Memories of the weekend all jumbled up with older memories. Got up and worked on a painting, what I jokingly called a ‘retro-Abstract Expressionist’ painting, in oils on a primed canvas. The rich greasy smell of the pigments and a rush of remembering putting my childish finger to slickly wet paint on a red and cream door, the smell and the clinging colour that would not wash out in the handbasin, no matter how I scrubbed with a little nailbrush, my hand bright reddened pink and the colour sticking to skin, immovable and a stain or blur that marked me.
What art gives us in life, the practice of making art, memories crowding in like old friends.
A busy happy weekend. Watched intrepid mountain bikers on a 62km ride up near-vertical mountain slopes (hewn thigh muscles, anyone?) riding up from the untarred pass road, racing up eroded gullies and over patches of loose shale or gravel, falcons circling low from curiosity. I was standing on a gravelly ridge watching the riders break through the clumps of fynbos and leap rock faces, heard the whistling and flapping of a peregrine falcon’s wings just above my head. No other sound, the silent invisible wind of the mountains all around.
I was blocked before I went into analysis. More than writer’s block, I had life block. I was living in anguish, and I didn’t know why. I knew that I had much to express, but I didn’t know what it was. When I tried to write, often I could not make the pen move on the page.
In analysis, I worked on my dreams. I wrote down all I recalled of the dream on waking, and then told it to my analyst at the next visit. With his help, I tried free association — aloud — letting my mind wander from image to image, thought to thought. He told me that I must not censor any thought that came to me, no matter how trivial or unrelated. This is hard to learn.
Free association is embarrassing and unsettling: you don’t know what will rise in your mind. I began another practice alone, mornings: I wrote the dream, and then I scribbled out any thoughts that came to me. At first this was a halting half page. Later I could fill six pages in one sitting. I wrote fast, to keep up with my thoughts, which came more and more swiftly.
Playing the Velvet Underground as I paint and jot down footnotes and revise a long hard-fought-for chapter. In honour of the late great Lou Reed.
Hey babe! take a walk on the wild side