Well, it seems that three years, over a thousand days, have gone by since I began this project. Interestingly, I find myself in the same place that I was when the idea first came to me…here on “The Edge of America,” otherwise known as Folly Beach. If you’ve any familiarity with this amassed collection of archives, this albatross of thought and impression, half-formed scheme and wild conjecture, you know that it started out as a simple project devised as a strategy to reclaim a long-lost hobby. I just wanted to draw again…and I wanted to finish something and I wanted it to be beautiful in the way that things that simply are what they are tend to be beautiful.
As this project has progressed and evolved and decidedly de-volved at a couple of points, stumbling and with gaps left, my life has mirrored it in a lot of ways and it has definitely mirrored my life, though in ways that sometimes didn’t seem like my life at all and, at times, plainly were not my life. One of the most primary themes here, among all these words and all these images, is the effort to shed light on who, really, am I? I thought that I knew, but I didn’t. In the course of drawing and erasing lines, I began to see things differently and in some ways it was all very clear and in other ways the distortions were tremendous. Possibly one of the most brilliant things I have ever done is to figure out that I can write myself into a mess and then I can write myself right back out of it, untangling the ideas and feelings that the words spell out until I reach some sort of resolution that I can fall asleep with.
I mostly write this for myself, but since my story – like all our stories, whether we care to admit it or not – is thoroughly involved with the story of the world…well, let’s just say that I try to keep that in mind. I don’t, at this point, have any option other than to be aware of the world and the way that the tales of history and hopes for the future collide in some sort of understanding.
From a young age, I wondered if ignorance might really be bliss and I know now that it is not. Nonetheless, many times I have observed the seemingly oblivious walking and talkingness of the world with something that edges on envy. “These people are not worrying about what might be happening on the other side of town, they are not worried about what might be happening on the other side of the world. They don’t care to know what was here before them and they don’t care to know what might be here after they leave. Look! They’re laughing!”
I have since come to deeply appreciate the glorious absurdity that any of this exists at all and that we can, in fact, laugh while the world is living and dying. I have found my own sort of thoroughly informed bliss.
I did not realize that not everybody thought about things in the way that I always have. I cannot see a single thing without thinking about its context, be it fleeting or eternal. My thoughts are not just thoughts. They are pictures and in the pictures there are smells that I don’t smell, but imagine, and there are sounds that I’ve never heard, but can feel in my bones. Thus, it is both beautiful and tremendously wrenching for me to consider anything at all. If I set foot on the beach, I cannot help but to find myself in the small space on the big map that I inhabit and my mind leaps the horizon in all directions and three hundred years ago, when the ships were still made of wood, may just as well have been yesterday. My heart is often populated by all the animals in all the seas that the tiny waves at my feet might join to and all the endless births and deaths that this world has seen, the stretch of land to water and then to now.
I watched a place I love, a very special place in the world, a place that was once holy to some and which is still holy to me, get destroyed when I was young and I understood why it was getting destroyed, why the trees were being pulled from their roots and the ground was scraped clean. I knew that it had everything to do with money and that it had everything to do with grown-ups thinking that they could choose to wreck things if it suited their will. For years, I would pass through the neighborhood that was built atop the ponds and the blackberries and I would walk the streets that were paved to meet the dirt road that led to home and I never could forget that, over there, there used to be…and because I grew up hearing stories, because I was raised in a house built of wood from another house, I never could deny the hard facts of the worlds that had come to pass.
Alongside the dirt road, there were trees planted in rows, South Georgia pine, planted as pulp for the mills and deep in the trees, there was a old cattle trough, indicating that at one time the woods had been a pasture. I knew, however, that before there were cows, there were oysters and we’d find the mounds of them alongside the creek. There were pieces of broken pottery in the garden amongst the rattlesnakes and the fence lizards, which, rumor has it, have all but disappeared.
Is it any wonder that I lost my mind?
Three years have passed and much has changed. A lot of things will never be the same, as such things go. Still, there is much that will not change and those few golden threads are what I use to keep myself tethered…and I know that am not holding on alone.