I’m reading Tom Robbins right now, thankfully, again. He’s talking about what a boy with an imagination, in poverty and neglect, does for entertainment.
The Reader’s Digest and the mail order book clubs and the library relieved the grinding boredom of being poor. Not to mention the constant terror of constant abuse. Distraction is a wonderful thing.
Besides reading about the dust bowl depression and the Cannery Row of Monterey where Steinbeck would describe dew on a leaf to make your mouth water, I was exposed to Naked Came I, David Weiss, a novel of Rodin.
I remember him being raised also in poverty, also shortsighted, being under the kitchen table as a boy, drawing. The rest of the novel was above my reading level, age 10, but I never put a book down, it was my marathon reader’s accomplishment to finish it. Having been neglected and abandoned from birth I was never one to leave a book, a pet, a project a person. All or nothing took some therapy to resolve, life doesn’t provide certainty. We have the right to change our minds.
Fast forward to age 18, I’m caught in a prairie thunderstorm, on the streets of Calgary since I was 14, the only shelter was the Glenbow Museum, they were having an opening, and I enter to get out of the punishing rain and hail. There before me was this hand, lifelike, straining describing in 3 dimensions, my life. I cried, I just burst into tears.
Later in life this continued to happen, at art school as an adult student particularly, I would get in front of a work and just start leaking. They called it an aesthetic experience, a spiritual experience, I was ‘sensitive’, all kinds of stuff. I think it was being in front of a work where the artist took great care, exhibited love of his work of his medium, husbanded his resources. A demonstration of the kind of devotion to his creation I didn’t experience as a child from a parent. I say ‘his’ intentionally, as my father, a coal miner, died of lung cancer when I was 2. I was introduced to grief and loss of male love in the womb.
Female love, my mother and likeminded women I subsequently became attracted to, was narcissistic and untrustworthy. They were convincing in their promises of avowed commitment and excellent liars. Took some more therapy to heal that as well.
But that’s another story…