Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Do your work, then step back -- the only path to serenity.

Today's quote from my Zen Calendar is from the Tao Te Ching.

This pencil drawing was made during the year when I was 17 years old, having met RTN on the beach at Half Moon Bay, California, on December 14, 1966. RTN was a surfer and a high school drop-out. He was the third-born son in a family of 10 children. His older brother, the second-born son, was serving in the Army in Thailand. His youngest siblings were fraternal twin boys. RTN's arm was in a cast when I met him. He had broken it in a fall off a bridge near where we met. I was a shy young woman with extremely low esteem who had never had a boyfriend and who was sending out college applications with a desire to study art and literature. I was in the early stages of a serious eating disorder, the oldest of three daughters in a family that appeared from the outside to be stable.

We both liked to draw. We both liked Bob Dylan. We both loved the ocean. We became friends. We discovered that we had been born within 24 hours of each other. I was the "older" one. We walked along the beach together, talked and laughed. I would borrow my parents' car and drive from Redwood City to Miramar Beach in hopes of finding him walking on the beach, which was not far from where his family lived. We didn't "date," but I drove to the ocean on as many weekends as I could during the winter and spring of my senior year in high school.

As part of a commitment made in 1966 to drawing something every day, I made the above drawing from a photo of Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. It doesn't look like Dennis Wilson, nor does it look like RTN did then, but there was a resemblance which spoke of someone who had experienced something that haunted him.

The drawing has been with me since 1967. Sometime in December of 1983 during a heavy rainstorm, water from the roof of my studio space began to seep onto the drawing, which was thumb-tacked to the wall of my studio. I was horrified to see that the water had stained my drawing. Not a good sign. The drawing was part of what little was left of my connection to RTN. Then, on December 28, 1983, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys drowned. I hoped that RTN was still alive. We were 34 years old and had been apart for twelve years because he had hit me in one of the rages that he experienced after returning from Vietnam. I couldn't live with the fear of his violence or with his increasingly destructive drug and alcohol abuse, but I didn't stop loving him.

In those early years, I once asked him why he had been attracted to me. He said, "Because you are an artist."


robin andrea said...

You really loved him. It comes through in everything you write, paint, and draw.

DD said...

What an incredible story. I got chills reading that you had the water damage to the drawing in the same month that Dennis Wilson died. Some people draw something and crumple it up - but as artists it's hard to ever get rid of anything, whether it holds bad or good memories for us, it holds a memory so we hold onto it. It's those memories that go into everything we do, as robin andrea wrote.

Anonymous said...

I love the glimpses you give into your relationship with RTN. Your regard for him, and your love, are so evident. I want to learn more.

Like Darla said, the story of the water stain on the drawing, and Brian Wilson's drowning, is moving.

Dawn said...

have you thought about writing a book Amanda? think about it...

R.L. Bourges said...

an artist, for sure - so then, it is time to make something more with the stained memento

am said...

all -- Thanks so much for the encouragement with this project of telling the story that is impossible to separate from the drawings and paintings that RTN and I made, beginning around the time we met in 1966. I wish that I knew what happened to the majority of RTN's art work. Maybe it will turn up as time goes by.

My energy is very low right now. It hasn't been that long since RTN died. I've been spending much of my time reading books, in addition to reading your blogs, which give me so much inspiration. Don't have as much energy for comments as I did previously. June has always been a difficult month for me as long as I have lived in the Pacific Northwest. I look forward to having more energy, beginning in July.