Be Ready! for the chaos that may descend to engulf, flood or shatter, striking you to your knees, to your core. Be Ready! is what they say about bushfires, floods and cyclones that hit this country each summer. Summer storms of rain, wind or fire. What would you include in your vessel for safekeeping as you flee from your home? What would you take in your back pack through to the next shore?
Be Ready! is also what they say in the arts. Be ready! for when work comes your way, the sun has come and it’s time to make hay. It's certainly what Elizabeth Gilbert tells us in her great TED Talk.
I wonder sometimes if our culture is addicted to drama. Our heros wear uniforms and come to our need. Hundreds volunteering each year, doing amazing deeds. Saving us from nature. Where does this come from? Is it part of our past? Is it a ploy to get us off the beach, back to work? Or is it that it shows something special about us?
My Sketchbook Project sketchbook arrived on the Summer full moon, creating a whirlwind of it’s own. A mixture of excitement, possibility and chaos ensued. Plenty of fear of how things would turn out. The “what ifs” and “what abouts” and “would it be good enoughs”. The heat was on as the deadline loomed. Just two weeks to get thirty pages filled and postmarked back to New York. I had projects to run, classes to begin, emails to send out, blog posts to write. Online everyone was celebrating, picking words for the New Year and at home my family was still in holiday mode.
Was I ready? I was as ready as I could be, for I have followed this project and other projects like it for years and even tried some of my own. Whilst rushing is not my preferred style, I know there are times when you just have to jump in, step up, unprepared with no time to spare. These projects bring out the best in us, the best we can be at the time. Maybe this is why we like the drama, it makes us reach out, dig deep and challenges us to the core, helps us select what we need for this vessel to take us to the next shore.
I cannot imagine what a firestorm might be like, I cannot imagine floating on my roof or hiding in buildings hearing winds screaming through trees, ripping metal to bits, but I did emigrate as a young child, packing and leaving much behind. Sometimes I am thankful that I live on the edge of a big city, when nature and the land have it’s way. But even here, trees have fallen on our house. I have camped by a river that rose an inch a minute for two hours and two Summers ago my brother died in a fall hiking. Are we ever prepared for such things? How can we Be Ready?
With such little time, I took my sketchbook down to the shore and drew what I saw. What was happening around me and in the process I discovered I’d been preparing for this moment for years. Sketching, drawing from life, little vignettes de la vie, stories I saw, jumping ahead a few pages, running back, trying different techniques to colour the flimsy pages, improvising all the way, adding bits here and letting other bits go, diving in and stepping back, seeing it as a whole.
What makes a Sketchbook good enough? Who get’s to decide these things? Does it even matter? I paid for this experience and I dedicated a week of my life to it. What matters is I did it and it’s done and it’s what I did. So as I move it from one envelope to another, to return it back to where it came from, I am finding it hard to say goodbye. I don’t like parting with my art, it’s part of my heart. It’s brought out the best in me for a few weeks. But everything is matter and it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. What I learnt in the mountains of Tassie this Summer is it’s never really finished, it’s just moving on to it’s next shore.
Many have lost everything, gone forever in Summer’s storms over the years. These people wear a badge of honour, a secret inner knowing of what they are capable of, something they share with others who’ve done it as well. They have been challenged to the core. My sketchbook was a far simple challenge, but it’s challenged me and I wear a badge of honour I share with others who’ve done it as well. Some of those others offered the kindest support in the midst of it, adding comments here or there online, spurring me on. Thanks to everyone, especially Jodi messaging me to see if I was done. Others may have watched and learnt for when it’s their turn, for that’s how it is when we help one another, volunteering in times of need, lending a helping hand, showing how it’s done. Not because we have to, but because we want to. That’s what we love in our heros. That’s what we can love in ourselves.
Through it all I have grown. In one week I got to experience more, see more, hear more, taste more, feel the air more, smell smells not smelt before, do more, think more, know more. I have found out what I am capable of. My bags will never be completely packed, my house may never totally be in order, but I have learnt that I can be ready.
Interestingly, intriguingly the morning I wrote this and still when I was feeling a little sad about posting it off, a parcel arrived from Yvonne. Posted just before Christmas from far across the globe, from her shore, landing on my shore. That’s it!, I thought. I am not opening hers until I post mine. I can’t wait to see what it is. So it’s posted, it's done, it's in the post from my shore to their shore and I am sure it’s what must be done. For it’s all matter and it does matter, but what matters most is that we do it, that we turn up, ready for work, ready to do our very best, to be there, to do it, and to do this we must ... Be Ready!
If you're ready to participate in my 1000 words for Summer project, you can add your words, photos or links to your blogs about Summer in the comments below, to the Facebook event page or the Group Pinterest Board. Or pick up someone else's words and create something of your own, or come along to art classes and I'll show you how. It's not as big or prestigious or as streamlined as The Sketchbook Project and it's hopefully it's not nearly as scary as a Summer storm. There's nothing to lose, but much to share and to gain, and hopefully it's a lot of fun. Something to enjoy at this time of year.
I snatched a moment of time and created a whole new series of illustrations for this blog, then Illustration Friday announced it's theme for the week was "Ocean" and I could not resist a Project Trifecta so I entered the first image in this blog which you can see here.
UPDATE: In April 2013 my sketchbook was uploaded onto the Sketchbook Project Digital library and has the Brooklyn Library call number 193.103-3 you can view the sketchbook here.
To read other blog posts in 1000 words for Summer Year 4, please use these links:
To see what's happened in previous years, please click here.