It was the bizarrest thing…to be in a well-known card and stationery shop on the high street seeking a couple of suitable birthday cards for two of my friends, to be scanning the rows and rows of cards then, finally, thinking “ah, this one…”; my arm reaching out to grab it, registering the wave of familiarity washing over me and then realising “oh, its mine”.
It used to be my little daydream, when I first started painting a decade ago, that one day I would walk into a shop and my own art would be staring back at me from beneath the glossy film wrapers of the card rack but I hadn’t given it much thought lately. When it finally happened, it made me chortle so much I felt I had to explain myself to the shop manager who was looking at me like I’d just dropped in from a spacecraft. “This painting is mine” I told her, prodding the image as I paid; “I had no idea it had been licensed for this”. I was a-fizz with girlish excitement about it, so much so that I came under the close scrutiny of a security guard in the next shop, where I reunited with my daughter, for my suspiciously exuberant behaviour as I flapped the small paper bag around in my hand. I just couldn’t get over the chance encounter, especially since I rarely buy cards these days (I’d been intending to make my own but ran out of time).
The painting on the card was quite an early one as far as my garden themes go; the first I ever painted of Charleston (one-time home to the Bloomsbury group; a special place to me) and – how doubly bizarre was this – we were driving down to that part of the world the very next day, specifically to visit Charleston Farmhouse again, for our wedding anniversary. The coincidental timing already had me goosebumping at the synchronicity.
What had happened in that five years? Such a lot, both personally and professionally…and then spiritually, you could most certainly say; a real journey between then and now. Bringing these two time points together felt like an arranged meeting point that finding that card had been the signal of, like a start-whistle going off to announce my eventful weekend had just begun. I was alert to its potential now; it had my full attention.
Suddenly, with both that Charleston card and tomorrow’s trip “in my hand”, I knew I held a full circle of experience in my possession (or, that phrase people use…”closure”) and was about to make a sudden upturn at the closure-point of the ring that it made, to turn the circle into a spriral…an evolution on all the themes I had been “working on” in the time in between the two markers. Our trip back to Charleston had already felt pre-destined, a meant-to-be which I had planted in our diary like a flagpole many months ago and then looked forward to with an unusual intensity (we were making a weekend of it, staying in a marvellous five-star B&B). It was much more than just the outward trimmings of a lovely weekend away; it felt like putting something in place, tying a knot, extracting the pearl…I didn’t really know what it was yet but it felt right on time and chancing upon that card that very afternoon felt like a clue pointing at something bigger than I yet knew anything about. The fact I brought two of these cards home with me (one for each friend) suddenly felt like something to do with our wedding anniversary – we don’t send cards to each other anymore (though there was a time when we would have both descended on that same shop to purchase, yes, a couple of cards…) but, inadvertently, it seemed like we were being taken through the paces of doing that after all. If this weekend was going to be about relationships then I couldn’t have received more of a clue; as it turned out, our weekend unrolled itself along the thematic pathway of male and female relationships and garden paths from beginning to end and so this twin pair of identical gardens (depicting a pathway through the blooms) couldn’t have been more on target…
It all felt like part of a journey I had been unwittingly travelling, one of my many metaphorical pathways and routes that I talk about endlessly in this space…and then I guffawed outloud as I clocked that, of course, the familiar card publishers name glinting out at me in silver letters on the wrapper of these cards was “Tracks”; I was literally holding two tracks in my grasp…one track (that image leading me back to Charleston) or two tracks (my last experience there since had been divided into many reproductions and I now held two of them in my hand); a meeting point of two strands of the initial current of potential that I sent out into the world when I last visited the garden and painted that view. Like a dragon line…two impulses that travel separately yet occasionally coincide in the same place; like the male and female impulses of this world…everything I have been preoccupied with lately in the most metaphysical layer of my existence…and now I was holding two identical cards (painted by me) of the garden where my husband and I were spending our wedding anniversary that week. How could this message to myself have been delivered to me in any more of an obvious “wrapper” than this? Again, I laughed at the blatantly obvious way that the most astonishing information is always made available to us in the most readily available and simplistic forms; through synchronicities and personal clues and symbols that light up our way with meaning and significance every step of the way, if we allow them to.
Had I written my own story (knowing, at some level, I did), this is exactly how it would have played out. The themes that were just opening around the time of that last visit to Charleston (and there were many extremely potent ones…) have recently been winding down to fresh new conclusions. My trip back there wasn’t about nostalgia – this would be my third visit across a time-span of many years – but a willingness to experience it all through completely new eyes, to be delivered a completely new ending; I was open to having whatever experience was waiting for me there, not demanding a faithful action-replay of all the times before…and the complete surrender to that was, itself, a newness I was eager to try out.
In finding that card, I was being given the thumbs up to all the pieces I had put in place to allow this unfolding to happen without me having to stage-manage every detail so closely that there was no room to maneuver or expand into previously unexplored territory. I was ready to graduate out of this level of the game and, without having any clue what lay before me on the other side, to be taken up to the next one through the metaphysical portal of my weekend. In every way, it all felt potent with promise – sheer potential was coming at me from all sides. I loved my life for delivering this latest piece of my jigsaw with such humour and a child-like fizz of excitement at seeing myself in print; the rather trivial thrill of seeing myself mirrored back from amongst all the anonymous rank and file of cardboard images on the display shelving of a shop. If this is how life delivers its “go-ahead” clues to me these days then I love it, am thrilled and endlessly excited to be part of it and am ready to admit that life never delivers a dull moment (not ever…at least, not when you are paying attention) and was looking forward to my weekend already!
Charleston I (2012) original oil on canvas by Helen White – http://www.helenwhite.org