The process of moving involves so much more that clearing cupboards and sorting cups and saucers. It is a time for reflection. Frequently one is brought face to face with people and events from the past. Another box brings all manner of memories to the surface.
You discover that you have a box belonging to your Mother filled with her treasures – the lace handkerchief from her wedding day, a birthday card you had made, a photograph of yourself in a mermaid costume. The costume was a work of art – made of sea-green satin with a carefully stitched tail and cellophane scales. Photographs of our home when I was a child were also tucked away in a small album. You realise that these were kept with love.
You come across a photograph of a bride bending to greet a little boy – it’s your mother and perhaps an older cousin – it’s an evocative image and you realise with surprise that you had forgotten how beautiful she was.
It’s impossible to simply throw these away, but it can’t all go with me. Modern technology comes to the rescue, allowing me to scan the images and take them with me in digital format. Now I think of ways the images could find their way into future drawings.
Then, in the last packet of documents and photographs, I find a leather document case belonging to my father. Inside are letters of reference written to my paternal grandfather from companies for whom he had worked – in the most beautiful copperplate handwriting – and one of the few photographs of him, striding down the road in Bournemouth – a stern figure, much as I remember him.
A few days ago, a friend who lives out of town phoned me to say she had found letter from me. She had been trying to clear out a drawer. It was jammed and when the drawer eventually opened there was the letter.
It was something we rarely see today, a proper letter - on paper - written with a fountain pen, thanking her for her support and friendship after I had spent some time on her farm. I hadn’t dated the letter but I knew exactly when it had been written as I had some entries in an old art journal describing the time on the farm. The journal had drawings that echo current ideas, similar themes and ideas, and the ongoing struggle to be creative.
Then I found something quite different. A slip of paper was amongst the usual debris that gathers in a bedside table drawer. It was a diary page from 2003; scrawled on it was the title and author of a book that I’d been trying to remember for years. It’s the most amazing story of Christina Dodwell’s journey across China, A Traveller in China .
Now I will be able to read the book again, knowing what to look for. You realize that the important things find you when you stop looking.