Thursday, April 28, 2016

#AtoZChallenge, X is for X-Ray Vison

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of us are using the theme of "X-rays" in today's posts, me included. X isn't the easiest letter of the alphabet and my mind always goes straight to the word "xylophone" when I think of it. The trouble is I don't play the xylophone, so have nothing to say on the topic. Therefore, X-rays it is!

X-rays have always played an important role in my life. As a child I spent many hours in my father's chiropractic office while he developed his patients' X-rays. Sometimes I would go into the darkroom with him, a mysterious and magical closet illuminated by a single red bulb. Fascinated, I would watch what resembled a type of alchemy: sheets of X-ray film dipped into odorous trays of solutions and water before being raised to the light to reveal skulls and spines, vertebrae and ribs--the human skeleton in all its twisted and imperfect agony. I learned to stand up straight by studying those ghostly images, and I'm sure they had an impact on my entire attitude to healthcare: stay well!

For today's art journal page I painted a sheet of paper with black gesso and pressed my hand down into the paint. The results intrigued me--what did my hand have to say to me? In real life I've never liked the look of my hands. Childishly small and usually stained with ink, burned from taking something out of the oven, grazed from clay, scarred with endless paper and knife cuts (more cooking accidents), and dry, thanks to the Albuquerque weather, they are not the long, elegant hands I envy. Yet when I see my palm with "X-ray vision" as it appears here, I'm not so disappointed. Slightly feathery around the edges, it's a capable and gentle hand, and I'm suddenly filled with gratitude for its hard-working, "accept any challenge" attitude. After all, my hands have never let me down, and have been as eager to plunge themselves into mud as they have been to try embroidery and bead-making.

Fortunately, I've never broken a bone or injured my hands in any serious way, the worst accident being a milk bottle in New Zealand splintering in my hand and cutting my thumb with such severity I still have the scar to this day. The nerve endings are still a little tender there, but other than that it's fine. But whenever I feel that twinge or see the deep line where the glass cut through, I'm reminded of so many things: the milk boys rattling their carts up and down the street at twilight delivering those treacherous bottles, the way the rain fell while I ran cold water over my hand. . . I feel it in my bones.

Art journaling is another way to feel "with the bones." What does your body have to tell you? What memories are waiting to develop and emerge? Today, let the darkness speak.

Tip of the Day: The single most important book that set me firmly on the writer's path is none other than Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. Any of the exercises in the book can help you uncover what it is you want to say about the images you create in your art journal. If you don't already own a copy, don't worry, it's a staple at most libraries. Check out a copy today!

No comments: