I want to draw more. Fill my sketchbook with small wonders and sketches from my dreams. But drawing takes time, and a certain stillness. A settledness. You have to sit with your subject, whether it is in your imagination or in a vase in front of you. And that settledness seems to be more difficult to attain in a world filled with dopamine-inducing distractions.
While on vacation at the beach we were blessed with a rainy day. Everyone else in my family had a certain restlessness, as if the house was a worn out pasture, and they were hungry ponies, the sweet smell of grass wafting from elsewhere. Elsewhere, elsewhere murmured the rain on the roof. I was happy to see the rain, because I feel as if I will wilt in the glare of seaside sun, my thoughts broiled in the light, my boy listless in the heat.
I waited for the rain to subside and then went out on my bike, the cool and startle of raindrops on my skin refreshing and meditative. I gathered a sampling of beach plants, new friends whose name I hadn’t yet learned. I took the plants inside and began to draw. It was the perfect sort of vacation activity for me. People who know me always disagree when I say I’m an introvert, but there’s the proof. I am happiest in the quiet spaces of a house, in the solitary pursuits of my wandering soles, while crowds and chattering voices set me on age, stir up the silt of anxiety.
So, there I was, happily drawing on the little writing desk in the corner of my vacation room, the little sampling of plants sprinkling bits of sand on the desktop, and the tiniest of spiders wondering what to make of her new locale. It occurred to me that I would benefit from a daily drawing practice. Truthfully I have a hard time with daily anything. But I decided I could try it for a week. A week should be manageable, right?
Here is my first daily drawing, nothing to write home about. It is of a simple and very common plant, wood sorrel (Oxalis corniculata). I don’t know if she grows everywhere, but it would not surprise me if she did. She is abundant and resourceful. Around here we call her sour grass, a name my children gave her as toddlers when, following my lead, they snacked on her tingy-tangy heart-shaped leaves. Tasty!
Drawing this simple and decidedly plain plant, I kept thinking about an interview I had watched the night before, where Dustin Hoffman is talking about the movie “Tootise”. You know, the one where he played a man who dresses as a woman to get work. That’s from way back in 1982. I remember watching as a young teen on VHS. Anyway, he describes the grief that arose from his experience, in make-up, as an unattractive woman. He realized that he had missed getting to know so many interesting women, just because they weren’t beautiful. Because women that are not beautiful are ignored. It’s a bias that has, unfortunately, been scientifically proven, and one that is worthy of our attention.
And here I am, devoting my attention wholeheartedly to this plain and everywhere plant. Her stalk is chaotic, a bustle of buds and leaves and stems, nothing of grace or order, and her one flower is the tiny and common arrangement of five petals. Five mundane lemon yellow petals. That overused yellow, probably because it is beloved by bees.
I feel myself to be so much like this plant, far beyond the norms of stateliness or grace, a stem of chaos, but still bountiful and generous, I feel as if all women are this plant, the imperfections of our selves tucked away, or glaringly obvious. Sweet wood sorrel, her heart leaves chewed away in parts, some hanging loose and tattered, is busy at the spine making more leaves and flowers, and quite simply, thriving. It’s what we can all do, when we embrace our unique beauty, the kind that radiates from the heart, the kind that some folks might not ever see, but that those that are alive, that are really paying attention, are drawn to. Just like the bees that love that enticing lemon yellow, those five petals announcing the nectar of the heart.