Is this winter bringing out your inner slug? Usually I try to move through my feelings but right now, I don’t have the energy. Since art is the closest thing to dreaming and I can’t go to sleep now because it’s daytime, I need to draw.
I take out my pastels and paper. I don’t feel like going all the way to the kitchen to fill up a cup of water but I know I’ll regret it if I don’t. To get to the heart of the matter I draw an outline of my heart and divide it into four chambers. I don’t have a particular image in my mind but I take up some dark brown and make curved lines that come together in one of the top chambers. As the lines take shape I can see a brown bear sleeping inside her cave. The broad strokes capture her outline and bulk. I smudge in some red over and into the brown for the color and texture of her fur. She is resting and snoring, warm and safe. There is not a single demand being placed on her and she demands nothing of others. But a desire to sleep and a desire to escape the pressures of relationships are only a part of the picture. Because after I take naps and withdraw, I’m often still tired.
A fruit bat hangs upside down in the chamber next door. The bat is not sleeping, but she is still and her body is closed in on itself like upside down child’s pose. I draw pale gray zig-zag lines extending from the bat to indicate how she is using echolocation to search inside the cave and beyond its walls. She is actively sensing and sorting while motionless.
In the third chamber are sepia, tan and maroon roots and I highlight them with green and navy. These curling, waving strands are reaching deep down into dark earth. There’s no room for branches or a trunk because directly above these tree roots is the sleeping bear.
What lies in the fourth chamber? I wonder, my fingers hovering over the colors. I’m willing to stay with images of darkness, solitude and stillness. But the dark colors aren’t quite right. I reach for the yellow and in the fourth chamber I draw a candle. I’m not trying to make it bright but it is. The flame blazes orange and yellow with some sparks of red. I blend the colors together with a few drops of water and the flame glows, creating a halo that extends beyond the walls of its chamber.
As I add finishing touches to my work it occurs to me that I could not have thought myself out of today’s bout of winter blues. But now I have a map and a mirror in front of me: brown bear, fruit bat, roots and candlelight. And there isn’t much to offer the outside world right now. Maybe that is why I’m so tired. For 10 hours a day, five days a week my life takes place outside. I live in a crowded, noisy city so my world is a demanding environment. Inner work close to home is the heart of the matter right now.
Here is the work that the winter world demands: sleeping, sensing, grounding and kindling. This is the time for keeping the art supplies close at hand. It’s a time for Yin Yoga, a hot bath, reaching out to a friend and planning a small potluck dinner. Putting sweaters on the dogs and taking them to the park. Going to see a play that uses shadows and light and minor key music. Planting paper white bulbs in bowls filled with pebbles. Buying boxes of batteries for people who still have no electricity from the hurricane. What is the work and play of winter? The possibilities are interior and endless.
Merryl Reichbach, LMSW, ACE, MA She is a Clinical Social Worker and art therapist with children, teens and their families. She also has a private practice as a certified holistic health counselor (graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ACE Certified Personal Trainer and loves integrating art, yoga, writing and dance into her life and her work.
Website: Jumping Woman Wellness