In October 2008, 4 years after leaving her marriage, Pamela was living in Perth, Ontario, working on her Music Therapy accreditation, struggling to support herself, living in shared accommodation, and trying to see her way forward in what we call “life”.
We rarely saw each other in those days. She didn’t have much money for travel, and I was holding the fort in Nova Scotia as the meat in the generational sandwich.
That’s when she painted this watercolour. I see it as a visualization of what she wanted to make happen for herself: a cozy place of her own, decorated in her favourite cheerful colours, where she could make music, create art and read books, along with her little dog Winnie who, in the painting, embodies relaxation and comfort.
The Ottawa apartment where she lived for the 5 years before she died came close to this vision. She never did get a real piano, but it was a creative place for her. She had good neighbours and wonderful places to walk Winnie along the nearby Rideau River. Emptying the apartment and dispersing her possessions after she died felt brutal and intensely poignant.
In May 2018, ten years after making the painting above, Pam was taking the Level 2 training in Guided Imagery with Music (GIM). In a GIM session, the client goes on a guided exploration of their subconscious while listening to carefully selected pieces of classical music. Afterwards, they are asked to create a “mandala” drawing (in a circle) to document their experience.
Pam created the image below after being the “client” in a session using music chosen to invoke feelings of “caring”. In this case, Pam evidently explored self-care and also brought in the care of our mother who had died in June 2014. I like how this drawing complements the previous one, showing Pam’s inner expansion in the intervening years.
The text reads:
Caring Music Program for GIM II May 16/18
Mom visits me in my expanded spirit home – big wholesome hugs, flower arranging, framing my artwork, looking at the books I authored, one of which won a prize. Helping me decorate in my colors. Blessing my home with her presence & love.
- Marco Polo table
Between Mother’s Day and anniversary of her death
There’s healing in the books for others, too. I may not always witness it directly, but it’s there.
I like how her envisioned home in the second picture is a broad, open space with lots of windows, surrounded by love. There’s a warm place to relax in the middle of the spaciousness. The upright piano of the earlier painting has become a grand piano. (Our mother loved to play with colours, and encouraged us to develop a fine appreciation of which colours looked good on us or around us. “The Marco Polo table” is a creative writing project that Pam was working on, left unfinished).
This picture suggests to me that Pam had “leveled up” in her sense of herself and in her aspirations.
I hope she is now enjoying her “expanded spirit home” and envisioning something even more grand.
Heather Holm, January 2020