I was in the hospital courtyard collecting fallen leaves, and comparing their colors to a blackout poem bit I had just finished, when another patient asked what I was doing.
“Required therapy”, I told her without looking up from my work.
She watched me for a few seconds, then said, “You pick leaves for therapy?”
“Sure,” I mumbled. My needed therapy involves any activity that exercises my fingers, wrists, shoulders, posture, eye-hand coordination… I should’ve said that to her, but I wanted to find the perfect leaves before having to go to my next appointment, and she was distracting me.
I sort of wanted to get rid of her quickly. But she was as persistent as I was exasperated. In the end, showing her what I meant as I did it took less time than giving her the slip. This is how I explained it to her (without the glorious illustrations):
To me, therapy is anything that rehabilitates, heals and entertains mind, body and spirit. The act of coloring a page can be soothing, even mind-healing (depending what one is coloring), but this activity alone doesn’t offer much physical exercise. This is the reason why the presentation of my blackout and handwritten poetry has become more elaborate—I walk the woods (or hospital courtyards *grins*) to collect materials, then use specific movements to complete each piece, while imagining the parts as a whole.
Some might not think of stitching or ripping paper by hand as very complex work, but when the hands doing the ripping and stitching are half-numb, well… complexity joins the party whether one wants it or not. The controlled movements require patience and dedication. And this is just the mechanics, the real mind-healing (for me) is shaping the visual piece in a way that it doesn’t just echo the words, but also amplifies the message.
Take the following piece, as an example (it includes some of the leaves I collected that day… while I spoke to the woman):
I used a quote I shared on Instagram, from “The Pretty Corpses of Flowers”. The words are handwritten on a recycled coffee filter. The brown marker I used to blackout the poem bit made me think of autumn… So, I gathered leaves to match that feeling, nature that says to me that Healing doesn’t always come in bright colors or smooth textures.
Can your eyes feel the roughness of the paper? The wrinkles that seem to chant, “I’ve been around… brewed coffee that made someone happy… and I’m still going strong”?
Can you appreciate the beauty of the blemishes that make these leaves unique?
It’s not just the exercising of hands with coloring and stitching and ripping of paper, or the soothing of mind by finding bits of life within living poetry, prose, leaf… It’s all of it, dancing together. It’s the soul healing flesh and bone with art that feeds hearts through the eyeballs. It’s human daring denying pain the chance to shroud life with ugliness. It’s my Self baring her teeth, naturally… and delighting every time others join in the baring.
What about you, my Wicked Luvs? What’s your therapy? How do you dance with it?