my writing sanctuary

I’ve loved this Mary picture since I found it in Germany years ago in an old shop. I’m not religious but her face is so benevolent. Her presence calms me. I’m also compelled by the idea of a sword through the heart, crowned with flowers like a grave stone. I like to think we can all be this vulnerable and open, exposing our hurts and hopes so provocatively. It’s the ultimate exhibitionism. Once I found a medieval chart in an illuminated manuscript– a page filled with red hearts, each with its own weapon. We all die in our own ways, some little by little, as the bullets and arrows accumulate, others all at once. I want to know what dies and what grows in my heart. 

Speaking of the medieval days, I found the walking stick (the one above the Mary picture) along the Canterbury Cathedral Pilgrim’s Way in a wood of bluebells a couple of months ago after I drove to France in the wee hours of the night to pick up my husband and daughter from their trip to Germany and the USA. Driving back from Dover with bleary eyes, my family asleep, I stumbled upon the Pilgrim’s Way, pulled over, and lay down in the bluebells. I had just realized I was getting a divorce, so the walking stick is special to me. The idea of a new journey, and even if I’m too hobbled to walk, just knowing that my stick will hold me up. The stick is made of two branches that are inseparable.

These are hundreds of pages of emails that Sean printed out, wrapped in tissue, and tied with bows. Above the emails, a punting hat given to by my friend Burt after my first go at punting in Oxford on the river Cherwell next to Magdalen College (Oscar Wilde’s alma mater and where a bird once shat on my head in the deer park – I rinsed it out with red wine). Burt and I once sneaked pints of beer out of the Angel and Greyhound pub, across the parking lot, and through the meadow, to the tangled nettles at the edge of the Cherwell where we took turns punting another summer’s day. 

This is a wonderful birthday letter from a friend (framed) and Sean’s “I fly my Jalina like a kite” drawing. In the foreground is my body cut from paper (one of the nude, translucent paper dolls I used to create a video montage)

This is a portrait of me sketched by my daughter a few years ago, above a bird’s nest my friend Louise gave me in Italy

A wire heart given to me by my daughter AK with love notes in it (including one of my most beloved treasures: the instructions my kids posted all over Headington as a scavenger hunt for me. I followed their notes like crumbs to the Headington park where my girls were waiting for me with a picnic – all just to cheer me up. Amazing.). Above the notes, the flaking shelf is actually a floorboard from Sean’s art studio that he yanked out and affixed to my wall (the floorboard made cameo appearances in years of Sean’s fine art photography – it’s a celebrity).

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