Tuesday, April 12, 2016

the Art of the Line

"Life isn't a science. We make it up as we go." 
--Al Hirschfeld

During my early and mid-teens I struggled a lot with depression. I had a rough home life, with people who loved me, but gave me very little trust or freedom. I think they really did the best they could, but I think it was hard for them to reconcile having a teenager at a point when technology was coming so much to the foreground of society. Like many kids, I was drawn to endless hours on the computer, and coupled with the self-imposed teenage exile from family, I think they felt they had little choice but to hover over me very intrusively. I figured out at about age thirteen that I could escape a lot of the strife I felt with my family by sleeping. If I was asleep, it was taken as a nap and no one would bother me. I loved sleeping.

I could sleep from about the time I would get home from school, until around 9 o'clock at night, and then again from 10:30 or so until 6:30 and repeat the cycle. It frustrated and concerned my family, but they really had no idea what to do. I was shuttled to multiple therapists, and the general consensus was that for a kid who had lived through what I had lived through (and that will get many posts in the future) I was perfectly well adjusted. Were things kind of odd and messed up? Yeah. But, I wasn't living a "leave it to beaver" kind of life. We had illnesses in the family, I had a tough time adjusting to the many moves my family had made when I was a kid, and my parents divorce was tough. There was also some substance abuse in the family, which made things really trying at times.

As I hit high school, I began to realize that sleeping meant alone time. It would not be uncommon for a family member to stop by my room once an hour (as I said, very little privacy, and very little trust.)  They would leave if they found me asleep, though. I'd wake from shorter naps, and I had a choice of things to occupy myself with. Sometimes it was video games, sometimes I listened to music, I would read. I had lots of copy paper, my backpack, pens.

Then the lines came.

The lines came through me and out of me and on to the page. I couldn't stop them, I was hypnotized by them and I would fill page after page with them. I listened to albums and drew out meditation-lines in this space where nothing was wrong and I could create anything I wanted.

There wasn't a sense of right or wrong in drawing -- not anything right or wrong beyond what felt that way to me. I would create massive arrays of abstract line work studying different colors, working in cartoon forms, focusing on telling a story. I would use a home made light table to work in natural forms such as flowers, weaving them into the line work tapestry. I could draw for hours and hours on end. I didn't really care what anyone's reaction would be at the time.

People did react once they saw them, though. I made friends that I wouldn't have had before in school because they liked my drawings. I posted a lot of my linework online and found a sort of oddball community there of people who also had a gift for corralling an endless stream of line work. Visual art was one of my first hobbies, and I had taken lessons in drawing as a kid, but there wasn't much to be said for abstract drawing. It was really free, and no one could tell you which elements weren't acceptable. I liked that.

Eventually art would give way to musical pursuits, which was just as well. The line work was a good distraction but I doubt I could have ever turned it into a career. I found it just in time to help me out of a dark place, and I will always be thankful for that. I think there has been a common thread through many of the hobbies I've had in my life, right up to marathon running. If there is a common thread it is undoubtedly mental discipline. It wasn't always the easiest thing to draw for hours straight, but I learned a remarkable focus from it.

Running last week took a backseat to my work and family life. I'm intending to pick up my training this week, and I am hopeful about how Big Sur will go. I don't have an ideal time in mind, I just want to run the course and see the sights. I would be happy somewhere in the mid-4 hour range, I would be just as happy to spend more time out in Big Sur looking at the Pacific.


I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
"ecce gratum" -- 
now arrives the glorious spring

my mind stirs
off into the distance
I dream of Big Sur

We are close and yet far away
miles to go 
before the Marathon day

I run with Orion
and Orion runs with me
I dream of Big Sur
and Orion dreams with me

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