I only say that because I am learning how much I do not know about time and how I am realizing there is no time. Just now. Always now. I mean, I remember the past. And I can think about the future but neither one of those things really exist.
I used to be fascinated by the concept of time travel. I loved thinking about how you could change the past, or influence the future. One of my favorite books is Audrey Niffeneggers’ The Time Traveller’s Wife. Such a great story and so well written. We zip back and forth in time and as a real fantasy treat, they play the lottery, win (of course) and pay for their lives without toiling “for the man”.
BUT, the more I read and learn and think the more I agree with Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing but the now. I’m coming to see time travel as what happens when you revisit old memories or project ideas into the future. Suddenly one wakes up and realizes they pretty much left their body behind as they fantasized or maybe even tried to influence a past event by saying the things they wished they had said. Well, we all know you can’t change the past… that’s the time travel paradox. Now is where it’s at. So I go around and say things like: Learn from the past, Plan for the future but LIVE in the NOW. And then I write it on a sticky note and post it somewhere prominent. So strident of me!
I write this post because it has been 5 years since my mom passed and today I finished her portrait. I’m not much of a figure painter… I didn’t think I was very good at it and frankly, I hardly ever try. In my life as an artist, I’ve done maybe a half dozen works with people and then a huge mural of the entire OSU baseball team after they won the World Series, (it’s in the Gallery under murals if you are so inclined) but I still thought I wasn’t very good at it. However, this painting was to be a personal memorial by which I would embed Mom’s ashes into the image itself. It wouldn’t matter if it was poor or badly rendered, it was for me and I felt compelled to put a part of her into something more meaningful than just a little container on my shelf.
I’d like to think I was granted a stroke of genius with this idea, but I Googled it and I’m not the first. Apparently though, there is a world of “funerary art” to choose from ( I especially like the ashes being made into glass sculpture, those are cool). And no, I don’t think it’s weird or morbid or even odd. People put up huge stone markers and mausoleums to their loved ones, a portrait seems quaint by those standards.
Well, I perused the old photos and found this one where she is holding onto my toddler self on a cold fall day. The leaves are gone, the sky is bluer than blue and she looks chic and stylish and oh so very young. I love this image, even though I never really knew her like this. I did know her well enough to know that if she could choose an age to be for eternity, provided she was still Claire, with all her personality traits and memories, if she could choose, she would choose to be this age. With that face, hair and body and looking like a model on an exclusive photo shoot. She did like to look nice.
I cropped myself right out of the picture… that would be an odd thing to include while I was dabbing ashes into the piece. As I worked on it, I listened to her favorite music and some new stuff I’m pretty sure she would have liked. I thought about how she was now adding texture to her portrait as well as becoming part of the sky and the trees. I had a few “circle of life” thoughts and even shed a tear or two as it emerged better than I could have hoped. My muse really came through for me today. She looks awesome. I think she would have approved.
Thanks mom, for giving me your strength and courage and bravery. I’ve taken them farther than you ever did… I know because you showed me your fear every time I went beyond your comfort zone. And even though you were scared for me, you still encouraged me to explore. Thanks for rooting for me and for always, ALWAYS wishing the best for me. You may have had a hard edge at times, most tough women do, but I knew your love was unconditional. That is a precious thing because that is what real love is all about. Thanks for teaching me that a mother’s love runs deep and true. I became a better mother myself because I knew this. I love you, Mom. Always. Timelessly.
Post script: A few days after publishing the above, I journaled about my experience, just as a way to record it for myself. But what emerged was lovely and I’d like to share it with my readers:
Dec 5, 2016
It took painting a portrait of my mom as someone she used to be,
seeing her as a spirit that existed in a body
in a fleeting moment captured on film,
to teach me to remember what I really am.
Such is the nature of reality,
images captured on a sunny day-
a moment that passes
a now that is preserved
a ripple in time
where there is no time
By recording the moment we only preserve a memory
but we never can capture what actually is.
We distort our memories
with these static images
and turn our present into flat,
2 dimensional realities.
Whereby we miss the essence and truth,
that we are more than what can be seen or felt or witnessed.
More than can be captured on film
or even our memories.
We are more than can be imagined.