When I was a senior in high school, I was enrolled in AP art. It was my second time taking the class, which in hindsight was relatively unnecessary, but it was the apex of art education available and assuming I was going to pursue a career in some sort of art field, I figured it was appropriate to re-take it and keep my skills primed.
The AP test was composed of a portfolio submission; 12 pieces from your “concentration” – a theme you selected at the beginning of the year and centered your compositions around – and 12 pieces from your “breadth” section, which was composed of various media and stylistic ranges to show a competency for various techniques. If my memory serves me correctly, the breadth section could be any sort of craft, but your concentration had to find itself in one of three forms – 2-D, drawing, or 3-D. I am not a proficient sculptor, and seeing as I had focused my first year’s concentration in drawing, I selected the 2-D portfolio for my concentration.
The theme I settled on was “nourishment” – inspired by a relatively well-received piece from my junior year that I painted with ketchup and mustard – I decided to undergo a theme where all of my works would either be made of or about food, with an overall message of growing and life, learning and feeling whole, and the experiences of all emotional ranges that contributed to feeling “nourished”. I was probably at the peak of my artistic abilities during this time, as I was drawing or painting for at least a few hours every day, and I felt as if I was able to cough up some moderately interesting pieces with somewhat meaningful anecdotes. However, the most lasting thing that period taught me – something I wouldn’t realize for some time – was the discovery of what that encompassing notion of feeling nourished felt like altogether.
For me, it falls somewhere within having slow mornings and being devoid of frivolous tasks, but having a focus and a reason for waking up. It’s having ambition but for wholesome and personally enriching activities, as opposed to societal directions. It’s when I have a stack of books ready to read, rich with content that pushes me forward; dense with information that fills me with warm notions. It’s when I have an art project that I can get lost in; buzzed with the strokes of my graphite or chalk or pen or paintbrush or whatever is fueling the specific inspiration in the moment. It’s re-potting seedlings, feeling the earth between my fingers. It’s slowly drinking a hot cup of coffee and putting words on paper. It’s being outside and walking in silence, running in silence, devoid of the stressors that are so constantly beating down on my well-being. It’s listening to an artist perform a song live and feeling the sound seeping into every pore; being wholly immersed in the experience. It’s being surrounded by good people, enveloped in good conversation, producing shrewd revelations. It’s looking at aesthetically pleasing arrangements, feeling organized, feeling fresh, feeling light. It’s hard to describe sometimes, but when I am feeling nourished, I am consumed by a contentment that banishes negativity for a while. It’s when I feel truly alive. If I go too long without feeling this way, I tend to withdraw into myself while trying to fend off the invasive feelings of self-doubt, worry, and fear that begin to ensnare me.
I was lucky to have a weekend that was thoroughly nourishing this past weekend, and it’s leaving me feeling refreshed and revived. I went back to my roommate’s hometown in Southwestern, VA with her and another friend to visit her parents. We ate at a staple restaurant, we hiked McAfee’s Knob, we indulged in traditional southern cooking, drank warm cider by a firepit, and visited two breweries. I am from a well-populated suburban area and I have lived here my whole life. The older I get, the more the weight of this area starts to enclose on me, drowning me, igniting my doubts and fears and making it hard to breathe. The notion that I belong away from this, somewhere open and small and calm, is something that began to sprout a few years ago and continues to grow, slowly, but strongly. The only thing keeping me rooted is my family, and my fear of the unknown. But that notion continues to spread more and more the longer I stay and I feel like at some point in the near future I’ll have to pursue it, or I’ll succumb to the weight my own hometown is bearing on me.
I don’t know if this day will ever come, but I hope I have the strength to follow through on my gut instinct and find a piece of this earth that nourishes me before the opportunity passes. Until then, I’ll have to sustain myself from the memories of these fleeting experiences that give me a reason to pursue a future that enriches me all the time, and to seize those small activities that slow me down, and make me feel whole.