For several months now, I have been working on a project which is very important to me. As I wrote recently, I have always recorded different life experiences through my artwork . Currently, I am slowly compiling drawings and typing up stories of my time living in the rainforests of Ecuador when I was in my 20s. I volunteered at an animal sanctuary where they sought to preserve an area of rainforest and rehabilitate trafficked animals. Later, I taught English at a village where they were working to set up an ecotourism project. At this time, in the early 2000s, the dial up internet connections were only available in towns in Ecuador. Mostly, contact was made by radio. It was an intense, unique experience living in such remote areas, where surviving was very often literally hand-to-mouth. It was both very rewarding - in particular, seeing the abundant wildlife - as well as challenging, living in the hostile rainforest environment where everything seems to want to eat you. Ultimately, this experience shaped my life. It propelled me to go on to further study, where I met my husband, and the course led me to the career I have today.
I kept diaries while I lived there, but initially on my return, I did not do anything with them. It was not until 10 years later, when I was pregnant with my daughter, that I was suddenly compelled to write down the most memorable experiences as a series of very short stories. Somehow, I knew this would be my last chance to record these stories, as my life was about to change significantly. I am so glad I did, as the number of new experiences and sleep deprivation associated with having a child completely obliterated the clarity I'd had on my time living in the rainforests. While on holiday with a 5 month bump in Italy, I wrote down around 20 short factual essays as handwritten notes.
Now, my daughter Estelle is 5 years old, and she is developing an interest in the animals which live across the globe. This led me to track down my rainforest stories. At the moment, I am typing them up and sorting through my photos of that time, to find pictures to accompany the stories. Most cameras then were manual. The film rapidly disintegrated in the damp, hot conditions. That does not completely excuse the poor quality of my photography, as I also seem to have been unable to frame or focus a shot properly. As a result, I am also creating one drawing to illustrate each story. However, it is not just because some of the photographs are not ideal - it is also because what I describe in my stories could not possibly be photographed! So far, I have written up four, each with its own drawing, which seeks to capture the essence of the story. Here are the links if you would like to read them.
Wanting to share these experiences with Estelle, my daughter, has really motivated me to finish off these stories and put them into a readable format. It is also hugely enjoyable looking back at my diaries and stories - such a journey through time. I'm both impressed and aghast at my younger self.
What about you? Is there a particular experience in your life that you have documented through, art, writing or both?