My mother was a lot of things. A spoonful of sugar, a blanket in winter and yet she was also a dark night locked outside your front door. She was the bruise of hail and the soft scent of night jasmine. My little self could not get a handle on the shifting tides of her moods. So I did what I could to settle close and wait. And sometimes, just sometimes, she noticed.
They were the days when she felt like being an artist. The afternoons when she took a picnic rug out into the back garden and taught me to see the world. Wrapped up in the picnic rug were pencils, pastels and paper. Glorious paper. I can feel it now. Heavy dimpled watercolour paper. She'd nestle somewhere in the garden and then I'd wait to be invited to the picnic. To my immense relief I was welcome.
We sit under the shade and I'd watch the shadows of dappled light twist across my skirt and on to my bare legs. I could sit for hours. Just the scent of her held me close while I watched her draw. The quieter my pose the longer I was allowed to stay.
One afternoon I got brave.
"Can I do that too?" I held my breath. Just being invited to the picnic was reason enough to smile, but I ached to draw just like her.
"Sure." She pulled off a piece of paper and placed in in my lap, then handed me a pencil and went back to her lines. Her clever lines that scooped around the white space to caress an image into life on the paper before her. I looked at my own empty paper and felt very small. I hated that feeling. That inner crawling of wanting to do something I had no idea how to start. I opened my mouth and all that craving came out as a mere whisper.
"How do you draw?"
My mother looked at me like I'd asked how to breathe.
"Tab, you just do it. You look at what you want to draw and you get real quiet. Then you notice all the smallest things. Don't try to see the whole picture. See the little shapes inside the bigger ones. See the lines that link the shapes and the picture will take care of itself. "
Shapes? Shapes. I could see shapes. In fact I could see all the little twists and turns, intersecting lines and forms. And I drew. I drew and drew. For hours my mother and I sat close in silence just noticing the beauty of little.
My mother is now a graphic artist who sells work locally and is often commissioned for unique pieces by those who appreciate what she does. And I discovered very young that I had inherited her 'artist genes'. I never pursued art. I guess there just weren't enough paper afternoons for me to love it the way she does. But her words still ring in my mind. Notice all the small things, the picture will take care of itself.
Isn't that what we do as writers? Instead of drawing we use words to unveil the beauty of little. And while we are busy building the words, in a way, the story flows out and takes care of itself.
What about you? Do you seek to show the beauty of the little moments in your writing?