But earlier this year, I've stepped temporarily into a different dimension! I took part in a book making class taught by Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design professor Shawn Simmons at the John Michael Kohler Arts Museum in Sheboygan as part of its "Art Links" programming that aims to keep the over-55 crowd creatively engaged and challenged.
I'm still working on finishing my class project, but want to show off my two "book" covers here. The front is the image on the right, the back is the image on the left. I am so passionately appreciative of the natural world around me, I wanted to really put that on the page. And so I scored some intriguing hand-made paper for the background as a starting point and then began to build. The birch tree on the front is made from scraps of actual birch bark that I've come across while hiking, while the tree on the back is fashioned of paper from a downed wasp nest. Then I cannibalized old issues of nature magazines I found at a thrift store for the birds and animals, and couldn't resist adding an Audubon print of a Barn Owl with his squirrel quarry that I found on a note card. Everything that I love about walking in the woods--the mystery, the birds, the greenery, the coolness of the shade--found its way into these two covers.
While I will still "dress up" the inside covers in the same vein, since I draw so much inspiration from my walks in the woods and my time at the shoreline, the interior pages will largely be blank. And there's a reason for that.
I have found, in the past several decades, once I started writing "from the heart," that a blank page is an invitation. To what? Well, that's the interesting, and joyful, and sometimes scary part. Sometimes these are happy threads of words and feelings and depths and transitions and closure. And other times, well whoa, it can be like lifting the lid to Pandora's box. Childhood traumas, feelings of abandonment, life long fears that go so deep I can't see the bottom, truths that I have been reflexively denying or ignoring to get from one day to the next. So often, as I have put physical pen to physical paper, I will stop and look back, stunned, at the sentences and thoughts I have just set loose from where they whirled like scraps in the wind inside my mind, and think "oh, so that's what I was thinking." And then, like the contents of Pandora's Box, there is no recapturing them and hiding them away and out of sight.
So I have REALLY enjoyed this "book making" project on so many surprising levels. Starting out, I had no idea how much deep thinking this would provoke, or how much artistic meandering and problem solving it would cause my mind to churn through. Because the thing about adventures both large and small is...you never know where they will take you!