Sometimes finding my way through the fog of life, past all the clutter that I’ve somehow put in my way, I’m comforted to know that there are hidden doors that I know are there, if only I can get past all the stuff that’s piled up in front of them. All I need is the right key to unlock them once I get there. I’ve been clearing out cupboards which is why I’ve come to see myself in the same way; too much of the time my mind is crowded with old and irrelevant stuff that I need to let go of. I need to make space, to rediscover the things that are really valuable to me and throw out what I no longer need.
This is an act of faith, because it’s not easy to know straight away which are the right things to keep and which ones should go. But some of the right things are easy to recognise because they have magic about them; held in the hand or in the heart they work just like a key that’s a perfect fit, and immediately open a door into another world and a different kind of reality.
Some of these keys are treasured objects and have been with me for a long time, like the paintbox that’s been my working friend for more than 20 years, or a green Faber Castell mechanical pencil that’s an even older companion, and which is such a familiar and comforting thing to hold.
These are things that connect me to both the past and the future – they hold the potential for what I will draw and write as well as what I’ve done in the past – but at the same time they ground me firmly in the present. Others are more recent arrivals, like the stuffed toy rat from Ikea whose faux fur is so soft to touch and whose whiskers tickle my chin when I hold him against my chest and stroke his back, and who is a mysterious and powerful link to all the animals I have known and loved in my life. I’m brought back into the present moment and at the same time transported into a space of timelessness, a place of magic.
Other keys are not objects but practices, or things I sense or feel; the short time I spend meditating every morning after waking; the walks I take in the park watching squirrels and dogs and trees and insects and people; the noticing of something neglected and lovely, like a rotting fence post mended with a rusty nail; or the scent of rose absolute essential oil in a little blue glass bottle that is a bridge and a connection between my grandmother, my mother, and me. And time spent listening. And time spent doing nothing at all but just being. And silence.
These are all keys that work, that fit the lock and turn perfectly for me. I need to discard any useless old ones that no longer fit, and find safe places to keep the good ones so I can find them easily. In time honoured fashion I think I’ll put them, metaphorically, under the mat, always to hand. And it may be that they might also be useful for visitors…