Friday, December 18, 2009

How Drawing Saved Me

c. Sukie Curtis, "Insomnia I" 12/14/08
Last year on the second Sunday morning in December, I was not a happy camper.

David had been away for a few days on a silent meditation retreat (meaning, seriously limited communication), and meanwhile, back at the ranch, we'd had a major ice/snow storm and were without electricity for a day, my cell phone ran out of charge (meaning, totally curtailed communication) and it didn't take long for the sporty sort of "frontier life" experiment to wear thin. Although I was quite proud of myself for thinking to keep a big pot of water warming on our wood stove, from which I could dip smaller amounts into a Revere saucepan for quicker boiling for tea.

And then there was the rabbit. Anna and I had noticed, with an unfortunately slow acceptance, that our handsome, uncomplaining white angora rabbit, Gandy, (proper name: Gandolf the White) wasn't acting like himself. He seemed rather listless and wasn't eating. Finally on Saturday evening, we had decided that he needed medical attention, which meant a trip to the emergency vet clinic (don't even ask what you pay just to carry your animal through the doors!).

You know how it is sometimes, when it's cold outside of you and inside of you at the same time? And you're pretty sure that the internal coldness is not just about ambient temperature? You shiver and tremble, at least partially (but not too clearly) aware that Fear and its minions have got a steely cold death grip on your heart?

As Anna and I drove Gandy to the emergency vet clinic, a place we had never before needed for any of our animals, I was pretty sure he was seriously ill and was probably not going to make it. Rabbits are generally healthy and not prone to illness; but respiratory infections, which manifest the symptoms we were seeing, are often fatal. I honestly didn't know if it was worth forking out the money for the vet and medication, but . . . it's your pet, it's your responsibility to care for this creature . . . what are you going to do?

On that Sunday morning a year ago today, I got up at 3:50--not my usual rising time, believe me. Not even close. I got up because I couldn't sleep. SERIOUSLY couldn't sleep. I was shivering and trembling under a heap of bed covers, and it wasn't because of having a fever and chills.

My mind had gone utterly to town, wreaking havoc like a tribe of barbarians' pillaging and burning, leaving a trail of misery and destruction. (What a powerful thing a mind is! And what a waste when its power gets employed so destructively!)

It wasn't just that I was certain that Gandy lay dead where we had put him to bed and I didn't want to go look. It's that David's silent meditation retreat had coincided with our wedding anniversary, and we hadn't really decided on any anniversary celebration before he had left. And I was finally becoming aware, now that David was out of communication, that I really didn't like how this felt. And the nasty, scheming tribe of barbarians got hold of that and ran with it for all I was worth.

I sat in our living room with one light on (too early to wake the dog--I don't even think I made tea, or did I?) and tried to pick up and piece back together the shreds of me scattered about the frozen landscape after the tribe had moved on to the next village. (I hope for your sake they never reach your village.) What finally helped me the most was drawing.

I opened my small sketchbook, took out a pen, and drew our rocking chair, using the "semi-blind" technique that I use a lot--drawing mostly by moving my pen while looking at the object I'm drawing and not much at the paper (with a few stolen glances now and then). As much as being a way of drawing, this practice helps me to be present, to focus my attention on something right in front of me rather than on what's going on inside my head.

After the first drawing, I drew another one:

c. Sukie Curtis, "Insomnia II" 12/14/08

By the time I drew a third portrait of the rocking chair, I was beginning to feel drowsy.

c. Sukie Curtis, "Getting Drowsy", 12/14/08

After one more attempt, I was clearly ready to go back to bed. So I did.

c. Sukie Curtis, "back to bed", 12/14/08

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