Yesterday when I was at my book group, my friend Monica asked me, “Are you still looking at pattern books?”
That’s because I am an eternal drawer and doodler and writer (and she was catching me doodling under the table), and last year, I was doing a lot of my doodling modeled on pictures from pattern books. I have incredibly restless, fidgety hands, and I have a hard time listening to a conversation if I am not taking notes, doodling, drawing, fiddling with yarn, or twisting something with my fingers. Thus has it always been. As you can see from the name of my blog, 135 journals, I have been keeping journals for some time. I have far more than 135 journals. (And yes, I do look back at them, and I still have all of them, and I am very happy I started the habit when I was 14 and I do write pretty much every day).
A few years ago, I became interested—or rather, re-interested—in art. Visual art has always been an interest of mine. It was my first love, before words came and stole me away. In recent years, especially since I have become sick, art has seemed to open different pathways than words. I feel as if there is a great roaring in my head of things I need to communicate. I have things I need to express, and things I need to be understood. These are two different things. Art has been utterly compelling as a force to help me to both.
On my path to rediscovering my own language in art, I started devouring art books, especially books on different kinds of patterns. There was something about patterns that particularly compelled me.
Studying these art books helped me. Why not be inspired by the gifts and wisdom of others? It gave me an expanded framework for thinking both about patterns and about symbols. This allowed me both to find and to create symbols that meant something to me. It showed me how repeating patterns can give emphasis and importance to certain areas of a piece. That designs aren’t just random. They serve a purpose. There’s a reason why people love patterns and have always found them comforting and important.
More importantly, I know why I love creating patterns. But now, I don’t look at pattern books for inspiration when I draw. I just breathe, put pen to paper, and let go. I don’t know what will come out, or, if it doesn’t, if I can fix it. But that’s okay. there’s a lot of paper in the world. And the patterns will still keep emerging, from the pattern book that is unfurling inside of me.
Somehow, there’s the image, and there’s the featured image, and they are supposed to be the same, but I messed them up before, and oooh! Well, I’m going to try to remedy that now. This is a picture of a spread from the book I sent my mother for Christmas this year
This year, I went all-out on one Christmas present. It was a gift for my mother. I took an old hardcover book and decorated every single page. Most of the pages I just drew on with markers, like the page below. Some I made collages on, or painted with watercolors. What inspired me to this madness?
I was reading in my old journals about how my mom had told me that when I was a baby of one, I used to ferret out pens whenever her back was turned, and draw pictures everywhere. The walls. My sheets. In books. I was completely compulsive. She said that I was a very good baby artist.
Later, I lost my confidence with art. And when I took up writing seriously, I just felt as if I couldn’t do both. But in the past few years, art has been a solace and an obsession. Also, my poor mom put up with a lot, having a one-year-old madbaby with a pen. I thought she should at least have something amusing to compensate her for the hours of describbling every surface I must have covered with ink!
So, Merry Christmas, Mom!
Do we look like “the Jews?” my husband asks as he looks at our completely und
ecorated house standing in stark contrast to everyone else’s merrily twinkling fairylands up and down the street.I look at him, and he’s got this look on his face that is kind of joking and kind of not joking.
As he is the one who actually grew up Jewish, I am surprised that this concerns him in any way.
“I think it looks as if one Jew and one extremely lazy Protestant live here,” I say.
Actually, our halfie kid lives here, too.But he, the Lord of the Basement, is also as lazy as heck. He is not one for stringing Christmas lights.
I look down the street at the giant blown up igloos and skeletal deer lighting up the night. I say, “I think it’s good for people to know there are different kinds of people in the world. We can enjoy their beautiful decorations, and they can enjoy our” (gesture to admittedly sadly dark house) “. . . relaxing lack of electricity wastage.”
When the kinder were little, we were much better about the Christmakah decorating thing. Or, I will say, my beautiful husband was. He put up Christmas lights and Chanukah decorations, put out cookies for Santa, made sure that Santa’s footsteps in the ashes didnt get swept away before the children saw them. I went to specialty shops in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Passaic and shopped for singing dreidels and Chanukah gelt and the latest in Chanukah novelties to make the eight days special.I would dragoon the children into making ornaments with popsicle sticks and glitter, my husband would dragoon them into baking, and we’d try to make everything look magical.
But, I don’t know. Now I have too much pain to do much physical stuff. And he’s very busy writing a book right now. And the kids are adults and don’t really care right now. It just isn’t a season where it’s important to us. We do have the tree, and the latkes, and the Chanukiah, and the gelt, and the ornaments–but it’s going to be pretty low-key this year.
I love seeing what my neighbors are doing. I love their festive displays. But I love them because these nice people put up their lights and their creches because they are sharing an expression of their happiness. But I don’t mind being different. I think it’s fine for people to remember that there can be all kinds of reasons, religious and non-religious, why their loving neighbors might celebrate, or not, holidays in very different ways in different years.