Or – How I started embracing the unexpected and learned to live without a plan.
From the time I was a child, it seemed that the universe was created with an ordered plan that could be counted on. The sun rose in the morning and set at night with seasonal variations. Dinner was cooked by my mother and the seven of us ate around the table when my father had finished the barn chores for the night. We put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and my mother took it down the first day of school after the New Year. I went to Elementary School, Jr. High School, High School, and College in that order. Everything had a blueprint, a plan that may not have been followed in minute detail, but a plan nonetheless that presented to me a path that I could follow.
Don’t assume that I followed the straight and narrow my whole life. There were detours along the way and distractions to be investigated. But for the most part, my assumption of how I would get from birth to death had a general outline.
I followed the same pattern when I made things. I was taught to sew as a young girl and used patterns to make my clothing. I took piano lessons and was drawn to classical music, translating the notes from paper to my fingers. And so it went – cooking from cookbooks, knitting following the instructions, woodworking plans when I wanted to build. It’s how my mother did it, it’s how she taught me and it worked for a bit.
As I continued to make things, I grew discontented with the patterns and formulas that were available. My solution was to create my own patterns and then follow them. I drafted my own sewing patterns and used them, wrote up knitting directions and followed them. It was much more creative, much more mine; but it I was still on a path.
And then, I became a mother.
Suddenly, the world was a much different place. No matter how hard I tried to create a path for my son, I could not make him walk it. He is not a path walker. I tried. I really did. I made paths all over the place – straight and narrow, wide and wandering, up mountains and through the desert. But my son is not a path-walker nor a pattern follower and he is a fabulous cook but would rather not use a cookbook. Instead of following a path, he stands in the middle of the world and takes a step at a time, evaluating where he is and then deciding where next to put his foot.
Monotype is an interesting way to make an image. In some ways, it’s a lot like painting. You take color and lay it out in a way that makes sense to you. But it is still printmaking. The image is created on a smooth, hard plate and then soft paper is shmooshed onto it, creating an image that not only is the reverse of what was painted on the plate but has been transformed by pressure as well. Usually, there is ink left on the plate – a ghost of the first print that can be altered, added to and printed again. As I work through a series of prints, I print an image, react to the results, and print again. The results are unique and often unexpected. I stand in the world and take a step at a time.
I still find it comforting to have a path to follow. It gives me a feeling of safety to know my general direction. What I have found by watching my son is the excitement of embracing the unexpected. I am learning to pay attention to what is happening right now, right here. I am able to let my senses and my feelings dictate what comes next. By opening my heart and my arms to the experiences around me, I have become open to opportunities that I didn’t know existed. One foot in front of the other, I am wandering off the path.