When I was in my late thirties, I started to draw because I was looking for meaning. A horrible accident had left my first wife in a wheelchair, and, in a heartbeat, the universe became a bleak and incomprehensible place to me. But I discovered that when I slowed down and focussed on drawing something, anything, my mind grew calm and the world revealed its beauty once again.
To those who have never tried it, drawing is either a cute hobby or a rare gift reserved for a special class of talented people. But once you experience the flow of drawing — the way the world slows down, the rare discoveries you make about even the humblest subject matter, the sense of accomplishment, the deep memories you forge — it becomes a spiritual and therapeutic practice.
Almost a decade ago, Patti had another accident, and this time it was fatal. My fifteen-year-old son Jack and I were devastated once again. For a few weeks, I could barely see through my tears and grief. But when I recovered enough to open my sketchbook once again, I begin to record my feelings and experiences. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would sit down with my book, my pen, my watercolors and capture the moment. Page by page, I described the journey Jack and I were on and building that record helped me to keep going.
Today, a decade later, Jack is flourishing, I am remarried, and our lives continue as Patti would have wished they would. Usually, it’s hard to look back at these pages, but I am so glad I made them when I did. On days when I wish to remember Patti or to remind myself of how lucky and resilient I am, I open my old sketchbooks and travel back in time. There’re the dreams, the memories, the fears, the discoveries, fresh and raw, like old friends I have not seen for ages, but who remind me of where I’ve been.
Whatever you are going through, good or bad, your sketchbook is a wonderful companion. Use its pages as a chapel for your heart, a place to record your feelings in words and pictures. You may never share this art, but making it will help you see the truth of your life and the beauty of the world that will keep turning, no matter how challenging any given day may seem to be.
The journal Danny describes here was made into a book: A Kiss Before You Go (Chronicle Books).