London Plane

I recently had an diagnostic laparoscopy. I felt like I’d been kicked by a frisky mule! I’m having a week or two off to rest and recuperate. What has the London Plane tree got to do with that, you may ask? Maybe nothing, unless you have a oxycodone-soaked post-laparoscopic brain.

I’ve recently been taking photos of trees and birds, and have taken lots of London Plane trees in their winter finery with those pendulous pods hanging a pattern against the flat winter sky.

London_Plane_photoThey remind me of 1950s atom designs, but also something visceral and bodily that I couldn’t quite put my finger on – maybe testicular? It wasn’t until I was in hospital, and there was one outside the ward window, did I begin to make a connection – one that might have been lurking in my subconscious all along. To pass the time and calm my nerves while waiting my turn on the surgical day-case unit, I did some sketching and stream-of-consciousness writing to record the experience. There wasn’t much time, because I was second on the list.

LondonPLanesketch

Here’s what I wrote before my op, and afterwards when I was waiting to go home. I’ve never really tried stream-of-consciousness writing but I enjoyed reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride recently, so why not? I need more practice!

lap1

lap2

Needless to say, I’ll never be able to look at another London Plane tree without thinking of uterine fibroids! The ‘O’ the surgeon made with her hand was pretty much the same size as the seedpods hanging off the tree out of the window. Perhaps I’ve been noticing these trees more recently in a subconscious bid to understand my pain. Or maybe I just like the look of them! Nature often echoes the human condition, but that’s only because we have the consciousness to consider ourselves apart from it and thus reflected in it*.  I think we probably see what we’re searching for or need at that time. In reality, the London Plane seeds are its fertility – not unwanted troublesome growths, which is what I now see. Some sort of transference has happened between me and those trees – perhaps because I’d rather my experience could somehow be located somewhere other than inside my own body. Whatever my interest in the trees is about, at least drawing, writing and taking photos is a distraction from pain!

*I’ve also been reading some nature writing recently – Nature Cure by Richard Mabey describes these ideas quite well.

 

ME/CFS Comic

This is an image I produced last year for the blog Better, Drawn. The blog is run by comics creator Simon Moreton, and part of its aim is to encourage visual expression of the issues and feelings of long-term mental or physical illness sufferers. 

Most contributions are one-page comics, and you don’t have to be a seasoned scribbler to submit a page. Its intention is not to showcase drawing virtuosity, rather to provide a common space for people to display their experiences of illness.

My page at at Better, Drawn is all about ME/CFS, a misunderstood, stigma-steeped illness. Or rather, I should point out, two illnesses lumped together for which there’s still no test or cure. I originally posted it anonymously worrying that clients would pick up on it and decide that I was somehow unreliable. I’ve decided that my decision to remain anonymous was probably tantamount to admitting to some sense of shame regarding the illness. With hindsight, I’ve decide that was counterproductive to my intentions of drawing it in the first place! I should also point out that I’m mostly recovered but still in touch with others who aren’t, and this image illustrates a common experience.

Fellow creators who’ve contributed to Better, Drawn include Andrew Godfrey, Emma Mould, Nick Soucek, Thom Ferrier, and Bonbon, as well as Simon himself.