Damn, I loved drawing all those bubbles.
A moment of silence? Let’s try 50+ years.
Before I was born, I had a brother who left this world before he even came into it properly. He left a perfectly Larissa-sized hole in the world. He left a hole in my parents’ hearts that I could never fill.
I didn’t know about him until I was 11. It took another 40 years before I had the nerve to ask what his name was. My father couldn’t quite remember. He left a hole so big, it swallowed his name.
I struggle with talking about my history. Because it is so tangled up with the story of my parents’ lives. Because I sometimes hate that I can’t separate myself from them and their story. Because I know they would rather I didn’t talk about it. Because they never talk about it, and it makes me feel crazy.
I used to say that I couldn’t stop picking at these holes in the skin of my family. It felt like there was something wrong with me, or maybe there was something wrong with them. But I’m starting to see this pain as something that I have a mysterious drive to Be With. There’s nothing wrong with that. And the more I learn to Be With things, the more I see how many things I turn away from, and the more I can respect my parents’ turning away from what feels like Everything That’s Important.
People sometimes wonder why my work is so slow. This is why: I go to the studio and make one cardboard wing and pin it to a sculpture. And then I am shaking and I have to sit down and just breathe for a while.
And then I hang a plastic replica of a baby’s skull inside the sculpture’s chest. And I am shaking again, and I have to lie on the floor and resource my butt off. And that’s enough for one day.
When you carry a child in your body, it is literally part of you. Everybody knows that. But did you know that fetal cells can stay in a mother’s body for the rest of her life? Did you know that they can make their way into a younger sibling’s body?
I have smuggled my brother out of our mother’s house.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
In some ways, this page feels like a long time ago. I’ve moved on to another chapter – different characters, different textures, different self.
In other ways, it feels like exactly where I am right now – suspended between the past and the future, between the known and the unknown. Not much to do but breathe, float, dream, and panic. And keep drawing. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Let’s see if I can post directly from the iPad where I’m making these images! Usually I transfer the images to my laptop because I like to do my writing on a device with a real keyboard. But I’m in the studio today, and it’s raining. The laptop is at home. I’d have to get wet before I could use it.
(I love that it’s raining. We’ve been having a drought here, and it was a very hard summer for my garden.)
Sometimes I feel a pressure to get the whole story out. But it’s impossible. Stop. Rest. Kiss the ground. This book is not a sprint, or even a marathon. It’s a pilgrimage.
Drawing is seeing. Seeing what moves through the body, the mind, the soul. After I finished this page, I cried for the better part of an hour.
Writing is seeing too. I might cry again when I finish this post. Left Otter and Right Otter (yes, it’s true, I’m terrible at naming things): off they go, into separation.
In my head, I can hear my father picking this page apart. Shut up, Dad.
I think everyone in this book is going to have monster feet.
There’s so much about the world that feels bad and uncomfortable right now. It feels a little wrong to be holed up in my studio making art. Sometimes it feels terribly wrong to be having fun. But it makes me feel less like clobbering my fellow humans when I have to go food shopping, so I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s worth doing.
I decided to do the graphic novel on an iPad, and there’s a big learning curve. It’s going very slowly. But I love being able to erase things cleanly without tearing the paper. I love having a permanent marker that never runs out of ink or makes a mess of my fingers. I love not doing the lettering by hand.
(Full disclosure: nobody paid me to say any of that. Nobody pays me for anything. I am quite possibly the least essential worker ever, at least by any of the usual metrics.)
Page 1 of all the newspapers today is about a certain public figure testing positive for coronavirus. Page 1 of this book is about something else entirely. Here is the news from my studio:
The weird fish is a reference to a little comic I made several years ago. It makes me ridiculously happy.
“in the eye of the storm, in the mouth of the predator, with or without you, i dance”
I wish I had a very pale pink Sharpie to give her feet some color. But I don’t, and I am committed for the moment to using only what I’ve got in the studio, so she has little ghosty feet.
Fun fact: I found a mouse like this in my desk once. I scooped her out and put her in a bucket while I went out and bought a cage for her. She was my office-mate for three years. I called her The Poopsmith because of what she’d done in my desk.
Sure, you could say “Fuck you too. Have a nice life.”
You could say a lot of things. Lord knows they did.
Or you could try this:
“I’ve been thinking about what you said, and it’s sinking in that my email was very clumsily worded. Perhaps I should have said [insert a different and less offensive chunk of the truth here]. I’m sorry to have added insult to injury. I can only hope I haven’t just stuck my other foot in my mouth. I am beyond tired.”
Guess which approach will lead to less future engagement (which is ultimately what you want).
Sad that it took me so long to learn this. Better late than never, though.
In happier news, I am loving my newest girl so much today: