"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
In the midst of moving over the summer, there was something I knew I had to do.
Several years ago, when I was in the throes of Project Redecorate My House, I purchased a large square canvas and painted it with a saying I had coined during that season, a mantra that kept me grounded in the midst of change. The letters were white and the background a soft sky blue.
I loved that canvas. It reminded me of the sense of strength and inspiration I experienced daily during a time of shifting.
But when it was time to direct my energy toward a new home, a new space, I knew I couldn't take it with me. Not in that form. As much as I savored the truth it contained, I needed to stay close to the new truths that were unfolding. Because I hadn't decided which one I wanted to capture on it (nor did I have the time to do so), I knew it needed to come into my new life blank.
I set the canvas on my kitchen counter and passed over it with several coats of glossy white paint. I spilled the paint directly onto the canvas so it formed little puddles and then took my roller and smoothed it around. I went back and forth and back and forth until all of the blue was covered with a bright white finish.
This process was therapeutic. I have often wanted to discard relics of the past in the hopes that the pain associated with them would be simultaneously washed away. Though I loved the truth it contained, that canvas also reminded me of circumstances that pierced me not long after I painted it.
As I rolled each fresh layer of paint over it, it was healing to acknowledge the kernel of hope the canvas still embodied. Letting it come with me into the next season of life felt right, like an act of acceptance of all that had happened and of what was ahead.
After several coats and lots of dry time, faint reminders of my mantra remained. The outline of the letters was still slightly visible, as if they had been engraved. There was no way to cover over this, it was simply a result of how it had been painted the first time.
I found this trace of what was there before comforting, further evidence that my goal was not to erase the past, but to carry it with me in a way that strengthened and inspired me.
The blank canvas made the trek with me into my new space. Then it sat, perched on my dresser and leaning against the wall, for almost three months. I knew I wanted to fill it with something, but I wasn't sure what that was.
One day I knew it was time, and I also knew that painting it--filling it with something new--was as much an act of faith and acceptance as covering it over had been.
I gathered my materials and--with no real plan except a vague picture in my head--I went to work. I tried a new technique, using several layers of different colors of paint in soft, broad strokes.
As I added each coat of blue, gold and brown, I thought about the sea, the sun and the sand and the emotions these things evoked in me.
I questioned myself through the process, feeling the pressure of "doing it right," but I kept at it. Deep down, underneath all my fear, I knew that it would all work out.
When the background was done (and I had to admit that I loved how I felt when I looked at it), I added another layer to it: the words of one my favorite poem by Rilke--broken into bite-sized pieces--appropriately titled "Moving Forward."