Year 12. Girl’s boarding school. Recess.
I am crouched over my visual arts diary in the art room. A couple of other students mill around, dabbing colours; papier-mache sculptures of busts. There are flecks of paint and scratches from scalpels on the table surfaces. This is my refuge.
My visual arts diary became my life source during that year. It was my place to weep, express, feel and reason. I worked out the world through those pages. Our beautiful teacher, who made a great impression on me, used to tell us we needed to find our philosophy through making art. Page by page, I found something deeper than I already knew.
I was making an artwork, which was called (cringe) Mother Earth Incarnate. It was ink spilt onto unstretched, unprimed canvas. The ink seeped into the texture of the fabric and the colours seeped into each other. I used paint to work into the trails made by the ink. Blemishes and accidents became part of a whole. The painting was a metaphorical map of my grandmother, my mother and my own relationship to our homes and our land. More important to me, though, was the process of working into the painting. It had no preconceived structure or intention. I didn’t know its form. It sounds very wanky, but the painting was creating itself. It was nature. Perfection. Perfect imperfection.
(Incidentally, this painting is my major claim to fame, as it hung for a few weeks in the Queensland Art Gallery as part of the Minister of Art’s Awards.)
Twelve years later (my god, has it really been that long?) I am living Perfect Imperfection every day. Parenting is so uncharted. There is no map. No guide. No compass. You can pick up books if you want some ground to stand on. You can join forums. Read blogs. But really, your journey is your own. Your child will be who they are. And the combination of you, your child and anyone else in the family will be a whole other organism.
Listening to the amazing Karl Kruszelnicki (Dr Karl, AM, scientist) speak with Richard Fidler this morning on Conversations about the ridiculously tiny probability that there is life on earth, or that you or I came to be in existence, I realised how profound and incredible nature really is. We are all so unique. As a planet, we are unique in a universe of billions of planets. Who we are as parents and who our children are is so incidental. And yet it is perfect.
My daughter may not always comply with my expectations. Some days I might look in the mirror and hate the person I see because of something I said or something I did. But like my Year 12 painting, the blemishes and the drips and the random dot in the corner become part of something beautiful. Accidents can be worked into with oil paint, smudged and created into something new. Or their imperfection can just be, in all their beauty.
I was inspired to write this post after discovering my new favourite blog Hands Free Mama who writes about Perfect Imperfection. Her sentiments resonated so strongly with me, and took me back to that art room, with the flaky paint and the chipped table tops.