I was 9 or 10 and in Miss Puschelberg’s class at King George Elementary School. Some details remain clear in my mind, like the little microphone she spoke into, so Sandy, who had a hearing impairment, could hear her voice, and the picture of Queen Elizabeth hanging on the wall at the front of the room. Others have faded in the fog of years gone by and morphed from tangible events into nothing more than sensual memories, much like the one I landed on this morning. It was the day my creative spirit was quenched.
We must have been studying geography, or perhaps it was music, or maybe our teacher was looking for a way to keep us busy and quiet while she tended to marking assignments. The preamble isn’t important. What matters is that Miss Puschelberg put on a record with music meant to inspire us to draw and colour a picture of The Grand Canyon while we listened.
Head down and hands busy, I set to work, letting the cadence of the music carry me, creating a picture that was totally abstract. I don’t remember what my effort looked like, but I can see the masterpieces created by fellow students clear as anything—at least as clear as 50 years passing will allow. It seemed that most of my classmates had created representational images of the canyon. Was I the only one who had gone abstract? I thought to myself: “Oh. I did it wrong.” And perhaps that day was the genesis of my belief that I wasn’t artistic.
This morning, I thought about that day and set about reframing the experience.
I watched a YouTube video featuring images of the Grand Canyon set to Nicholas Gunn’s The Music of the Grand Canyon.
Then, I listened again while I painted and, after five minutes, when the music was finished, I put down my brushes. I had painted something that was not good in any technical way but that sprung from some place within. I share it here not because it’s some wonderful artistic creation—because it’s not. And yet, at the same time, it’s a piece of me that hasn’t been seen or shared before that was created with a sense of abandon and joy. That’s kind of wonderful.
My 9-year-old self once thought she did it wrong, but my 63-year-old-self is soundly satisfied with this outcome and secure enough to post it here to make the point that our creative efforts are never done in vain. Whether we share them or keep them to ourselves, our words, pictures, and other things we craft from our hearts with our hands reveal something unique about us. And sometimes they heal us.