I sat down at a local cafe and ordered a caramel latte. As I was waiting I surveyed the cafe and noticed, much to my surprise, a small bird stuck behind the glass door. At one point a fellow bird stood on the outside of the cafe as if to ask its kin what it was doing.
I waited until the waitress came over and drew her attention to the small trapped wren. She pushed the door open, but the bird still seemed to think it could fly through the transparent glass. The waitress sheepishly admitted that she was a little scared of birds. I walked over and scooped up the wren in my hands and brought it up to the window and it flew out of my hand.
It was such a lovely unexpected moment.
There’s something quietly confronting about decluttering, about pouring over all the artifacts of your life. About remembering the person you were, the person you wanted to be, the dreams you aspire towards and the ones you gave away. The self-help books that didn’t help. The things that seemed nice but ultimately just “weren’t you.” The cards and letters from friends old and new. The way specific hobbies marked stages in your development – the time you wanted to be a rockstar, then when you wanted to be a writer, then that phase where you were into gardening and herbal remedies.
As I write this I’m struck by the realisation that one of the self-help books on my shelf holds a memory. The book is titled “I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was.” As I flick through the book just now it stops at chapter four, the chapter is called ‘The Sure Thing.’ There’s a makeshift bookmark there. It is half of a set of photographs of a one time lover and myself, taken by one of those dorky machines in a games arcade. I cut it in half and posted one half to my friend after I returned from holiday. It’s the kind of memento I never know whether to keep or part with. It is imbued with memories both happy and sad. For about a week I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. And to think that was the book I took with me to read on the plane while on holiday… what does that say about me?
But then it was the fall out from that led me to start painting. And the paintings are something else to contend with while cleaning up. Which ones do you keep? Which ones do you dispose of? Which ones can be salvaged? I usually cut the offending canvases off the canvas boards and keep them in their less bulky form for possible use in future works and collages. I want to treat everything I do as special, but surely some works are more successful than others… and surely treating them all as special really discounts the ones that are. But frequently people see things in my work that I can’t or don’t see. They love things I hate and vice versa.
I feel like I need to just ride out what I’m feeling right now and see where I end up, and what I end up with…