Blood Remembering

I sit in my studio flooded with myriad particular images, impressions and feelings, my response to the calligraphy conference on Vancouver Island from which I have just returned. The site of the conference was so stunning and breath-taking, it was almost a distraction from the task at hand–to lead students into making “a book of ours”. A week of a labyrinthian journey seemed to connect my students to themselves, to their own vision of who they are as calligraphers and art makers. Their books were what I had hoped they would be: Their own, unique, beautiful, honest and true to a commitment to a personal process of discovery.

I came away exhausted yes, but renewed in my commitment to dedicate this year to art-making, to developing my writing–text and calligraphy–and to write my book. It is oddly comforting to know that I can, to quote T. S. Eliot, “begin where I started and know the place for the first time.”

Indeed, it has been ten years since I fully committed to my calligraphic journey. When I began, I wanted to know it all, be it all. Of course now I am content to realize I know so very little– that what I want to express is still beyond me, and that learning and discovery are a lifelong commitment. Rilke’s humbling words about “Blood Remembering”ring true for me, and best sum up my attitude and expectations about my own art-making:

“For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings one had long seen coming; to days of childhood that are still unexplained, to parents whom one had to hurt when they brought one some joy and one did not grasp it; to childhood illnesses that so strangely begin with such a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars–and it is not yet enough if one may think of all of this. One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor, and of light, white, sleeping women in childbed, closing again. But one must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises. And still is is not yet enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer can be distinquished from ourselves–not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.” ( p. 94, R. M. Rilke, On Love and Other Difficulties)

1 Comment

  1. What an amazing quote from Rilke!

    I really enjoyed looking at the amazing books done in your class, Sharon. The week flew past too quickly… well, for the students, anyway. You teachers might have felt differently:)


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