"Nightmare After Hamster-Wheeled Stress Thinking" - mixed media on watercolor paper, 30" x 22". Inquiries.
It's October - that time of the year when we are free to explore all things frightening, or to (for one night) become scary monsters and creepy ghouls ourselves. So it just makes sense to have a scary painting challenge, right? But you know me...I can't just choose a scary vignette and paint it. I have to explore what terror feels like to me and let the painting do a little talking during the process. This one was quite a surprise!
It began as a what seemed to be three floating skeleton heads in a sea of color, but somewhere along the layers this screaming person in her pajamas and night cap appeared, and she happened to be chased by a floating skeleton head, who seemed poised to CHOMP at any moment! WHAT? Ok, ok. We have to dissect this, right?
Apparently I am afraid of insomnia. Probably because it happens a lot. I know, I'm at "that age" where sleep can't be taken for granted anymore. Sometimes the thought wheels are spinning in the middle of the night. Mark Nepo wrote an exquisite chapter about fear in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. He called it "Raven Talk", and describes perfectly the grip of spiraling thoughts: "I was already drowning in what-ifs, and the fear began to circle like a raven gliding near my heart, waiting for an opening to tear its piece...I am stuck in its dark wing. I cry out to no one." It never fails to stun me how stress thoughts can amplify in the dark of night, taking on strength and mass and becoming monsters. Nepo goes on: "So now I'm up again in the night trying to shoo the dark bird of fear."
Once I finally drift off, dreams drag the thought ravens into my sleep world in bits and pieces, turning them into houses without exit doors and never-ending hallways. But when I wake, except for a brief sound of wings carrying away the last of the dreams, the worries have been swept away. Nepo calls this "dreaming the fear from our hearts".
So as I contemplate this frightened character and her nightmare, I consider one more Nepo-ism: "The things that frighten us just want to be held." With that one sentence, the monsters are rendered small and in need of comfort, and the raven just a bird on a tree limb.