnant with your sexuality and creativity, and creativity is your path.” Is the knife my pregnant self or is the knife the tool to bring the creativity forth?
The largest kitchen knife we have now walks with me daily to the studio. What an oddity. Thankfully I am alone on many acres. Once my ritual kitchen knife and I are alone in the sanctity of the studio-temple, I find joy in the wet paint, and literally dance with the knife, which sits in the middle of the paints. The angry fists have dissipated, crazy has dissipated, and now it is color, joy, freedom.
Sexuality color vision grace hope dances within me on a background of Oregon winter colors. “dancing on the edge with the demons in my mind temple guardians frighten the children“ is the creed. The knife is a being.
New moon. Sanctuary. This time is coming to a close. Damaged children all are protected, as adults move into the world wielding knives of truth. “And the truth shall set you free.” Where did I first hear that? It banged around in my young head for years, and I wonder that guidance of some sort was giving me the way out of my problems, because I doodled it on school folders. My shadow is foundation and shelter, elusive until it needs my attention. Sitting on the zafu, I reflect on protectors, demons, freedoms, choices, and the path ahead.
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A version of this was originally published in my blog zenkatwrites.