When I’m thinking, I tend to turn my head upward and to the right. It’s not a clean turn, but more of a flourish, like an orchestra conductor signaling an upbeat. When writing at my dining table, my gaze comes to rest on two fisherman perched atop the hutch cupboard where my mother once hid the ‘connect-the-dot ‘ and ‘Fun with Phonics’ books that she saved to cheer me up on the infrequent days I felt sick. My father carved the fishermen and they’ve been an important part of my life since I inherited them in 2003, with the passing of my father.
The elderly fisherman came first. A pensive fellow with a snow-white goatee whose pipe has long since vanished from the corner of his mouth, he’s prepared for the foul weather of Cape Ann, dressed in his rubber coated yellow hat and slicker. I always thought he looked a bit lost with his furrowed brow and beady, downcast eyes. Dementia, perhaps. His younger companion wears a leather apron and once held a knife in his right hand with which he planned to gut the fish he holds proudly in his left. He’s a happy fellow. He wears a big grin, and his smiling eyes turn skyward, as if thanking the heavens for his good fortune. A stout man, the chin strap anchoring his hat cuts a bit into his chubby cheeks. As Daddy often did, he wears a turtleneck. Their captain left long ago and now surveys my daughter’s apartment in Stockholm from his bookshelf perch.
Usually, I look at the pair, but don’t really see them. Sometimes, like now, I not only see them, but feel their presence. And they inspire me and evoke memories. Daddy pursued his creative passions – carving, drawing, music, gardening, baking – parallel with his day job responsibilities until he no longer had to. I haven’t, although I’ve learned that suppressing the “inner necessity” generated by the creative urge, as Russian painter Vassily Kandinsky termed it, leads to poor health, physically and spiritually. When I allow it to guide me, which I do with increasing frequency, I feel a Duchenne smile animating my face, just like fisherman’s. And I feel the spirit of my father emanating from the pine he so lovingly carved and painted, pleased that his daughter is trying to live authentically, aligning her path according to the whispers and shouts of her inner voice.