Artist, Writer, Woman, Mother, Healer, Teacher, Biohacker, Gardener, Friend, Entrepreneur
Wisdom is something you are born with, and life is a period of forgetting and relearning through the experience of life’s lessons. I have always felt that way. That’s why in week 3 of Life Book 2016 I hit a wall with Brave Girl’s Club’s Melody Ross’ lesson, The Wisdom That Creates the Dream. I don’t believe that anyone else can truly experience another’s wisdom, it can be shared as living examples, but you can only grok through the filter of your own personal mythos. No two people will ever share the same knowledge in the same way.
In the early 90’s my family experienced a total loss house fire. Some days I can still smell the ashes and that cloying smoke as I watched basically everything except what I had in my backpack and car burn to dust. A few things survived – an old Samsonite suitcase with some of my ink illustrations in it that I had forgotten about, clothes that were hanging in the back of a closet that I rarely wore. The things of my daily life disintegrated, cracked and broken they quickly disappeared, vanished into ashes and dust as we watched the firemen fight a raging beast. We still don’t know what caused the fire, but it effectively changed life forever with those moments of fierce, intense heat.
One of the ways I healed was through my friend, Noelle. She was a photographer. I stripped naked, covered myself in the mud of the earth on the property and let it dry on my skin and hair until I too was cracked, and dried. First though, we collected an old dressing screen and the remains of melted and burned dolls from the collection that was housed in a cabinet now destroyed.
Out in the field I stuffed my six foot body into the folded frame, and curled as if in a casket. Noelle carefully laid the broken remains of the dolls about me, and photographed it in the hot afternoon sun. It made for one hell of a photo shoot, but like the memories of that day, the photos have faded into memory as has Noelle. That was my wisdom box, and I learned a very important lesson that day: change is the only permanent thing in life. Working on this lesson I learned that I still wear the ashes of that day deep in my skin, and there is still healing to be done.
When I started the lesson, what was coming out was pretty dark. I started drawing an idealized self in a box with the words “wisdom is not linear”. After sewing up the mouth, I then went to drawing spirals which have always been meditative for me. I set it aside thinking I didn’t want to freak all the happy, loving inspirational people in Life Book out with my creepy. I’d set myself goals to make happier art, to try new things but found myself doing tight lined spirals yet again. This piece was circling the drain.
Then my own wisdom moment came. Why was I trying so hard to get rid of my signature style? Why was I feeling it was not enough? Was I really seeking to challenge myself to grow, or just afraid of developing what I already knew to be my true and authentic expression in the world? Wisdom is not linear. It’s a circle. Know, forget, and remember. Repeat.
Like Prospero in The Tempest, I realized that my life is again moving in a new direction. For better or for worse, this means that parts of the old, be they whimsical, magical or just the habits of everyday living, must be left behind to make room for the new. However, the things that are truly meaningful will stick with you like ancient wisdom that you one day remember. So the spirals stay.
There is piece by Italian illustrator Nicolette Ceccoli that has always stuck with me: Olympia. There is no doubt it resonates with me due to the day of the fire and the burnt husks of the dolls. Everything for my Life Book 2016 piece fell into place when I listened to Marianne Faithful’s Epilogue from A Secret Life. The stylized me, holding all the mini me’s is what evolved. I am my own wisdom box.
My kids tell me my final offering still creepy, but I think it is more that with every time you make a change, learn a new lesson, become other than you are in this moment, there is a loss too. Sadness is just a part of being wise.
I’ve been growing my hair and whenever I mention cutting it, my youngest son says that it is a marker of my wisdom. So, I let it grow but I hold close to me the memory, and experiences, of those other Lauri Jean’s who had shaved heads, or short spikes, or longer locks. One day I will cut my hair again, and a new face will show to the world. One day the lessons of my other selves will fade and disappear as I relinquish my tight grasp on that old identity and head into a new day. They will become, as all of us are: we are such stuff that dreams are made on.