Over the course of my life I have kept all kinds of journals. Some are in diaries and some are online in blog form. Others are photo books or scrapbooks. Some are collections of letters. I have several long shelves filled with notebooks of every size each one crammed with reflections, lists, cards, concert tickets, my newspaper articles, programs, souvenirs, poems and books reviews. Perhaps that’s why I was fascinated by this photograph of artist Meryl McMaster I saw recently at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Meryl is standing in the snow holding her journals. One for each year. She calls her piece Time’s Gravity because she realizes how quickly our time on earth passes and how scant an opportunity we have to preserve the memories of our sojourn here. She says the journals are a reminder of where she comes from. For each annual journal she has chosen a drawing for the spine that represents an important life event in that year. I stood in front of McMaster’s artwork for a long time trying to decipher each one. Was she representing the birth of a child, meeting an important person, going on an ocean voyage, learning to play the piano, an injury that had her on crutches, and a puzzling year that was hard to figure out?
Meryl got the idea for these symbols from ‘winter count drawings’ used by North American indigenous people to create a pictorial calendar for a community’s oral history. Meryl is a member of the Plains Cree Nation.
Meryl’s symbols had me thinking about what kind of symbols I might select to represent different years of my life.