13 December 2011

Art Therapy session 5 - the shawl

Sunday 9th December 2011

Rebekah is only meant to do 5 art therapy sessions with each of her three 'case studies'.

Today was my fifth session but Rebekah suggested doing one more next week, after the 13th December, as a closure.

When she arrived today, I couldn't wait to show her the amazing shawl I'd

found in the op shop. By Friday afternoon, time was running out to find something but I was led straight to it by an invisible hand late in the afternoon as I walked from work to the post office.

As soon as I saw it, I fell in love.

The shawl is light cotton, with a tie dye effect, the palest of green in the centre flooding to a mid green at the ends. Tiny white spots dot the fabric in beautiful patterns, some tear shaped, some spiral. I'm fascinated by the technique used to get this effect. It looks like each little white spot was tied up when the shawl was dipped in dye, so all the little white spots are left undyed. They have been left raised by their tying so there is a lovely textural effect too.

The overall effect looks like tiny white wildflowers in a field of green.

It didn't dawn on me until the next day that in the photo that Mark took of me by the creek last year, the field is dotted with white wildflowers.

Rebekah and I had a short talk about the ritual, the sewing of the words onto the shawl, and the wrapping around to symbolise Mark's embrace.

She asked me how I would incorporate the terracotta heart that I'd moulded in our session the week before. I'd forgotten about the heart.

She had asked me to take a small lump of quick drying terracotta clay, and to think of my love for Mark while working the clay between my hands. The clay was earthy, muscular, fleshy, so warm and real between my hands. I fashioned a plump heart. It was Mark's heart.

It felt too much like a heart.

I gently rolled it around between my palms, caressing it as if I were caressing Mark. His heart was in my hands. I cried. Incredible emotional power is embodied in these symbolic motifs that we attach meaning to.

I may take the heart with me to the creek.

The rest of the session was spent exploring something I'd mentioned last week. It was about the rawness of grief, how I loved being in that state earlier this year. There was great authenticity, no excuses, no compromises. Life was intense and absolute.

How can I retain that as the grief recedes?

To help with this, Rebekah asked me to draw with some natural charcoal. How gritty and real that felt as I pulled it across the textured paper. Charcoal has been burnt, it is the remains of a process that speaks of intensity, and as it glides across the paper, it gradually wears away.

Thinking of the rawness of grief, at first I drew lots of spikey undulating shapes, but soon indulged completely in covering the paper with darkness. Side to side, stroke by stroke, blacker and blacker. When the charcoal broke, Rebekah suggested rubbing the black with my fingers.

I closed my eyes and took fingers to the blackened paper and from somewhere deep within they automatically began to motion the figure 8 on its side - the symbol for eternity. My fingers moved over this shape hypnotically, soothingly, therapeutically, rolling around the corners, back and over, side to side.

When I stopped we looked at the drawing and she asked me what did I see, then whether I'd like to add anything. I saw two eyes, in the centre of each oval. I reinforced them and added an orange flame, then flames up the edges.

It turned out to be an accurate drawing of the burning eyes I look out from when I am consumed with the raw intensity of grief and life.

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