Brush Strokes and a Brain Injury
In the corner of my study, a large canvas leans against an easel. Swirls and brush-marks, soft shades of yellow and gray, dark splotches filling empty spaces.
You can find me in front of a canvas, usually on stressful days, pulling bottles of paints from a big box, removing piles of brushes I’ve accrued over the years.
I’ve always loved art, which is why, in my last house, a craft room was created for me. Three tables holding supplies for painting, beading, leather crafting, sewing, and card making, sitting in the middle of a large room with multiple shelves.
I adored that room, and everything in it. I loved all the joy that it brought me. Until my brain injury, that is.
My brain injury took away everything I knew. After my accident, nothing made sense. I couldn’t understand what baubles and beads were for, and wouldn’t have been able to use a sewing machine if I’d had to.
I closed the door on that room. A chapter of my life, taken away.
But my family had other plans. Months later (or maybe it was a year, I can never be sure), my son and his wife enlisted the help of my husband in building a shelf for their new home. When it was completed, my husband gave it to me to paint.
I don’t remember painting the wood, and even after seeing it multiple times (it’s pointed out to me whenever we go to my son’s house), I still can’t tell you what color it is. But I do know this, painting that shelf was the beginning of my healing.
My husband knew that, too, which is why he built two more pieces for me. A desk, and a stool.
The desk and stool were painted in wild designs. To look at them, one may think a three-year-old dipped their hand in the paint and spread it around. My pictures were blobs, headless people and flowers without blossoms.
I painted as I saw life. Nonsensical. Incomplete.
But something happened as I painted. The more I brushed colors across the wood, the more I blended and stroked, and drew funny designs, the more I began to heal.
My paintings came to life, and so did I.
There is a freedom in painting, a release from a body bound by pain, and a mind in constant stress.
Today, I have a large canvas in the hallway. Gray and yellow stripes, three white dots. A representation of my brain injury, a reminder of how art heals.
My desk and stool have been given away. I let go of one life to grasp the next. But I haven’t let go of my painting.
My canvas sits in my office, and nearby, a drawing pad, as well. One day, I will pick them up, brush tears on their skins, drip pain in their fibers.