LATE BLOOMER

 

 It’s a part of you that you’ve harboured all these years but not dared reveal – even to yourself – that now comes into full bloom. You are the person you dreamed you could be. The world suddenly opens up to your hidden truths and shines its light on the places you have been growing secretly.

 



For what seems like my entire life, I have allowed myself to bloom in only the tiniest of cracks, and for only the briefest moments – more like a May fly than a rose.


I carried with me this feeling of being far behind everyone else. 

I found courage late.

I found love late.

When everyone else seemed to be pursuing their purpose, I frantically planted dozens of seeds but fled the garden before I could see which ones took root.

 

In recent months, I have found myself going back to what was once fertile ground.

 

 

 The moment I decided to paint flowers on the portrait I made of Chuck Close’s iconic Big Self Portrait, 1968.

 

 

I didn’t know why it should be done, I just new that it must. Many times over. I needed to root his painting to something in me.

 

 

 

That beginning blossomed into my MFA thesis project.


What would it mean to remake the self-portrait of a blue-chip, American artist in my own image?


Where he removed all traces of the painter’s hand – an investment in the age of mechanical reproduction – I reinserted my hand, both of them, painting with only my fingers, but at a scale far beyond finger painting, like planting a garden on the moon.

 

 

Over time, experience has shown me that in order to grow, I need to try new things.


I have started to paint with watercolours. I love their luminosity, as if the paintings are lit from behind.

 

 

Currently, I am making a series of watercolour self-portraits with flowers.

 

Portraits of a late bloomer.

 

They look something like this . . . 

 


 

Before the flowers, there were tin cans.


 

 

 

Looking back now, they seem to tell a story of things lost and found.

 

For instance, it’s never the things we’ve lost that we end up finding;

It’s usually something we didn’t even know we’d lost.

 

When I lost my apartment to a fire,

        I found simplicity and acceptance.

 

 

 

 

When I lost my brother, Andy, to a plane crash,

        I found endurance and my own yearning heart.

 

 

 

 

Many times I’ve lost my way.


 

 

 

 

After my apartment burned down, I lost all my favourite dresses and boots, as well as a city.


 

 

 

But I found resilience in imagining replacements.

 

Or the hours I’ve lost on Facebook looking at the many lives I imagined I’d have.

 

 

 

 

Often finding myself gathering the joys of other people’s children

like heavy stones.

 

 

 

 

Putting on my bravest face

            so as not to lose heart.

 

When I lost years of art making to self-doubt and grief,

I found a well of confidence that over-flooded my rusty belief systems

those that whispered for so long, “it’s too late for you.”

 

 

 

When I lost the belief that it was all too late,

I found a crack in the universe –

a glimpse of possible worlds . . .

 

 

 

Then there was the thing I didn’t know I’d lost.

 

 

  David.

 

David is my paternal grandfather’s first cousin.

 

After the war, he had no family left. So he moved to Australia.

 

David survived three camps.

 

But lost is entire family to the Warsaw Ghetto.

Or so David believes . . .

 

He has never had the peace of confirming the deaths of his father and brothers. He was seized by the Ukranian army before he could return to the ghetto to feed his starving father. His brothers had escaped the ghetto earlier, never to be seen again.

 

Not so much perished as lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 No one in our family in Canada knew David even existed.

 

 

 

 

We had photographs of people wearing fur coats and hats whose identities were lost to us.

 

 

 

 

When David found us, we sent him the photographs hoping he might know.

 

He did. They were his mother and father and two of his siblings. Found.

 

Finding David, who survived the impossible, helped me find another way to endure the loss of Andy, who did not survive.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, the act of looking for what is lost is an act of blind passion.


 

 

 

But it turns out we find things where we least expect them,

secretly growing in our blind spots

 

 

 

Springing up like a daisies

      through cracks in concrete.