In addition to the attic, with its boxes of old letters, I've been cleaning out my studio spaces. Thirty years of accumulated evidence, some sedimentary, are hard to ignore. There is a lot of information here about who I am, and even more about who I once was.
In the earlier parts of those years - for the majority of my life, in fact - I did a lot of creative things, moving fairly seamlessly from one to another. I was a calligrapher; I painted and drew; I sewed and knitted; gardened; did creative bookbinding; played the piano. And I loved doing all of those things. I never had any illusions about being anything other than an amateur musician, but I was a pretty good painter and probably worked harder at that than anything else. But painting was too solitary for me to do exclusively, and besides, we were building a business and working hard, and I didn't want to do graphic design all day long and then go and do visual arts; it felt better to play the piano or knit something, or read. And then I got to be forty or so, and had a crisis of meaning and direction - or rather, at 40 the crisis that had been building since I was 35 came to a head - and I decided to stop painting and put my energy into writing with a focus that had before been lacking in any of these other areas. For the most part, I haven't looked back, and the focus and determination have been worth it; I also think I was right in what I chose.
But as I've been sifting through those previous years, I've found myself stubbornly reluctant to part with the boxes of quilt fabric, the art supplies, and especially my painting equipment. I've kept my hand in, over the years, a little bit, and the painting studio became my meditation place as well so I have very deep associations with it. Today as I stacked stretcher-strips and looked through sketch books and sorted cans of gesso and bottles of linseed oil, and - curious - put unfinished paintings up on the easel for another look, I felt an almost overwhelming urge to begin again. The photography satisfies some of the same desires, but it is not tactile in the same way as painting, nor is it as unpredictable. Most of all, it is not nearly as difficult. Painting, like writing, is all-absorbing, but in a very different way, and I've both loved it and hated it for that at times. Now I am tired, in a different way, of being cerebral and verbal all the time. I've used so many words.
We will undoubtedly set up a new studio somwhere else, and I have no intention of relinquishing these tubes and brushes and linens to my past alone. I do know that the person who plunged in again would be different from the one who left it aside a long time ago; it could be pretty interesting to meet her.