There’s nothing remarkable about a pencil, one would think. But simply by drawing off the page and over the edges of the desk and along the floor and up the walls and out the window and off over the fields, a person can draw a new horizon to aspire to … who knows how radical a doodle can be? Drawing can be a revolutionary act.
My sister has recently taken up that revolutionary pencil. She used to draw and take photographs but life’s demons had dragged her down and she had not done so since the 1970s. Now, however, despite a body crippled by multiple sclerosis (the “glass half-full” kind, slowly progressing), a mental state depleted by depression and chronic post-traumatic stress, and a spirit broken by 30,000 earthquakes (she lives in Christchurch), every day she manages to get up and settle at the kitchen table to do her ‘Arting’, as she calls it. As Franz Kafka wrote:
You do not have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You do not even have to listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked …”
And it does. ‘Tremors’, for example, illustrates a roofless room (or portable panic room?) for holding and handling and providing care for the effects of trauma from constant aftershocks.
The Canterbury earthquakes have been extraordinarily stressful for residents. We know that many survivors cannot unsee the things they have seen. The challenge is to find helpful ways of unseeing or revisioning. After earthquake trauma it appears you have to reverse-trick the mind’s eye into seeing sense where there was none. My sister does this through disciplined and determined hand-eye coordination.
Since Arting my sister has biffed the bottle, swapped ‘zombie-meds’ for more helpful medication, and is vaping her way to fewer cigarettes. In the medical system, in the world system, my sister struggled for legitimacy but now she is becoming a strong woman. She is quite lippy now, where once she was triple-broken, in mind, body and spirit. All she needs is a plain sheet of paper and a pencil or fine-line pen to take charge of her own visual voice and heal her brokenness.
Annette Rose is a registered nurse, doctor’s wife, mother & grandmother, social anthropologist, creative entrepreneur & storyteller. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Jilleen Brice‘s artwork features on Redbubble.