Saturday, November 17, 2007

Article: The garage of the brain

Cartoon from around 1980

After my car which was parked in the garage had a rat infestation, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the garage needed some serious cleaning. Each weekend and for an hour or so after work every day, I’ve been knocking things down from the rafters or moving them from the huge pile of junk at the back and throwing them into the truck for my now weekly trip to the dump. I throw away almost everything.

I’d gotten used to tossing stuff without looking at it when one dilapidated cardboard box caught my attention. Hey, this was my stuff! Stuff I wanted to keep. Stuff I’d looked for over the years and never found. Stuff that could not survive the hostile environment of the garage with its extreme temperatures, high humidity and rat and raccoon populations. Against all odds, most of the contents had survived.

A flood of memories washed over me as I opened a once-familiar lab notebook. This was my notebook from my Chem 5 Quantitative Analysis lab course at UC Berkeley. Wow, did I ever have neat writing back in those days. I couldn’t write like that now to save my life. Neat rows of numbers, precisely charted data, careful analysis. Come to think of it, I did pretty well in that class. Still, why keep such a thing? The data means nothing to me now. But my fingers stopped on a page showing a drawing of the laboratory apparatus used for one of the experiments.

I was surprised at the detail and care my younger self took with that drawing. What motivated me to be so detailed and meticulous? It’s not perfect but, if I had to, I could recreate that exact setup using that drawing. It made me remember how much I used to love to draw. I don’t do that anymore. Looking at the drawing I wondered why.

I pulled out a yellowed sketchbook with a missing cover. What a strange feeling to remember doing, feeling, thinking, something you’ve completely forgotten. I found a pencil sketch of a coyote dated July 3rd, 1972. I was only sixteen then. I made the drawing from a photo in an issue of National Geographic. It had taken me hours. Those hours, that drawing, that feeling of creation and satisfaction had disappeared from my memory as if they had never happened. And now they were back.

I picked the box up, this one would go into the house for closer examination. As I carried it, a brightly colored paper dropped out and floated on an imperceptible breeze to land under my car. I set the box down and gingerly picked the ancient sheet out of the dust. It was a felt-marker sketch of a red-and-white Pegasus, highly stylized. There was no date. Back in Junior High I was in a club that met at lunch once a week. The only thing I remember about that organization was making drawings like these to be used as greeting cards for nursing home patients.

Back in the house, I rummaged through my early years as immortalized in artistic endeavors. Amazing how things disappear into the past and don’t reach the surface of your mind again for years and years. And yet they are still there, tucked away in the mental equivalent of a garage rafter. I remember drawing that cartoon about a magician snake who could pull a rabbit out of its hat being compared to a dog that could roll over. It appeared in the newsletter for a reptile club I used to belong to. I remember all that now looking at the drawing. I didn’t remember it yesterday.

What a weird thing the mind is. This weekend I am going to try to sit down with a piece of paper and see if I can draw something. Not just the stupid doodles I do these days but an actual drawing. I wonder if I can still do that, if my mind retains not just the memory but the knowledge.

Photo: Diagram of experimental apparatus from my Chem 5 class at Berkeley.

Photo: A pencil drawing of a coyote I made when I was sixteen
Photo: A felt-marker drawing of a Pegasus, probably from junior high school.


Rachel said...

You need to pick that drawing pad back up, Melanie! These are fantastic. :)

Wayne said...

Drawings look great, which will you choose your new camera or your new (old) talent?

プチ家出 said...


ゲイ said...


ハッピーメール said...