Reclaiming Innocence

In my last post I introduced and shared the origins of my book, the first November’s Child edition, a book I created with the Moleskine + MILK book editor.

In this post, I share the second edition of the book. I hand crafted this book after taking several book structure workshops. The original book has 18 photographs. Because of my book-making inexperience, I decreased the number of photographs in the second book to seven, including the cover photo. (I was working on a tight deadline in order to enter the book in the PaperWorks exhibit at the Tucson Festival of Books. I plan to create the book again and in the next edition I will include all of the photos.)

The first three pages of November’s Child tell the story in words. In this post, I present the words in their entirety. The remainder of the book is only photographs. They tell the rest of the story.

Novembers Child - Cover

November’s Child – Cover ©2013 Bo Mackison

I held tightly to my secrets for decades.

Then, when I was in my early thirties, I had a spirit breakdown. Most people refer to this kind of experience as a mental breakdown. But really, it was not my mind that could no longer function while carrying the burden of my secrets. It was my spirit.

I had a broken spirit.

After that initial break, I spent two decades of my middle-life, my prime-time years, in and out of doctors’ and therapists’ offices, in-patient psychiatric units, survivor’s groups, dialectical behavior training sessions, and art therapy groups. Occasionally, my spirit would become critically ill, and I would retreat inside myself for self-healing. These dissociative disappearances were met with great resistance by my treatment team, but they were a last-resort survival technique.

And survive I did, as best I could.

Eventually, I immersed myself in many kinds of art as part of my therapy, including drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, pottery, and weaving. I wrote daily in journals and spent hours walking in the natural world. For years I worked with a creativity/life coach. I added naturopathy, body-mind work, qi-gong, exercise, and meditation to my routine. Gradually I regained better control of my life.

My mind, body, and spirit were patched together.

November's Child - Inside Cover

November’s Child – Inside Cover ©2013 Bo Mackison

Still, the lost innocence of childhood haunted me, walked with me and my shadow. I carried evidence of my scars – post traumatic stress syndrome, diminished self-esteem, poor coping skills, non-existent boundaries, extreme introversion, and a highly sensitive personality.

It was then that I re-discovered photography, a hobby I’d enjoyed in my twenties. I began a daily practice of making a photograph and posting it to my blog. The photo-blog led to requests for fine art prints and offers for publication in printed media.

Eventually I shared my photography in person, doing juried art fairs and festivals in the Midwest and Southwest. Some of my photographs were accepted in group exhibits in art centers, galleries, and museums. I found meaningful work, meaningful connections, and meaning-making through my photography and my art.

In October 2012, I attended a week-long photography conference in Chicago. I participated in a workshop on artist books presented by photographer Lauren Henkin. I was mesmerized. I loved the idea of creating handmade books. Upon my return to my winter home in Tucson I joined PaperWorks, a paper and book artists’ collective, so I could explore the craft of bookmaking.

I returned to my family home in Wisconsin for the Thanksgiving holiday and visited my favorite botanical gardens to photograph the autumn flowers. While walking the less frequented paths, I wandered onto an adjacent property.

Novembers Child - Page

November’s Child – Page ©2013 Bo Mackison

I discovered an abandoned warehouse and walked around its perimeter. Everywhere I looked I saw features that spoke to me. There were symbols and metaphors — graffiti, piles of debris, garbage dumpsters, a crumbling brick building — that triggered memories of my past and my ongoing efforts to continue the healing process.

The next day I visited an antique store in search of carefully selected props representing childhood and the next weekend I returned to the warehouse. I placed the props — a child’s red chair, a green tricycle, a yellow dress — in the warehouse landscape and photographed dozens of vignettes.

Later when I began to process the photos, the immensity of what I had re-created struck me and I cried while studying the images. These tears released buried feelings and solidified my recognition and understanding of the innocence of children. They were tears of blessings.

I share these photographs as a testimony that, yes, the human spirit can be broken. But that spirit can also be mended and made whole.

——————

Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She believes in the power of healing using the creative arts.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.

Comments

  1. Vicky White says:

    Bo, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey and your vulnerability with us. I am honored!

  2. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That the spirit can be mended is a reminder we all need. Your courage Bo, first in surviving the trauma, and then in sharing your story are truly appreciated.

  4. Wow, Bo, what a powerful testament to the healing power of art, and the courage that it takes to embark and continue on a healing journey. The book is beautiful, too.

  5. Gorgeous.

  6. I admire your persistence and bravery in everything you’ve accomplished, Bo. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us all. XO

  7. Wonderful idea to create a book, especially a beautiful one such as this.

  8. Thank you Bo. Touched by the honesty and courage in your creations, your sharing. Thank you.

  9. So vulnerable and beautiful. I feel blessed having read this. Thank you.

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