Today is Sunday and I just woke up around 11AM and wandered downstairs. I had been writing in my journal (I’ve been writing in it a lot lately), in general feeling sad because of the court situation next week. Since I had just woken up, I didn’t have my glasses on yet. I was trying to just capture impressions of the room; I wrote about the sounds of the birds and the clock ticking. Then I looked over to my right and I saw this small ceramic vase of flowers on my table. They were white carnations with a few red dotted here and there. I was struck for a moment at how pretty they seemed in the light that was streaming down from the large window in my living room. I didn’t have much else to do so I decided to draw it in my journal. I haven’t done any drawing since high school, and the more I drew the more fun I had with it. I have a cousin who, when I was feeling down and depressed, said “make something.” That always stuck with me, and I remembered her words as I went along; I was drawing in a black ballpoint pen, and then I started to color in the carnations with my children’s colored pencils. They have about a million colored pencils that we keep in a huge biscuit tin, which happened to be on the table next to me. As I kept going, I realized that some of the pencils needed sharpening, so I hurried upstairs to get my eyeliner sharpener from the bathroom. As an afterthought, I grabbed my glasses too.
When I returned to my seat on the couch, I sharpened the pencil and continued coloring in. Then I looked back up at the vase of carnations. At this point I had my glasses on, and I felt jolted, like a bolt of lightening struck me. Without my glasses, everything had seemed completely different; now that I could see clearly, I was able to tell, for the first time, that the flowers weren’t even carnations. Actually, the red ones were carnations, but the white ones appeared to be a type of mum. I looked around at everything else I’d drawn, which by then had included the whole scene before me — the dining room chair, the table that the vase sat on, the window and the other houses in the distance. Now that I could see clearly, it gave me a whole new perspective. Things seemed so striking, due to the light falling and highlighting certain details, like the tufts of upholstery that had come apart on the dining chairs. I hadn’t really noticed them before. In the distance, I could see the roofs of the houses, which were not straight lines as I’d drawn initially, but curved upwards in a dainty finish. The trees were all different shades of green, and I went through every green pencil in my children’s collection, testing out each one. One tree had brown trees, with a tinge of purple. The more details I drew, the more exhilarated I felt. It reminded me of the line in Genesis, when God created the world, he “knew it was good”. That’s how it feels for me when I’m writing, and it’s amazing when you create something that wasn’t there before, and you are amazed at how good it is. I don’t mean to say that I’m good for creating it, but that, without any other necessary speculation or confirmation, you know inside that it’s good. Just like I knew that this scene before me, which were just average items — a pen, a vase, a chair — when I looked at them, and saw them as the light shined down, it was as if I saw these things for the first time.
What was exciting was that it reminded me of how a child sees the world. I wrote yesterday that I’ve been operating on autopilot for a long time. What is the antithesis of autopilot? It must be something like today; an awakening. Seeing things again. Putting your glasses on and looking at everything again. It made me feel remarkably better, and I mentally thanked the good advice of that cousin, with her two-word pearl of wisdom: “make something.” I think I stopped seeing things for a long time, because I wanted them to be a different way. But when I truly looked, and saw things as they were, I saw how beautiful they were, flaws and all.
I’m not an artist, and I know it. I don’t have to be, I just have to try to capture what I see, just like in writing. We have to capture those finer details — the lacy ruffle of the carnation petal; the tufts of tattered old upholstery on those hand-me-down chairs; the orange roof patch, obviously new, set off against the field of black tiles surrounding it. We have to show what we see, including those flaws, and we have to remember that no matter what, when we step back, it’s good. That’s not down to interpretation, either — if you’ve put your heart into something you made, even if, like me, you didn’t have the right shade of brown and your tree ends up looking a little bit purple, just go with it. Who knows, it might be kind of like what God went through when he came up with the platypus.
When was the last time you drew a picture? I recommend it; writers have to use different techniques to keep their minds focused. If you see something that strikes you as beautiful, or interesting, try to draw a picture of it. It’s amazing what the mind goes through as it tries to peer closer and closer at what’s truly there — think of it as a detail-seeking expedition. Feel free to share your drawings here in the comments!