Yes, I have been missing in action. I’ve been engaged in another activity. I’ve been coloring. Designs that I made years ago, and even a few new ones. It’s a very long story, but the activity is one I enjoy and brings a huge assortment of added benefits. There are those who would simply dismiss it as no more than “child’s play”. But, children play for a reason other than just the fun of it. Playing puts them inside the process of learning. For instance, sometimes they play house. In doing so, they try on the roles of the adults around them and may find that some of those roles are fun, perhaps have much deeper meanings, or even allow them to consider the fact that they might not want to grow up at all.
When we, as adults, choose to engage in similar activities, we are also putting ourselves in the way of a learning process. Perhaps no more than learning what works or doesn’t. Actually, when I started this design, I simply wanted to see how many different shades of blue I could put on the page, and how they might or might not work together. I have acquired, over the years, a rather huge coloring box, of different types of coloring pens. From simple Sharpies, to real brush water color pens, as well as a few odd ones simply because they interested me in the moment.
The great part of such an activity is that it can swiftly become what is defined as “active meditation”. The hands are busy in repetitive action, and the mind is free to roam through its storage chest of memories and what those memories can bring forward all these years later. And that is exactly what happened here and how this particular black and white design turned into Turtle Island.
Somewhere, in the midst of all those different blues, I remembered my closest friend from High School. She was an incredible artist, while I remained no more than a dabbler. She and her large family were of Native American descent. Members of the Oneida Nation, which has land just west of the city where we lived and went to school. We were both a tad bit on the rebellious side, and yes, we did get into a bit of trouble now and then. My parents thought she might be a bad influence on me, while her family had similar thoughts about my person.
We together did lead a sort of rebellion (my idea) at the High School. We gathered the very best of the female Art students and demanded that we be allowed to take Drafting, a “boys only” class. We got what we wanted and she and I ended up in the class together. The other girls were separated and were kept singular in each class hour. Not nice, but the school was, I think, trying to teach us something. It didn’t work.
But Mary and I drifted apart after school. I got married and moved to a city three hours away. Had four kids and started divorce proceedings because my husband was an abusive alcoholic. And I applied and was accepted at the four year University in our neighbor city.
I loved college. Although I was almost forty when I entered, I thrived in that environment. It was where I realized that I wanted to write. I had lots of encouragement from instructors and fellow students. At one point, I asked a Philosophy Instructor if I could do an independent study with him and write about how myths and legends affect the structure of communities and nations. He gave me cart blanche, simply told me I could do anything I chose.
I had already declared a major in History. And I decided to combine a History assignment and the Philosophy study. I was doing an American History class at the time and thought it might be interesting to look into some Native American myths. Came back to my home city for a week and called out to the Oneida Nations Museum to see if I could get some information. And was absolutely amazed that the woman who answered the phone was my old friend Mary.
We set up a time and got together at the museum. She helped me gather a few books, but then recited the Native American Creation Myth and how the North American continent came to be called Turtle Island. She also explained how the Oneida Indians received their tract of land for their support of the Colonials in the Revolutionary War. All of that came back to me as I was coloring the above image. An incredibly rich store of memories, but also a reminder that when I choose my own path, things seem to come together in ways no one could or would ever imagine.
And that still remains true. I’m thirty-five years older now, but I needed that reminder. And I love that it came while I was playing with the color blue.