I’m taking a little break from my usual type of blog posts tonight to tell you a little story about something that happened to me.
I tied my little boat to the pier in 1982. It was a simple boat, but it was seaworthy. There was nothing special about the rope I used, but it was sturdy. Over the years, the rope held fast, even when the water was choppy. But inclement weather wore at the rope, and by the year 2000, it had become so frayed that one day it snapped, and I was cast adrift, my oars still on the dock. I watched the dock get smaller as I was swept farther from shore.
I thought I might be able to swim, but I was so tired, and the water was so rough. So I sat and watched the land shrink in the distance; and soon, I knew that I was too far out to make it back to shore swimming against the current. I was unceremoniously swept out to sea, alone and adrift for weeks. I had nothing to sustain me.
Eventually I began to think about throwing myself overboard to sink peacefully to the bottom of the sea. Every day the water became more and more inviting, beckoning me to jump. I resisted the urge with all my might, but it was all I could think about.
Finally, I washed up on the shore of an island. I was shipwrecked there, alone, for a long time. More than a year. Every minute of every day was spent struggling to survive. It gave me a lot of time to think. I thought about who I had been, and what I thought myself to be.
“I am an artist.” I told the birds and the fish. But they mocked me. “How can you be an artist when you are not producing art?” They asked.
“I am a writer.” I said to the crabs scuttling on the beach. They snapped their pinchers at me. “How can you be a writer, ” they asked, “when you sit there like a piece of driftwood?”
So I began to pick up rocks and bits of detritus, and I formed letters on the sand.
One day a small plane flew over the island. It circled and came back, so I knew the pilot had seen my message. A couple of days later, it came back again, and this time, it dropped something. The object fell through the sky and landed on the beach. It was a package. Inside the package was a knife, a saw, and two boards. There was a note inside that said ‘Here are some tools. ‘
I spent the next two months using the tools. I fashioned myself two oars, and when they were finished I bid farewell to the birds and crabs and rowed away from the island toward civilization. It was hard, exhausting work. I ached all over. I stopped often to sleep, and when I slept, I slept deeply.
One night I dreamt I was in a dark little bar with some friends. It was no bigger than a hallway. There was someone I knew there, and she was wearing a gorilla suit. Then the door opened and a little dog walked in. At least, I think it was a dog. It didn’t look like any dog I had ever seen. It was tiny, and had a very large head. It looked up at me. Way, way up.
“That dog should be yellow.” I said. The gorilla nodded.
When I finally made it back to the mainland, I was a changed person. Everything looked different. “Who am I?” I asked the stranger in the mirror. “I used to be an artist. How can I call myself an artist if I am not making art?”
I said this over and over during the next year. I said it to myself. I said it to my dogs.
But making art seemed too intimidating. One day I saw an article in a magazine about an artist who made paintings the size of a postcard. That seemed almost doable. ‘Small art is better than no art.’ I thought. ‘Maybe I can make small art.’
“How can I call myself an artist if I am not making art?” I asked my lifemate.
“Make art!” She said.
One day while my lifemate was at work, I gathered my art tools. I sat for a long time and just looked at the paper. “What should I paint?” I asked myself. “What do you want to paint?” The paper asked.
The only thing I could think of was the weird little dog in my dream.
So, I painted.
When my lifemate came home, she saw the painting on the table. “What the hell is that?” She asked.
I smiled. “Exactly. ” I said.
I’ve been painting my yelodoggie art since 2003, after a long, painful, debilitating depression. At first, the painting had simple titles, but since I love words just as much as art, the titles became playful and clever twists on the Latin name for the domestic dog, Canis familiaris.
I began writing in earnest in 2006, and have authored six books in the past decade. My books are available from amazon (see the links on the right) and my yelodoggie paintings are for sale in my etsy shop. The originals sell off pretty fast, but there are always prints available, and at a cost that everyone can afford. Selling my books and paintings is how I feed myself and my dogs, so please, take a look.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.