W.I.P. in sketchbook, July 2022 (c) Cat Charissage

Dear friends,

This is a work in progress that started when I sat in front of my sketchbook and had no idea what to paint or draw. The center flower appeared first, then the spiraling out, and then the purple bowl within the red bowl. And then I got it. The sketch/painting illustrates the truth behind my “stashes”.

You see, I have a lot of books. I also have a lot of art supplies — many received as gifts, and many, many taken home from thrift stores as I say a prayer for the person whose probable death meant I was able to find their stash donated to the thrift store. An impolite (and clueless) observer might wonder if I were becoming a hoarder. Not nearly. I certainly do, though, have SABLE — Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy.

Books and art supplies are not self-destructive “addictions” as compared to real addictions to drugs or alcohol. And I’m not a Maria Condo fan. (Have you seen what she recommends we do with our books!?!?) The stash has deeply served me, serve others as I “share the wealth” through loaning or giving away, and will no doubt serve future budding artists as they find the remnants of my stash at the thrift stores where my family will have donated things after I pass over to the next adventure.

When I was a child my parents punished and controlled me by controlling my access to books. They would take the pile of library books and the shelf of Nancy Drew mystery stories and put them in their large closet where I dare not try to recover them. Books were my salvation then, and escaping into other worlds than the difficult and surreal reality of my family kept me sane enough to eventually be able to leave. It was an effective tactic on my parents’ part, as I would do anything to get my survival tools, my books, back. Even when the books were seated on my small bedroom bookcase, I knew they could be arbitrarily taken away at any time. “Punishment” never made sense in my family, and was meted out according to my parents’ unhappiness rather than as a consequence of any behavior of mine. So anytime, what I needed for survival could disappear. It’s no wonder, then, that when I was able to control the access to my books, I always made sure I knew exactly where they were, and had enough extra that I never again had to re-read one 22 times.

Art supplies were the same, and different. Making art was not valued in my family, and any art supplies I might acquire were often confiscated to entertain my younger brothers. Of course the art supplies didn’t survive toddler enthusiasms.

For a long time I was embarrassed by my full shelves and drawers, wondering if I was still reacting to past pains and injustices. And surely I was in my first years of adulthood, but no more. They are wonderful resources that help my and others’ survival, that help my and others’ creativity. The books are freely shared; they help me and others engage with our flesh and blood lives rather than serving only as escape. The art supplies are shared whenever I gather together women friends for deep and real conversations. Discussion flows while paint flows, and it is good. They have become resources for creating a new world. Slowly, yes. But surely, too.

This sketchbook painting is a first iteration of a painting that will somehow show that the sharing of what is needed for survival (the bowls) is a step toward the creation of more and more resources needed for our blossoming, bringing beauty and more than enough of all that we need. May it be so.

Much love and many blessings,

Cat

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