Journaling Image as well as Word

January 27, 2008

At any rate, it is 8:30 am, and the snow is coming down at a very brisk pace. We like to be inside and “watch the woods fill up with snow.” Peter is reading bits out from a book on Elizabethan Stratford–that ducks weren’t allowed out into the streets, and to gather goslings in the morning, the goose girl shakes a paper bag with pebbles in it–I didn’t think they had paper bags back then?

I teach a class in Creative Nonfiction, and another in Creative Writing, and journaling is at the heart of these classes. I have been journaling constantly, daily, but in image rather than words. Sometimes my mind has been so full of words that my head rattles with them the way the goose girl shakes a bag of pebbles to call the goslings in the morning.

It has always been my longing to have time to dig deep for a pure language, rich and clear, complex and comprehensible. But so much teaching on a daily basis of language skills of all sorts has obscured the time it takes to find the road of silence that leads to depthful writing.

Cheryl gave me the black journal and showed me how to use colored pencils to keep a journal of “memories, dreams, reflections,” starting with non-threatening scribble art. I still scribble, but I find that less interesting than journaling to active imagination where I let the image emerge on the page, open to the influences of Dali and Kahlo, the greatest autobiographical Surrealists.

I love the way Surrealism takes disparate pieces of memory, image, and emotion, and makes a new landscape of truth. It is a way of representing fractured time and the shifting canopy of memory in art. There is an emotional satisfaction in that.

Lately, I have taken to drawing the landscapes of very specific memories. Like all humans, I suppose, I fear losing my memories, so often are they reduced to fragmented emotion, the flash of image. We are haunted by these every day, as if we walked in the perpetual drifting haze and snow of our own dreams and memories without acknowledging them.

My Mysterious Night Vision Journal is like an infrared camera that sees in the dark. These sketches are snapshots of lost worlds.

T.S. Eliot in “The Wasteland” spoke of his method in that great poem, which was to assemble those “fragments shored against my ruin.” I am a scrap booker, a crazy-quilt maker, a journaler in word and image trying to look past daylight to give life and line to the parts of me that live in the shadows.

I do feel that I live in the eternal Zen present, but that in the present moment are the many wavering veils of the past.

This morning, I remembered sledding with my siblings down the hill in front of our house, and I tried to draw that memory as I sat in front of our big picture window blowing snow and memory…This shows larger and better on the Picasa site at:

Jan. 28, 2008

When I look at my picture of us four kids sledding, the small figures of the children become as elements of the landscape. What predominates is what was supposed to be Horse lake Road going down to the bus turn around at the bottom of the hill where the mail boxes, the creek into the hills and road come together. Instead, it looks to me like a terrifying train tunnel through time that pulls the viewer without lingering into its maw.

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