Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Soul food

Tonight I found myself having an interesting flashback.  When I was young my younger brother and I spent summers in a tiny south Georgia farm town with our paternal grandmother.  He and I would spend our days shucking corn or shelling peas or exploring the cow pasture for old bones and buttercups, and our nights watching Hee-Haw or some old cop show on a giant cabinet television while outside huge bugs clung to the windows, attracted to the only light for miles, that of the fluorescent overhead in the kitchen.  There was no cable tv, barely a phone, and of course in the 80s, no Internet.  My sibling was my only playmate, so we invented game shows with dolls and chased each other around the yard before the heat got too bad.  The gnats were impossible to escape, temperatures never got lower than the mid 90s, even at night, and my big feather bed was always soaked in the morning when the rooster crowed.  My city-girl desires left me often feeling displaced, lonely, and bored.  I read a lot (including A Wrinkle In Time three times back-to-back one summer), poked around a lot at my dad's old toys, and drew a lot.  A lot.  My grandmother was a hard woman to know, and we had a difficult time relating to each other.  But despite myself, I learned more from those experiences than I ever thought I would.  Who would have thought then that a significant portion of my artistic memory and reference material would have come from that dying farm town?  Certainly not me.  I think if my dad were still alive he'd have a great big chuckle at what he helped create.

Tonight I found myself thinking back to those afternoons with Grandma's soap operas and the scent of freshly shelled black-eyed peas, drawing people in my 5-subject spiral bound notebook.  My grandmother used to receive those giant JC Penney catalogs, as well as a seeming truckload of other magazines and things, but that phone book-sized book of models posing in chinos and horizontal stripes became the perfect reference material for my earliest sketchbooks.  It was from those pages that I learned to handle a pencil.

The Tapas Bar  © Morgan Johnson Norwood
I think about life these days, filled with so many distractions and bombarding images.  Where would I be now if I hadn't been a bored city kid stuck exploring a sweltering farm?

What kind of experiences will shape my daughters' lives?

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