When I retired in July 1989 and came back to England, I started going to all kinds of courses and workshops, there was such an abundance of them, not available in Brussels. One of these was an art therapy course in Totnes, which I went to early in 1990, over a three day weekend, Friday to Sunday.
Our therapist was a good one. She gave us large sheets of paper and poster paints and various exercises designed to help us relax and open up to our subconscious minds. I did eleven of these paintings and I have written about them in my life story, but my editor wanted more in depth information about them. How did they make me feel and how do I interpret the pictures?
So I have looked at them again. Yes, they are shocking and very, very powerful. What are they about? They cover that early period in my life when I was left behind with nuns in a convent in Brittany, whilst my mother found work after having lost all her money in the great Depression in 1932. I was four years old and I stayed with the nuns till I was seven.
I have been feeling for a long time that this was a crucial period which determined the rest of my life. Fortunately, I can now look at them with some degree of equanimity and much more understanding.
I have decided to publish them here now in advance of the publication of my book.
Here is the first painting.
I get a feeling of some primeval sludge, something which has been trampled, from which all the life force is being squeezed out, a primal scream, a darkness from which all the light is escaping.
Here is the next one.
Here is a small child, a child still full of light, but who is encased in a prison, see the hands holding her down. She is distressed, tears are flowing from her eyes, and her mouth is wide open in shock and bewilderment. Her two extremities, her hands and her feet, are blue with cold, which will begin to spread throughout the whole of her body.
And the next one.
The words along the side in red read: I FEEL TRAPPED, FRIGHTENED, HOPELESS, HELPLESS, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE MAZE. Here is a small child, with bright yellow hair and blue eyes, surrounded by huge black figures who look as they they are trampling her to death. She is trying to escape but she is hemmed in on all sides.
And here is one more.
Here a small child is standing in front of what looks like large black boots hemming her in, the middle of her body, heart and tummy, are blue and she is screaming to a menacing black figure above her : Go away, I don’t want you, I hate you. MUMMY – HELP – love, protection, security, cuddles – where are you? why aren’t you here? There is a barrier between her and the woman in blue who is walking away. The woman can’t hear her, her ear is covered by a red patch. The meaning of this picture seems to me to be self explanatory.
And the following picture, again self explanatory.
An old crone is bathing a small child, who seems formless, with fair hair and blue eyes, and she is screaming. The crone has a large wart on her chin with three black hairs sticking out, she seems to be smiling. The black bars seem like a prison, while the red denotes a sense of menace.
The next drawing shows a change.
The image is not very clear. A small sturdy child, now with brown hair, seems to be falling down a long chute surrounding by various kinds of monsters. Right below her is a large, kindly yellowish being who appears to be supporting her, maybe a sea monster, as he is rising out of the sea. This is the start of the heroine’s journey.
The next picture has the caption: I want to find my Mummy. The small sturdy child is now on a pathway leading through hills, trees and valleys, with various obstacles on the way, as well as some more benevolent figures.
The next picture is a strange one. It shows a large blue bottle with a yellow figure popping out of it and splitting: there are body parts, legs, arms, a torso, feet, a head and a heart all flying around the page, while another bowl at the side looks as though it is ready to receive them all. Someone I recently met told me that shamanic healing consists in taking you apart before reassembling you again into a whole.
In the following painting we are back to the brown figure landing on what looks like the seabed: there is sand, fish swimming and waving seaweed. On the child’s face is a smile of triumph and the caption says: I”m here!
Here is the last but one painting.
Here we see the bright yellow child again, with yellow hair. She is leaping out of the deep blue sea onto the beach, whilst the bright red sun is pouring its rays down on the scene. It is the end of the journey and all is well.
The final painting depicts a figure, not quite a child, could it be the soul, more like a stick figure with one large blue eye facing a woman in nun’s dress of pale blue now, with a veil. Her head is inclined to the yellow figure and there is a benign expression on her face. The childlike figure is extending her arms in a gesture of welcome. No black colours here, but yellow, green and blue, colours of peace and harmony.
On the Sunday morning, the last morning of the retreat, I had a dream. I dreamt about the nuns, but they were no longer all in black, they were all wearing white robes. I lay in bed, feeling peaceful and happy. It seemed that there had been some resolution, a reconciliation. And all this had been going in my unconscious mind. It seemed like a miracle.
My mother removed me from the convent when I was seven. Why did she leave me there so long? It was only when the nuns wanted me to become a Roman Catholic that she took me away. She herself was an atheist, but there had never been a Catholic in the family! Again, years later, when I wanted to become a Catholic, my mother used the same argument. I returned to the priest to tell him I had changed my mind. His parting words to me were that he hoped that Grace had not departed from me for ever! Fortunately, I do not think it has.
Before the separation I was a happy and talkative child. When I came back to my mother again, I was a nervous, shy, almost silent child. I have hardly any memories of this period of my life. It has taken me a lifetime to unravel all the complexities of what happened to me at that time.
But this story does have a happy ending. When my mother died I had a strong sense of her spirit inside of me. Now I know that her spirit is with me all the time, and I have been told so by a shaman. My life has been one of spiritual exploration, and I think there has always been a knowledge deep inside of me, when I used to have long conversations as a child with a beautiful Being, which has somehow sustained me throughout all the ups and downs of my life.